Roll- out of smart me­ters could cost house­holds £ 400

Solihull News - - FLICKR - JONATHAN WALKER jonathan. [email protected] reach­plc. com

SMART me­ters are be­ing in­stalled into mil­lions of homes – and they’re sup­posed to save us money.

But they could, in fact, be cost­ing each house­hold al­most £ 400.

A new re­port by the Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice ( NAO), the of­fi­cial spend­ing watch­dog, has warned it is “cur­rently un­cer­tain” whether cus­tomers will get any ben­e­fit from smart me­ters or not.

And the find­ings con­firm con­cerns raised by Birm­ing­ham MP Steve McCabe ( Lab Hall Green), a long- stand­ing critic of the smart me­ter scheme.

He said: “What we do know is that the ever in­creas­ing costs are be­ing di­rectly passed to house­holds.”

Un­til re­cently, most of us rarely looked at our gas or elec­tric­ity me­ters. They may have been hid­den away in a cup­board un­der the stairs, and once in a while some­one would come round to take a read­ing.

Smart me­ters are a very dif­fer­ent. They tend to be small, with at­trac­tive dig­i­tal dis­plays that let you see how ex­actly much gas and elec­tric­ity you’re us­ing, and how much it’s cost­ing you.

And they send the re­sults di­rectly to your en­ergy sup­plier, to en­sure you’re al­ways charged the right amount.

The Gov­ern­ment has told en­ergy com­pa­nies to take “all rea­son­able steps” to in­stall smart me­ters in ev­ery home and small busi­nesses by 2020.

That’s go­ing to cost money, and cus­tomers will have to pay.

You don’t pay ex­tra if you have a smart me­ter in your home. Rather, every­one shares in the cost, what­ever sort of me­ter they have, be­cause en­ergy com­pa­nies add it to our bills.

In the­ory, this shouldn’t be a prob­lem – be­cause smart me­ters are also sup­posed to save us money in the long run.

The idea is that they make the en­ergy in­dus­try more ef­fi­cient. One ex­am­ple is that the en­ergy com­pa­nies are sup­posed to re­quire fewer call cen­tre staff to deal with queries from cus­tomers.

And they are sup­posed to en­cour­age peo­ple to use less en­ergy, which clearly leads to lower bills.

It all means that the cost of in­stalling smart me­ters is even­tu­ally off­set by the sav­ings they cre­ate.

But that’s only the the­ory. Ac­cord­ing to the NAO, it’s not work­ing in prac­tice.

The cost of i n s t a l l i n g smart me­ters is ex­pected to be £ 11 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment for Busi­ness, En­ergy & In­dus­trial Strat­egy.

That comes to £ 374 for ev­ery house­hold that has both a gas and elec­tric­ity sup­ply.

The NAO ex­plains: “These costs will be met by en­ergy com­pa­nies rather than the gov­ern­ment, then re­cov­ered from con­sumers through higher en­ergy prices.

“The costs are equiv­a­lent to £ 374 per dual fuel house­hold,”

And the NAO says that costs “have in­creased by at least £ 0.5 bil­lion since the Depart­ment’s last fore­cast and could in­crease fur­ther”.

A £ 0.5 bil­lion in­crease in costs is equiv­a­lent to £ 17 per dual fuel house­hold, bring­ing the to­tal to £ 391.

But even this is “a con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate”, ac­cord­ing to the NAO.

Mr McCabe said: “The whole point of the smart me­ters pro­gramme is to save peo­ple money on their en­ergy bills but Min­is­ters are un­able to con­tain the cost of the pro­gramme and have lit­er­ally no way of know­ing if any sav­ings are passed on to cus­tomers.” En­ergy and Clean Growth Min­is­ter Claire Perry said: “We’ve said every­one will be of­fered a smart me­ter by the end of 2020 to reap these ben­e­fits and we will meet that com­mit­ment.

“This world- lead­ing up­grade to our na­tional in­fra­struc­ture is the cor­ner­stone of our move to a smarter en­ergy sys­tem of the fu­ture and will bring ben­e­fits to con­sumers and in­dus­try worth up to £ 40 bil­lion.”

MP Steve McCabe

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.