Northern Soul: smart installs fall as SMETS2 picks up
The domestic energy market is now 18 months away from the smart meter rollout deadline. With the install rate declining, the recent change in technology to SMETS2 is having wide-felt impacts.
For the last three quarters, we have recorded a drop in the number of smart meters being installed, as suppliers prepared for the 15 March SMETS1 end date amid uncertainty over the availability and technology of SMETS2 meters. In our latest Domestic Smart Metering Market Report, Cornwall Insight found install rates would need to quadruple to meet the existing target, with a 2023 target continuing to look like a more viable option for the rollout at current rates.
The change in technology may well rebalance regional penetration of smart meters. Currently, areas in the north of England record a higher proportion of smart meters. At the beginning of the year the Yorkshire, Northern and North Western regions saw smart meter proportions of greater than 40%, compared with less than 35% through much of the south. However, anecdotal reports suggest suppliers are experiencing problems connecting SMETS2 meters to the radio network in the north of England and Scotland. Some suppliers have been initially focusing their SMETS2 rollouts on the central and southern areas of England, which instead rely on a mobile network for data communication. Figure 1 shows monthly smart electricity meter installation figures, aggregated into the three DCC network regions. The secondary axis shows cumulative gas and electricity SMETS2 installs. After the official SMETS1 March end date, installations fell by 14% in the north, compared to 9% in the central region and 7% in the south. This compares to average monthly variation over the preceding year of less than 5%. Some suppliers were reportedly still installing SMETS1 meters past the deadline, suggesting rates may drop further in the north as industry fully transitions, if connection issues are not remedied. With the clock ticking, the supply community and wider industry will need to progress solving this issue before it hampers access to smart meters for a significant section of the country.
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