Pointless Smart Meters will add to energy bill levies
Energy bill-payers face hundreds of millions of pound charges for ‘pointless’ smart meter displays
Consumers face paying hundreds of millions of pounds in unnecessary energy bill levies to fund household “smart meter” displays that companies have warned could be largely redundant
Emily Gosden By Emily Gosden9:23AM GMT 26 Dec 2013CommentsComments
Consumers face paying hundreds of millions of pounds in unnecessary energy bill levies to fund household “smart meter” displays that companies have warned could be largely redundant.
Ministers want smart energy meters, which take automatic gas and electricity usage readings and send them back to energy companies, installed in every household in Britain by 2020.
Bills will initially rise to pay for the £12bn programme, which will fit meters in 30 million homes and businesses.
However, the Government claims it will eventually save consumers money because they will also be provided with an “in-home display” which enables them to see their energy usage in real-time, encouraging them to cut back and be more efficient.
But critics fear the Government has failed to keep up with the pace of technology and the rise of smart-phone apps.
They argue it is pointless to give customers separate display panels when using smart-phone apps could be a cheaper and more popular alternative.
Major energy company ScottishPower told the Telegraph that the displays, which cost £15 to £25 or even more, could be a waste of money and has called for a review of the entire £12bn programme to reduce costs for consumers.
Neil Clitheroe, ScottishPower’s chief executive of generation and retail said: “Removing the obligation of the mandatory requirement of in-home displays could significantly reduce the costs of the smart meter programme to consumers.
“Displays could be offered where appropriate but costs can be reduced by offering alternative information sources such as apps.
“We would like to see a careful review of the entire smart metering programme in order to reduce costs.”
More than one million smart meters have already been installed, mostly by British Gas.
The national rollout of smart meters, originally due to begin in summer 2014, has now been delayed to autumn 2015 so that communications systems to transmit the data from meters can been installed.
Small energy supplier First Utility echoed ScottishPower’s calls for a rethink of the smart metering programme and use of in-home displays.
Darren Braham, founder and chief financial officer, said: “The benefit of smart meters is in the data and the insights they can give into individual energy use. It’s only by being informed about actual usage that we can understand what behaviour we can change to reduce energy consumption. The key to this is how data is presented to be visible, simple, engaging and insightful.
“We are already delivering this information to smart meter customers via an online portal and trialing a mobile app to give consumers the choice to consume this information in way that is best for them.
“We are also evaluating and trialing a number of IHDs which cost about £25 per unit. This cost will need to be funded within energy tariffs and some customers will be very happy to pay for them. However others may not, so its important that we have a debate about the best way of delivering usage information balanced against the cost of doing so.”
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “In Home-Displays will give consumers easy access to information on their energy consumption in pounds and pence, to help them manage and control their energy use.
“Although suppliers will be required to offer in-home displays to their domestic customers alongside a smart meter, customers don’t have to accept one if they don’t want to.”