Connected! Quarter of a million smart meters

It’s exciting to hit the milestone of 250,000 second-generation smart meters installed onto the Data Communications Company’s secure network.

The achievement marks a key point in the development of the next phase of smart metering for Britain. It’s more than just a number: it’s the culmination of substantial efforts across the energy, telecoms and IT sectors.

Working in DCC Operations, it’s humbling to witness the energy and expertise from so many people, teams and organisations that have gone into building a unique, secure platform that will unlock significant benefits for the country and create new opportunities powered by data.

Smart metering shows consumers their usage and empowers good decision-making and lower energy consumption. The quarter of a million “SMETS2” smart meters that are now connected to our network offer households and small businesses a fully digital view of their energy use. They are interoperable from the outset – meaning consumers can switch supplier whenever they like, confident that their meter will retain smart functionality.

Recent official figures analysed by Carbon Brief indicate that efficiency measures (such as swapping to LED lights) have saved more electricity since 2005 than the switch to renewable sources of energy. This has been achieved with only a low level of smart meter deployment. We can only imagine the energy consumption benefit Britain will experience once the full roll-out has been achieved.

Let’s explore some of the detail that lies behind the 250K total.

Building the DCC network has involved the installation of more than 700 new masts in the North, where the system uses radio technology operated by our partner Arqiva, and extensive work on the Telefonica mobile phone network in the Central and South regions of Britain. Teams have conducted thousands of miles of drive-by tests to prove it all works. We’re on course to have a network reaching 99.25% of premises in Britain – that’ll be more than mobile phones, digital TV or superfast broadband.

We’re part of a wider programme that involves 12 large energy suppliers, 114 smaller suppliers, 30 network operators and 90 other interested parties – all of whom are signed up to the Smart Energy Code.

Digital security certificates have been created for more than six million of the meters and display units which will connect to the secure network: our security standards are endorsed by the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ.

Energy suppliers have completed over 1.6m coverage checks, as they book appointments for customers to install smart meters.

It’s still early days but already more than 12m messages per month are flowing across the DCC network – that’s 277 every minute.

Already 4,100 consumers with a smart meter connected to our network have successfully changed their energy supplier, retaining smart functionality. And we’re working hard to enable faster switching.

Later this year we’ll also begin to bring millions of first-generation smart meters onto the DCC network. 

So 2019 will be the year when smart metering reaches critical momentum. The 250K landmark achievement is part of that.

Written by Gordon Riddell, Director of Operational Performance at Smart DCC.