Smart meters for every home by 2020

All homes in the UK will be fitted with electricity meters to let householders build a better picture of where they are using energy, according to the Government.

Energy suppliers will be obliged to install the smart meters in new and existing homes with Government hoping that a better understanding of energy use will help the public use electricity more efficiently, cutting costs and carbon.

The plan was announced on December 1 by Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Hunt, along with the case for establishing a ‘smart grid’ to transfer and store electricity more efficiently and £6m funding to help develop the necessary technology.

He said: “A global climate deal in Copenhagen needs all countries to make the most ambitious commitments possible, but it will also require all of us to change how we lead our lives and how we generate our energy.

“Smart meters will put the power in people’s hands, enabling us all to control how much energy we use, cut emissions and cut bills.

“Smart grids will help manage the massive shift to low carbon electricity such as wind, nuclear and clean fossil fuels.

“Globally the business of developing smart grids has been estimated at £27 billion over the next five years and the UK has the know-how to be part of that.”

While there is an abundance of Government strategies to encourage ‘hard’ solutions to the carbon emissions of homes, such as grants or soft loans for retro-fitting energy efficiency measures, or targets for zero carbon new-build, less has been done to encourage shifts in people’s behaviour.

Smart meters will effectively create the equivalent of an itemised bill for electricity, allowing customers to see more easily where savings could be made.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors welcomed the Government announcement, but said it must not be allowed to eclipse other measures.

RICS director of external affairs Gillian Charlesworth said: “Homes are a significant source of carbon emissions and while some changes can be made to the fabric of buildings, behavioural change by the people who use them also plays a vital role.

“Smart meters will allow people to physically see just how much their energy use is costing them and in most cases will provide the incentive needed for them to make real changes in their home to reduce energy consumption.

“People will be more motivated to get insulation, double glazing and energy efficient appliances if it means they can actually see how much extra money they are saving.

“However the government needs to ensure that there remains sufficient support in place, in the form of both grants and information on energy efficient improvements to homes, to ensure long term success.

“Without this the full impact of smart metering and increased knowledge of energy use may not have the maximum impact on carbon emissions.”

Sam Bond

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