Government pledges smart meters for all by 2020

| 19th June 2009
An old electricity meter

Old-style electricity meters will have been phased out of 26 million households by 2020, the Government says

As the Government commits to a high-tech revolution in the home - meters that can be read remotely and may help alter energy habits - questions are raised about data security... and whether any of us will be interested

A new Government initiative to update home energy technologies will mean Britain becoming a nation of smart-meterers by 2020.

The hi-tech gadgets will allow for remote readings and easier switching between energy suppliers, as well as letting householders see how much energy they’re using and saving money on bills, for example by using electricity in cheaper, off-peak times.

Great Britain will be the first country in the world to engage in a gas and electricity meter overhaul on such a scale. Energy secretary Ed Miliband said smart meters and smarter energy use would result in a reduction in carbon emissions. The Government estimates benefits to customers, suppliers and the country worth as much as £3.6 billion.

Climate change experts have welcomed the green benefits of the scheme, but also expressed concern at the potential for misuse of data.
‘These meters will give people more information and control, save energy and mean the end of inaccurate estimated bills,’ agreed Matthew Lockwood, senior research fellow in climate change at the Institute for Public Policy Research, ‘but people also need to be confident that their data will remain private, and workable measures need to be in place to ensure that is the case.’

The smart meter may be the thin end of the green technology wedge, but business leaders have counselled that the way the scheme is rolled out may have an impact on future innovations, such as homeowners creating their own energy from renewable sources and selling electricity back to the grid.

Tom Fryers, commercial director of energy management product developer Sentec, told Engineer magazine that Energy Retail Association proposals to fix what data comes out of the meter could dent its potential.

For smart meters to capture the imagination of the iPhone generation, their design and user interface must be easy to use, compelling and upgradeable, he said.

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