Last week, the UK Government finally admitted the obvious, presumably in the hope that the announcement would be lost in the Brexit noise, which is that the GB Smart Metering Programme rollout has been delayed by four years to 2024. For those who don’t know the history, back in 2011, the Government announced that it was instigating a smart metering programme which would see 53 million domestic smart meters installed by the end of 2019. We’re approaching that date and the latest figures show that only 2 million compliant SMETS2 meters have been installed. Despite many of us having pointed out the issues for years, it’s only now that reality has dawned on our ministers, who have set a new target of 2024. Many in the industry believe that’s equally fictional and are suggesting that 2030 is more realistic. That would mean a total of nineteen years for a project that was originally meant to take less than seven years to complete. Over the course of the project, costs have spiralled, although BEIS – the ministry now in charge of the project are still doing their best to dream up magic benefits, presumably because of a concern that if they revealed the full impact, any Minister in their right mind would cancel the project.
The announcement was hardly unexpected. Along with many others, I have been critical of the project since its early days, when it became obvious that that it was being driven by ideology rather than practical requirements. Countries such as Italy managed a national deployment in a couple of years at a fraction of the price. The difference with the GB programme is that it was politically led, turning into the latest in a long line of Government IT disasters. However, the announcement is timely, as it comes at the point when our current Ministers are promoting a technical solution to the Irish border as an alternative to the backstop. If we assume that the same mistakes will occur, as they have done again and again in previous IT projects, it is unlikely that we would see anything workable in place before 2030. More worryingly, it is likely to be hacked by organised crime well before that.