The smart meter rollout’s cost/benefit ratio was on ‘shaky ground’, even before the coronavirus pandemic brought the project to a standstill.
That’s the suggestion from Joel Stark, Managing Director at Stark, who spoke to ELN to discuss the effects of the pandemic on the UK’s energy sector and how it would likely affect the course of the industry moving into the future.
His company works across the network connection, metering, data and analytics space, providing information that aims to allow a wide range of energy market participants to do their jobs more effectively – however, Mr Stark suggests the smart meter programme, which was designed to facilitate similar purposes by replacing 53 million meters in the UK, is on risky ground.
He suggested the programme has not been well-controlled and noted it is now running at twice its original cost of £2 billion – he added the £4 billion price tag is likely to continue to inflate as a result of pandemic postponements and told ELN the cost-benefit ratio was already on ‘shaky ground’ before the coronavirus due to “delay-after-delay-after-delay”.
He said this would worsen as the benefits of the complex scheme are pushed further and further out – the original target for completion was 2019 but the Smart Data Communications Company (Smart DCC) is now working towards a target of reaching 85% by 2024.
Mr Stark told ELN: “This is a programme that’s kind of lurched from crisis to crisis if I’m honest – some of it’s been about delivery, some of it’s about oversight and management, some of it’s about the policy framework that it’s kind of sat within – when you look at a lot of stuff that happens in energy, this programme looks slightly anomalous.”
A DCC spokesperson said: “The DCC’s secure network is the digital spine of Britain’s energy system, supporting the move to net zero.
“Before Covid interrupted the roll-out, 31 second-generation smart meters were being installed every minute. We’re ready to support energy companies to resume that effort as soon as the lockdown is lifted.”
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