Government Smart Meter Program “Spiralling Out Of Control”, Says Which?

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Watchdog writes to energy secretary Ed Davey to call for investigation into costs of smart meter project

Consumer watchdog Which? has warned the government that the cost of its smart meter program are becoming too high for many customers.

The organisation has written to Energy Secretary Ed Davey ahead of his speech at the Liberal Democrat conference today calling on the Government to cut the cost of installing smart meters in homes across the nation.

Originally announced last year, smart meters are due to be installed as standard across Britain by 2020, following a government drive to encourage greater energy efficiency by replacing  existing gas and electricity meters.

which_logoHigh cost

Smart meters will help give people more control over their energy use by providing information on where their energy is going.

However Which? says that as customers will end footing the bill, it is “imperative” that costs are reduced wherever possible, as the official roll out is due to start at the end of 2015, and will cost around £10.9bn.

“Without immediate action the cost of the smart meter rollout is in danger of spiralling out of control, while consumers foot the bill. The energy market is undergoing a full scale investigation, so the Government cannot expect competition alone will keep costs low,” Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said.

“Major reforms are needed to Fix the Big Six and restore trust in this broken market.  At a time when energy bills continue to squeeze household budgets, the Government must urgently explore ways to ensure consumers get value for money from the smart meter rollout.”

Which? says the move is part of its “Fix the Big Six” campaign, which is aiming to reduce the long-term costs of the smart meter project through several immediate measures, including more focused procurement plans for the meters themselves.

It is also recommending that the government develop a coordinated approach to multi-occupancy buildings such as flats or high-rise buildings to reduce disruption and cost. It also says the Government should publish guidance on “reasonable steps” that suppliers must take to install smart meters by 2020, avoiding disproportionate cost and improving the efficiency and costing of rollout plans.

Research carried out by British Gas earlier this year revealed that despite initial scepticism, the UK public is beginning to warm up to smart energy meters, with more half of households with the devices are now saving money thanks to the energy-efficient behaviours inspired by these devices.

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Author: Mike Moore
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