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ElectraLink hosted the Smart Meter Readiness Forum, with speakers from across the industry, focusing on the challenges and opportunities facing the UK Smart Meter Installation Programme as we approach DCC ‘go-live’. There was a full-house with good engagement from industry including Suppliers, DNOs, Installers, Government, Industry Bodies and Advisers.

Outlined below are some of the issues, solutions, risks and opportunities identified at the forum:
Suppliers are expected to substantially ramp up their smart meter installation programmes following the ‘go-live’ at the end of 2016. At peak, the industry will need to deliver 45,000 installs a day in order to reach programme expectations. Suppliers will need to be highly effective in planning, targeting and scheduling installations and programme efficiency will be paramount as will focus on minimising cost overruns from revisits. With 30 million single or dual fuel smart meter installations targeted across the country; the risk of the programme exceeding the estimated £1.7 billion of installation costs is significant. This excludes the risk of penalties associated with missing regulatory obligations and revenue losses resulting from poor customer service.  This forum aimed to discuss how the industry can maximise first-time installs and drive programme efficiency through improved planning, procedure and discipline by putting market data and insights at the heart of the programme. Some of the key problem areas with proposed solutions are as follows:
1. Support for 2017 Installation Work-Force Requirements

Participants identified a number of factors critical to delivering the massive ramp-up in installation rates from early 2017 through 2018. The real need for trained installers and the implications this has for agile work-force planning and deployment is a pending issue that will require support in order for suppliers to successfully meet their install targets. This requires effective dispatch and supply chain management capabilities. Installers need to be equipped with clear communications for customer engagement that can inform and facilitate installation difficulties.
2. Consistent Installation Procedures Across Industry

It was highlighted that there is a real need for more consistent installation procedures and standards across the industry to increase the number of successful installations and reduce the rate of failed installations, with effective communications of considerable importance.


3.Benefits of identifying DNO issues early

Single and multiple DNO issues remain a significant factor in Smart Meter installation failure rates – resulting in revisit costs and inconvenience to the customer.  ElectraLink has access to industry data that runs through the Data Transfer Service and can be used to identify possible DNO ‘hot-spots’. Identifying DNO issues in advance will facilitate more efficient installation planning and avoid costly repeat visits.  ElectraLink’s ability to derive insights from ‘whole of industry’ data across suppliers and transient supplier-customer relationships can increase the accuracy of predicting and heading off DNO issues ahead of installation. Industry experts suggest that DNO related issues cause 3% to 4% of all installations to fail nationally – at a potential cost to the programme of £70 million. Furthermore, ElectraLink analysis shows that this figure could be as high as 19% in some parts of the country – meaning that there is significant value in identifying and targeting ‘hot spots’ early in the programme.
4. Industry Communications Support

There is a risk (borne out by research) to suggest that the Smart Meter programme may be negatively impacted by installers surfacing safety issues with domestic appliances such as cookers and boilers that are routinely checked as part of the installation process, for example, “I asked for my meter to be upgraded and I ended up having to buy and new boiler”.

Smart Energy GB have encouraged industry to continue to engage with them, to emphasise positive messages.  These might be, for example, “we do a thorough check of your fuse cut-out and gas appliances as a routine part of the installation process and as a consequence are confident that the people will be living in safer homes as a consequence of the programme.”  This may also stimulate closer communication between suppliers and DNOs. BEIS recognises this need for cooperation and is investing in ways to engage industry for the success of smart meter programme.
5. Rollout Specific Issues & Solutions Derived by the Data

There was a real consensus that data analytics has a key role to play in driving first time installation success. Through data we can support better customer engagement that will drive-up access rates; identify and head-off DNO issues; drive a more effective balance between complex and simple installations; as well as leveraging deep insight into installation issues in local areas across suppliers and changing customer-supplier relationships. These are a multitude of problem areas that can be solved by utilising the data available. ElectraLink has a solution to improving roll-out performance through a live data set that will continue to expand and improve throughout the roll-out. More accurate predictions reduce costs and any data that can improve property access rates is valuable.

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