Consumer benefit at the heart of Government's smart meter programme

Published on Thursday, 05 April 2012 10:55
Posted by Matthew Abbott

30 million homes and small businesses will have smart meters by 2019 enabling all consumers to have access to accurate information and bringing an end to estimated billing. Energy and Climate Change minister Charles Hendry said:

“In less than three years energy suppliers will begin the mass rollout of smart meters across the country and I am determined that consumers are at the heart of this ambitious programme. That is why today we are proposing tough guidelines on installation, which will minimise inconvenience and help people to make the most of their smart meters to save energy and save money.

“In addition, I want to be absolutely clear to consumers that they will be in control of their energy consumption data. So apart from where it is required for billing or other regulated purposes, it will be for consumers to decide who can access their data.”

Key conclusions set out today include:

  • there should be no sales during the installation visit;
  • installers must provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit;
  • they will need the consumers permission in advance of the visit if they are to talk to them about their own particular products; and
  • all households will be offered an in-home display allowing them to see what energy is being used and how much it is costing.

Key proposals set out in the consultation documents include:

  • consumers will have a choice about who has access to their data, except for data which is needed for billing and meeting other regulatory obligations, typically on a monthly basis;
  • a model for centralised communications activity to help all consumers understand how to use smart meters to better manage their energy consumption and expenditure; and
  • proposals to ensure that vulnerable and low income consumers can benefit from the rollout.

Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of Consumer Focus said:

“We welcome the banning of sales during installation and that marketing will only be allowed if the customer agrees. This shows the Government has listened to consumers. We support the proposals to address consumer concerns around the privacy of information. But, to make this work, people must be aware of their rights and the choices available to them on how much information is passed to suppliers.

“It is also welcome that the Government has recognised the need for a much stronger and better co-ordinated strategy to engage consumers. Smart meters will only help people to become more energy efficient and cut their bills if they are able to easily understand and use the new technology. We hope this move will pave the way for a support scheme for vulnerable customers to ensure everyone gets the benefit of smart meters.”

Christine McGourty, Director of Energy UK, said:

“Smart meters are set to transform how consumers understand and manage their energy use at home, and today's publications are an important milestone in this exciting national programme. Energy suppliers are working closely with DECC and other stakeholders to ensure that smart meters deliver real benefits to people in homes and businesses around Britain, and to ensure that protections for customers are robust. We also welcome the opportunity to continue to contribute to the consultation on the consumer engagement strategy, which has a crucial role to play.”

As the programme gears up for the beginning of mass rollout in 2014, the Government is consulting on proposed frameworks for consumer engagement and data access and privacy. These proposals will give greater clarity to suppliers and consumers about how that rollout will take place.

The Government has also confirming that suppliers should develop a code of practice covering a range of key areas around the installation process.

The Government is also publishing an update to the Smart Meters Implementation Programme, consultations on the Smart Energy Code and the Data and Communications Company licensing conditions, the Government Response to the Rollout consultation, and updated Impact Assessments for the domestic and non-domestic sectors. It is also publishing the Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications (SMETS), which will enable suppliers to install smart meters during the Foundation Stage that will satisfy their rollout obligations.

The views expressed in the contents below are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of GovToday.

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