‘smart’ powers meters for all which could let energy firms cap use in homes
By Sean Poulter
Smart meters’ for gas and electricity are set to be approved for installation across the country in a huge project that could cost homes and businesses more than £500 each.
The meters are being presented as the key to doing away with estimated bills and encouraging families to cut down on their energy use by showing them how much they are using.
The huge scheme is to be unveiled by Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, as part of a package of measures to cut the nation’s carbon footprint ahead of the climate change summit in Copenhagen.
Smart meters: How the new scheme will work
However, the cost of installation has been estimated by the Government at £9billion, while some analysts suggest the figure will be as high as £13.4billion.
Consumer groups fear that the major part of this bill will be passed on to housholders and could add up to £515 per family over a ten-year period.
The smart meters, to be installed by 2020, will allow power giants to read meters remotely, most likely via a link to the mobile phone network.
It will be possible to send an electronic message to the meters to change the tariffs in line with price alterations.
It will also allow companies to charge more during peak times. The meters could also be used to ration supplies across the network or cap electricity use in a particular household to a certain threshold.
Out with the old: Older-style electric meters will be phased out to make way for new ‘smart’ meters
The Government claims that its estimate of £9billion for the cost would be more than covered by some £11.79 billion in savings.
It is suggested suppliers would save £6.6billion through cutting the thousands of people needed to read meters and man customer call centres.
And householders are predicted to save £3.1billion because, in theory, they would cut consumption once they could see how much electricity and gas they use.
It was claimed there would be further savings of just over £2billion, giving a final total of £11.79billion.
However, analysts at accountants Ernst & Young said the costing for the massive scheme had failed to reflect the true scale of the enterprise.
Its utilities expert, Tony Ward, said: ‘Very big and complex projects of this sort always cost more than anticipated.’
Mr Ward said it would be a hugely difficult, expensive and time-consumingjob to gain access to all 26million UK properties to install the new meters. He stressed that there will be vast initial costs to buy the equipment and set up the infrastructure to collect the readings.
Dr Fiona Cochrane, energy campaigner for consumer group Which?, said: ‘We don’t see how the Government can justify asking consumers to pay for something that will save energy companies hundreds of millions a year, while the average household will make only minimal savings