Smart meters don't cut bills without effort

J.P. Moczulski/The Canadian Press

A new pilot study has revealed that smart meters could cut household electricity bills by up to 8.5 percent, saving customers an average of £36 a year.
However, the study has tempered this good news with the warning that unless consumers are educated on energy saving, they will not see any real results from the device.

Every household in the UK is to have a smart meter fitted by 2020 as part of a government plan to help energy efficiency, estimated to be costing the industry £11.3bn.

Not much impact
However, experts had previously predicted that installing smart meters in homes would only shave around 3% off electricity bills for consumers - barely making a difference to the average household bill.
While consumers do not pay for the technology upfront, suppliers are paying for the nationwide installation by adding some of the cost to customer bills.
Earlier this year, the 12-month pilot study by University of East Anglia showed that smart meters do not have much effect on energy bills, putting the cost of the nationwide roll-out into question.

Bigger savings
The new research, conducted by independent energy think tank VassaETT, on behalf of the European Smart Meter Industry Group in association with BEAMA (British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers Association), looked at 100 different smart meter pilot schemes around the world.
Crucially though, the research found that if the smart meter nationwide installation is to be a success, customers need to have access to good quality education and support, so that they understand how to best use the technology.

Effort required
Charles Hendry, minister for energy and climate change, said: "Smart meters are as much about the consumer engagement as it is about the technology itself. If the consumer doesn't understand how to use the technology then the smart meters won't bring the benefit which we are hoping for."
Smart meters will enable energy firms to bill customers accurately instead of the current method of estimating bills. Firms are promoting the devices because they will help them to cut the cost of collecting meter readings and assess how their customers are using energy. It may also mean that we see providers tailoring their energy packages to customers.
Zoe McLeon, energy expert from Consumer Focus, said: "There are significant potential energy savings to be made but only if we do it right. It's crucial we don't rush and make short cuts during the installation of the programme. Otherwise we are going to end up with a really expensive IT project and not much else."
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