The government’s £11bn smart meter plan is at risk of derailing, according to a group of MPs
The planned rollout of smart meters to UK homes and businesses is in danger of becoming a “costly failure”, due to a series of “technical, logistical and public communication issues“, according to an influential group of MPs.
An £11bn government programme aims to put 53 million smart meters into all of the UK’s 30 million homes and businesses by 2020, which it is estimated could result in energy savings of £17bn, against a likely rollout cost of £11bn. The devices, which indicate energy usage in real time, are expected to generate these savings by allowing users to modify their power usage.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee said the rollout is being threatened by issues including an industry failure to agree on which features should be standard in smart meters. Other issues highlighted by the group included technical issues in dealing with multiple occupancy buildings, problems around the compatibility of technology from different suppliers and a “slow start” to generating public interest in the rollout.
Government and industry have also thus far failed to come to an agreement over how the estimated £200 cost per installation should be divided between power companies and users.
The committee’s chairman, Tim Yeo, said time is “running out” on the smart meter plan, and called on government to take a more active role in guiding industry.
“The energy industry told us that it needs the government to enable industry wide solutions, rather than the less efficient alternative of letting each energy supplier develop its own solution,” Yeo stated.
He said continuing with the government’s current approach risks “embarrassment through public disengagement on a flagship energy policy”.
However, the government has another option, Yeo said: “It can grip the reins, and steer the energy industry along a more successful path which brings huge benefits for the country.”
Industry body Energy UK said the power industry is “committed to facing these challenges, finding cost-effective, practical solutions for consumers”.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said about one million consumers currently have a smart meter, most having been installed by British Gas.
Baroness McDonagh, chair of Smart Energy GB, the organisation tasked by the government with smart meter advocacy, told BBC Radio 5 that the smart meter rollout was “well underway”, adding that the meters “had improved the whole experience of buying gas and electricity”. However, she argued the rollout needs more independent oversight.
A recent survey carried out by the organisation showed, however, that fewer than one in five people know what smart meters are – while also finding that nearly 60 percent of those who do know would like to have one.
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