Utility Week

UTILITY Week 29th April 2016

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28 | 29TH APRIL - 5TH MAY 2016 | UTILITY WEEK Customers Market view T here's no doubt about it: the rollout of smart meters to every British home and business by 2020 is one of the most sig- nificant national infrastructure upgrades of our time. At a projected total cost of £11 bil- lion, it's expected to cost more than the Lon- don 2012 Olympics and three times the cost of the Jubilee Line extension. And, like those projects, the potential benefits of smart are significant and long-lasting. We believe smart is a unique opportunity to transform the way that customers inter- act with their energy use and their supplier. Real-time information about energy use will help customers to take control of their consumption, and as a result, their costs. It will put an end to estimated billing, help- ing to rebuild trust, and unlock all kinds of innovation when it comes to tariffs that help customers to benefit from lower energy costs at specific times of day, or products that are tailored to their needs. It will bring a weary analogue system into the digital 21st century and in the process, create many hundreds of skilled jobs all over the country. For us as a supplier, it's also an invalu- able chance to engage with our custom- ers – not only when we visit their homes and businesses, but also in helping them to make the most of smart with the services and advice we offer them aerwards. Last week, we installed our 200,000th smart meter – the latest milestone on the road to installing more than seven million meters by 2020. Customer feedback so far has been extremely positive. We've worked hard to optimise the customer experience, and more than 80 per cent of customers have told us they're pleased with the ease of installation. We also know from research by Smart Energy GB that 85 per cent of customers with smart meters say they have a better understanding of what they are spending on energy and we're working very closely with it as it seeks to drive awareness and interest in the programme. So the early signs are encouraging. But as with any infrastructure of this scale and complexity, there are many risks to be man- aged and we must therefore all pull together – suppliers, government, Ofgem, the Data and Communications Company (DCC), Smart Energy GB, the supply chain – to make sure we do the right things for customers. Our approach from the outset has been to do it once and get it right. This isn't just a soundbite; it is a philosophy that under- pins every decision we take. So far, that has meant starting slowly, learning lessons at every opportunity to optimise the process and gradually ramping up in preparation for the DCC and, eventually, mass deployment. Where necessary, we've also been vocal about issues that we think stand in the way of a customer-centric rollout. While it's easy to dismiss such concerns as "anti-smart", this couldn't be further from the truth. We all owe it to customers to max- imise the smart opportunity: ultimately, that £11 billion is money well spent only if the benefits to customers outweigh the costs, so we all have a duty to do all we can to maxim- ise the net benefits. That means controlling costs, justifying every penny that we spend as an industry. But it also means focusing on the customer, because the benefits hinge on customers engaging with the technology and changing behaviour to reduce consumption. Smart Energy GB may have enlisted the help of poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy to pen an ode to the meter, but it was Shakespeare who wrote that the course of true love never did run smooth. There will be obstacles along the way that threaten to undermine the smart business case – either by escalat- ing costs or by hindering consumer engage- ment. We've seen a number of delays to the DCC timetable that have compressed the delivery window and are still grappling with a number of constraints. This is only natural, but the key thing is that we work together to address them, putting customers first and where necessary making pragmatic decisions – remembering that rolling out smart meters is a means to an end, not an end in itself. And in order to make pragmatic decisions that help maximise the benefits for custom- ers, we need to understand fully the impact of any delays or constraints. The revised impact assessment from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, expected by the summer, is therefore vitally important and a great opportunity to look at what steps we might take to remain on track to deliver the full benefits of smart for customers. Whether it's trialling alternatives to the in-home dis- play, developing industry-wide solutions for blocks of flats or even adjusting the deliv- ery timetable, what's important is that we remain open-minded and keep our eyes on the prize: net benefits for customers. Sara Jane Asquith, director of metering and smart transformation, SSE The customer is the priority The scale and complexity of the smart meter rollout may present vast challenges, but we must not lose sight of the most important element: the benefits to the customer, says Sara Jane Asquith. "Ultimately that £11 billion is money well spent only if the benefits to customers outweigh the costs" PROJECTIONS BY LARGER ENERGY SUPPLIERS OF THE NUMBER OF SMART AND ADVANCED METERS TO BE INSTALLED FROM 2015-2020 (FROM END JUNE 2015) 2016 2017 Rest of 2015 16 million 14 million 12 million 10 million 8 million 6 million 4 million 2 million 0 Source: Decc 2020 Number of meters 2018 2019

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