Which? warns of energy smart meter 'fiasco'

Smart meter and display Smart meters will mean the end of meter readings as the information will be available remotely

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The scheme to install new energy meters in every home in the UK should be halted because of spiralling costs, a consumer campaign group has warned.

Which? said the government, rather than energy companies, should install the "smart meters" to keep costs down.

But Energy Minister Charles Hendry said the £11.1bn cost of introducing them to 30 million homes and firms from 2014 to 2019 would reap an £18.1bn benefit.

The devices show exactly how much gas and electricity is used in real time.

The project has been led by energy companies who have been installing the meters house-by-house as customers ask for them.

Which? claims it would be better if the government co-ordinated the installation process, whole streets at a time.

'Fiasco' fears

Executive director Richard Lloyd said the government did not have a "credible plan" to keep on top of costs.

"Smart meters can bring many benefits, but consumers won't accept them at any cost, or from suppliers they don't trust," he said.

Start Quote

The last thing we need is more dither and delay”

End Quote Charles Hendry Energy Minister

"It's naive to hope that competition in the energy market will keep under control the cost of installing smart meters in every home in the country."

He said the government should not write a "blank cheque" on behalf of energy customers at a time when people are struggling to pay their bills.

"The Energy Department should stop and review the smart meter roll-out before it becomes an £11bn fiasco," he said.

Which? welcomed the meters for their ability to end estimated bills and for allowing customers to monitor energy use.

But it said it wanted energy firms to report yearly to the watchdog Ofgem on the costs of the scheme and how much of those costs were being passed on to customers.

The Department of Energy said the project was already being overseen by ministers and had safeguards built in.

Mr Hendry said: "The introduction of smart meters will unlock huge benefits for the UK, and the coalition government has published detailed plans showing how we will deliver this.

"The last thing we need is more dither and delay."

He said he accepted that government had been "too hands-off" in the past, which is why the scheme was brought "in-house".

"We are determined to take the scheme forward, with ministerial oversight and safeguards for consumers built in," he said.

Smart meters will better inform consumers of their energy consumption and increase off-peak tariff usage.

Last year a National Audit Office report warned of "major risks" associated with the planned roll-out.

It found there was uncertainty surrounding the extent to which householders would change their behaviour when the new meters were introduced.

Which? has urged ministers to review their approach and take a strong leadership role.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 186.


    I get letters telling me I need a new meter as mine is 10 years old and considered dangerous."

    10 years? Ours is at least 50 and we've never had any such letter!

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    I'm with Scottish power and i take my own meter reading. I send them a meter reading on my computer and i know instantly how much energy i have used that week. If i should get low on credit i will turn off the electric or the gas so that i don't run into debt. Smart eh!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    123. Mark
    1 HOUR AGO

    I suggest you take a look at your meter. While TVs use very little power, computers and incandescent light bulbs use a LOT of electricity.

    I did. I monitored every appliance, every day, for 365 days. I now have cheap fuel costs. What I said at 106 is totally accurate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    smart meters are a bit of a gimmick, virtually everyone has a meter they can read multiple times a day if they want to & see how much they're using. ok some are a bit inaccessible but that should really only be a problem for the old or infirm, give them smart readers if they want & encourage the rest to read their own meters. I check mine monthly & if using too much, more often, & investigate why

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Quote "60. Toe2Toe
    Why don't street lamps have sensors so that they turn ON when needed." /end quote
    The Cost of running lighting and particularly Sox (street lights) is mostly at the point of switching on, running them is minimal. There is also the "strike" time, that is time required for the lamp to cool enough to be re-lit, you cannot strike a hot Sox Lamp without very expensive control gear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    In the company where I work we use smart meters to manage the energy use and energy billing through electronic processes, using over 400 smart meters.
    These smart meters have allowed us to identify energy waste and billing errors.
    They have provided the information so that we can install energy projects with the knowledge that they are delivering real savings, that are saving real jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    Why all the fuss. I read and record our electric meter figures every sunday and more regularly if needed. This gives me all the information I need on our home usage. It helps pinpoint spikes of use to investigate what we did and highlights faults. We use low energy bulbs and equipment, it works for us. Too many expect it all done for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    I think an awful lot of people seem to be confusing energy monitors (which typically clip onto a live cable and measure the magnetic field) with smart meters. They are not the same thing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    What on earth are they spending £11.1bn on???

    You can purchase an off-the-shelf clip-on meter for £50, that's £1.5bn. Add installation and the total is £2bn tops to supply and fit to every house. £9bn is going into someone's pocket!

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    There is a massive benefit to smart metering that isn't obvious to the consumer, and that is Peak Demand Response. By paying consumers (in the form of discounts) to avoid consumption during peak times, the suppliers obviate the need to build more power stations or buy expensive imported energy. This can only be achieved by smart metering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I have smart meters for gas and electricity they are exellent I can see what I have used all the time on line compare this uears usage against last years if you dont trust your energy baron get them fitted they give youi a better way to manage costs

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.


    2 Hours ago

    I have just had a smart electricity meter installed at no cost to me and it does give you the incentive to try and use less energy

    I don't want an incentive to use less energy, if its cold I'm not going sit in the house freezing looking at a stupid meter thinking I'm freezing but I'm using less energy

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    We have a smart meter. It was convoluted to set up and the need to have it near to a pc, and have it connected to the electric supply has made it a dinosaur already.You need a degree in maths to set it up, the software doesnt work (EON take note) and the display is too difficult to understand what it means for ordinary people. Waste of money and time,and has made NO difference to household useage!

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    'Smart meters' are the next logical step beyond 'monitors', but the performance of at least one energy supplier in promoting the use of monitors suggests that we can expect colossal wastes of money and time in 'smart meter' roll out. The monitor that my energy supplier 'gave' me as an incentive to transfer my account to them is worse than useless. It is dysfunctional in all criteria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    our fish tank used to cost 80-100 pa to light/heat. so when they all expired and no kids at home, tank got disconnected. Just gotta decide what pleasures worth paying for !

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    I had a an approach from Siemens who are installing meters for British Gas wanting to install a meter at my house. They wanted to set a day and expected to be able to arrive at any time from 8am to 8pm. I told them to stuff it. It is not reasonable to have to hang around all day at their behest. If they wish to fit a meter I expect a visit in a timed slot of no more than half a day!

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Quote "41. lloydie

    While they are at it, they could re-instate the grants for loft and cavity wall insulation, which in turn would help lower household energy costs" /end Quote

    They are available under the Warm Front Scheme, but it is means tested and you have to be in receipt of qualifying benefits.


  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    We have used a 'usage indicator' for 3 years to quantify the energy we use during the day via appliances. Prior to that we installed low energy lamps where possible; we saw a reduction in consumption but the house was colder so we turned up the CH. Moral: swings & roundabouts.

    We now have First:Utility smart meters. No display we can use but accurate bills & no meters to be read by them or us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    A complete waste of money. I can only assume the reason is so that the state can better monitor our energy usage and blast us with wifi pulses.

    If you want to cut down on your energy use then it's fairly obvious, keep things turned off. Get rid of the telly, wear clothes more inbetween washes, keep the heating turned off when you can, don't use a tumble dryer or iron etc etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    The electric business is privatley owned yet the taxpayer pays for the infrastructure.
    The rail networks are run for profit by private companies but we pay for the high speed line for them to profit from.
    All this money we dont have is being given to big business and nobody seems to care. Free market robbery.


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