The government has moved a step closer to rolling out smart meters across the UK, in what will be one of the biggest shake-ups to the consumer market in years.
The coalition has long lobbied to roll out smart meters as a means of helping both energy providers and their customers to keep a better tab on exactly what they are spending.
It is thought that smart meters will also help consumers to manage their energy bills better and keep costs down, but the move has stalled slightly while the details of the rollout were agreed.
However, the reality of smart meter distribution has now taken a step closer after the government published a number of documents on the rules for consumer engagement, privacy and security.
According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the mass rollout of smart meters will begin in late 2014, with the completion date estimated to be 2019, by which time the vast majority of UK consumers will have received one.
The DECC is aiming for every home in the UK to eventually have a smart energy meter installed as the country looks to reduce its overall emissions output.
According to the government, this will help to lower energy bills through more accurate monitoring of energy usage, with businesses and public sector organisations also able to have smart or advanced energy meters suited to their needs.
“The rollout of smart meters will play an important role in Britain’s transition to a low-carbon economy and help us meet some of the long-term challenges we face in ensuring an affordable, secure and sustainable energy supply,” the coalition states
Power to the people
The new documentation reveals that customers will be able to choose how often their energy supplier can access their energy consumption data, while suppliers will not be able to use the data for marketing purposes without explicit consent.
Another perk for consumers is that suppliers will have to give them reminders about the choices they have made and how they can change their minds, while the government will be able to request annual reports from the big six energy providers, which will require them to set out their plans and progress with the rollout.
Finally, a new Central Delivery Body will help customers to use smart metering to better manage their energy consumption and expenditure, bringing down energy bills for businesses and homeowners like.
A worthwhile challenge
Energy and Climate Change Minister Baroness Verma said widespread rollout of smart meters represents an “enormous challenge” and a “vast upgrade” of the UK’s energy system.
However, it will also have huge potential benefits for millions of homes and businesses and for the UK as a whole, she noted.
“Let me be clear: the consumer comes first. That’s why we are tackling issues such as privacy, security, consumer protection and communications now, working with industry and consumer groups to make sure we get this right ahead of the mass rollout,” Baroness Verma explained.
“Today marks an exciting step forward in delivering the smart meter programme, as we finalise the work needed to achieve the benefits we believe consumers should receive.”
Though the changes will not be completed until 2019 or perhaps beyond, it is set to change the face of the UK energy market and could be the smart idea cash-strapped consumers are looking for.