On 17th February, we attended a presentation on the smart meter rollout in the UK. In particular, the talk focused on the technology used for the communications between the end-point meters and the central computer systems.

 The presentation was led by David Owens from Telefonica, one of the lead companies for the consortium responsible for the rollout in the south of England. David is also an IET member and the event was hosted by the IET at Surrey University in Guildford.

Some key points of the presentation:

  • The smart rollout in Great Britain is split into two geographical halves, with the dividing line being an approximate east-west line drawn from Liverpool to around Sheffield. North of that line the consortium is being led by Arqiva; south of that line the delivery consortium (for the region designated “Central/South”) is led by Telefonica.
  • The aim of the project is to have a smart meter installed in 26 million homes in the country by 2020, although their use is not compulsory. By doing so, the country’s energy usage and greenhouse emissions will be significantly improved, and there will be a significant (billions of £) saving for various parts of the UK economy (consumers and utilities).
  • The two consortia have independently developed different technical solutions
  • Telefonica have three different variants of comms modules; one with a standard antenna, and two with alternative antennae for hard-to-reach locations. Meters usually use the mobile phone network to communicate with the central system.
  • Meters can utilise peer-to-peer comms in order to piggy back on a neighbours backhaul connection, if their own connection is weak. Peer-to-peer is achieved through Zigbee.

As with any change that potential affects the entire population, there will be those who are for it and those who are against it, and that was evident during the Q&A session at the end of the presentation. Making it optional for someone to install a smart meter will hopefully give consumers greater choice and will allow them to decide what’s right for their circumstances.

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