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Smart meter 2020 rollout target will not be met, says National Audit Office

Smart meter 2020 rollout target will not be met, says National Audit Office

Despite pledging that every home in the UK would have a smart meter installed by 2020, the Government appears set to miss that target, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

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The second generation of smart meters began rolling out in the summer of 2017, three years later than had originally been forecast. This was due to significant technical delays and an underestimation by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of how long it would take infrastructure and technical standards to be implemented. The NAO, the UK’s spending watchdog, now says that energy suppliers expect only 70-75% of homes and small businesses to be using a second generation smart meter by the end of 2020.

How will consumers be affected by the missed smart meter target?

This will cost consumers in the region of half a billion pounds, or around £17 per household. In the absence of second generation smart meters, suppliers have instead installed 12.5 million first generation smart meters. These can “go dumb” if the customer switches their energy supplier, and nearly a million have gone dumb so far. This issue means that customers could feel that they have to choose between remaining on a more expensive tariff or losing the benefits of their smart meter.

Richard Neudegg, Head of Regulation at uSwitch, says this constitutes a risk that up to nine million smart meters “may need to be ripped off the wall and replaced at considerable cost and inconvenience to households.”

Richard also said: “The NAO’s report lays bare what has long been suspected: that the Government rushed ahead with the smart meter roll-out without a good enough plan, before the technology was ready – with consumers ultimately paying the price.

“Households will now be questioning whether the smart meter programme has been fully thought through. The NAO estimates the programme is going to cost energy customers at least an extra half a billion pounds, and says the Government isn’t even monitoring whether people are actually saving energy as a result.

“It’s time for the Government to come up with a realistic timetable for resolving these technical delays if it wants consumers to really believe in the benefits smart meters will eventually bring.”

Responding to the National Audit Office report on smart meters, Robert Cheesewright, Director of Corporate Affairs at Smart Energy GB, said “Britain’s smart meter rollout is a hugely complex and challenging infrastructure upgrade, but we must not lose sight of the bigger picture which is that we urgently need a modern, connected energy system with smart meters at its heart.

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“That’s why millions of smart meters have already been installed and they are paving the way for more clean and renewable energy and the widespread take-up of electric vehicles.

“The alternative is that we are stuck with estimated, inaccurate bills from an outdated system that can no longer keep up with the way we use gas and electricity in the 21st century.”

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