Which? research shows that energy companies would need to work round the clock – installing 24 smart meters per minute – in order to meet the 2020 roll-out target. Guest author Steve McCabe MP tells us why this isn’t good enough…
I was interested to read the investigation into smart meters in the last month’s edition of Which? magazine. It outlined concerns about delays in the development of the Data and Communications Company (DCC) wireless network – a key part of the UK’s smart metering network.
However, claims made by the DCC and government ministers that the problems are all behind them, were left unchallenged. My view is that their reassurances are less than convincing.
Slow progress, spiralling costs
Back in November, the Chief Executive of the DCC told the parliamentary committee responsible for scrutiny of smart meters legislation (which I sat on) that real progress was being made.
We were led to believe that 250 second-generation meters had been connected to the network, only for a freedom of information request to reveal that just 80 had been connected and that most of these were in the properties of staff members!
I’m becoming increasingly concerned about the DCC’s costs, which have risen by 56% over the last three years. Other than intervention for costs that can’t reasonably be shown to be developmental or administrative, there seems to be little the government or Ofgem can do to control these costs.
It’s equally important to recognise the role of Meter Asset Providers. They are the ‘middle men’ who provide smart meter asset management to energy suppliers and they have a vested interest in driving up the rental costs energy suppliers pay for their meters. The market they operate in is a significant factor in the loss of functionality customers experience when switching and their role in the roll-out programme is deserving of closer attention.
Are smart meters increasing energy bills?
The government estimates the roll-out of smart meters will produce economic benefits of £16.7 billion, with savings of £47 on the average domestic annual bill by 2030, through using less energy.
I don’t doubt the potential benefits of smart meters, but I worry that what the government is selling as cost saving for consumers is fast turning into an unnecessarily expensive project – one that will increase energy bills in the short to medium term.
A growing number of energy suppliers are already blaming increases in energy bills on the cost of installing smart meters, including Scottish Power, SSE and Centrica.
Be clear about the costs
I recently argued that the government should require energy suppliers to include on every household’s energy bill the amount they pay for the smart meter roll-out. Without this information, how are we to know that we aren’t being fleeced?
We deserve to know whether there are still cost savings for consumers and how the functionality issues surrounding the DCC’s network are going to be resolved.
I’ll be continuing my fight for greater transparency and consumer protections, and I encourage those of you who are concerned about your energy bills to ask your supplier how much the smart meter roll-out is costing you.
This is a guest contribution by Steve McCabe MP. All views expressed here are Steve’s and not necessarily those shared by Which?.
What do you think?
Are you concerned about the cost of your energy bills? Do you think energy suppliers should tell you how much the smart meters roll-out is costing you?