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 266.

    It is not brought out in the article. Where energy companies are going is to be able to charge more for energy used at peak times. We can't store electricity so if people can be persuaded not to run the washing machine at peak hours it helps. The persuading will be done by charging a lot more for peak hour energy. Big users in industry already do this, the ratio can be nearly 2:1 peak to off peak

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    Looking at some of the SM blurbs, it's obvious that the next step will be to alter your tariff according to things like the time of day, your overall usage. Not only that, people who might be crooks have access to your data.
    It's another Big Brother intrusion that reaches right into your home this time. The watchers know when your out or asleep, on holiday, watching TV etc. Nasty indeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    David Webster
    "Surely that 11bn would be better spent on heavily discounted "warm white" LED bulbs (they are brilliant)" Brilliant unless you are one of the many people like myself who suffer from Nystagmus and find LED lighting painful to look at.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    ok first time,
    to the point.
    if you switch on, it costs money
    if you switch off, it dont.
    why do i need a smart meter to tell me this!

    it wont be long till someone can FIX your smart meter for a fee,
    so you will need a smarter meter,who will pay for that,
    what you think.
    me i shall keep that old thing it works just fine,
    why fix something that an't broke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    I pay monthly direct debit = discount.1st bill overestimated despite info. Gas use fluctuates, can't know what's useful credit or overcharge. Eventually showed credit in mid winter so paid too much

    +I wouldn't DARE give my supplier DD authority.Its customer service is so bad so no way does it get its fingers into my bank account! Hope your supplier is better than that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Our politicians seem to be sponsored by this companies
    I can see it any other way otherwise they would have done something about it by now.
    Politicians should be judged by performance if not bringing results thrown out with out any benefits or payment. At present they are just like prostituets protecting the highest payers and not the public.
    They should be replaced this scum politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    I installed a monitoring device and software for my own interest. What a mess. Technically the monitor works fine (Current Cost) but the readout is most confusing and cannot be set up to measure costs - really !! and their software, and from others is of very low quality ( I say that as ex MD of Microsoft). Having measured all that, I cant find any way or reducing my usage - at least I now know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    The only effective way of reducing the entire nation's power consumption permanently - and ensuring that it continues to decline - is to develop and implement a compassionate, sensitive but robust population reduction policy - and encourage other nations to do the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Before people gleefully wish for SMs they should check the security offered. How are the data sent to the supplier? Is it possible for the reading to be intercepted and incorrect readings forged? How long does the supplier store your data? How often is usage polled? How accurate is the billing system?

    US experience has been that most bills go up as a result of SMs and worry about intrusion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Why is the government trying to micro-manage every aspect of our lives?

    Let us rebel against these silly rules and regulations!

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Domestic smart meters are just a gimmick. If you put your kettle on it uses electricity. Why do you need a smart meter to tell you that. If you want to save money just get into the habit of switching off appliances that you are not using.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    Since when has expense or the public good been involved? The so-called "privatisation" of the public utilities, including electricity supply, has lead to vast amounts of duplication, huge waste on "marketing" and profits for shareholders. So if the the Consumer's Association and/or "Which?" Really has our best interests at heart, they should campaign for all public utilities to be publicly owned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Are we all so dumbed down now. I just read one of the related stories "How suppliers calculate energy bills" It's an insult to intelligence. I suppose if some people don't know that they take the number of units used since your last bill and multiply that by the price per unit, then add the standing charge and VAT on the lot, they could be shown. But if they can't do that then they need SMs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    If I wanted a so called smart meter I would ask for it myself.
    Government or Supplier demanding I install one?
    No thanks, I would rather work out my own life thanks.
    Keep govt "initiatives" to a minimum and save £Trillions I say!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.


    "Already making changes to how I live. Anything that involves heat, cooker, grill kettle etc and it shows a marked increase in consumption".
    And you needed a smart meter to tell you that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    "I get a reminder, read the meters, send the result on the internet"

    Ditto so far.

    "and pay the bill on the day"

    I pay monthly direct debit = discount. 1st bill overestimated despite info. Gas use fluctuates, can't know what's useful credit or overcharge. Eventually showed credit in mid winter so paid too much.

    Long phone calls for refund, co tells you'll need the credit etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.


    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
    Just watch the wheel go round on a stantard meter when you switch th oven on. That'll give you the incentive to try and use less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    SMs should be optional

    ++ Agreed. There should be an opt-out.

    I don't need these pesky things to tell me that when I use an electrical/gas gadget that it's going to use electricity/gas for which I'll have to pay. I don't want this new intrusion into my home for the benefit of others, particularly energy multinationals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Had a smart meter installed a week ago as I get my electricity from Scottish Gas. Shows real time useage and costs and clearly shows what uses the most when it is on. Already making changes to how I live. Anything that involves heat, cooker, grill kettle etc and it shows a marked increase in consumption. Thank christ I did not have it on Christmas day it would have been off the scale.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    At the time I am writing this wind is contributing 2.1% of our electrical demand (despite the billions invested). Solar is almost zero as it is nearly dark. The tide will be at slack water overnight. So in the future when we have switched off dirty coal (43% of load) this meters will be used to limit your usage to prevent full blown power cuts. That's green thinking for you.


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