Business group calls for government to review its smart meter programme

Jessica Morris
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Energy consumption in Europe
Whitehall wants every home and business to be offered a smart meter by the end of 2020 (Source: Getty)

A leading business group has called for the government to review its £11bn smart meter programme, which it believes is overly complex and expensive.

It comes after a survey by the Institute of Directors found less than one per cent of its members would pay for a smart meter upfront. It added that while the devices are being offered at no extra cost, the roll-out effectively works out to £400 per household through higher energy bills.

It wants the government to conduct a review into how the programme can be made more cost effective and how these savings could in turn be used to benefit consumers.

Dan Lewis, senior energy adviser at the IoD, 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."

Whitehall wants every home and business to be offered a smart meter by the end of 2020. This means 53m meters will need to be fitted in over 30m premises over the next four years.

The programme was a flagship coalition policy which was designed to encourage consumers and businesses to keep a closer eye on their energy and gas usage, as well as make switching between providers easier. By linking up directly with the utility companies it would also end the need for cumbersome manual meter readings and estimated billing.

"There are much cheaper ways of automating meter readings, increasing switching and monitoring energy use, but instead we are pushing ahead with costly technology without consumers having all the facts," Lewis added.

"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."

The IoD asked 998 members about smart meters from the 11th to the 26th of May.