A report by Accenture on behalf of Consumer Focus into the future of smart metering has found exactly this.
There are problems that need to be overcome before we can get any kind of liquidity into the electricity market. The ideal would be that consumers on smart meters could go to their post office or supermarket to top up their meter, and be confronted by a selection of companies they could choose to purchase electricity from, with a daily quoted price like at a petrol station. The report lists the main technological challenges for implementing prepayment in a wider market as:
- Barriers to interoperability due to the current implementation of proprietary metering solutions.
- A lack of agreed industry processes for managing customer switching and prepayment top-ups for smart meters.
- The completion of agreed standards for messages to and from the smart meters, and for encrypting credit top-ups.
- Availability of compliant equipment.
- An agreed industry model for operating prepayment in a competitive market structure.”
However the energy companies are protecting their profits and advantage in the market over consumers, by not proceeding on the basis of inter-operability and purposefully not wanting a more fluid market. The majority of these factors seem to be euphemisms for energy companies not wanting to work together.
Smart metering could be the first important step towards a more ideal electricity market, and at least offers an improvement for those who pay pre-paid. Metering is a very popular method of paying for energy, and most people who use it are ‘very satisfied’ according to the research. With innovation, credit functionality to keep the lights on and inter-operability it could hugely improve the energy supply in the UK.