A smart move, but no credit as it was inevitable

23rd Sep 2019


At long last, the Government has made the decision to push back the deadline for the smart meter rollout by four years, until 2024. Something EUA has been calling for, as we could see the numbers, but it has taken them longer to respond. But the Government don’t deserve any credit for this announcement since it was inevitable and frankly is the culmination of their watering down of the commitment to smart meters.

From a target in 2015 of every home having a smart meter by 2020 we saw a dilution a couple of years ago to every home being offered a smart meter by 2020. Now it seems the new target is 85 per cent of homes having a smart meter by the end of 2024.

Simple arithmetic could have told them the 2020 initial target was never going to be met. The ramp up in volume was simply too steep for a technology that is still being developed. Let’s also be honest, some aspects of the programme haven’t been handled well.

Last week, the BBC reported on aggressive “selling” of smart meters by suppliers, and smart meters not doing what was promised. The Times business columnist described the whole programme as looking like “an expensive way of changing behaviour very marginally, if at all”. This criticism may well be unfair but it fuels the scepticism of consumers and this may have far-reaching consequences. This is “just” a £13 billion programme (sneaked into the announcement was a cost increase of £2 billion). Imagine how the consumer is going to take a £500 billion (CCC’s estimate to decarbonise heat) if the industry handles it as badly. So let’s learn the lessons about working with the public, not forcing something onto them. If we do the former, then we might hit our climate change targets, I guarantee, if we end up doing the latter, we will fail.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO