Utility Week

Utility Week 21st February 2014

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24 | 21st - 27th February 2014 | utILIty WeeK Operations & Assets Analysis I n September last year, The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) named the winners of more than £2 billion-worth of contracts associated with the communi- cations infrastructure and services for the smart meter programme. Since then, all the involved companies and organisations in the sector have been busily preparing themselves ahead of the start date for the mass rollout in August 2015. However, with the final specifications for the meters yet to be decided, and Decc still consulting on the final "companion speci- fication" for the meters, there are concerns that the timetable for delivery could slip fur- ther as the pressure builds. Daron Walker, director of fuel poverty and smart meters at Decc, admitted that "there is still more work to do" ahead of the mass roll- out next year in what is a "complex delivery landscape". In order to get this "enormous" project off the ground, Walker said the Data and Com- munications Company (DCC) – the licence was awarded to Capita – needs to design, build and test its systems to work seamlessly with the final meter specification (SMETS 2). If there is a glitch in the system, "then it will just be more painful, take longer and the cost will be higher" than the predicted £10.9 billion. Energy UK's smart meter policy and pro- ject manager, Rosie McGlynn, expressed some concerns at "incredibly challenging timescales". She said was "essential suppli- ers get to work with the DCC. "It is critical that the DCC have testing environments set up and the right people in place." The timetable for the development and testing of the end-to-end procedures for the smart meter programme – which includes testing the interoperability of the meters and the various communications systems – was presented to the industry at the end of last year and McGlynn says that even then "it looked quite challenging". "Now I think it looks even more chal- lenging", she adds, going on to say that the indicative timeline (see below) is going to be subject to a review and is likely to be moved. Rob Searle, smart metering industry lead at Telefonica – which won a 15-year contract to be the communications service provider (CSP) for the southern and central regions – concedes that there is an "awful lot of testing" still to be done. The detailed testing phase has yet to even begin because the company has to complete the design and begin "the build phase". Even with these concerns, the attitude of the sector has shied since Decc awarded the contracts and there is a "huge amount of momentum", according to David Stroud, general manager at smart meter manufac- turer EDMI Europe. He says progress has been "good" but waiting for the SMETS 2 standard to be final- ised is frustrating and is preventing meter manufacturers from developing fully inter- operable meters – or "real products". Once SMETS 2 is finalised, Stroud says energy suppliers will want to start the test- ing process from the "end-to-end systems through the data service provider (DSP) and CSP down to their meters of choice", although he adds that meeting the August 2015 start date for the mass rollout "is still achievable". This view is shared by another smart meter supplier, Sentec. Chris Shelley, chief executive of Sentec, has says there is now "quite a lot of activity" as meter manufacturers, the data and com- munications providers, and the energy sup- pliers prepare for the mass rollout. Despite the "major step forward" that has been seen within the industry since the sum- mer, Shelley says "we're still seeing delays" and there is some "nervousness" in the sec- tor because the final specifications have still to be nailed down. The majority of the concerns relate to the SMETS 1 meters that have already been installed, and how they will fare once the DCC picks up responsibility for the commu- nications and interoperability for the smart meter rollout. He says the DCC will be responsible for the SMETS 2 meters, not the SMETS 1 meters that have already been installed by suppliers in the foundation stage of the rollout. To over come this, the suppliers are hav- ing to test the meters and their own back office systems to ensure the SMETS 1 meters will continue to function once the DCC goes live with the SMETS 2 meters. Shelley says: "Everyone is dependent on The meter's running With key technical specifications yet to be thrashed out, how likely is it that the smart meter rollout timetable will have to be revised again? Mathew Beech investigates. Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar 2013 Agree structure and governance options RFI process for scheme operator Appoint scheme operator Body/test house setup Develop prototypes Develop CTS Date depends on the preferred option INDIcAtIve tIMelINe Contractually these do not have to be ready until Sep 2014 – assumption that these will be developed from Decc 2013 Assume that all test specs are complete Comms hub testing start Jul/Aug 2014 Develop detail scripts 2014 2015

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