The metering industry in the UK in 2002

The metering industry in the UK is in a state of flux. One may ask is this any different than for the last 5-10 years. I think it is and it is almost possible to see how the industry will turn out following all the regulatory and market changes that have taken place.

OFGEM as the UK energy regulator sets the policies for metering. Up to the present they have introduced almost full competition into all areas of metering and metering services. The diagram shows one interpretation of how the metering system for electricity operates today. There are at least three metering service functions, all either carried out by independent companies or in some cases by a company carrying out two or three functions.

The arrangement shown is independent of the meter technology or method of meter reading employed. Whether the meter is prepayment or credit, or the reads are manual, drive-by or remote, the same processes need to be followed. In addition there is now a very complex map of companies that carry out these metering functions and the generation, distribution and supply services. In some former monopoly electricity supply regions the incumbent company carries out all the functions, under separate trading brands, but in other areas each function is carried out by an independent or a meter service company from a different former regional monopoly. With each acquisition in the industry this complex map changes slightly. 

But there is general feeling that the period of major change is perhaps coming to an end. If this is the case the opportunity for BEMCA members to provide new and innovative products and services will increase. Stability in the market is important for all manufacturers and service providers. However, there is one major barrier that still exists without any obvious solution. The majority of metering assets are owned by the distribution businesses and not by any of the players shown in the diagram. This causes many problems usually termed as ‘stranded assets’. It is the view of most BEMCA members that this issue needs a solution before the innovations in the market can be achieved.