New report casts doubt over smart meter viability

The Government needs to show that its claimed £6.2bn benefit, due from the roll-out of its smart meter programme, is based upon truly robust evidence, according to another scathing report upon the entire exercise - this time from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.

This is now the third Parliamentary report in as many years to cast doubt upon how well this £14bn programme is being managed.

A large part of the Government’s claimed net benefits of installing 53m new meters are dependent upon these suppliers passing on to consumers practically all the enormous system savings they will be making on reading meters, dealing with estimated bills, and tariff timeswitching. Past experience suggests this may well prove insufficient on its own to protect consumers. Hence the massive, recently concluded, referral of the entire energy market to the Competition and Markets Authority.

The Science Committee expressed considerable concern over the lack of clarity about the primary purpose of smart metering, with no less than 11 separate and “disparate” objectives making this difficult to perceive.

As a result, it warns of a risk that the project “will become viewed solely as an inefficient way of helping consumers to make small savings on their energy bills.”

In September 2014 the Public Accounts Committee produced a litany of recommendations for change, seemingly few of which have been followed-up. Last year the Energy Select Committee warned that plans to install energy saving smart meters in every UK home and business by 2019 were in danger of ending up a “costly failure.” This is because Departmental civil servants had not been managing the project effectively.

The MPs raised detailed concerns about failures with technical, logistical and public communication issues – each of which have resulted in yet further delays to the much-postponed national roll-out programme. The committee had “inspected the programme’s progress back in 2013, highlighting issues which we urged the Government to address”. Many of these had not been corrected. So “the programme runs the risk of falling far short of expectations.”

The entire smart meters policy was at a “crossroads.” Continuing with the current approach would “risk embarrassment through public disengagement,” turning this “flagship policy into a costly failure.”

The Science committee is very concerned at the continuing lack of interoperability, whereby customers switching suppliers find they lose smart functionality, and so are discouraged from switching supplier.

The consumer group, Which?, has already called for the complete abandonment of the smart meter roll-out programme. The Institute of Directors has expressed concern that it may end up being yet another Government IT programme failure.

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It was set up to fail

Stephen McDonnell | 21/11/2016
Lets face it the energy providers did not want this scheme and have successfully sabotaged it .

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