The government has announced that gas and electricity ‘smart meters’ will be fitted in all UK homes by 2020.
Unlike traditional meters, smart meters can be read remotely – meaning no more visits from meter readers or requests from your supplier to provide them with a reading. Smart meters can also show householders how much gas and electricity they’re using and what it’s costing them in financial and environmental terms.
As well as helping customers manage their energy use and cut their bills, some smart meters allow households to sell electricity they’ve generated themselves – through solar or wind power, for example – back to the power companies.
Minister for energy and climate change, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, told peers in the House of Lords that smart meters would give consumers ‘better information on how to manage their energy use, accurate bills and potentially easier access to a wider range of tariffs’.
However, replacing the 47 million meters currently installed in homes will be a challenge.
Lord Hunt said: ‘Given the scale of the issues, it is our view, and I understand it is the view of the industry, that we require a sensible period of preparation.
‘We anticipate a period of around two years to resolve the issues and design the full details of the domestic roll-out.
‘Our aim is therefore to ensure that subsequent roll-outs happens over a period of 10 years. This would see delivery of smart meters by the end of 2020.’
Lord Hunt also stressed the need for the roll-out to happen with ‘minimum disruption and maximum customer engagement’.
Sarah Mitchell, principal policy adviser at Which?, said: ‘Smart meters do present an opportunity for all of us to take greater control of our energy use, and clearly could also offer energy suppliers significant cost savings.
However, if the government really wants “maximum customer engagement” it is crucial that the energy companies pay their fair share rather than consumers being landed with the bill for an initiative they will see little direct financial benefit from.’
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