Smart meters not top of the pops
Sometimes plans don’t come together, and that’s what’s happened with the Government’s shiny idea about putting smart meters in every home by 2020. It’s not that they’ve run out of money-despite the estimated £11bn cost- it’s because we don’t actually want them.
New figures from The Smart Meter Central Delivery Body (SMCDB), the organisation set up to drive public support for the devices, found that while 84% of people had heard of smart meters, less than half of us- just 44%- expressed interest in having one installed in their home. Clearly, the SMCDB has been excelling at 'driving public support'.
The whole point of smart meters is to enable customers to monitor energy usage in real time. This will not only allow people to see just how much energy they are using at any given tim (and hopefully encourage them to turn lights off), thereby reducing energy usage, but will also be capable of sending automatic readings back to energy suppliers, to enable accurate billing. Imagine how shocked energy companies will be once they cannot keep you in permanent overpayment owing to estimated bills eh…
Nevertheless, energy companies are obliged to attempt to install the meters in all customers’ homes, but consumers do have a right to refuse them. Given the latest findings, that’s 56% of us likely to refuse.
The problem seems to be that more than half of all consumers simply do not trust any energy company. And you can hardly blame them. Sacha Deshmukh, SMCDB’s chief executive, said suspicion of energy firms related to issues such as inaccurate bills, the very thing that smart metering could solve.
“Antiquated systems for recording energy use and managing billing are no longer fit for purpose. Households need to be able to take control of their energy use and bills,” he said.
“For this to happen, the national smart meter roll-out is the essential transformation of the technology we use to buy energy. It will create newly empowered consumers, and increase trust in those who sell us gas and electricity.”
He also insisted that mistrust in itself would not hinder the roll-out as “customers trusted individual engineers”, which seems to contradict his own findings, not to mention sounding a bit desperate.
There are around 1m meters currently in use, mostly installed by British Gas. The full roll-out is due to begin late next year, having already suffered delays while data and communications systems are developed and put in place. Assuming SMCDB can convince us all to change our minds by then…