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Smart meter installation period extended but ‘ambitious’ new targets to follow

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

The government has extended the obligation to take All Reasonable Steps (ARS) to install smart meters by six months, as a result of COVID-19.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has this week outlined the next stages for the smart meter rollout in a report entitled Delivering a Smart System, developed following a consultation launched in 2019.

It confirms that the current ARS period, which was set to last until December 2020, will be extended through to July 2021 to account for the uncertainty in recent months and the inability of suppliers to install the meters.

Suppliers stopped installations in March when government lockdown restrictions were introduced, meaning they couldn’t enter homes and instead focused on only essential maintenance.

At the beginning on June, suppliers tentatively began installations again in England, but have maintained heightened health and safety procedures.

Following the ARS period, a new four year framework will be implemented, with each supplier having an “ambitious” annual target that should take them towards full market rollout. This will help to drive forward the smart meter rollout, and make up for the lost time during the lockdown.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, innovative products and services that rely on smart metering, such as tariffs that reward consumers for using energy when cheap, renewable generation is available, will be more important than ever,” states the report.

“Smart meters have a crucial role to play in our clean recovery, ensuring cost-effective progress towards our net zero commitment in the next five years and for generations to come.”

The smart meter rollout has been hampered throughout, with the government taking the decision to lower its target to 85% coverage. The report highlights the disagreements there have been about how feasible such a target is, with many calling for greater government support.

The flexibility smart meters bring could cut the cost of delivering net zero emissions by 2050 by £16 billion annually. Currently, there are 21.5 million smart meters installed across the UK, and prior to lockdown the speed of installation was increasing.

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