#nationalcybersecuritymonth | DCC UK second-gen smart meter network passes three million mark

Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans

Smart DCC, the licence-holder building and managing the secure national infrastructure that underpins the roll-out of smart meters across the UK, has passed a milestone in its network capability, with the three millionth second-generation smart meter (SMETS2) attached to its smart network.

The Capita subsidiary was granted its licence in 2013 by the then Department for Energy and Climate Change. Its wireless network connects smart meters to energy suppliers, network operators and other authorised service users. It is maintained to standards such as those endorsed by the National Cyber Security Centre.

The network is mandated to: operate reliably for all end-user consumers, regardless of their energy supplier; provide smart metering data to network operators to support the digitisation of the energy industry and the development of a smart grid; and allow authorised third parties to provide consumers with information they have requested, such as how they can reduce their energy usage.

Despite the momentum around smart meters, in September 2019 the UK government conceded that the deadline for every UK home to be offered an upgraded smart gas and electricity meter through the government’s troubled Smart Meter Programme would be put back by four years to the end of 2024.

However, DCC’s milestone meter was installed on the afternoon of 29 November by British Gas in Mickleover, Derby, and the company says more than 500 million encrypted messages to and from smart meters have been carried by DCC’s secure network throughout 2019. October alone saw more than 86 million messages. That equates to just over 28 messages a month for each meter installed.

Three-fifths of these messages are the daily bursts of readings given by each meter. Although SMETS2 meters record information about energy consumption all day, many will send 24 hours or more of readings in one package across the network, saving battery power in the home and preserving capacity on the network.

Security-related messages make up another large part of the network traffic. New virtual security “keys” are exchanged whenever a consumer switches supplier to keep usage details private. Also, a variety of messages are required to install and connect new meters securely to the network. Other messages include tariff changes, firmware updates, topping-up data relating to pre-payment meters, settings changes and alerts for issues.

Throughout 2020, energy suppliers will be adding first-generation smart meters (SMETS1) to the network so consumers can switch without losing smart functionality in their device. Smart DCC says it assures that “seamless” switching is already the case for those consumers with a SMETS2 installed, as these are automatically enrolled onto the DCC network.

The network supplier says that as growth in connected devices has driven up the data being securely transferred, communication efficiency will be very important as the network grows on nationwide. It will also allow the network to retain capacity for new features or re-use. The company claims that with each meter producing hundreds of points of data each month, these messages will inform the deployment of renewables and load-balancing technology, creating a greener grid.

“Our network is a platform for good, and the data flowing across it is paving the way for better use of renewable energy,” said DCC chief executive Angus Flett. “The DCC is making Britain more connected, so we can all lead smarter, greener lives.”

DCC stressed that the milestone would not have been achieved without its customers – energy companies and network operators. It highlighted principal service providers CGI, Telefónica, Arqiva, Critical Software and BT.

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