U.K. government under pressure to name the date for smart meter roll-out


Allan Asher,
Chief Executive,
London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — November 27, 2007 – On the eve of the first reading of the new Climate Change Bill, a group of all party U.K. MPs have shown their support for the ‘Look Smart’ campaign by signing a parliamentary motion calling for smart energy meters to be installed in every household.

The MPs’ intervention increases the pressure on government to turn its general support for smart meters into a firm mandate and clear delivery plan.

Welcoming the support for smart meters in the Prime Minister’s landmark speech on Climate Change, watchdog body energywatch, the Energy Retail Association (ERA) and Utility Week have stressed that the lack of a clear delivery plan puts in jeopardy the roll out of 45 million meters within ten years. Smart meters would deliver accurate households bills, enable consumers to monitor their energy consumption and remove the additional costs placed on pre-payment customers.

David Taylor MP, sponsor of the motion, said: "Smart energy meters represent the fairer, cheaper and environmentally progressive future for energy consumption in the U.K. that we all seek. Not only will smart meters transform the relationship between consumers and energy suppliers, energy in the home will be used more efficiently as a result, to the benefit of all."

Allan Asher, Chief Executive of energywatch, said: “While energywatch is pleased to see that the Prime Minister is convinced of the merits of smart meters, they will not be in every home without a clear government directive for their installation within ten years. The government now needs to turn its expectation of smart meters into a reality.”

Duncan Sedgwick, Chief Executive of the ERA, said: "We need the green light from the government to roll out smart energy meters across the country. We want to get started but we can’t have the vital discussions to deliver smart meters – because of legal constraints – until the government gives us the formal mandate. Smart meters will revolutionize our industry and have huge benefits for all customers."

Steve Hobson, Editor of Utility Week said: "This is a once in a generation opportunity. The technology for smart metering has been available for over 20 years, but now is the time to act to ensure the energy industry and the government work together to deliver this ambitious project."

Smart meters will provide the customer and the supplier with automatic and accurate meter readings, bringing an end to estimated bills. This will improve consumer satisfaction with the accuracy of their bills, meaning less need to complain to energy suppliers and energywatch. Remote meter reading and diagnosis of meter faults will also mean considerable cost savings for suppliers.

Smart meters will allow both gas and electricity consumers to make savings on their bills by reducing unnecessary use of energy as a result of feedback on their energy use. Smart meters for gas consumers are particularly important, because gas accounts for approximately two thirds of total energy use in Britain. Suppliers will also be able to introduce new tariffs that encourage consumers to make savings by reducing their energy use during ‘peak demand’ periods. Consumers with solar panels or other ‘micro-generation appliances’ will be able to sell electricity back to their suppliers.

All consumers will be provided with the same type of meter, regardless of whether they pay by credit or debit. Suppliers will no longer need to visit properties to switch consumers between credit and prepayment. Problems such as misdirected payments and card and key replacement costs will be eliminated. All these factors will help reduce any maintenance or installation costs associated with current pre payment meters.

Smart meters will allow suppliers to introduce a range of new and innovative services for consumers, including vulnerable and low income consumers. These might include early warning systems for older people, intervention if a prepayment meter consumer has ‘self-disconnected’ for a prolonged period, tailored advice on how to reduce unnecessary energy use, demand management facilities and many others.

The meters also provide an opportunity to transform the relationship between suppliers and consumers. Rather than provide units of energy, smart meters will enable suppliers to provide the services consumers actually want, namely heat, light and power. This means an energy market in which consumers are actively engaged in their use of energy and are empowered to demand the type of services, particularly energy efficiency, they require.

The Energy White Paper 2007: Meeting the Energy Challenge, gives no start date for the introduction of smart meters.  However, it envisages that within the next ten years all domestic energy customers will have smart meters with visual displays of real-time information that allow communication between the meter, the energy supplier and the customer and provide accessible information about their energy usage.