Smart meters energy saving project at risk, say MPs

Smart meter Smart meters will allow consumers to know exactly how much electricity each appliance uses

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Plans to install energy saving smart meters in every UK home and business by 2020 are at risk of veering off track, an influential group of MPs has warned.

Smart meters could save about £17bn and put an end to estimated bills.

But the Energy and Climate Change Committee said a key piece of the £11bn programme's infrastructure was behind schedule.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said it had designed the scheme to maximise value for money.

The committee said the project was in danger of becoming a costly mistake, with a series of "technical, logistical and public communication issues" resulting in delays.

'Time running out'

The MPs said the government needed to get a firm grip on smart metering to avoid future embarrassment.

Committee chairman Tim Yeo said: "Time is running out on the government's plan to install smart meters in each of the UK's 30 million homes and businesses by 2020.

"Smart meters could generate more than £17bn in energy savings for the country yet a series of technical and other issues have resulted in delays to the planned roll-out."

He added: "This committee first looked at this programme in 2013, highlighting issues which we urged the government to address.

"While some progress has been made since then, it's not enough.

"The energy industry told us that it needs the government to enable industry wide solutions, rather than the less efficient alternative of letting each energy supplier develop its own solution."

'Steer industry'

Mr Yeo said the government was at a crossroads with its smart-metering policy.

"It can continue with its current approach and risk embarrassment through public disengagement on a flagship energy policy, or it can grip the reins, and steer the energy industry along a more successful path which brings huge benefits for the country," he said

Smart meters will eventually allow consumers to know exactly how much electricity each appliance uses, in order to encourage more efficiency.

Installing a smart meter will not cost consumers anything upfront and there will be no additional charges - although the costs of infrastructure like electricity meters are already incorporated into power bills, according to Smart Energy GB.

The DECC said one million consumers had already benefited from having a smart meter.

Claire Maugham, director of communications at smart meter advocacy group Smart Energy GB, told BBC Radio 5 live that the rollout of smart meters was "well underway" in the UK and the people who have them are "more confident in looking around for the right tariff and the right supplier... and they're much more happy with the whole experience of buying gas and electricity".

However, she said that the rollout of smart meters needed more independent oversight, and that people may need more support getting to grips with the technology once it is installed in their homes.

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