Consumer organization calls for halt to review Britain’s smart meter rollout


Richard Lloyd,
Executive Director,
Hertford, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — January 16, 2012 – Respected British consumer organization Which? has called for a halt to review the country’s smart meter rollout, citing concerns about costs and lack of government control.

In a statement Which? said it believes the rollout is flawed as it has the potential to further undermine consumer confidence as well as cost consumers millions more than the initially estimated £11 billion.

“The government must not write a blank check on behalf of every energy customer, especially at a time when millions of people are struggling to pay their bills,” said Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which? “The Energy Department should stop and review the smart meter rollout before it becomes an £11 billion fiasco.”

This call follows the completion of a report on the rollout from the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE). The report concluded that with the rollout plans as they are there is meaningful risk the program will fail consumers.

The report says it found a number of signs that the needs and concerns of consumers are not being fully integrated into either the design of the smart meter system or the rollout program. One of these is the reliance on “competitive pressures in the energy supply market” to control program costs and to ensure the benefits are passed through to consumers. This appears naïve given official recognition of the currently limited nature of such pressures, states the report.

Another is that the approach being taken to data privacy may conflict with the system’s need for data to optimize performance, thus undermining the full realization of the anticipated benefits.

The choice of energy suppliers as lead delivery agents for the program also builds in consumer distrust from the beginning and limits the potential for area-based street-by-street programs which are likely to be both more cost effective and more likely to enable social and community interventions.

The report also states that the government’s  understanding of consumer concerns is developing but it still appears to have a limited perspective on how these concerns might play out within the media and society more widely during the rollout process, and what types of interventions might be required to mitigate the associated risks.

Which? commissioned the report on the rollout from the CSE following a number of concerns raised by consumers.

Among its other activities the CSE is also currently involved with Western Power Distribution, Scottish and Southern Energy and the University of Bristol in an investigation on generating value to the industry from the mass of smart meter data that will come.