Association of Residential Managing Agents

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Smart Metering – a Government Update

The Government has a manifesto commitment to ensure that every home and business in the country is offered a smart meter by 2020, giving people more control over their energy bills than they have had before.  The programme aims to replace 53 million meters with smart electricity and gas meters in all domestic properties. As of 31 August 2017, the latest published figures, an estimated 7.68 million smart meters were operating in smart mode in domestic properties.

What are the benefits of the Smart Metering Programme?

Smart Meters are a vital upgrade to our energy infrastructure, and provide more control to consumers by giving them real-time information. They tell consumers how much electricity and gas they use when they use it, not months later. They also tell consumers how much it is costing, in pounds and pence, bringing an end to estimated bills arriving months afterwards. In time, they’ll be an important enabler for switching energy suppliers too, making the process easier and faster so consumers can get the best deals available to them. 

According to research commissioned by Smart Energy GB, the not-for-profit organisation established to lead the national consumer engagement campaign for smart meters, 76% of smart meter users would recommend them, and more than 8 in 10 people with smart meters feel they have a better understanding of how much they are spending on energy.

Overall, the roll-out is set to deliver significant net benefits to consumers, estimated at £5.7 billion over the lifetime of the Programme, delivering £1.50 of savings for every £1 spent. Furthermore, smart meters are a platform for a smart energy system that could save consumers up to £40 billion in the coming decades.

What is the Government’s role in delivering the smart metering programme?

Whilst the rollout is energy supplier- led, the Government is ultimately accountable for delivery of the Smart Metering Programme, and in particular for ensuring that consumers see the many benefits of smart metering.  The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has a thorough and rigorous approach to monitoring and evaluating the programme, ensuring these benefits are delivered. To help achieve this, the Department collects information directly from energy suppliers, network companies, and Smart Energy GB, as well as conducting its own consumer research to monitor the progress of the rollout using varied techniques such as mystery shopping, and working with suppliers to make sure that any lessons learnt are applied.

Ensuring this is done safely, efficiently and to the highest possible standards by energy suppliers across Great Britain is one of the key aims of the Smart Metering Operations Group (SMOG), chaired by BEIS.  SMOG brings together energy suppliers, network operators, Ofgem, Citizens Advice (representing consumers), SEGB, and other stakeholders. The group acts as an effective single forum to discuss safety, operational and training issues.

Safety

Safety is, and always has been, the priority for the programme. Smart meters are covered by UK and EU product safety legislation, which requires manufacturers to ensure that any product placed on the market is safe. The Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice (SMICOP) requires energy suppliers to ensure that installers are appropriately trained, and during installation, installers are required to provide guidance on electrical safety and advise on wider risks in homes.  Installers also have a role to play in identifying potential issues and risks with consumer appliances including boilers and cookers, and drawing these to the attention of consumers. The Department is working with Energy UK and the industry more-broadly on a programme of activity to support and monitor the safe rollout of smart meters.

How can ARMA members help the roll-out of smart metering?      

In April this year ARMA agreed to participate in a workshop hosted by BEIS related to installations in Multi Dwelling Units (MDUs), many of which will require the support of the respective managing agent and approvals from freeholders.

A typical dual fuel installation takes around 2 hours to complete depending on the complexity of the install, but a significant amount of work is also required at the pre-appointment stage.

The workshop highlighted that ARMA members have the unique advantage of in depth knowledge of the properties under their portfolios and presented a number of opportunities where managing agents could assist the rollout including by:

  1. Having clear guidance in place for tenants/leaseholders that may come to you for advice when they are seeking to have their smart meters installed. ARMA members might consider making guidance proactively available so tenants/leaseholders understand any policies or permissions they may need to request before the install takes place.
  2. Reviewing your internal policies to ensure requirements / ways of working can be communicated to the potentially multiple energy suppliers requiring access to properties under your management over the next 3 years as the programme rolls out.
  3. Considering your approach to facilitating access requests to meter rooms / buildings where necessary, by having clear points of contact and processes in place and readily available to energy suppliers when they approach you for help with access.
  4. Being prepared to share your on the ground local knowledge with energy suppliers (within the limits of security and safety), for example (and not limited to) relating to the location of meter rooms, access to parking facilities and considerations where there may be shared cut-out fuses between properties.

Finally, as outlined at the workshop, it is recognised that in approximately 3.5% of GB premises standard communication technologies (Home Area Networks) will not connect all smart metering devices. GB energy suppliers have therefore established the Alt HAN Company as a special purpose company to deliver Alt HAN solutions. Over the next few months the Alt HAN Company is hoping to organise ‘engagement’ events with key stakeholders that will help shape the implementation of Alt HAN solutions in MDUs. Please contact althan@gemserv.com  with any questions or requests for further information related to Alt Han.

For more information on the rollout of smart metering visit www.smartenergygb.org.

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