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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

UK’s smart meter revolution at risk of being short-circuited

One of Britain's biggest national infrastructure projects in decades is coming off the rails, according to a welter of criticism from politicians, consumer groups and media outlets.

The target of the carping is not the HS2 railway project or Heathrow runway expansion, but the government's requirement for energy suppliers to offer all homes and businesses a smart meter by the end of 2020.

UK's smart meter revolution at risk of being short-circuited

The meters automate readings, encourage saving by showing consumption in pounds and pence, and should put an end to billing problems.

Industry and government both argue that they are vital for helping the UK's electricity grid cope with an increasing but variable amount of wind and solar power.

They could also reduce the need for costly upgrades to power grids, aid integration of electric cars into the energy system and open up a host of innovative tariffs where energy costs vary based on time of use. In short, they are seen as a essential foundation for much of the UK's energy future.

But this summer saw calls for their rollout to be halted because of problems occurring after customers switch. A downbeat report by the British Infrastructure Group - a parliamentary body run by the former Tory party chairman Grant Shapps - topped the news bulletins.

Separately, statistics released in August showed that the rollout has lost momentum at exactly the time it should be speeding up. About 1.25 million smart meters were fitted in the second quarter of 2018, up just 1% on the previous quarter.

Installations have only just passed the 13 million mark - a long way from the 53 million there would be if every household and business had one.

Embarrassingly, about 940,000 have lost their smart functionality after people switched supplier - meaning consumers once again have to manually submit readings.

The figures prompted the consumer group Citizens Advice, which recently called for the 2020 deadline to be delayed to 2023, to declare that energy suppliers would have to work at an "increasingly unrealistic pace" to complete the rollout.

 

Read the full story at The Guardian.