Smart meters could bring big benefits for customers if done right, but pose big risks if done wrong, according to Zoe McLeod, energy expert for Consumer Focus, who will address the upcoming Smart Metering UK & Ireland conference in London.
At the event the country’s five largest utilities, E.ON, British Gas, EDF, ESB and RWE npower, will engage with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) about the smart meter rollout plans.
Millions of smart meters are to be installed in homes and business across GB by 2019. Says McLeod: “The challenge is for industry to work with government and consumer groups to put the right protections in place and ensure that smart meters deliver for consumers. Energy customers are expected to foot the multi-billion price tag for this scheme so they will expect value for money and that everyone benefits from the switch to smart.”
She adds: “There are still major questions that need to be answered for consumers on protections, privacy, sales, service and benefits. Getting these answers right will ultimately determine the success or failure of smart meters.”
An end to estimated bills?
According to Consumer Focus’ energy expert, how smart metering will change the lives of consumers largely depends on how well the rollout is done and the technology that is chosen. She explains: “If it is done well, we should see an end to estimated bills which are a major source of consumer complaints. Customers should be able to better manage their energy use to cut their energy bills and budget more easily. There should also be improved customer service, greater choice and in the long run downward pressure on energy bills.”
Smart meters also have the potential to make switching easier, says McLeod. “They could improve competition in the energy supply and prepayment meter markets as well as stimulate competition in emerging energy services markets. There could be also more efficient delivery of help and support to the most vulnerable customers most in need. But these benefits won’t happen unless there is strong leadership from government.”
Rollout of smart meters has a big price tag
McLeod says, however, that Consumer Focus has concerns about the cost of the smart technology and the lack of strategy on how benefits will be delivered to customers. She notes: “The rollout of smart meters has a big price tag. It is expected to cost in excess of £11 billion which will be passed on to consumers in their bills. There should be regular reporting on the costs and benefits to consumers of the smart meter rollout. This should ensure accountability for the costs passed on to consumers to make sure that they are fair, proportionate and efficient. Customers also need to be provided with advice and support on how to use their smart meter and display to reduce their energy use and save money on their bills. Minimum standards should be required from suppliers to ensure this happens.”
More experts who will be at Smart Metering UK & Ireland include:
- Richard Leyland, Head Smart Meter Programme Team, Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), UK
- Ashley Pocock, FIET, Head of Industry Change, Regulation and External Affairs, Smart Metering Project Transformation, EDF Energy, UK
- Karl Popham, CIO, Austin Energy, USA
- Susan Furnell, Head of Smart Strategy, RWE Npower, UK
- Neil McGuiness, Manager, Smart Metering Project, ESB, Ireland
- Jacqueline Epifanie, Head of Marketing Smart Homes, British Gas, UK
- Jason Brogden, Smart Metering Programme Manager, Energy Retail Association, UK
- Porter, Chief Executive Officer, BEAMA, UK
- Richard St Clair, Managing Director, Elster Metering Systems, UK
- Cathy Mannion, Director, Electricity Networks and Retail, Commission for Energy Regulation, UK
- Gill Owen, Director, Sustainability First, UK
- Aidan O’Neill, Chief Executive, PrePayPower, Ireland
- James Pace, Senior Director of Business Development, Silver Spring Networks, UK
Event dates and location: 2-3 June 2011, Millennium Gloucester Hotel, Kensington, London.