BT sets its sights on smart meter gains

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The Independent Online

BT is drawing up plans to win the rights to provide a key component for the Government's multi-billion pound plan to introduce smart meters, designed to cut carbon emissions and slash energy bills, across the country.

The telecoms giant will announce today that it has teamed up with transmission group Arqiva and technology consultant Detica to create a communications network to run smart meters, which will be introduced to all British households by 2020.

It is expected to come up against fierce competition from the mobile phone network operators during the procurement process for a contract that is expected to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

The government plans to introduce smart meters in 28 million homes and small businesses by the end of the decade in an initiative that is expected to reduce the UK's carbon emissions by 2.6 million tonnes per year.

Smart meters allow households to monitor the gas and electricity being delivered to their properties. The Government believes it will allow homeowners to improve efficiency and reduce their energy consumption. It also believes energy companies will be able to improve the control of their networks and potentially provide tailored packages.

The prospectus for the smart meters will be published in the coming weeks, and is expected to run to as much as 700 pages.

BT expects the procurement process to go on for at least a year after that, before the winning bid sets up the network in time for 2020. The deadline was set as part of the EU's energy market liberalisation programme. Energy regulator Ofgem is set to launch a prospectus detailing the roll out of the meters this month.

Olivia Garfield, BT Group strategy director, said the company, "is determined to be at the heart of the project". The system has to meet the needs of electricity, gas and water utilities.

"We believe that long range radio is the only technology to offer nationwide coverage and we will release more detail in a series of events in September," she said. The consortium believes providing national coverage will be more cost effective than a more regional system with a mix of technologies.