Energy providers criticised over lack of information on smart meters

The Big Six are failing to provide clear information and guidance on energy efficiency initiatives such as smart meters to consumers - making it difficult for them to make informed choices.

That is the conclusion of research released today (September 21) by Navetas Energy Management, which carried out an audit of the UK’s Big Six energy providers to find out their ability to offer consumers comprehensive information on energy saving initiatives. This comes ahead of the Government’s planned rollout of 53m smart meters to 30m homes and businesses across the UK in 2014.

The research revealed 96% of British adults are concerned about rising energy prices, while 88% said they want to better understand how they are using energy and would like more information on energy efficiency. It found limited information is being provided to customers on the smart meter rollout, despite the fact the scheme has cost saving benefits to customers of around £23 per year.

Meanwhile, the report also criticised energy providers for creating a “highly confusing landscape for consumers” and warned that energy firms are failing to capitalise on a growing market by not providing consumers with the energy efficiency and technology information. Instead consumers are turning to telecoms companies and price comparison sites such as Moneysupermarket, and EnergyChoices, alongside major supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury’s for guidance.

In the report it states: “At a time when consumers are looking to engage with companies that they can trust not only to charge them fairly but also offer value added benefits, it’s time for energy providers to step up and seize the reins to deliver consumer education and information sharing programmes that resonate with their customers.”

While energy providers are providing some information on the government’s smart meter rollout, the report found little evidence of detailed cost savings, with just British Gas offering a figure for the savings of smart meters for consumers at 10%.

Navetas Energy Management chief executive, Chris Saunders, said energy companies need to work to rebuild consumer trust following recent price rises and that better education about smart meters should be provided.

He said: “The UK energy industry is entering a challenging phase, with strict carbon reduction targets, implementation of the smart grid and an £11.7bn smart meter rollout.

“The smart meter rollout is an initiative that will impact every household in the UK and it offers the opportunity for energy providers to deliver customers the services, cost savings and added value they want.”

However, Mr Saunders warned that for the devices to be effective energy companies need to provide better energy measurement and management systems to engage consumers and help them save money.

He said: “It’s time for energy providers to find new coherent and purpose-driven ways of motivating and engaging consumers in their bids to become energy efficient.”

In response to the findings, Navetas has developed energy monitoring technology that can accurately measure energy consumption in the home and is currently trialling the system with some of the UK’s leading energy providers.

The full Navetas report, ‘An audit of UK energy providers’, can found here.

Carys Matthews

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