Researchers at the University of Sussex have recently released a research report which has resulted in a vehement response from Smart Energy GB. According to reports, a Smart Energy GB spokesperson has classified the research as containing “serious inaccuracies and omissions which paint a misleading picture of the smart meter rollout and the benefits to consumers."
According to the researchers, a lack of consumer engagement and insufficient information is slowing down the UK’s £11 billion energy smart meter rollout.
Professor Benjamin Sovacool, lead author of the study, believes there are clear signs "that they need to improve consumer engagement and the provision of information about the benefits of the technology. This is especially true when it comes to vulnerable classes of people, such as the elderly and those less educated.”
Smart Energy GB questions customer engagement
Particularly, researchers are questioning if the cost-benefit of the programme has been sufficiently proven, saying:
"As even the Director of Marketing at Smart Energy GB now admits, it faces the difficult task of “shifting people from a position of absolute disinterest and apathy to a position of positive, enthusiastic engagement” (Barnett, 2015). One of our colleagues put it to us this way:
"There is nothing for me as a consumer to be enthusiastic about the SMIP [The Smart Meter Implementation Program], aside from the IHD [in-home display]. If I'm too busy to study my IHD because the time/saving trade-off doesn't work for me, then what else is there? I'm a busy, reasonably wealthy person. My time is worth far more to me than saving a few pence on my energy bill. SMIP doesn’t allow me to do things I would be genuinely enthusiastic about, like sell energy to the grid or participate in a demand response market or measure the performance of my home, or heating system, or anything, really. So I don't care. Because you aren’t offering me, the customer, access to any benefits. In short, why would a program that offers little or no benefit to consumers, be received with anything other than apathy, at best? From a consumer point of view, the SMIP is a solution in search of a problem."
Sovacool continues that government too, is backtracking on its ambitious installation plan, saying: “We have recently seen how the government had to backtrack on its ambitions to make installation in every home obligatory; they are basically admitting a degree of failure.”
Energy providers had only managed to install meters in 7% of homes reports Electronics Weekly, saying that: "to hit the target by 2020, suppliers would need to install 40,000 smart meters per day for the duration of the programme."
Smart Energy GB have a different perspective on the rollout, responding:
“Millions of people around the country are already using smart meters to bring their energy bills down. They are fitted at no additional cost, exactly as our old analogue meters were. The government’s most recent cost-benefit analysis shows that by 2020 the average household will see annual savings on their energy bills of around £11 increasing to around £47 by 2030 thanks to the smart meter rollout. The government and Ofgem have said that they expect energy suppliers to pass any savings onto consumers.“Independent surveys of tens of thousands of consumers each year show that Smart Energy GB’s campaign has made a significant impact on awareness of smart meters, their benefits and how to get one installed. Nearly all – 97% – of the population of Great Britain are aware of smart meters, with more than
“Independent surveys of tens of thousands of consumers each year show that Smart Energy GB’s campaign has made a significant impact on awareness of smart meters, their benefits and how to get one installed. Nearly all – 97% – of the population of Great Britain are aware of smart meters, with more than three quarters of people who have a smart meter saying they would recommend one to others. And many more would like to get their smart meter installed soon, with 49% of those who haven’t yet upgraded – or more than 20 million people – saying they would like to get one in the next six months.”
“It’s also important to note that, contrary to the research, you do not need internet access in your home to have a smart meter.”