IoD attacks ‘complex and costly’ smart meter rollout

The Institute of Directors has attacked the smart meter rollout for being too complex and costly, insisting the government "urgently review" the benefits of going ahead with the rollout which looks "very unlikely" to meet its 2020 target.

It blames “unnecessarily complex technology” as the reason for the high cost of the scheme and says that the price of rolling out the meters – £10.9 billion – adds £400 on to each energy customer’s bill, despite advertising claiming it comes “at no extra cost”.

The comments from the Institute of Directors (IoD) come after a survey of 998 of its members which showed under 1 per cent would willingly cover the full cost for smart meters if they had a choice.

Smart Energy GB, which runs the national advertising campaign for the rollout, responded saying that the IoD statement contains “inaccuracies and misrepresentation of facts”.

Chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said: “The IoD’s latest statement, which contains inaccuracies and misrepresentation of facts, shows them once again attacking the rollout on ideological grounds. 

“If the IoD had described the rollout accurately by stating the savings as well as the investments, its questions would have drawn a different response. Smart Energy GB’s campaign is entirely accurate in explaining to consumers that smart meters come at no extra cost – exactly as old analogue meters did. People will not see an additional charge on their bills when they claim their smart meter from their energy supplier.

“The IoD has been incorrect time after time, failing to understand the need for Great Britain to create a secure, efficient and sustainable energy supply that empowers consumers and makes Britain’s energy infrastructure fit for the future. Smart meters help some of the most vulnerable members of society manage their energy and bring their energy bills under control.”

The survey from the IoD found that members nine in 10 were prepared to meet no more than £200, whilst just over 50 per cent would refuse to pay anything if given the choice.

The meters are designed to remove manual and estimated readings the IoD wants the government to consider that there are cheaper alternatives including clip-on readers. It also raises concerns over how much benefit consumers will see from in-home-displays.

IoD senior energy adviser Dan Lewis said: “The prime minister has shown willingness to review major infrastructure projects where there are questions over value for money, as she did with the Hinkley nuclear plant. Now is the right time to review the smart meter programme, which is an overly complex scheme for which the benefits are far from clear.

“It looks very unlikely that smart meters will meet the target to be fully deployed December 2020. Even worse, many of the smart meters going in now will not work if the customer switches to a new supplier.

“We think there should be consumer-focused review which addresses two key questions: how can this be done cheaper, and how can most of the benefits be transferred to consumers?”

The smart meter rollout involves offering a smart meter to every household in Great Britain by 2020 and the full national rollout is expected to begin at the end of September.

Saffron Johnson

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title, Utility Week

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