An admission by Data Communications Company’s (DCC) chief executive that only 250 second generation smart meters have been installed so far has been branded “shocking” by Labour’s energy spokesman.
Alan Whitehead, shadow minister for energy, described the amount as a ‘bit shocking’. But Flett said it was an “acceptable number” given that suppliers were gearing up their installation activities.
Bill Bullen, chief executive of Utilita, told MPs that achieving full roll out of smart meters by 2020, the government’s target date, was “logistically impossible”.
He said: “I just do not think that the programme is anywhere near the level of completion that it needs to be.
“The DCC was originally intended to be up and running in 2014, at which point 2020 was perhaps a realistic timeframe. We are now nearly at the end of 2017, and the DCC is clearly not up and running at anything like full capacity.
“It will just not be possible to deliver the remaining 40 million–plus meters in three years. It is logistically impossible.”
He warned the industry risked heading towards a “massive hiatus” in the roll-out of smart meters.
He said the industry was “up against the buffers of maintaining a smooth roll-out programme” in order to comply with the July 2018 end date for installing SMETS1 devices.
The supply chain, including meter manufacturers and components, operated a year ahead of installation.
“It is not in the consumer’s interest to have a hiatus, and it is certainly not in the interest of the economy generally to have potentially a lot of qualified meter installers, vans, and warehouses, but no ability to install meters. That is a big problem.”
Audrey Gallacher, director of energy supply at Energy UK admitted to MPs the roll out was behind schedule.
She said: “The foundation stage has continued longer than we originally envisaged because there have been some delays around the enduring infrastructure to support the second generation meters.”
But Bullen said problems with the interoperability of SMETS1 devices had been “massively overplayed’” and it was “not a problem” for most customers who had a smart meter installed.
He accused some suppliers of exploiting concerns about interoperability as an “excuse” not to support a SMETS1 product.