A crucial IT project at the centre of the UK’s smart meter roll-out is facing further delays.
Millions of us are set to have new smart meters installed in our homes and businesses but what differences will these new devices make and how do they work?
The government recently revealed the communications infrastructure, which links the new smart meters to energy suppliers to gain readings remotely, will now not go live until the end of September at the earliest.
It is the latest in a series of setbacks for the smart meters roll-out programme, which is supposed to see up to 53 million of the new meters being installed into homes and small businesses throughout England, Wales and Scotland by the end of 2020 – at an initial estimated cost of £11 bn.
In a bid to make us more energy efficient and conscious of our energy consumption, the British government committed to a EU directive, which asked members to consider smart meters as part of measures to upgrade our energy supply and help tackle the climate change challenge.
These smart meters relay information on energy usage directly to the energy supplier eliminating the need for manual meter readings and doing away with traditional estimates.
Although over 3 million have already been installed, the current round of the roll-out has stalled somewhat with the announcement that the IT system, which automatically sends meter readings to energy suppliers, will now not be ready until the end of September.
This poses another problem to proposed plans for these new generation gas and electricity meters, which utilise Wi-Fi technology, as the millions already installed were supposed to go live in August.
It’s not the first time the integral IT project has been pushed back as it was originally expected to be operational in 2015 which was delayed until April and then August this year.
Vibrant’s Managing Director Daniel Kittow, said: “While it is worth noting that the new smart meters being billed as free to customers are not compulsory, the costs of such a nation-wide installation project, which the government has made the responsibility of the energy companies, will surely mean costs being passed onto customers in the long run.
“While we welcome moves to encourage greater energy efficiency, it is cause for concern to hear that the project has encountered further set-backs and begs the question whether this will have a negative impact on the 2020 roll-out deadline as well as whether this EU led project is still high on the government’s agenda post Brexit?”
The aim of the new meters is to put consumers in greater control of their energy use, allowing them to adopt energy efficiency measures that can help save money on their energy bills and offset price increases.
The meters measure the total energy used in the same way as a traditional meter however they also tell customers exactly how much energy they are consuming and crucially, how much it will cost in pounds and pence, through an in-home display unit.
The benefits of the smart meters have been outlined as encouraging consumers to take greater control of and adapt their energy use and consequently cut down on waste to provide long-term carbon and financial savings.
Just how many millions will eventually buy into the introduction of having these new smart meters installed remains to be seen.