A delay in the rollout of smart meters has been accepted by industry figures, as the government made a “prudent” and “inevitable” decision to delay.
Under the original timeline, suppliers were to start mass installations in the second quarter of 2014. Energy secretary Ed Davey on Friday announced this would be put back to autumn 2015, after bidders to provide the supporting data and communication infrastructure said they would need more time. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2020 instead of 2019.
“The consistent message was that more time was needed if the mass roll-out was to get off to the best possible start and ensure a quality experience for consumers.” said Davey.
Orsis, who provide smart meters said it had long considered the government’s timescale unrealistic and the plans too expensive and complex. CEO Hans Kristiansen said: “We have been saying to the Government for nearly three years that its proposals were unworkable and the meter itself was becoming like a game of buckaroo – too much being put into the meter and it is inevitable that it will pop.” He also said that the government was focusing too much on the technology and should be paying more attention to the consumer.
Energy UK welcomed the decision. CEO Angela Knight said: “The installation of over 50 million meters in 30 million homes and small businesses across the country is a complex task which must be fulfilled with great care to ensure consumers receive the best possible benefits. Allocating extra time to the programme will mean that it can be completed in a more efficient and cost-effective manner, and to greater effect.”
Network operators will not be directly responsible for the smart meter rollout but will be “critical to the success of the programme”, said chief executive David Smith. “We understand and support the decision as it will enable outstanding technical issues to be resolved and allow industry parties sufficient time to be better prepared for what is a complex and ambitious task that will deliver real benefits to consumers in the long run.”