The UK government today unveiled a plan to outfit most of the homes and small businesses in England, Scotland, and Wales with smart meters by the end of 2020. The plan, which could cost an estimated £8.11 billion ($12.3 billion) and involve some 50 million gas and electric meters, currently stands as the largest smart meter rollout in the world. And it represents a huge opportunity for smart grid technology vendors, as whichever companies win the contracts to supply the meters and smart grid infrastructure could build an entire business off the deals.
There are already some UK smart meter trials underway at utilities including British Gas, Npower, and EDF Energy, with meters coming from BGlobal, PRI, and others. But while the established players in the field may have an inside track, smart meter hardware and network startups such as Silver Spring Networks and Trilliant are likely to be interested in acting as suppliers to the UK government’s plan as well. Silver Spring said just last month that it had struck a deal to work with PRI on a smart meter using Silver Spring’s network interface cards.
The government needs to first work out exactly which features will be required for the smart meters, then who will install and maintain the systems and manage the data. Its preference is to have utilities to handle the hardware, but have a third party oversee all of the energy data going back and forth between utilities and consumers. Another option would be to have the utilities handle both the hardware and the data, while a third would involve the creation of a separate national agency to oversee all aspects of the system.
No matter which model is used, the government said a smart meter program could save utilities and consumers anywhere from £2.5 billion and £3.6 billion over the next 20 years, and reduce carbon emissions in the region by 2.6 million metric tons per year. The government expects the first smart meters to be installed under the new program in 2012.
Image of a PRI Home Energy Controller courtesy of PRI.