The UK government has made the much-anticipated move to extend the deadline for its smart metering programme by four years, until 2024.
The UK-wide rollout started in 2016, and, whilst suffering delays and challenges ranging from consumers being left with “dumb” meters after changing suppliers, faulty data readings, no small amount of scepticism from the public, and false news regarding dangerous radiofrequency radiation, but weathered these. However, a damning report from Britain’s National Audit Office concluded that residents would be expected to pay as much as 500 million more to complete.
Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, chief executive of UK consumer watchdog Citizen’s Advice Gillian Guy called the extension “a commonsense move that is good news for consumers”. “It’s been clear for a long time that the 2020 deadline wouldn’t be met and today’s announcement finally recognises that reality,” she said.
According to the report, the extension will give energy suppliers time to fix technical issues and will ease consumer pressure from suppliers to install the technology. As at June 2019, 50,000 units would have to be installed per-day to reach the 53 million meter, December 2020 deadline, with over 15 million units being installed since the programme’s start in 2016.
The company established to drive the campaign, Smart Energy GB, noted the rollout’s execution could have been easier and smoother, “but national infrastructure upgrades come with significant challenges”.
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Robert Cheesewright of Smart Energy GB called the completion of the rollout crucial, noting that the technology could yield as much as £20bn in a financial benefit to Britain. “We welcome the government providing a clear timetable for this. The financial and environmental benefits for households and the country far outweigh the costs by billions of pounds,” he said.
According to surveys by Smart Energy GB, as many as 85% of people with smart metering installed have found ways to reduce energy consumption, thanks to the introduction of tariffs for home solar generation and electric vehicle charging, along with variable time tariffs, which allow for energy use to be planned and monitored.
Britain’s department for business, strategy and industrial strategy said new analysis has shown the deadline extension will translate to lower costs and financial benefits of approximately £19.6bn.