It was a contrasting summer for smart meter deployment news in Europe.
· In France, plans for smart meter rollout by the national distribution network were announced to start next year.
· In Germany, the government presented justification to the European Union for reigning in its own smart meter deployments.
· In the United Kingdom, the government’s mandate of smart meter rollout was pushed out a year.
But behind the headlines it was clear that smart metering remains the focus for utilities across the continent albeit at varying speeds and under differing national environments.
A clear driver is the level of competition between utilities within each market as well as the reach of re-regulation.
In the United Kingdom, British Gas followed the U.K. government’s move to relax the timetable requirements for U.K. utilities to deploy smart meters, with its own September 2013 announcement that it had awarded a £600 million contract for smart meters to Landis+Gyr. It also underlined its enthusiasm to use home connectivity to support a range of new services and revenue streams with the launch of a new home services brand and an extension of its myHome service for remotely managing home heating.
There are specific competitive issues within the U.K. market. For example, energy retailers own the metering hardware rather than the distribution network. In addition, deregulation has meant that retailers can provide additional energy services, such as boiler and home maintenance. These services are already responsible for a large percentage of the utilities’ profits.
The British Gas approach is showing how utilities should be exploring the potential of connected home services ahead and alongside smart meter deployments. Utilities will not have a lock on providing these services, and where smart meter deployments are subject to delays and limitations, developing an understanding of what home automation services will work and how best to deliver them, with or without a smart meter present, will become increasingly important.