Ofgem’s recent consultation on ElectraLink’s proposed expansion regarding electricity-related activities is an important piece of the jigsaw in the strategy for the roll-out of Smart Meter. It also demonstrates a growing maturity of the model. The proposal was generally accepted by the Energy providers, with few if any caveats.
ElectraLink is a company that is wholly owned by the DNOs. It was originally set up to comply with DNOs’ obligation under their electricity distribution licences to provide data transfer services. These services enable energy sector companies to share data safely and efficiently. They also help utilities deploy and ensure interoperability of smart meters.
ElectraLink, which operates in the electricity, gas and water sectors, would like to expand beyond its core activities and get involved in a number of commercial opportunities enabled by the roll-out of Smart Meters. These opportunities arise from the considerable amounts of data, and therefore detail, that ElectraLink hold from the Data Transfer Network, linking the main actors in the utility industry. They know, for example, which companies are losing or gaining customers and can sift data by multiple criteria: postcode, meter type, profile class and several others.
One of the final and key pieces of the jigsaw will be the appointment of one, or more, Data and Communications Companies (DCC), whose principal role will be to communicate with all gas and electricity smart meters. The appointment of a DCC and the establishment of its services are critical to the success of the smart metering programme. It will play an important role in ensuring the integrity of its communication services and in ensuring the protection of consumers’ data.
Given that smart meters produce readings every half-hour and that DECC expect over 53M smart meters to be rolled out by 2020 (mass roll-out starts in Q4 2014), there will be a lot of data! In fact this could be of the order of a 1 trillion pieces of information per year when roll-out is complete.
Smart Meters will change the energy and water industries for ever in a positive, communicative way. Consumers can rest easy: the industry is regulated, meters are interoperable between suppliers and data will be carefully managed. Consumers will control who sees their data. Reading meters will be a thing of the past as will estimated readings on your energy bills.
The only fly in the ointment is that the UK roll-out is well behind that of our European neighbours.