Connecting to the DCC – a To-Do List

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In our dealings with many energy suppliers, especially the smaller ones, achieving full connectivity with their smart meters through the DCC can appear daunting. This should come as a surprise to no one. Their businesses are built on understanding the energy market, the consumption needs of their customers, and carving out a profit in a hugely regulated and competitive sector. Systems integration programmes of this size and complexity are not familiar territory for them, which makes it difficult to know how best to begin traversing the path with its challenges of assurance regimes, testing phases and SMKI, to name but a few.

At Aprose Solutions, we do have this experience, and are happy to share it. This goes beyond simply explaining the Smart Energy Code to our customers, but incorporates many years of hands-on delivery, integrating systems and services across numerous market sectors. We also recognise why smart metering is uniquely complex:

  • Traditional metering operations have been, over the years, largely hidden or removed from the day-to-day front-office customer service and back-office support. Smart meters will bring these operations firmly back into play, with much functionality requiring integration with existing business processes and systems;
  • The regulatory framework for Great Britain is quite different to any other in the world where smart meters have been deployed. These arrangements have introduced complexities that have not needed to be considered previously;
  • As a result, the design is “bleeding-edge” and has not been implemented anywhere else. It involves many different parties whose designs and implementations must be consistent if it is to be successful;
  • The security aspects of the design in particular are rigorous, and introduce challenges, especially for smaller energy suppliers, who have not needed to seek formal assessment of their security controls and processes before; and
  • Energy suppliers will need to support both traditional metering and smart metering arrangements until such time as their smart rollouts have completed.

This complexity has been witnessed by some of those who have invested in Foundation, or SMETS1, rollouts to test the water. Evidence appears to suggest the challenge of this undertaking has resulted in some delays and increasing costs to their smart programmes. While the DCC is intended to remove the burdens of deploying your own head-end system and WAN solution, it introduces many other requirements.

As always, the complexity can be managed by clearly understanding the scope of what you are trying to achieve; differentiating between what you have to do, what is optional and can be deferred until later, and what is firmly out of scope.

While this scope will differ from supplier to supplier, we have developed a simple checklist of mandatory obligations and good practice; things you should consider before starting your smart metering project.

  • Define the programme of work, organisation and governance required to enable you to operate smart meters through the DCC;
  • Undertake analysis to determine:
    • business requirements necessitated by regulatory requirements;
    • business requirements based on your strategy for smart meters;
    • business requirements based on your approach to the mass roll-out of smart meters;
    • the new and changed processes necessitated by smart meters;
    • the commercial management implications of smart meters;
    • the financial implications of smart meters; and
    • the operational and regulatory reporting requirements necessitated by smart meters operating under the DCC;
  •  Design:
    • the architecture and security controls of the systems and services required to operate smart meters through the DCC; and
    • the integration needs of these systems and services.
  • Procure:
    • smart meters, IHDs and other smart devices that have been formally certified to meet the SMETS2 specification, the Commercial Product Assurance scheme, and other standards required by the SEC;
    • services to install smart meters and other smart devices to your customer base by the end of 2020; and
    • systems and services that enable you to operate smart meters through the DCC.
  • Undertake the relevant security assessments by the User Independent Security Assurance Service Provider (UISASP);
  • Develop the systems and service required to operate smart meters;
  • Test by:
    • undertaking internal testing to ensure that your processes, systems, services and smart devices are working to specification and that they meet your requirements; and
    • formally testing and qualifying the new and changed processes and systems to operate through the DCC.
  • Implement the new smart processes and systems, and include:
    • internal communications;
    • customer communications regarding the roll-out of smart meters;
    • training;
    • new service implementation co-ordination; and business readiness.

Over the coming weeks, we will explore some of these activities more fully, hopefully providing insights for the small energy supplier community, allowing them to understand the scale of their obligations, prepare them for the task ahead, and plan their smart meter rollouts with more confidence.

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