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 286.

    Already in the UK., 'smart metering' is valuable for business using large volumes of energy - equally for business using large volumes of water too.

    However, what is the purpose of this for domestic users? Personally, I am more concerned with the lack of investment on UK energy security.
    Due to lack of storage for gas/fuel, UK is always 4 weeks away from shortages. More power stations please!

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    What's the big problem.

    Investment in new equipment, long term savings on reading meters.

    And don't metering water supplies reduce the waste of water ?

    Really, what's the problem ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    To whose benefit will these meters really be?

    To customers, to see by how much they are being overcharged, perhaps?

    To utility companies, who rarely manage to calculate usage correctly anyway?

    To whose benefit?

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    As the World Health Organisation has confirmed radio frequency radiation i.e. wireless smart meters may cause cancer, I fail to see why they are being forced upon us.
    They are being promoted as 'eco' and a means to save energy. In reality they will monitor peak usage time and then charge us all more for using our energy at peak times .... whilst giving us cancer at the same time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    The real reason for smart meters is wind power generation control.
    In 400 characters it's difficult to get any reasoned argument across (thanks BBC).
    I'm against smart meters as they are a waste of my money and all costs of installation, repair and usage will be added to all our bills so Govt pay nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    They are a bit like water meters - if you don't have to get one don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    I can see the wheel go around on my conventional 20+ year old meter, and that doesn't change my habits in any shape or form...

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    If you use a lot of electricity it may pay you to go on a dual E7/day tariff and put timers on washing machines, dishwashers etc. The cost of the 7 hrs of E7 is about 1/3 of the full rate. I use it and everything I can is now on at night. Incidently I am taking EDF to the Ombudsman and now await the result. Go to "Consumer Direct Energy" to complain officially about energy companies

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Great news for Information Warfare Specialists a meter which can be switched off remotely, wonderful idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    1. Jane
    >>>How does monitoring your energy use save you money? It's cold - I have the heating on, if I was monitoring the gas I am using would I turn it off? Not unless I want to freeze

    Agreed. However, if you leave something on that you shouldn't you would realise a lot faster and do something about it - saving yourself money. It's dead easy, eg, to leave a water on longer than you intended.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    @Rachel 267. When the metering companies start to roll out smart meters you will have one installed regardless of your personal wants. Even though the meter is inside your property, it (and the cutout and all components relating to the electrical intake in your property) belong the the companies. They can therefore change them as and when they need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    You can buy a simple (say) OWL monitor, clip to your wiring and program energy in KWhr or cost and watch all day if you like to see what you're using. Smart meters are another massive con on energy users and are a first step to energy companies being able to, first monitor, then adjust your energy remotely. Big brother is alive & well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Dr Bob - calculating your bill isn't that simple on some tariffs thanks to "sculpting" whereby the amount charged for units can vary according to how many units you've used and the time of year when the bill is sent (not when the fuel is used). So you pay more for the first few units but you don't know how many units you will be charged the higher rate for until your bill arrives unpredictably.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Eon fitted my meter three weeks ago.
    It is more useful than the Owl meter I had which could only record electricity use. Now I can see our gas usage which makes up the greater part of the bill.
    One great advantage is that the Economy 7 reduced rate period has been changed to 0.30 to 7.30am. I get up each morning to heat a thermos flask for hot drinks and now have 30 minutes lie-in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    They are a great idea if you can get them installed.
    I am with First Utility (CAN 413528) (total on-line company!)
    Good prices but...I ve been waitting for 8 months now for the GAS SMART Meter to get installed but still no date - what a joke. The Electric smart meter was installed a yr ago very quickly.
    if you can get a gas smart meter installed, well done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    I have a monitor(not a smart meter) I check it every morning, I know how much I have budjetted for. I f Igo over that daily amout, I have to make savings the following days to compensate. This monitor does focus the mind. I think smart meters will be agood thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    These meters are not smart enough to understand the ENERGY TARIFFS so energy costs are shown "for illustration only", they fluctuate wildly and don't correspond to the eventual billing. Unplugging the monitor provides some satisfaction and saves electricity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    I already run my heating from off-peak electricity using Economy 7. I am continually being offered new 'deals', probably because the electricity companies aren't ripping me off enough already. Smart meters sound like another scam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    One supplier fanfares "In the future, smart meters will enable energy suppliers to offer all kinds of new products, services and tariffs that can tailored to meet your exact needs"

    In other words we'll bleed the maximum profit from you that we can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    I bet there has been little thought to the privacy and security implications of transmitting electricity usage data over a network and I am guessing the data isn't even encrypted first.

    I for one will stick to my pay as you go meter, we can monitor our usage because when it goes up (as it did when the family were here for Christmas) I know because the meter tells me how much credit we have left.


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