Looking back on progress in 2019

Angus Flett, CEO

This has been the Data Communications Company’s biggest year yet as we work with others to deliver the secure network which supports energy smart meters. The roll-out as a whole advanced significantly -- the culmination of a lot of hard work across the industry.

2019 also allowed us to optimise the way we work, accelerating the digitisation of Britain’s energy system. During it, we redefined our purpose: we believe in making Britain more connected, so we can all lead smarter, greener lives.

DCC, its customers and partners in the roll-out, passed a number of major milestones this year, starting just four days into the year when we marked 250,000 second-generation, fully interoperable, (SMETS2) meters connected to our network. With increasing frequency, the SMETS2 milestones kept coming: we hit 500,000 in March, 1 million in May, 2 million in September, and 3 million in November. It’s inspiring to be a part of the juggernaut growth of the network. We and our customers averaged 18 SMETS2 meters connected per minute this year; currently installs are running at 32 meters a minute. 2020 is set to bring immense growth.  

With more devices comes a corresponding rise in traffic over our network: the number of messages carried increased ten-fold over the past 12 months. These messages are travelling across our network encrypted and the data they contain is allowing our customers (the energy companies and network operators) to design a more renewable future for the nation, built on smarter, more flexible use of energy. This year considerably more than half a billion messages travelled across our network, and the capacity is there for that figure to continue to climb steeply, as it must.

Our technology continued to mature throughout the year. Through the autumn we have seen a marked increase in the use of SMETS2 meters in pre-payment mode on our network, with thousands of top-ups a day. We also started migrating thousands of first-generation (SMETS1) smart meters onto our network – the process on enrolling and adopting them will allow consumers full interoperability, so they can switch providers without the meter losing its smart functionality.

DCC opened its new state-of-the-art Brabazon House operations centre in September. Located in Greater Manchester, this secure facility holds 2,400 smart meter testing spaces, and provides new tools to visualise and optimise the roll-out like never before.

We have worked hard this year to become a more open and transparent organisation. We published lists of our customers and active SMETS2 installers as part of fulfilling our licence obligation to help facilitate competition within the market.

DCC attended and was held to public account by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Parliament Select Committee twice this year. In its October session we were able to share with the Committee that the monthly install rate of SMETS2 meters in the north of Britain had increased 19 times since the beginning of the year.

This year we set out our new plan to improve customer engagement, which was built through consultation with our customers. It included six key principles which place DCC customers at the heart of our future plans and decision-making.

As part of our work to digitise the nation’s energy we are delivering Ofgem’s Faster, More Reliable Switching programme. We announced our new service providers this year and held several switching events to kick off the work on this programme that will lead to next-business day energy supplier switching, fostering vibrant competition in the market while ensuring a smooth experience for consumers.

Among other highlights, I was really excited that we launched our first four tech degree apprenticeship opportunities at the DCC; interest was high: around ten times that amount of young people registered with us. And we have been working to lower the organisation’s carbon footprint.

I’m incredibly proud of these different achievements, which represent great effort from all those working at the DCC, and crucially from our customers and service providers, and everyone involved in the smart meter roll-out. They worked hard with us to make 2019 a success, and I would like to sincerely thank them for all their endeavours.

2020 is set to be another landmark year for the industry and DCC. It will see millions more homes connected to our network through their smart meters, while our sector will be exploring new technologies that will take the nation’s decarbonisation to the next level.