Smart meters: progress or delay? - Energy and Climate Change Committee Contents

3  Conclusion

40. While progress has been made since we first looked at the Government's smart meter programme in 2013, we do not believe that near universal smart meter roll-out will be achieved by 2020. Long-known technical challenges of multiple occupancy and tall buildings should have been resolved by now. Other technical issues around interoperability such as the migration from SMETS 1 to SMETS 2 lack a clear plan for resolution and the DCC delay has damaged confidence in the programme. The slow start to full engagement with the public means Smart Energy GB must now step up delivery of their communications programme. We want the Government to remain ambitious about securing the maximum benefits from smart meters as soon as possible, particularly in relation to energy efficiency and consumer bills. The Government must monitor the impact of the programme to ensure that low income households, in particular, are benefitting. However, the benefits of smart meters will only be fully realised if the Government sets and keeps within a budget limit on the cost of the overall programme. We also consider that the Government should publish the Major Project Authority's assessments of the smart-meter programme.

41. Without significant and immediate change to the present policy, the programme runs the risk of falling far short of expectations. At worst it could prove to be a costly failure. The Government is at a crossroads in relation to smart meter roll-out. All the problems which we have identified are symptomatic of a national programme whose management the Government has left largely to suppliers. The Government must give serious consideration to whether or not it is possible to reduce costs to consumers by streamlining the roll-out of smart-meters, perhaps through more active participation of DNOs. The Government must also take a more active role in driving forward the industry-led roll-out, seeking and facilitating industry-wide solutions to the technical challenges that remain. Getting it right will eventually cut energy usage and bills for 30 million homes and businesses in the UK. Getting it wrong risks embarrassment for the Government through public disengagement with a flagship energy policy and a costly missed opportunity.

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Prepared 7 March 2015