Energy and Climate Change CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Martin Conroy (SMR123)

I read today that the Smart Meter roll out was being described by an “industry analyst” Alex Henney as a Government IT Disaster. Considering the project is being carried out by the Energy Industry that claim is spurious or, at best, posturing. The roll-out is an industry roll-out: if the Energy Industry cannot take responsibility for their own IT affairs, it begs the question can they even cope with day to day billing operations.

The Energy Industry has little or no interest in providing smart meters as they are a cost to their business. The potential for savings to the customer are large. An important change to the future of energy security is being stifled because of industrial self-interest. Smart metering has the potential to transform the purchasing and consumption patterns for millions of people. This can go a large way to reducing fuel poverty. The reduction in fuel poverty comes at a cost to the Energy Industry.

The claim that customers could use “smart phones and computers” to examine data is nonsense for a very simple reason: Alex Henney ignore where the data for the smart phones and computers comes from. That data source is metering. A roll out of a metering solution is required to generate the data. That much is actually not negotiable. The Smart Meter is not the industry preferred solution because it allows customers to aggregate their own data and use it in ways that level the market.

Portraying someone as an expert, simply because they have written extensively and worked in the industry is seriously mistaken. I have no doubt that Alex Henney is serious, experienced and understands a great deal about the Energy Industry. However, nowhere is he explaining where the data for smart phones and computers comes from. That suggests a very partial viewpoint or a narrowness of expertise that undermines the evidence.

The data for smart phones and computers must come from somewhere: which suggests that the industry either generates the data now and is incompetent in their IT provision to extract that data or that the data could be generated by smart metering. To suggest that it is a Government IT disaster (and there have been a number of disasters in Government IT) is dissembling grandstanding for a media audience.

I appreciate that this hardly counts as evidence, apart from the point that “the data must come from somewhere” and that it is after the submission deadline. However, I do think the Committee risks being given less than an honest picture, at best by ignoring the question: if the data is not provided by smart meters where is it provided from?

May 2013

Prepared 26th July 2013