15 May 2024 Energy Data, Smart Meter Rollout

The success of Market-wide Half Hourly Settlement demands better smart meter maintenance

The current lack of action over smart meter firmware management obligations, coupled with the sheer volume of meters in need of ongoing maintenance as deployment increases, poses a significant hurdle to the successful implementation of Ofgem’s Market-wide Half Hourly Settlement reform, argues Chris Mawer, Commercial Director at SMS.

Ofgem’s Market-wide Half Hourly Settlement (MHHS) reform marks one of the most significant milestones in the UK’s energy market evolution since privatisation almost 30 years ago.

At its core lies the pivotal role of smart meters, not just in their widespread deployment but also in their consistent maintenance through proactive firmware management by energy suppliers. The success of this reform hinges on these two critical factors, which are essential for realising its potential benefits for consumers and the energy industry alike.

Smart meter deployment remains critical

The transition to half-hourly settlement has been a work in progress for several years, with the installation of smart meters being a cornerstone of this journey.

Currently, 61% of homes and small business in Great Britain have had smart meters installed (accounting for 34.8m installations) – a figure which will grow further still as energy suppliers continue their rollout efforts. This increase in smart meter penetration is crucial as it enables the collection of granular consumption data at half-hourly intervals, laying the groundwork for the new MHHS operating model set to commence in April 2025.

However, the transition isn’t just about installing smart meters; it’s about ensuring they function optimally.

Energy suppliers must fully grasp their firmware management obligations

Smart meters are not static devices, but rather mini-computers that require regular updates to their firmware to maintain functionality and data integrity. Just as we update the software on our phones to ensure optimal performance, smart meters must undergo similar maintenance to continue providing reliable data.

The challenge lies in the fact that many energy suppliers have not fully grasped their obligation to keep smart meter firmware up to date. This is reflected by recent industry statistics showing that almost 4 million smart meters installed have since lost their smart functionality (and therefore the ability to measure consumption data every half hour.)

This lack of awareness and action over firmware management obligations, coupled with the sheer volume of meters in need of maintenance, poses a significant hurdle to the successful implementation of the Market-wide Half Hourly Settlement reform – just as much as it does for the wider smart meter rollout.

Moreover, the transition period to the new operating model (which mandates energy suppliers to settle the energy use of smart meter customers every half an hour by the end 2026), underscores the urgency for suppliers to prioritise smart meter maintenance.

With millions of meters generating vast amounts of data, any disruptions or inaccuracies resulting from outdated firmware could jeopardise the integrity of the entire system.

A pivotal moment in the evolution of the UK energy market

Beyond the technical intricacies, the reform holds immense promise for consumers and the broader energy landscape. By providing more accurate and timely consumption data, half-hourly settlement empowers consumers to make informed decisions about their energy usage. This newfound transparency not only promotes energy efficiency but also fosters a more dynamic and responsive energy market.

Furthermore, the reform aligns with broader national objectives such as achieving net-zero emissions and enhancing energy security. By leveraging advanced data analytics enabled by smart meters, stakeholders can better manage energy demand, optimise grid operations, and accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources.

In short, Ofgem’s Market-wide Half Hourly Settlement reform represents a pivotal moment in the evolution of the UK’s energy market. However, its success depends not only on the widespread deployment of smart meters but also on the diligent maintenance of these devices through proactive firmware management.

Energy suppliers must recognise their role in this process and prioritise the upkeep of smart meter infrastructure to ensure a smooth transition and unlock the full potential of this transformative reform. Only then can we realise the promise of a more resilient, efficient, and consumer-centric energy future.

Supporting suppliers with Smart obligations

We support energy suppliers across the entire spectrum of their smart meter rollout and Market-wide Half Hourly Settlement (MHHS) obligations. Discover our range of solutions: