The Government has made it clear that it is committed to ensuring that every home and business in the country has a smart meter by the end of 2020. The roll-out of smart meters is an important national modernisation programme that will bring major benefits, providing all consumers the opportunity to engage with their energy use and make savings on the basis of better information about their consumption. Smart meters will also bring an end to estimated billing. Robust interoperability is essential to support government objectives on easier and faster switching, ensuring that a competitive energy supply market can be fostered. This will also underpin the transition towards a smarter energy system, for example by providing the functionality that supports time of use tariffs. Energy suppliers are responsible, under their standard licence conditions of electricity and gas supply, for rolling out smart meters. The non-domestic roll-out covers around three million meter sites. These sites are varied across both private and public sector organisations and range from small shops to large industrial sites.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has launched a further consultation on the non-domestic smart metering implementation programme seeking views on two issues relating to the roll-out of smart and advanced meters to the non-domestic sector.
Firstly, DECC is seeking views on whether to remove the existing policy which allows suppliers to use communications services other than those provided by the Data and Communications Company (DCC) for meters they install at non-domestic premises. DECC granted Smart DCC Ltd (the Data Communications Company) a licence in September 2013 to establish and manage the national data and communications network to connect smart meters to the business systems of energy suppliers, network operators and other authorised service users of the network. The aim is to ensure interoperability of meters and to remove the need for a site visit when transferring supplier.
One of the primary concerns is whether alternative service providers can demonstrate firm plans to develop a DCC equivalent service and the impact on non-domestic consumers of retaining the DCC opt-out, particularly when switching between opted-in and opted-out suppliers.
Secondly, DECC is seeking views on the main amendments to the regulatory framework that would be needed to implement the removal of the DCC opt-out and invites views on the proposed approach.
The Government has made it clear that the opt-out may be retained if this consultation finds robust evidence that:
- services equivalent to those provided by the DCC will be forthcoming; or
- a lack of interoperability would not affect non-domestic consumers’ willingness to engage with the energy market and switch supplier when it is in their interest to do so.
Should the Government decide to remove the DCC opt-out, the existing regulatory framework would need to be amended to reflect its removal and to ensure that the framework is consistent with the requirement for all meters to be enrolled in the DCC. A major concern that needs addressing is to ensure that the DCC does not abuse its monopoly position should the opt-out be removed.
We are compiling our response to this consultation and are inviting responses particularly on the following questions:
- Does the requirement for a meter change or site visit significantly impact the decision to change supplier?
- With regard to market competitiveness, should the uniform fixed price policy that has been adopted nationally for the domestic market be extended to the non-domestic market to prevent the DCC from abusing its monopoly position?
The deadline for response is 27th May 2016. We are formulating our response to the consultation and would welcome your feedback to incorporate into this. To have your say, please email the compliance team at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively complete the contact form. To discuss this further please call Melanie Kendall-Reid on 01252 87 87 22.