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Government should rethink smart meter rollout says Energy Advice Line

The government should reconsider plans for the compulsory rollout of smart meters following warnings by energy companies that the equipment could be largely redundant, according to the Energy Advice Line.

Julian Morgan, managing director of the business electricity comparison, switching and advice service for energy users, said the government should heed warnings that consumers could end up paying hundreds of millions of pounds in levies for outdated technology. “We have previously expressed concern that the smart meter programme was failing to keep pace with technology and was being rolled out in haste,” Mr Morgan said.

“In theory, giving consumers the ability to measure their gas and electricity use accurately and in real time is a good idea, but smart meters have always been problematic. Some critics have claimed that the technology could make it more difficult to switch suppliers. Now, some of the energy companies themselves have admitted that other forms of technology, such as smart phone apps, are superseding smart meter displays. The government needs to pause to review this programme to ensure significant amounts of money are not wasted.”

Under the £12 billion programme, consumers will pay for the roll out of smart meters to every home in Britain by 2020 via a levy on their gas and electricity bills. The government claims consumers will eventually save money as smart meters will give them the means to accurately monitor, and therefore reduce, their energy consumption. But Big Six energy company ScottishPower recently told the Telegraph newspaper smart meter displays, which cost £15 – £20 or more, could be a waste of money as other technology could make them redundant.

Removing the requirement for the in-home displays would enable energy companies to offer consumers less expensive and possible more effective means of monitoring energy consumption, like apps.

“It makes sense for the government to review this programme, simple to ensure that smart meter technology is, in fact the best way to deliver a potentially valuable resource for consumers,” Mr Morgan said. “Consumers cannot afford to pay any more than absolutely necessary for energy and if there are more effective means of doing so, the government needs to accept this fact and act accordingly.”

More than one million smart meters have already been installed, mostly by British Gas. The national rollout was originally due to begin in summer 2014 but has now been delayed to autumn 2015 so that communications systems to transmit the data from meters can been installed.

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