Business

'Fit and forget' smart meters warning

Smart meter display Image copyright Smart Energy GB

The smart meters project risks being a wasted opportunity for households if they are just fitted and forgotten, a committee of MPs has said.

The new real-time meters will only save consumers a small amount of money on their energy bills, the Science and Technology Committee said.

The government must do more to convince people of the extra benefits that the system can bring, it said.

These included a smarter energy grid and less pollution.

Delay

The government wants every home and business to be offered a smart meter by the end of 2020. That requires 53 million meters to be fitted in more than 30 million premises over the next four years.

The meters will measure gas and electricity use and automatically send meter readings to energy suppliers, ending manual meter readings.

However, there have been mishaps during the major installation programme.

The communication system that links meters to energy suppliers has been delayed.

The committee also pointed out that there was an "unresolved" problem of early meters installed in the first phase of the rollout losing their "smart" function when the customer switches supplier.

'Unimpressed'

The committee's interim chairwoman, Tania Mathias, said: "The government has known for years that early smart meters can lose their smartness if the customer switches supplier.

"Ministers merely have an 'ambition' to fix this by 2020. Taxpayers will be unimpressed with this situation, and timely action is needed.

"The evidence shows that homeowners and businesses need to receive tailored advice about how they can benefit from smart metering.

"The 'smartness' comes from what customers can do with them - fit and forget would be a wasted opportunity."

She added that the government needed to do more to convince and reassure customers that the technology was safe from being hacked.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: "Smart meters will bring Britain's energy infrastructure into the 21st century - as the committee has made clear."

Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Smart Energy GB, which is running the campaign for the rollout, said: "The committee has also emphasised the transformative effect smart meters will have, not only on how we buy and use energy as individual consumers, but on Britain's energy infrastructure as a whole."

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