The government plans to install smart meters in all UK households by the year 2020. In light of this new development, concern has arisen as to who will be paying for the display units.
According to Martyn Hocking, editor of Which? magazine, it is a relief that display units will be included as part of the upgrade because they will give consumers the necessary information for them to cut energy expenses by monitoring their energy usage.
Unfortunately, consumers could be forced to shoulder the bulk of the many billions of pounds that the project will cost to save the energy industry hundreds of millions of pounds each year.
Although 2020 is still a long way off, the industry could take a few simple steps to help people understand their bills, such as simplifying them to make them easier to read. A simpler looking bill that makes it easy to compare tariffs would make life easier for millions of people by allowing them to more easily monitor their energy consumption so that they could control their usage.
Which? would like to see mandatory distribution of portable wireless monitors with all smart meters so that consumers have access to real-time information about their energy usage. Without a display unit, people have no way of knowing how much energy they are using until they receive a bill. Wireless energy monitors display real-time information that people can use to reduce usage, especially during peak times. They also want to see a system of minimum standards for energy monitors put in place alongside the roll-out of the units, along with a consumer education programme that will teach people how to get the most out of their new meters by using the energy monitors.
The consumer champion also feels that there should be some form of security system in place to protect the data collected by smart meters because such data should be considered personal and treated accordingly, in keeping with the current data protection laws.
Overall, Which? is in favour of the installation of smart meters, provided that they are not going to leave consumers significantly out of pocket in the beginning, and that measures are taken to allow consumers to benefit from them as much as possible.