Elster recently said that it had been selected by British Gas as the primary provider of gas metering for its higher energy-consuming business customers. The agreement will see Elster provide up to 100,000 communicating commercial and industrial (C&I) smart meters over the next three years as British Gas seeks to make a head-start on the metering rollouts which are expected to accelerate in 2015.
This is a very positive step, as the UK’s energy suppliers currently appear to be behind track of their goal to have smart gas and/or electricity meters in every home and business by 2020, says IHS Technology’s Jacob Pereira, Smart Utilities Infrastructure analyst.
“We estimate that little more than a fifth of buildings in the UK will have their conventional gas meter replaced by a smart meter by 2017, and have been highlighting for a number of years that many European nations will have difficulties reaching their installation goals by their stated deadlines.” The UK has already pushed back its original timeline from 2019 to 2020 following regulatory and legislative delays. This is despite a number of pushes in both industry and government to speed up the process for regulating and registering the new approved metering technologies.
Companies such as British Gas and Elster will face a number of obstacles in roll-out plans, including that gas meters in the UK are typically located inside the home, requiring installers to locate home and business owners and schedule specific times to replace metering equipment. Gas meters are also generally considered to be more difficult to disconnect and reconnect than smaller, simpler electricity meters, requiring engineers to spend extra time in the homes that need them.
This is in contrast to countries such as the U.S., where meters are typically located outside the home and installations and replacements can be implemented quickly. Installation companies also appear to have similar worries as they continue to try to fill installation engineer positions from an already drained talent pool in anticipation of the busy years ahead.
British Gas has been seen as a leader in the adoption of smart meters and continues to be a pioneer in the region, Pereira says. “We expect to see other energy suppliers to soon follow suit, and projects to see a significant uptick starting in earnest in the latter part of 2015, rising to over 3 million units installed in 2016.”
He says that although this represents an unusually fast ramp-up, the UK will need to significantly increase its efforts in the following years to replace the more than 50 million gas and electric meters by 2020.
Additional Resources: IHS Smart Electricity Meters Report 2014