Government outlines guidance for smart meters

5 April 2012
By Sofia Mitra-Thakur
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Smart meter

Smart meter

The government has set out "tough" guidelines for the installation of millions of smart meters designed to put consumers in control of information about energy use.

Ministers aim to roll out "smart" gas and electricity meters to 30 million homes and small businesses by 2019, which will provide customers with detailed information on their energy use and allow suppliers to collect readings remotely.

"In less than three years energy suppliers will begin the mass roll-out of smart meters across the country and I am determined that consumers are at the heart of this ambitious programme," said Energy and Climate Change Minister Charles Hendry.

"That is why today we are proposing tough guidelines on installation, which will minimise inconvenience and help people to make the most of their smart meters to save energy and save money.

"In addition I want to be absolutely clear to consumers that they will be in control of their energy consumption data.

"So apart from where it is required for billing or other regulated purposes, it will be for consumers to decide who can access their data."

The meters also pave the way for "smart grids" in which demand could be managed remotely to save energy, for example by charging plugged-in electric cars at night when little power is being used or by powering down fridges during peak times.

Energy suppliers will be in charge of the mass roll-out of the meters, which form part of efforts to shift the UK to a low carbon economy, from 2014 so the government set out measures to protect and help consumers.

The new guidelines say there should be no selling of products or energy tariffs during visits to people's homes to install the meters, and installers must provide advice on how to save energy as part of the visit.

Companies will have to get permission from householders before a visit to be able to talk to them about their products.

And all customers will be offered an in-home display allowing them to see how much energy they are using and how much it costs.

Under proposals also set out today, consumers would have a choice about who has access to their data on energy use - except for information needed for billing and to meet regulatory obligations.

The proposals also aim to ensure that vulnerable and low-income families can benefit from the meters, and to help all consumers understand how to use the meters to manage their energy use and costs.

Consumer body Consumer Focus, chief executive Mike O'Connor welcomed the banning of sales during installation, that marketing will only be allowed if the customer agrees and efforts to address concerns around privacy of information.

But he said people must be aware of their rights and the choices available to them on how much information is passed to suppliers.

"It is welcome that the Government has recognised the need for a much stronger and better co-ordinated strategy to engage consumers," he said.

"Smart meters will only help people to become more energy efficient and cut their bills if they are able to easily understand and use the new technology.

"We hope this move will pave the way for a support scheme for vulnerable customers to ensure everyone gets the benefit of smart meters."

"British Gas has already installed over 400,000 smart meters in homes and businesses," said Gearoid Lane, managing director of British Gas New Markets.

"The message from these customers has been loud and clear: smart meters are putting them in control and helping cut bills.

"Today's announcement means that the energy revolution can now begin in earnest - giving the green light to rolling smart meters to every home and business in Britain."

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