Smart meter roll-out in danger of spiralling out of control, warns consumer group

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A CONSUMER group has called on the Government to take immediate action to cut the cost of the smart meter roll-out, warning it is in danger of “spiralling out of control”.

Which? has written to Energy Secretary Ed Davey calling on him “to act now” to reduce costs ahead of the official roll-out starting at the end of next year. The £10.9bn programme will see a smart meter installed in every UK home by 2020 in an effort to give people more control over their energy use.

In its letter, Which? calls on the Government to explore the option of centralised procurement, warning that each supplier currently has its own buying plan despite the meters themselves being one of the biggest costs of the programme.

It also wants a more efficient approach to the buying and installation of meters in multi-occupancy buildings such as flats or high-rise buildings to reduce disruption and cost, warning that without central co-ordination there could be visits from multiple suppliers or incompatible equipment installed.

At present suppliers are required to take “all reasonable steps” to install meters in every home by 2020, but Which? said a lack of guidance as to exactly what this meant was causing
uncertainty among some suppliers and concern that there
could be disproportionate costs for installing in “difficult” properties.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “Without immediate action the cost of the smart meter roll-out is in danger of spiralling out of control, while consumers foot the bill. The
energy market is undergoing a full scale investigation, so the Government cannot expect
competition alone will keep costs low.

“Major reforms are needed to fix the ‘big six’ and restore trust in this broken market. At a time when energy bills continue to squeeze household budgets, the Government must urgently explore ways to ensure consumers get value for money from the smart meter roll-out.”

Last month the public spending watchdog warned that the roll-out will cost every home about £215 over the next 15 years but consumers will save just three per cent annually on the average energy bill by 2030.