Which? Smart meters: innovation but not at any cost

Smart meters are one of the most innovative ways to help people cut their energy use in the future. With energy bills consistently one of the top financial worries for people, it’s vital suppliers and the Government do all they can to bring down prices and help people keep their bills in control. However, while we support this innovative technology and all the benefits it will eventually bring, we’re worried about the costs of the scheme to consumers.

The devices are steadily being rolled out across the country, with the full roll-out due to start in earnest later this year. A smart meter will measure and display a home’s electricity and gas usage, wirelessly sending information to the supplier. It will mean no more manual meter reading and the end of estimated bills. Energy companies will replace every meter in Great Britain by 2020, that’s 53 million in total at an estimated cost of £11bn.

“with consumers footing this bill it is imperative that costs are kept in check”

However, with consumers footing this bill it is imperative that costs are kept in check, that savings are maximised, and that the technology delivers value for money for consumers.

We have concerns about the programme being more expensive than it need be, the lack of processes to keep costs in check and the risks that consumers could fail to reap the projected benefits that smart meters should provide – which depends on suppliers passing on cost savings and on consumers taking action to reduce their energy use.

“If smart meters are to help consumers make sense of their energy bills, the Government needs to make sure it gets things right from the start”

Which? have been closely following the ongoing CMA inquiry into the energy market. We believe the Government can’t simply rely on competition between suppliers to keep smart meter costs in check. If smart meters are to help consumers make sense of their energy bills, the Government needs to make sure it gets things right from the start, with stronger controls on costs.

Which? would like to see energy companies report 100% of their costs. We want to see the introduction of a new licence condition for suppliers to deliver the smart meter programme cost-effectively, including a new enforcement power for Ofgem to bring in an industry expert to get costs back on track. Plus, we would like to see more cooperation among suppliers so smart meters are installed in a coordinated way to limit disruption and unnecessary expense.

Smart meters could provide a real solution in helping people with their bills but the price tag for this innovation must not come at any cost.

 


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