Government insists smart meters are a ‘smart choice’ for consumers

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published a strong defence of the technology

By Priyanka Shrestha

The UK Government has insisted smart meters are safe and will help consumers save money on their energy bills.

In a strong defence published this week, it said the technology, which is being rolled out across the UK as part of a national upgrade to the energy system, is a “smart choice” for consumers as it provides them with accurate information on gas and electricity use.

Using the information can enable them to make small changes to the way they use energy or encourage them to switch to a cheaper tariff or supplier, it adds.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has dismissed “myths” that smart meters stop people from switching, consumers are being bullied into having the technology installed, they could be hacked and that no savings will be made.

It states consumers can switch whenever they want, even if they have a smart meter installed, suggesting households with the technology “are more likely to switch than those who don’t have one”.

It adds installing a smart meter is always the choice of the customer and people have the right to say no and Ofgem will take up complaints with any suppliers for customers who feel they are being bullied or coerced into getting the technology installed.

BEIS insists smart meters will save consumers money as more than 80% of people who have had the technology installed have taken steps to reduce their energy use and as a result, cut their bills.

The government’s cost benefit analysis previously estimated smart meters will take £300 million off consumers’ energy bills in 2020, rising to more than £1.2 billion a year by 2030 – an average annual saving of £47 per household.

However, a recent report from the British Infrastructure Group of Parliamentarians said the smart meter rollout will only save the UK around £11 per household.

BEIS’ response also suggests smart meters are secure, with a security system being developed by experts in industry and government, including GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre.

It adds: “Smart meter installations are also making British homes safer. In the past 10 months, over 430,000 safety issues were identified by smart meter installers, unrelated to the smart meter installation, as a result of free visual safety checks, helping to protect households across Great Britain.

“Over 11 million meters are already empowering consumers to reap the rewards of a smarter energy system – with 400,000 more meters benefitting homes and businesses every month. Eight out of 10 of those with a smart meter would recommend them to friends and family.”