Smart meters for every home

Energy suppliers are to be responsible for installing smart meters in all households in the UK by 2020.

The new technology will spell the end of estimated billing, save homes money, make energy use more efficient and cut carbon emissions, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

It is estimated the scheme may help people save £28 a year – but installing the meters will cost between £7bn and £9bn, about £340 per household.

The Government wants to see 47 million meters installed in 26 million properties by 2020.

Consumer groups welcomed their introduction but expressed concern domestic users would end up paying for them when suppliers would benefit most from their introduction.

Under the existing metering system, meter readers physically enter homes to check the dials and displays that record home energy use.

With smart meters, the readings are transmitted automatically to suppliers around the clock.

The meters will come with separate real time displays that can be kept elsewhere in the house such as the hallway.

Energy and Climate Change Minister, Lord Hunt, said: "A global climate deal in Copenhagen needs all countries to make the most ambitious commitments possible, but it will also require all of us to change how we lead our lives and how we generate our energy.

"Smart meters will put the power in people's hands, enabling us all to control how much energy we use, cut emissions and cut bills."

The plans, which also confirm that each meter will include a standalone display device, have been welcomed by the big energy companies.

"We are delighted the Government is moving forward with its plans for the roll-out of this technology throughout Britain," said British Gas managing director Phil Bentley.

"This will be thebiggest revolution in energy use since British Gas converted homes to natural gas in the 1970s."

But Britain's biggest independent energy consultancy, McKinnon & Clarke, feared the Big Six energy suppliers might use the introduction of meters to raise bills. The Independent is campaigning against The Big Energy Rip-off, calling for price cuts of 10 per cent.

"We are concerned that this is another example of smoke and mirrors by the energy industry who are clutching at straws to create a positive story, when the real scandal is that they are making a profit of approaching £200 on every home in the country," said David Hunter, McKinnon & Clarke's energy analyst.

Scott Byrom, utilities manager at moneysupermarket.com, praised the end of estimated bills, an irritation to consumers and a major source of calls to suppliers.

He said: "Customers won't ever have to overpay or find themselves in debt with their energy supplier once smart meters come into force.

"Several concerns remain though; it is a worrying prospect that the cost of the scheme will be put at the feet of the bill payer who have been suffering for many years from high bills.

"We also have to wait until 2020 for smart meters to be widespread."

The Shadow Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, criticised the "slow timetable" for rolling out the smart meters and promised a Conservative government would accelerate the timetable to ensure every family had the opportunity to benefit from a smart meter by 2017.

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