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Smart metering – making your operations smart

October 30, 2018 featured image

Ganymede & Logic4training event highlights the future of smart meter delivery

The smart meter roll-out is now in full swing, with homes and businesses across the UK making the switch to a greater understanding about the cost of the electricity and gas they use. Since September, next generation smart meters, SMETs2, have started to be installed, allowing consumers to switch suppliers without changing their meter exchange.

But what does this mean for energy providers and the installers tasked with fitting this new equipment? Whether SMETs1 or 2, getting the UK’s 30 million homes ‘smart’ by the 2020 deadline is a massive undertaking, one that relies on joined-up thinking from everyone involved in the smart meter food chain.

To examine the issues, smart meter workforce provider, Ganymede and its preferred training provider, Logic4training, hosted an event that brought together representatives from the Gas Safe Register, Smart DCC, Energy & Utility Skills and EDF Energy. Taking place on 23rd October at the Derby Conference Centre, speakers discussed the challenges and solutions to making our transition to ‘smart energy’ as smooth as possible.

Opened by Andy Pendlebury, CEO of the RTC Group, of which Ganymede is a member, the day started with some thought-provoking statistics. By 2050, 75% of the population will live in an urban environment. To make our increasingly densely populated towns and cities work efficiently and with the least impact on precious resources they need to be ‘smart’. Smart meters are the first step in this process, a toe in the water of a world in which energy production and usage is as responsive and efficient and it can be, with end users who fully understand its cost and impact.

The day then lead on to a host of speakers who explained the smart metering landscape:

Dean Battely, Gas Safe Register

As the custodian of safety for gas, the introduction of dual fuel and gas only smart meters presents a challenge for the Gas Safe Register. It’s essential that where changes take-place to a consumer’s house as a result of smart meter installation, that undue risk is avoided. Dean discussed how the GSR had been monitoring smart meter installations since 2015, identifying problem areas and potential gaps in installer knowledge.

Overall, smart meter installation is not causing too many issues, but installer competency must be a priority – 28% of installers in GSR’s study had failings in this area. The ways in which the industry recruits and trains new smart meter fitters must focus on the core skills – soldering and flueing are two areas in which the GSR has noted recurring problems. It’s not just down to installers either; consumers should also be educated and take responsibility for their own safety.

Alex Henigan – Director of Service Operations for Smart DCC

Smart DCC sits at the top of the tree when it comes to the roll out. Licenced by Government, the company is in charge of establishing and managing the data communications network, connecting smart meters to the business systems of energy suppliers and network operators.

Alex has recently been brought into Smart DCC to help drive the roll out and improve communications between all associated parties, from technology providers – such as Telefonica, CGI and BT – to utility providers and their installers. As part of this, Smart DCC has been spending time with installers on the front-line, to understand the challenges they face on a daily basis.

He explained how DCC was changing, including the language it used to ensure its messages were understood by the non-IT world, and the introduction of forums where those directly involved with management and installation of smart meters could ask questions and discuss their concerns.

Alex also highlighted the scale of installation which is gathering apace. One thousand meters had been installed by May 2018, a figure which is doubling if not trebling month on month – the 100,000 mark not too far off.

Simon Richards, Energy & Utility Skills

Energy & Utility Skills is responsible for helping employers in the energy and utilities sector attract, develop and maintain a sustainable, skilled workforce. With the smart meter scheme under its remit, E&U Skills helps map out training requirements, approving providers such as Logic4training.

Simon discussed the role of mentoring as a crucial part of ensuring a skilled and experienced workplace. E&U Skills has developed best-practice guides for mentoring, focusing on the role of the organisation and the individual mentors within it; including their general experience and the type and variety of jobs they have been involved with.

Richard Nicoll and Louise McKenzie EDF Energy

Backing-up Simon’s talk, Richard and Louise presented the role of mentoring in real-world terms, explaining EDF’s experience upskilling smart meter installers. For EDF, mentoring is a crucial part of ensuring competency and safety, while improving retention and creating a workforce that can hit the ground running. In EDF’s view, the more you put into mentoring, the more you get out of it.

Providing a snap shot of its effective smart meter training programme, EDF explained how it combined classroom and on-the-job training and the particular challenges it has had with gas – a relative new area for the utility provider. The gas side of metering involves a greater level of responsibility and learning, including report writing and maths. In the beginning EDF tried to blend electrics and gas, but this was just too much for the trainees to take on board in one go. Now they split out the two subjects and allow time for the electrics (the first part of the training) to digest before they move on to gas.

Louise, who’s responsible for smart meter apprentices, was keen to stress the importance of allowing trainees enough time. Rushing the process could lead to in-competencies and dissatisfaction –  everyone needs to feel good at their job.

With a full-house of representatives from a cross-section of utility providers, the day proved hugely beneficial, linking the different fractions of the smart meter community together. Communication is key to any activity, and a major infrastructure change such as this requires the full support of all parties in order to make it a success.

More information on smart meter installer training can be found here

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