[Amatsia Kashti][September 13,2006]

On 22 August 2006 Ofgem, the energy regulator in the UK, announced the funding of a pilot scheme to assess the effect of smart metering and information displays on energy efficiency in the home.
This bold move comes hot on the heels of the metering consultation undertaken by the same body only six months earlier, and appears to be a natural progression based on the understandings derived from the survey. 

About half the funding for this pilot comes from other government branches (DTI and DEFRA), which did not broaden the mind of the pilot designers to include water issues. We all appreciate that water and energy departments sit in different corridors in government offices, and would not, therefore, even dream of sharing precious research funds. 

Many of the details of the pilot are unclear to its instigators, as was revealed in a workshop held in London on September 4th. This demonstrates unusual open-mindedness on the part of the usually rigid civil servants, but may also appear to the suspicious eye as a formula that would allow ad hoc decisions, without aggrieved parties being able to question any conclusion.
Thus the size, nature or expected outcome of any project is as vague as is the number of participants. This is in direct contrast to the two fixed elements: an extremely tight schedule and a finite pot of money. Supposedly the former is the result of conditions attached to the latter, but one cannot get rid of the nagging feeling that this schedule favours large existing bodies with full operations already in place.

It would not, therefore, be surprising if the same old players win the tender with the same old technologies, proving that ultimately the way they do things is the most viable. Smaller innovative bodies (of which, I have to disclose, I claim to be one) who need time to initiate operations will be excluded from the process, bar perhaps a handful who will serve as a ‘fig leaf’ – as minor partners, or as proof that only the large corporations can ‘do the job’.

Watch this space.