Ofgem has warned energy suppliers that they won't be allowed to put back their smart meter roll-out deadlines when they get the option to amend their plans in early 2018.
The warning from Ofgem comes in a draft legal direction released this week, together with an accompanying letter reiterating their obligations.
The largest suppliers - ones that supply more than 250,000 customers with gas, electricity or dual-fuel - are required to submit binding annual milestones for the installation of smart meters. However, at the current rate, it may take much longer before the project is completed. It follows a series of delays due to the ambitious and expensive nature of the UK's roll-out, not to mention serious security concerns.
In the legal direction (PDF), Ofgem indicated that suppliers may be obligated to amend roll-out plans if a supplier "has, or could be expected to have, knowledge or information that will or could have a material effect" on the annual milestones or expected installation rates in their current roll-out plans.
But the document indicates that Ofgem is planning to come down hard on suppliers that are behind on their roll-outs, and that putting back their deadlines for completion won't be tolerated.
In a letter accompanying the draft direction (PDF), Rob Salter-Church, partner, Consumers and Competition, at Ofgem warned: "Where a supplier submits a revised roll-out plan in 2018 (with revised annual milestones for 2018 and 2019) and we consider that the reasons given for the annual milestones are not duly justified, then the milestones from their previous roll-out plan in respect to 2018 and 2019 would continue to remain binding and enforceable (until the supplier provides a revised roll-out plan with duly justified reasons for the annual milestones within it)."
He continued: "Suppliers must take all reasonable steps to ensure that a smart meter is installed on or before 31 December 2020 at each domestic premises and small business premises. It is important that the roll-out plans submitted by suppliers ensure that suppliers are focused on achieving this requirement.
"These proposed amendments would clarify the link between the revised roll-out plans submitted and the 2020 roll-out obligation. These amendments would apply to revised plans submitted in accordance with the proposed direction as well as plans submitted in accordance with pre-existing mechanisms in the supply licences."
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