Utility Week

UTILITY Week 18th November 2016

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Customers This week Most of smart meter network goes live Infrastructure is live in the central and southern regions; no date confirmed for the northern area Most of the infrastructure for smart meters has gone live, aer several delays from the smart meter network operator. The infrastructure is live in the central and southern regions of the UK, but no date has been confirmed for the northern region to go live. The infrastructure is vital to connect smart meters to the business systems of energy suppliers, network opera- tors and other authorised service users of the network. The Data and Communications Company (DCC) was originally expected to go live in December 2015, but was delayed until April 2016. A further delay hit the rollout when the date was postponed again to August and then September – until finally it missed its ultimate contin- gency deadline in October this year. A spokesperson for the DCC confirmed to Utility Week that "the majority of the DCC infrastructure is now live". This means suppliers can now begin to roll out SMETS2 meters that will have better interoperability and make switching easier for consumers. It is not yet known whether the foundation meters installed up to now will become stranded assets. The government has set out deadlines for using the DCC and meter installation as part of its plans to ensure a "timely" rollout. All domestic suppliers are required to be using the DCC by 1 August 2017, while large suppliers will also have to install 1,500 SMETS2 meters by 1 Febru- ary 2017. Installation rates are expected to increase rap- idly as suppliers aim to meet the overall target for every household to have been offered a smart meter by 2020. SJ ENERGY Industry 'has regressed' since CMA The energy retail sector has gone backwards in terms of the way it treats and works for its custom- ers, according to First Utility. Speaking at Energy UK's annual conference, First Utility UK managing director Ed Kamm told delegates that since the CMA published its recommenda- tions to improve engagement and competitiveness in the energy market, things have actu- ally got worse for consumers. He said: "For me this is not an industry which, from a consumer perspective, has pro- gressed. It has actually regressed since the CMA remedies." Kamm's comments came aer a straw poll at the conference in which 45 per cent of the audience stated that active switchers would benefit most from the CMA's rem- edies, whereas only 11 per cent thought non-switching custom- ers on standard variable tariffs would benefit the most. Kamm said: "That's exactly the opposite of what we want to happen. It is not an energy market that works in the best interests of all consumers." WATER Competition described as 'logical' Domestic water competition is logical, and there is no reason why the market should not be free in the same way as energy. That is the view of SES Busi- ness Water managing director Giuseppe Di Vita, who told Utility Week he did not see any reason why the domestic market should not open, despite negligible cus- tomer savings suggested by Ofwat in its cost-benefit review. Di Vita said he fully agreed with the idea of liberalised mar- kets, and the benefits were about more than just price. He added that there was oen too much focus on the commodity – water or energy – when there should also be a focus on the quality of service and the level of innova- tion a competitive market drives. ENERGY Start-up launched to 'help power Africa' A new energy supplier has been launched to tackle two problems: UK energy customers being "con- sistently overcharged" and people in poor nations such as Africa living without access to energy. Manchester-based supplier Brighter World has been set up as an ethical "buy-to-give" busi- ness, which promises to install a solar-powered micro-grid in an African village for every 2,000 UK customers it signs up. Brighter World co-founder and chief executive Cheryl Latham said: "People in the UK are fed up of the same old story out of the energy industry." Toasting success: majority of network is live I am the customer Richard Williams "There are no dual fuel tariffs in Northern Ireland" With the domestic energy market in Great Britain under constant scrutiny, it may be interesting to see how things compare for consumers in Northern Ireland. The NI retail energy market is completely separate from GB, with different suppliers. Further- more, unlike in GB, an indepen- dently regulated tariff is available for all domestic electricity and natural gas consumers. Competition in domestic elec- tricity began in June 2010 and we now have six suppliers. However, on their own, NI consumers can- not get the lower prices that GB customers can on dual fuel. The Consumer Council promotes consumer choice and price savings through compe- tition. In June we launched our independent energy price comparison website, which com- pares every available tariff with a consumer's current tariff. See www.consumercouncil.co.uk. Richard Williams, head of energy policy, The Consumer Council with 64 per cent of customers, Power NI dominates the market and consequently has its domes- tic tariff regulated. This provides transparency and gives consum- ers confidence that the price is fair. For competing suppliers it provides them with a price they must beat to have any hope of attracting new customers. Power NI last increased its electricity prices in July 2013 and with sup- pliers undercutting them, switch- ing has doubled from 5.7 per cent in 2014 to 11.3 per cent in 2015. That is the good news. But unfortunately there is no supplier offering a dual fuel tariff. So while domestic electricity and natural gas prices compare well with GB 26 | 18TH - 24TH NOVEMBER 2016 | UTILITY WEEK

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