Thursday 8 November, 2012
By Martin Fagan
But energy industry still can’t agree meter technology or firm date for roll-out
A junior energy minister has made a speech singing the praises of energy smart meter installation at a time when there is no firm date for the roll-out and doubts about the viability of the technology.
In a speech to the Smart Metering Forum, junior energy minister Baroness Verma stressed the beneficial effect smart meters will have on households and said that by 2019 smart meters will have been rolled out across the country.
However, the speech gave no inkling as to when the roll-out would start, how much it would cost and no further details on how the smart metering technology would work.
The benefits of smart metering are self evident: precise meter readings of your energy consumption are sent to your supplier, which, in return, ensures a very accurate bill and puts an end to the frustration of estimated billing.
However, the development of smart meters is still in the early stages and the ‘best of breed’ technology has yet to be decided on.
Some smart meters use an in-built sim card, like those in mobile phones, to send the data to the energy supplier, while some meters stream the data via the household’s internet hub and some are being developed to use radio signals.
Energy suppliers will be responsible for replacing over 53 million gas and electricity meters, involving visits to 30 million homes and small businesses. The mass roll-out of smart meters - where the majority of consumers will have them installed - is expected to start in 2014 and be completed in 2019.
The burden of the cost of the mass installation - currently budgeted at £11.3billion - will be placed squarely on the shoulders of consumers, who will pay for the mass installation through higher energy bills.
The Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) predicts that a smart meter will save the average household £23 a year, but also predicts energy companies will charge £3 a month - £36 a year - for the meter, which wipes out any savings.
Chris Eagle, energy expert at Energychoices.co.uk, said: “When smart meters were first mooted, they seemed to answer a lot of prayers, but the longer the roll-out is delayed, the less 'smart' they look.
“The energy industry also needs to decide which technology to adopt and develop, or risk the smart meter equivalent of Betamax, VHS and Video 2000.
“The delayed roll-out of smart meters could mean their chief benefit - precise details of your energy consumption - might be rendered obsolete.
"This is because the number of householders that now submit their own monthly meter reading to their energy supplier online and receive an accurate bill is rising steadily.”
Photo by edinburghgreens