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Nationwide smart meter roll out postponed

By Katie Anderson on May 16, 2013

The British Government has announced that the nationwide roll-out of smart meters will not begin until the third quarter of 2015, one year behind schedule.

The postponement came into effect after Baroness Verma, Junior Minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), insisted that more time was necessary to ensure the roll-out’s success.

As reported by the Guardian, Baroness Verma explained: “The Coalition is committed to making smart meters available to everyone as soon as possible. I have listened to industry and consumer representatives and recognise the enormous challenges involved in delivering the roll-out of smart meters.

“I want to ensure that consumers have a good experience of smart metering from day one. That’s why we are allowing additional time for the energy suppliers to complete the roll-out”.

Approximately 50 million smart meters are scheduled to be installed in homes across the UK by 2020. Estimated to cost over £11 billion, the roll-out will be subsidised in part by the six leading energy suppliers. Much of the cost is likely to be passed on to energy consumers, but potential savings on dual-fuel bills should limit the damage.

In the UK, smart meters are set to replace existing analogue meters. The new devices provide households with real-time information on gas and electricity consumption, such that consumers will be able to make informed choices about usage and tariffs. Smart meters should also be able to identify appliances or circuits that are using excessive electricity, so households could save money on their energy bills by monitoring consumption in real time.

One problem is that energy companies will have access to the same data. Whether consumers trust suppliers not to misuse the data (i.e., by selling information to third parties) remains unclear.

The benefits of smart meter technology far outweigh the potential risks or disadvantages, however, which is why Richard Postance of Ernst & Young was so effusive in his criticism of the government for postponing the roll-out until 2015.

Postance said: “Smart metering is one of the few green agenda items that is at the same time positive for the economy, the climate and above all the consumer, so a delay to full-scale roll-out cannot be good news… [it] takes away much-needed control and transparency over energy consumption from an already hard-pressed consumer base”.