U.K. Plan for Smart Meter in Every Home Suffers Fresh Setback

  • Start of communications system delayed until late September
  • System links smart meters to utilities for remote reading

U.K. government plans to install smart meters in every home and business to measure gas and electricity use suffered a setback after a key piece of infrastructure for the system was delayed by another month.

Communications systems that link smart meters to utilities, run by the Data Communications Co., a unit of Capita Plc, will not be ready until the end of September, missing the deadline to complete it this week, according to a government statement.

Britain plans to install 53 million smart meters in homes and businesses by 2020 to cut electricity use and lower carbon emissions. Meter-makers including General Electric Co., SAP AG, Toshiba Corp.’s Landis+Gyr unit and Elster Group SE are lining up to grab a slice of the market, and have formed an alliance to develop common standards.

The system “is currently being tested to deliver a long-lasting, world class system to bill payers,” a spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, wrote in in an e-mailed statement. The delay, first reported by BBC News, means the system won’t go live until the the end of September, she said.

The system was originally supposed to go live in 2015. In 2014, that target was pushed back a year until to 2016.

“As indicated by the department, the timetable for the roll-out of the new infrastructure will allow for testing of the system to ensure that it will deliver a long-lasting and effective system,” a spokeswoman for the Data Communications Co. wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Delays in the U.K., Germany, France and elsewhere in Europe suggest the European Commission will struggle to meet its voluntary target of deploying smart electricity meters in 80 percent of homes across the bloc by 2020, according to Elchin Mammadov, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.

“I really don’t think the EU as a whole and many countries will be able to achieve their targets, with the exception of possibly a few like Italy and Spain,” Mammadov said. “By the time they figure everything out, smart meters will be way outdated.”

SSE Plc, one of the U.K. utilities required to install smart meters in homes, said it was important the roll out is done well. 

“It is crucial that the infrastructure enabling the mass deployment for smart meters to people’s homes is fit for purpose and in place as soon as possible so that we can get on with the task of delivering the benefits for customers,” the company wrote in a statement on its website.