by Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (UK) | see original article
The massive project to install smart meters in every UK home is likely to be a waste of money, according to Margaret Hodge MP, who chairs the influential parliamentary public accounts committee.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has instructed energy suppliers to replace 53 million meters, in homes and small businesses, with smart electricity and gas meters by 2020. The estimated cost of £10.9bn will be paid by consumers through their energy bills.
This works out at around £215 per meter, and Hodge’s committee is concerned that this is an additional cost that people and small businesses ‘can ill afford’ – especially as the use of smart meters is expected to cut the average annual energy bill (£1,328) by just 2%.
Even this saving depends on consumers becoming more ‘energy saavy,’ and changing their behaviour as a result of the additional information provided by the meter.
Hodge’s committee said DECC was also depending ‘heavily’ on assumed completion in the energy industry to control costs and deliver benefits. ‘Relying on market forces to keep costs down may not be enough, on its own, to protect consumers,’ she said. ‘Energy suppliers are concerned that it may cost more to persuade reluctant customers to accept the new meters’.
It added that DECC should require suppliers to provide ‘a clear breakdown for consumers of the cost of smart meters, their operational cost savings from stopping meter readings, and whether consumers are achieving the expected reductions in energy consumption.’ Hodge said that the ‘lack of clarity on the impact of smart meters on vulnerable and low-income consumers is particularly concerning’.
She said DECC also needed to ensure that smart meters are fully interoperable, so customers can switch easily between suppliers, so customers can switch easily between suppliers, and that suppliers don’t replace meters unnecessarily when customers switch.
‘There is also a danger that the government gets locked into an existing technology when technologies are changing fast, leading to consumers paying for investment in a system that is already out of date,‘ added Hodge, in her evidence to a parliamentary select committee.
In the future, customers should be able to receive energy information on their smart phones; making the in-home display redundant.