Further smart meter delays

Further smart meter delays

The UK government is dragging its feet over energy meter mandate

The energy sector is angry about yet more delays to government policy commitments on the national rollout of networked smart meters.

A consultation period closed at the end of October and policymakers’ response was due by the end of the year. But the deadline ­ already shifted once, to late January ­ has now been put back to the end of this month.

The continuing delays show a lack of motivation from the government, according to Jonathan Stearn, head of campaigns at consumer group Energywatch.

“The government is not showing many signs of wanting to use the opportunity to show how it plans to get smart meters into people’s homes,” he said.

“At the moment it continues to be on the back foot.”

Using a real-time link between householders and their utility suppliers, smart meters will give a more accurate breakdown of energy use ­ helping to save power and improve billing accuracy.

But electricity companies claim that only a government mandate for national rollout can make the business case for the expensive infrastructure investment.

The industry is getting impatient, said Russell Hamblin-Boone, director of corporate affairs for the Energy Retail Association.

“Energy suppliers are eager to get on with bringing smart meters to customers as soon as possible,” he said. “A mandate would enable us to work together to complete the rollout to every home in the UK in 10 years.”

How such a mandate would function in practice is undecided. But the model favoured by electricity suppliers is for regional franchises, giving individual firms responsibility for rollout in a specific geographical area.

“A franchise system would deliver smart meters faster and more economically,” said a spokesman for Centrica, which owns British Gas. “We look forward to a response from the government along these lin es.”

But the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform refuses to be hurried, and the official response to the consultation will not be published until the end of February at the earliest.