Jason_Brogden_photo.jpgWhen we discover friends in unexpected places, we often say, “It’s a small world.” While I usually cover the smart grid issues throughout the US, today’s post connects us to our utility friends across the pond. The Smart Utility Summit 2011 will take place on June 28-29, 2011, at the Chelsea Football Club, London, UK. A quick look at the agenda for The Smart Utility Summit and you will soon discover “It’s a small world” when it comes to smart grid issues. Utilities and Suppliers throughout the UK face many of the same challenges and concerns currently being addressed here in the US. Jason Brogden, the smart meter programme manager at the Energy Retail Association (“ERA”) will provide the energy retail perspective on smart metering developments. He will discuss the progress made to-date in Great Britain as well as identify some key risks and strategies for mitigation. The good news is that smartgridlegalnews.com readers will also get to benefit from Great Britain’s experience because I recently had the opportunity to interview Jason:

Evers: Jason, this is a real privilege for me. Thank you for the opportunity to provide some international insights to smart grid issues. While the Energy Retail Association is known in the Great Britain, tell my readers a little bit about the organization.

Brogden: The Energy Retail Association, formed in 2003, represents the six main electricity and gas suppliers in the domestic market in Great Britain.

The ERA works closely with government, NGOs, charities and other organisations in England, Scotland and Wales to ensure a coordinated approach to dealing with the key issues affecting our industry and the British consumer.

All the main energy suppliers, operating in the residential market, in Great Britain are members of the association – British Gas, EDF Energy, npower, E.ON, Scottish Power, and SSE.

Evers: Thank you Jason. Here in the US, a retail supplier is the company that provides the generation/energy to a customer. Is it the same in the Great Britain?

Brogden: The energy supplier (or retailer) is the company that has the contract with the customer to provide energy (gas and/or electricity).

Evers: Now I am going to jump to the smart grid and specifically, smart meters. What is ERA’s position on smart meters? Are you supportive? Do you want them installed?

Brogden: The ERA has long been a supporter of smart meters and has been running a smart metering programme for over four years now to help make the universal deployment of smart meters a reality in Great Britain.

Evers: What is the current state of smart meters in Great Britain?

Brogden: There is a Government mandate for energy suppliers to deploy smart meters to all households and small businesses using reasonable endeavours by the end 2019.

Evers: In the US a critical issue is cost recovery. Is this something you have to deal with? Who will pay for the new meters?

Brogden: We have a different regulatory framework here in GB where the energy retailer has the responsibility for metering, not the network operator. This is delivered in the competitive marketplace and not under regulated price control, therefore the energy retailers will pay for the meters to be installed.

Evers: How do customers feel about smart meters? Are they resistant, passive or do they look forward to it?

Brogden: In 2010 Energy UK commissioned research* which found:

  • There has been a marked increase in awareness of smart meters; over half (56%) of respondents said they had heard of smart-meters and knew what they were – a significant increased compared to a third saying so (32%) in July 2009.
  • Overall, 88% have now heard of smart meters.

Evers: What steps are being taken to educate your customers? Are customers engaged? Are they changing their behavior based on price signals?

 Brogden: We await for the consumer engagement strategy from Government for the mass smart meter roll-out, but the evidence from recent smart meter trials show that some aspect of the experience of getting a smart meter can itself prompt a reduction in energy consumption, particularly gas consumption (savings of around 3%).

Evers: Without giving away too much of your presentation, what other strategies would you suggest that we have not already discussed?

Brogden: I think it is important to ensure that there is appropriate access to data to deliver some of the consumer benefits set out in the Government’s business case and also important for industry to step up to the plate to provide confidence to consumers that they will have a positive experience for smart metering. This is why we are in the process of developing a Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice and a Privacy Charter to embed the principles of best practice within industry.

Evers: Jason, thanks for your time. It sounds like those attending the summit are in for a real treat and will get valuable information as you share ERA’s perspective and experience. Have a great conference.

The Smart Utility Summit has become the place to keep up to date on the latest developments in smart utility technology in the UK. Companies come together to discuss the success of recent smart meter rollouts, the views of policy makers across Europe and the next steps in moving from concept to reality.