EDF chief warns of challenges ahead for UK smart metering

The head of EDF Energy says the UK government needs to do more to ensure that the roll-out of its smart metering programme doesn’t end in failure.

Vincent de Rivaz has warned that complications involved in consumers changing suppliers could result in a loss of public confidence.

The Times reported in March that six million households were expected to be fitted with smart meters that may not work if they switch supplier because of delays to the IT systems needed to install a new type that can be reliably switched.
Vincent De Rivaz of EDF
“We need to be honest with ourselves on all the issues: security, safety, quality, costs and timeline. We all have a shared responsibility in the success or the failure of this programme,” Mr de Rivaz said. “Delays to the communications infrastructure now mean millions more customers will get less digitally sophisticated meters than intended.”

“These meters make things more complex, for the moment, when a customer switches supplier and they cost more than the next-generation meters.”

The motivation behind the meters is that the devices take automatic readings and send them back to suppliers, thus ending estimated billing and enabling households to monitor their usage in real-time, encouraging them to consume less.

However, the plan has been plagued by setbacks and delays leading to concern the timescale is unrealistic and the costs, levied on energy bills, could spiral beyond à‚£11bn.

In a statement to Power Engineering International, a Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) spokesperson did not directly acknowledge de Rivaz’s comments, saying,à‚ “Smart meters are a vital upgrade to Britain’s energy system and will take à‚£300 million off energy bills in 2020 alone. The technology will bring an end to estimated billing, provide real-time information about their energy use helping households keep bills down. Energy suppliers must complete the rollout by the end of 2020”.

SSE last year called for an urgent reconsideration of the delivery timetable. It said that delays to IT systems were “undermining confidence in the programme and compressing the window in which suppliers can roll out the enduring solution at scale, driving up costs and creating challenges for the industry”.

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