Research by Siemens has revealed that nearly 5.7 million households classed as multi-dwelling units (MDUs) are at risk of not receiving the benefit of the energy and cost efficiencies offered by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) smart meter implementation programme. MDUs, which make up 21.5% of all households such as high-rises, house a significant proportion of consumers living in fuel poverty. Effectively and securely linking electricity and gas meters with in-home displays within MDUs is particularly complex compared with single-dwelling houses. Most commonly, meters are not located in the flat or apartment but are often found in communal areas.
This requires provision for shared infrastructure within MDUs to house smart meter technology as the standard approach of separate Home Area Networks (HAN) equipment will not be appropriate. Kevin Tutton, Siemens director of metering communications and services, said: “The government has made significant progress towards stabilising the roll-out of smart meters by delaying implementation. This has provided much needed extra time to ensure an effective and secure solution for MDUs is addressed. “Now is the window of opportunity to overcome the ‘high-rise challenge’ and ensure DECC’s business case and suppliers’ license obligations can both be met. It would be a failure of all involved in the programme to miss this chance to take action to provide all consumers with equal access to the energy and cost efficiencies offered by smart meters.” The current smart meter market design requires each energy supplier with customers in an MDU to install their own separate HAN equipment. This adds a significant amount of cost and complexity into the meter installation process, with the need for mass duplication of communication assets and multiple engineering visits.
These arrangements represent poor value for money and unnecessary consumer and landlord disruption. They also create maintenance accountability problems, particularly after consumers have changed supplier. Working with key development partners, Siemens has developed a turnkey solution for high-rise properties with flats, using a broadband over powerline (BPL) backbone. BPL is the preferred technology as it provides high performance and bandwidth connectivity to meters in difficult positions while using the existing infrastructure already available. The Wide Area Network gateway is then positioned where the best cellular signal reception can be received.
The Foundation Market MDU service solution is entering its final testing stages and is scheduled to go live in Q1 2014. Siemens is ready to start working with energy retailers now on trial requirements. With the Data Communications Company launch going back to 2015, there is now time for the industry to trial the end-to-end smart metering experience for consumers living in MDUs, establish how best to engage with communities and work with landlords and managing agents