The rollout of the UK's ambitious and expensive smart metering programme has been put back with the news that the communications infrastructure that links meters with energy suppliers now won't be ready until the end of September.
The news came just a day before the communications system was due to be switched on, and is just the latest in a long line of delays that has affected the smart metering programme and the communications element in particular.
The network is run by a new body, the Data and Communications Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of outsourcing firm Capita, and was expected to be operational during 2015.
However, the go-live date was put back to April 2016 and then 17 August. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has now said that it will go live by the end of September.
The communications system is complicated by the requirement that it needs to be based on wireless technology. As long ago as 2011, so-called wireless ‘not spots' were identified as one of many potential weaknesses of the UK's smart meter architecture.
Stuart Ravens, an analyst at Ovum, said in 2011 that mobile networks became the de facto choice for smart meters in the UK because of the way the energy industry has developed and been regulated.
It made sense for operators In Europe, where the companies installing the smart meters also own the power lines, to use power line communications, according to Ravens. But they have also selected less ambitious systems, which are intended largely just to automate meter readings.
It also later transpired that the security of the UK's smart metering system was catastrophically flawed. Indeed, at one point, GCHQ had to intervene to prevent operators making a fundamental error that could have enabled an attacker to easily hack and potentially close down gas and electricity meters.
Householders will also have to spend as much as £50 to buy a proprietary device if they want to be able to tap into their own meters to see how much energy they use, rather than simply downloading an app and viewing the data on a PC or smartphone.
It is now open to question whether the government will achieve its target of installing 53 million smart meters into 30 million homes and businesses by the end of 2020, just four years away.
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