Smart Energy GB’s plan aims to install digital energy ‘smart meters’ in every home in the UK by the year 2020. However, worries about the government’s ability to run the program cause company in charge to call for private sector input before the nationwide roll-out of smart energy meters begins.
Smart meters use the internet to communicate usage information to energy providers directly. This information can be used to promote and allow for increasingly efficient energy usage in the household in question.
The idea is that by being privy to more information than ever regarding their energy usage, customers should be able to monitor and adjust their activity to be more energy efficient overall. And as time goes on and our household appliances become more interlinked generally, this process becomes more streamlined and more successful in general.
But it is not only access to information that makes smart meters so useful. With analogue meters, energy is stored in the household just in case it needs to be used, with a certain amount allocated to each house. With smart meters though, the energy stays ‘on the grid’ until such time as it is used when it is then taken directly from the grid.
Plans existed for this kind of wide-scale installation of smart meters as early as 2009 with the Labour government at the time drafting up ideas that both they and energy providers at the time predicted could mean nationwide savings of up to £17 billion.
Smart Energy GB’s chairperson Baroness Margaret McDonagh has made a point to not underestimate the titanic task ahead of them, comparing the infrastructural difficulties to those associated with building the venues for the 2012 Olympics. She also made a point to not underplay the cynicism associated with people’s view of the government’s ability to handle such an operation.
“As we know from experience” she said, pointedly, “governments are not good at big infrastructure projects because it’s not their business. To do these things well, you need to be doing them all the time. When a body can focus on these things with a date in mind – like the Olympic delivery – they can achieve it on time and on budget.”
She has expressed concern over the ability to roll-out the project within the intended timeline, as well as with the proposed budget of £11 billion, calling for the government backed appointment of a private sector chief executive with appropriate experience to oversee the whole enterprise.
The government department for energy and climate change (DECC) however, has hit back at her worries, with their spokesperson claiming that “last year, an independent review on the smart meters programme backed the current delivery model, which is going to deliver the benefits of smart meters at the lowest possible cost to bill-payers.”
Currently, only 6% of homes in the UK have smart meters installed already, so there is a rather long way to go before the Conservative’s election promise to have them installed in 100% of homes is fulfilled.