U.K. consumers barely enthused about smart meters


London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — August 3, 2010 – In a survey of consumers in the U.K. about a third claimed to have heard of smart meters and most had a broadly correct idea of what they are and do.

However, with the typical reaction cautiously positive and lukewarm rather than enthusiastic, overall the participants were less enthused about the concept than might have been hoped, but conversely there were fewer concerns than might have been feared.

The survey, which was released by Ofgem among the supporting documents to the U.K. national smart meter rollout proposals (see ), involved twelve focus groups and ten family groups covering a range of ages.

The prospect of energy companies being able to read meters remotely was viewed favorably by the overwhelming majority of participants – provided it worked effectively in practice and faults could be easily identified. However, several participants expressed doubts as to whether smart meters would prove reliable.

Reactions to the in”home display were more ambivalent but it generated more interest, even excitement, as it was seen to potentially help people save energy and hence, money. Many people felt the display would give them knowledge to help them reduce their energy usage and make savings. However, even some of those who expected the device to give them quick wins were sceptical as to whether it would help them make new, additional savings after they had had one for some time.

Nevertheless the vast majority of respondents did not care enough about the smart meter and display to worry as to whether they would be among the first or last to have a smart meter installed. But they expressed a variety of views about how the national rollout should be organized, with some arguing that particular groups should be prioritized, while others suggested more pragmatic approaches.

In its conclusion and recommendations Ofgem says that given there are elements of smart metering that are of minimal interest to most customers (such as the way the national rollout is organized), this gives the government a degree of freedom in this regard. Ofgem also comments that for this initiative to be viewed as a success, it is a basic requirement that smart meters should not be any more prone to faults than existing meters, and faults should be easy to spot, diagnose and rectify.

With the widespread resistance to and concern at the idea of paying for an in-home display, there should be wariness regarding imposing requirements of the displays that will add significantly to their cost. Only a minority of customers are likely to be willing to pay for additional functionality, with the most popular extra function for these customers likely to be measurement of the energy usage of individual appliances.