The much-anticipated revised GB Smart Meter Implementation Programme delivery plans were recently published for consultation, and it is no surprise that the previous April go-live date has moved out to the right. On paper, this is unlikely to be a big deal for most energy sector market participants, particularly as the more realistic Joint Industry Plan was already working towards an August go-live data.
From a functional perspective, the initial July release (R1.2) will provide enough functionality to support energy supplier’s ability to start rolling out and operating their SMETS2 smart meters. This is with the exception of pre-pay meter support, and a smattering of less frequently used service requests that will be rolled out within the second release (R1.3) two months later.
Now, here are the interesting bits. Firstly, there is a month of contingency still available to the DCC beyond these dates … so we should probably assume this will used; so now think August and October release dates at best. Secondly, and most significantly, UEPT (User Entry Process Testing – the formal testing that any party wishing to connect to the DCC must pass before being allowed to go live) has shifted way to the right, now commencing only five weeks prior to R1.2 and two weeks prior to R1.3 go-live dates.
So, what does this mean for energy suppliers and other market participants?
Well, for any well prepared energy supplier working to ambitious timescales, with the aim of commencing DCC live operations at the earliest opportunity, they will certainly need to consider the impact this will have upon them. After completion of UEPT, all energy suppliers will need further time in order to complete end-to-end testing. This will be their first opportunity to prove successful round trip messaging from existing systems and onwards to real smart meter devices, and also to bed-in the associated business processes and change; rushing through this without full due-diligence could cause all kinds of problems for your operations further down the line.
Throw into the mix any regression problems that may occur between DCC releases and you can see how risk-averse organisations may want to hold back on their rollout plans.
And to cap it all off, nobody will be able to go live until two larger energy suppliers have passed UEPT anyhow! So, as ready as a small energy supplier might be, its ability to go into production may be impacted by the larger suppliers’ capability, and ambition, to complete UEPT within the same timescales.
So whilst the DCC might have its service operational on the newly advertised dates, i believe the constraints of these short UEPT-to-live timescales will likely see most suppliers stepping back, taking a more pragmatic approach, and looking to go-live no earlier than the second release (R 1.3). But what do you think?