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Government ‘must be clear’ on smart meter benefits

Government is “not being clear” on the benefits of smart meters, according to the Science and Technology Committee.



The Committee said there are “too many objectives” for the rollout, which may hinder its implementation.

“The government should be clearer about the primary purpose of smart metering and use this to drive evaluation of the project,” the report insisted.

“Smart meters need to be clearly understood by the consumer and provide information in a format that the customer finds helpful. In order for consumers to benefit directly from smart metering there will need to be appropriate investment in customer engagement, given that this is being introduced in an era of low public trust in utility providers,” it added.

The government lists 11 different objectives for the project, including saving customers’ money on energy bills, despite that the amount of money saved by individual consumers is expected to be small. The report says that the major benefits will be in paving the way for a smarter energy system where to enhance energy security and reduce pollution.

However, the report supports the use of in-home displays as part of the rollout as they provide a “necessary feedback mechanism” on energy consumption, despite criticism from some stakeholders. Smart meter security was also discussed and members met with the government’s security experts from GCHQ which gave the Committee “confidence that security is being taken seriously”.

Interim chair of the Committee Tania Mathias said: “It would be easy to dismiss the smart meter project as an inefficient way of saving a small amount of money on energy bills, but the evidence suggests there are major national benefits, including establishing a smarter, more energy secure grid.

“The smart meter mass rollout has been delayed, but the government and suppliers must not skimp on engaging with customers in the rush to fit 50 million more meters by 2020. The evidence shows that homeowners and businesses need to receive tailored advice about how they can benefit from smart metering. The ‘smartness’ comes from what customers can do with them—fit and forget would be a wasted opportunity.”

The report also expressed concern about the functionality of the current foundation meters, which prevents customers from switching supplier. Mathias adds: “Ministers merely have an ‘ambition’ to fix this by 2020. Taxpayers will be unimpressed with this situation, and timely action is needed.”

Communication between departments and ministers raised concerns for the Committee when there were “regrettable” delays in the responses to evidence checks.

The smart meter rollout is expected to begin its second phase at the end of September after several delays and aims to offer 53 million meters to homes and small businesses by 2020.

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BDC 317 : Jun 2024