Delays to government’s flagship energy scheme to supply smart meters to 30m UK households and small businesses by 2020, enabling them to cut bills, could lead to it being a ‘costly failure’
Smart meters that would enable people to see their own energy use in real-time will not be delivered on time on current form, depriving households of a cheap and easy way of cutting down on their energy bills, an influential group of MPs has warned.
As a result, the government-sponsored scheme to supply them risks being a “costly failure”, according to the energy and climate change committee.
If the meters were rolled out on schedule, with 53m of them in total installed in each of the UK’s 30m homes and small businesses by 2020, the savings in energy efficiency could amount to £17bn across the country, against a likely cost of up to £11bn to be met by consumers.
But Tim Yeo, chair of the House of Commons energy and climate committee, warned: “Time is running out on the government’s plan to install smart meters in each of the UK’s 30m homes and businesses by 2020 [as] a series of technical and other issues have resulted in delays. The programme runs the risk of falling far short of expectations. At worst, it could prove to be a costly failure.”
He urged ministers to get the roll-out back on track: “The government 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.”
Plans for a national roll-out of smart meters to every household have been in the works for more than five years.
Baroness McDonagh, chair of Smart Energy GB, the organisation charged by the government with informing the public on smart meters, said the roll-out would be “one of the largest upgrades to the nation’s infrastructure that we have seen in a generation. We have an important task ahead of us to engage the whole country to ensure that every household and microbusiness will take advantage of this new technology and transform their experience of buying gas and electricity.”
But the plans have been plagued by a series of delays, both over the costs and the technology. A survey carried out for Smart Energy GB showed earlier this week that fewer than one in five people know what smart meters are, though nearly 60% of those who do know would like to have one.