Ofgem is weighing issuing nine energy suppliers with final orders, compelling them to use Data Communication Company’s smart meter network.
The watchdog said nine energy suppliers —Ampoweruk, Better Energy Supply, Daligas, Enstroga, Entice Energy Supply, Euston Energy (trading as Northumbria), Green Energy Supply, Symbio Energy and UK National Gas—are in breach of the requirement, in force since 25 November 2017, to be DCC users.
The smart meters these suppliers have installed aren’t connected to the DCC network, so when their customers switch to new firms, their first generation smart meters lose functionality. These “dumb” meters continue to display readings digitally but don’t relay those readings to suppliers, forcing customers to take and submit manual meter readings.
The loss of functionality on SMETS1 meters after switching is a problem across suppliers. In June the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) estimated that 18% of the 14.9 meters then live—or 2.7 million meters—have lost functionality
However, the DCC now offers a software fix that reconnects first generation smart meters to the network. Rollout of the fix has been slow, but meters installed by suppliers not using DCC’s network can’t be re-connected.
Ofgem is consulting on issuing those nine suppliers with final orders, compelling them to sign up to DCC’s platform by 31 March 2020. The companies could be banned from taking on new customers and, if they don’t act on the final order, could have their supply licences revoked.
The £13 billion smart meter rollout has been plagued by troubles, including the loss of functionality of first generation meters, slow rollout of second generation meters, cost overruns, and delays.
The original 2020 deadline for installing a smart meter in every home and small business in the UK was pushed back to 2024 in September. Ofgem has said it is “ready to take tough action” on suppliers which fail to meet smart meter installation targets.
However, trade body Energy UK has suggested that even the extended deadline is impossible and warned its members could be unfairly penalised for failing to meet it, partly due to customer wariness about accepting the next generation meters.
The DCC’s networks carried more than a billion messages to and from smart meters in 2019, equating to 28 messages per installed meter per month. And the amount of data it processes will continue to increase, as the UK nears its target of installing 53 million smart meters.
The company opened a new control centre in Greater Manchester in September to process and analyse the data provided by smart meters.
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