You may know that on 5 April the Smart Metering Programme notified the European Commission of our conclusions relating to the Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications, or SMETS as we like to call them here. We are required to do this under the terms of the EU Technical Standards Directive. The Directive allows the Commission and other the EU Member States a three month period in which to consider the proposed specifications submitted by EU countries and if necessary comment on them. If any concerns are raised, the Commission can extend this period for up to 18 months.
The three month period for considering the UK’s specifications duly expired on 6 July. I am pleased to say that we have learned that the Commission are not going to extend this period and, subject to some minor comments, have approved our specifications. This is really good news and paves the way for the Government to introduce regulations requiring energy suppliers to install smart metering equipment by 2019 which complies with the SMETS.
The SMETS provide details of the minimum functional requirements which smart meters should meet. These include the requirement to provide near real time information to consumers on their energy consumption. We have worked very closely with industry experts and other stakeholders in developing these. Indeed, one of our key aims in agreeing the SMETS has been to ensure that smart metering equipment is interoperable between suppliers and the central communications body which will be responsible for transmitting data to and from smart meters. Delivering interoperability really is a must have because it will enable consumers to change from one supplier to another without worrying about losing some of the functionality of their smart meter or having to change their meter.
While on the subject of central communications, we have laid an Order in Parliament which will establish the requirement for the Data and Communications Company (DCC), that will be responsible for managing the data and communications in the domestic sector, to be regulated. Having a single provider of these services would enable many of the benefits of smart metering to be achieved and at the same time avoid the possibility of multiple, incompatible communications systems being set up.
I am pleased to say that the House of Lords approved the Order on 23 July. The next step is for it to be debated in the House of Commons in the Autumn. On the basis that the Commons is also content, the Order will then come into effect. Further details on the Order are set out in the Government’s response to the consultation on this matter which we published on 6 July.