Smart meters: MPs highlight challenges and delays

A committee of MPs has expressed doubt that plans to install smart meters in every home and business in the country by the end of the decade will be achieved.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee said that it was disappointed by the ongoing policy delivery challenges which the Government has failed to resolve.

These challenges include compatibility problems between different suppliers and different meters; technical issues regarding multiple occupancy and tall buildings; a slow start to full engagement with the public on meter installation and long-term use; and a delay by the Government-appointed communications infrastructure company, which the committee claimed has further set back confidence in the programme.

These policy problems are symptomatic of a national programme that the Government has left largely to suppliers and failed to drive forward effectively, the Committee wrote in its report.

It went on to warn that unless changes are made to the current policy, the project was in danger of becoming a costly failure.

The MPs urged the Government to seek industry-wide solutions to the technical challenges that remain.

Getting it right will eventually cut energy usage and bills for 30 million homes and businesses in the UK. Getting it wrong risks embarrassment for the Government through public disengagement with a flagship energy policy and a costly missed opportunity, the Committee concluded.

It’s clear that consumers welcome the benefits of smart meters when they get them.

Smart Energy GB found recently that households with smart meters feel they have much more control as gas and electricity customers than those with analogue meters.

The organisation’s Smart Energy Outlook – a national survey of public opinion on energy and smart meters – revealed that more than three-quarters (76%) of people with smart meters feel confident that their energy bill is accurate, compared to 57% of those with traditional meters.

And more than two-thirds (68%) of people with smart meters think they have the information they need to choose the right energy tariff, compared to half (51%) of those with analogue meters.

Yet overall, only 18% of the more than 10,000 people questioned know what a smart meter is. Of these, 59% want one and 10% already have one.

For those who know what they are, the most appealing features of smart meters are being able to see how much energy you are using in pounds and pence (60%) and receiving accurate, rather than estimated bills (44%).

Under the government’s current plans, smart meters will be offered to every home and business in Great Britain between now and 2020.

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