UK smart meters rollout: Smart Energy GB paper identifies challenges

Smart Energy GB consultation on behavioural obstacles to smart meters
Smart Energy GB’s consultation paper highlights five stages to a consumer’s smart meter journey. The final stage  – using an in-home display to gain benefits from their smart meter – is identified as having the most obstacles to overcome

In the first quarter of 2015, Smart Energy GB, the UK independent body set up to promote consumer engagement with smart electricity and gas meters, published Smart energy for all, a consultation paper on identifying audience characteristics that may act as barriers to realising the benefits of a smart meter.

Based on the feedback the organisation received, it released a revised edition of Smart energy for all this month.

Among other learnings, the document maps out the smart meter journey into five stages, identifying the characteristics that may present obstacles along the way.

5 steps on the UK smart meters journey

The report outlines stage one as hearing about smart meters.

The document states that consumers will need to have heard, seen or read about the smart meter roll-out through one of the mass media channels including TV, radio, out of home, press and digital.

The potential obstacle is that the message doesn’t reach them.

It states: “Some audience characteristics mean that they are less likely to see, hear, read or engage with mass engagement channels.”

Opting in to smart meters

Stage two on the journey is making the decision to say yes to a smart meter.

The reports states that “For consumers to say yes to a smart meter, they will need to understand what a smart meter is and recognise the benefits it can bring to their life.”

Potential obstacles: the message isn’t adequately understood; the message doesn’t resonate with them.

“Some audiences may not immediately understand what smart meters are or why they should have one. They may think that smart meters do not apply to them or that they are less useful in their own domestic situation. Or they might believe that they will not know how to use one after installation.

Stage 3 is being contacted about installation and setting it up.

The rollout may face problems at this point due to consumers having problems arranging installation appointments with suppliers due to a lack of access to the internet or phone, working during the day or a language barrier.

The consultation document said consumers “may also find preparing for installation day a challenge, either practically or emotionally”.

Smart meter installation challenges

When it comes to the actual installation, stage four of the process, some customers may have characteristics that make them less comfortable having the installer in their home, or characteristics that mean they less readily understand what has been installed.

The conclusion is that the installation may need to be adapted to meet their specific needs or they may need a specialist smart meter display, which could change or prolong the installation journey for them.

The final stage, and perhaps the most crucial for the government to claim the UK smart meters rollout a success, is for consumers to use and benefit from their smart meters.

This part of the document has the longest list of obstacles, ranging from difficulty using the smart meter display to difficulty understanding the information provided on the smart meter display and choosing the right deal or supplier for them.