Joel Stark

Joel Stark, MD

The UK’s Smart Meter programme does not lack ambition.  It aims to replace over 50 million electricity and gas meters in homes and small businesses by 2020.  The programme has laudable goals:  enabling a smarter grid, removing estimated bills, delivering transparency for consumers and a more efficient energy system overall.  What’s not to like?

 

Businesses Are Losing Control

At Stark, we focus on the business energy consumer.  We believe business needs have been overlooked by the Smart Meter programme, and that businesses will get a raw deal as a result.

Today, business customers have control over their metering and data.  We estimate over one million business sites have chosen to have Advanced Metering (AMR) installed already.  AMR is directly equivalent to Smart Meters in terms of functionality but significantly lower in price.  Sites with AMR enjoy robust, remotely read meters, accurate bills and granular information on energy consumption.  Businesses can buy AMR from a wide range of companies – from large multinationals to smaller, specialist independents.  Competition keeps prices keen and has created a hotbed of innovation.

Unfortunately, the Smart Meter programme will put an end to businesses’ choice and deprive them of access to these cutting edge solutions.  From September 2017, businesses will no longer be able to install AMR, despite its proven benefits.  Instead, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will require Smart Meters and Smart Meters alone are installed.

In addition to losing the right to choose, businesses will likely receive an inferior solution altogether and may lose control entirely over large parts of their estates.

UK Smart Meters Are Not Fit for Purpose

The first generation Smart Meters being installed – SMETS1 meters – are not interoperable.  That is, for example, a business user would lose the Smart functionality when they change supplier.  This contrasts with AMR where the functionality is preserved.  Up to 10 million SMETS1 devices may be installed by this time next year – so that’s fast becoming a nationwide headache.  Second generation Smart Meters, so-called SMETS2, where data is controlled by a single monopoly company, the DCC are intended to solve the interoperability issue.  As at today, no SMETS2 meters have yet been deployed.  After years of delay, Capita the IT services company who owns the DCC limped to a partial launch in a single UK region last month.  Moreover, it’s not clear how businesses will get seamless access to data from either SMETS1 or SMETS2 meters, and significant costs could be involved over and above premium prices for the metering itself.

Take Back Control

Unless businesses take control, energy suppliers will act unilaterally. They’re required to by law.  This means businesses with large portfolios of smaller consuming sites could end up with a mixed economy of metering, being deployed at different rates, by different providers, over many years.  In short, a car crash that lasts for at least the next four years and the consequences for a long time thereafter.

We are encouraging all our customers and any organisation with an interest in managing energy costs to take control while you still can.  You can still install AMR until September 2017.  You can opt out of Smart altogether.  Or you can use a trusted partner like Stark to manage the disruption and maintain hassle-free access to data.