Ed Miliband’s greatest – and perhaps only – legacy is going horribly wrong, say researchers investigating Britain’s £12.5bn smart meter programme. In 2009 the former climate change secretary ordered Britain’s energy giants to rip out the existing meters in people’s homes and replace them with “smart meters”. These allow homeowners to see how much energy they are using – for example, when they boil a kettle – with the aim of encouraging them to use less. However, research to be published this week shows that, with the meters already fitted in about 7.7m homes, the reality is turning out to be very different. “The costs are high at £200-£300 per home and the energy savings are tiny,” said Benjamin Sovacool, professor of energy policy at Sussex University. Smart meters measure gas and power use and transmit the data to home digital display units, so consumers can monitor consumption. They also send the data to energy suppliers so there is no need to send somebody to read the meter. Sovacool found, however, that the programme risks descending into chaos. “This is the largest government information technology project in history. It means installing 104m pieces of new equipment when counting separate electricity and gas meters, display monitors and wireless networks. It is so behind schedule that to hit the target of national coverage by 2020, suppliers would need to install 40,000 smart meters per day.” Sovacool and his colleagues also found that the £100m now set aside to promote the programme has made it into one of the world’s biggest advertising campaigns – but many people still have no idea what the meters are for. “The technology has generated ‘confusion and resistance’ in many households. There is little awareness of the benefits or of how the technology works,” he said.
Times 17th Sept 2017 read more »