Geopolitics has become highly variable over the last year, terminating a lengthy period of stability; the US dollar’s role as global reserve currency is evolving; and of course, we have endured the global pandemic of COVID-19 and the impact it’s had on all our lives.
We have entered into a world of hybrid working. As a leader in our organisation I'm understanding what that means to my team: balancing autonomy and accountability to deliver outcomes; deciding when to be in a room together to solve complex problems, and when to be on Microsoft Teams for updates; and managing sessions so they’re inclusive of those in the room and also those joining virtually… these all challenge us as leaders.
At the start of 2022 we returned to face-to-face working and in March we held our first large technology workshop. It was a great opportunity to reconnect as peers, recalibrate our messaging, initiatives and challenges, and to work on ways of collaboration in a hybrid working world.
Within the DCC and across its diverse teams, we've laid many of the foundations that take us towards 2026. Our usual business activity has seen the network continue to grow, with almost 24 million smart meters connected, 14 million connected homes and nearly 60 million devices across the network, which is carrying close to 4 billion messages a month.
DCC’s Operations, Assurance and Devices teams support the network through continuous monitoring, enhancements and testing to support software releases, patches and technology refreshes that keep every home with a smart meter securely connected – all while the installation of new meters continues at a rate of more than 16,000 every working day.
We’ve seen turmoil across the energy industry with rising costs impacting households throughout Britain. This context has heightened the key role smart meters have to play in informing consumers about their consumption. We play a role in the National Grid’s Peak Demand shift programme which returns money to consumers who decide to shift consumption away from periods of capacity constraint. The smart meter network is also central to supporting time of use tariffs, offering lower rates to consumers at certain times. We continue the work to migrate legacy first-generation (SMETS1) meters onto the DCC platform, restoring smart functionality to hundreds of thousands of homes over 2022, and that continues into the new year.
This year we also delivered the Faster Switching programme, reducing the time it takes for consumers to switch energy supplier from weeks to days. Switching levels are lower currently, of course, because the external factors that impact energy prices have reduced the opportunities for new tariffs.
Our DCC-led 4G or LTE (Long Term Evolution) comms hub programme was given approval to proceed, with contracts signed in Q3 of 2022. Mobilisation is in progress, and we look forward to testing our new device in 2023. Our solution places DCC and our key suppliers at the heart of a critical technology improvement, underlining the role we have to deliver an end-to-end integrated service and an enduring platform.
Our programme to transform DCC’s core technology platform, our Data Services Provider (DSP) is also underway. The architecture has been defined, the strategic outline business case has been endorsed and now we’re engaging our customers and stakeholders on it.
In 2023 we’ll evolve our approach to hybrid working, to blend remote, flexible and in-person working. We’ll also continue to enhance our transparent and collaborative working with customers, stakeholders, and technology and innovation partners to develop what is already one of the most secure smart metering networks in the world.
To support this, we’ve identified four core capabilities across the DCC family:
- Engage - not only with DCC customers and stakeholders. We also include smart meter operators across the globe, standards bodies and key equipment manufacturers to ensure the DCC stays in a leadership role, learns lessons and shares knowledge with others digitising the global energy system.
- Design and Secure - We are the design authority and will ensure that the security foundations set in 2016 remain at the heart of the platform as we evolve it for its key role in the digitisation of the energy system.
- Assure - every change that’s made across the end-to-end system. This includes new and updated meters, new firmware on our devices, software changes, patches and enhancements; all are thoroughly tested to ensure we avoid any issues in our live system.
- Operate - Today we connect more than 14 million homes and 24 million meters, and we carry 4 billion messages and alerts every month. Our priority is to ensure we are always available as the digital spine of Britain’s energy system.
So as the sun sets on 2022, our 24-7-365 operation will continue to keep every smart meter connected. Our dedicated and committed teams will ensure that the platform behind Britain’s smarter energy system evolves and delivers value for our customers and ultimately, every consumer in the UK.
Chief Technology Officer, Smart DCC