There will be a delay in the roll-out of smart electricity meters which was originally expected to start in 2018, the Commission for Energy Regulation has confirmed. While Minister for Energy Denis Naughten has indicated that customers would begin receiving smart meters in late 2018 "at the earliest", it now seems likely that the National Smart Metering Project (NSMP) will be delayed well beyond that.
Smart meters will replace the traditional gas and electricity meters and will remove the need for a home visit to have the meter read. They provide customers with a view of actual energy usage and can help them move their consumption to less expensive, off-peak tariffs. They are also designed to help the environment by reducing overall energy production.
The smart meter project for electricity meters was hit by a delay in July this year after the ESB put the procurement process for the meters on hold temporarily for "technical reasons".
Separately, the European Commission recently published a set of new proposals for the EU energy market, which may also have an impact on the national plans.
The energy regulator said that following some issues in relation to the meter procurement process, which had the potential to effect the timelines of the national programme, it had conducted a review earlier in the year with ESB Networks, Gas Networks Ireland and other stakeholders. This was "in order to bring more clarity and certainty regarding the timelines for implementation on the programme".
“While the CER is continuing to develop the revised timelines on key elements of the programme, it remains clear at this stage that there will be a delay in the roll-out of smart meters to consumers, which was originally planned to commence in 2018,” a spokesman for the regulator said. “It is now expected that ESB Networks will issue its first round of tenders in the first quarter of 2017.
“Based on this, later in 2017, the CER will conduct a further cost benefit analysis to determine the final scope, scale and timing of the programme and to ensure the efficiency and benefit to the consumer.”
The energy regulator was also considering the latest EU proposals for smart metering and consumer rights in recently published European legislation, which the spokesman said may also impact on the decision-making process.
“The ongoing work on the programme plan, and the potential impacts on the scale or timing of roll-out have been fully communicated to stakeholders, including both the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the European Commission,” he added.
The EU proposes that "where roll-out of smart meters is assessed positively" that at least 80 per cent of consumers will be equipped with intelligent metering systems by 2020. Mr Naughten has told the Dáil that the appraisal of smart metering has varied across Europe, however.
At the end of November, the regulator called for submissions on a consultation paper on the wider costs and benefits of the National Smart Metering Programme. The paper invited submissions on matters that were not included in its cost-benefit analysis and the consultation was open until January 6th.
On December 1st, the European Commission released a set of proposals on new rules for the EU energy market. It said the proposed reform would enable a clean energy transition to take place, at the best value for consumers. The commission said the time was ripe for a rise in consumer participation on retail energy markets. “Recent progress in digital and renewable technologies allows consumers to better control their energy consumption and to produce their own renewable electricity, both of which open new opportunities for savings.”
Under the proposed new rules, every customer will be able to request a smart meter and a dynamic price contract reflecting electricity price fluctuations. All EU electricity customers would also get free access to at least one certified energy comparison tool.