UK Struggling to Meet Smart Meter Roll-Out Target
The Government’s smart meter rollout is not going to plan, according to independent spending watchdog the National Audit Office. The original idea was to replace all domestic and commercial non-smart meters by 2020. However, this target is no longer viable as there are 39 million old meters that still need replacing.
The National Audit Office (NAO) is now saying there is ‘no realistic prospect’ of the target being met. They also say that the rollout delay is set to collectively cost consumers an additional £500 million.
Government Urged to Set New Deadline
The NAO’s smart meter rollout report revealed that the UK’s energy suppliers no longer believe the target will be met. Energy suppliers believe a maximum of only three quarters of households and small businesses will have smart meters by 2020.
The NAO have thus urged the Government to consider adopting a new deadline for the smart meter rollout. The project already costs £11 billion, with a new deadline set to bump that up by another half billion.
A variety of consumer groups have also encouraged the Government to review and amend the 2020 deadline. The Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, strongly believes adding another three years onto the target will suffice.
Ms Guy said, “We firmly believe that 2023 is a more reasonable timeframe. This would allow technical problems to be fixed and to ensure that consumers get the best experience.”
Costly Delays and Technical Mistakes
Labour were quick to criticise the Government, with Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey, saying, “What should have been an uncontroversial technology has been mired in costly delays and self-defeating technical mistakes.”
The organisation tasked with promoting the benefits of the smart meters, Smart Energy GB, offered their support to the Government. A spokesperson asserted that the rollout remained an ‘essential measure’ for the country. They also explained that the process was a ‘hugely complex and challenging infrastructure upgrade’.
Cautious Optimism Remains
Some MPs have already stated that they would gladly consider abandoning the original 2020 target. However, the Government’s Energy Minister, Claire Perry, remained stubbornly optimistic. Ms Perry insisted, “We’ve said everyone will be offered a smart meter by the end of 2020 to reap these benefits and we will meet that commitment.”
The head of the NAO, Sir Amyas Morse, also remained positive about the project despite the delays and rising costs. Sir Amyas said, “Costs are rising, and timescales slipping, but smart meters can still succeed over time.”
Indeed, the benefits of smart meters are so good that it seems implausible that the rollout project won’t get all the time it needs to be fully embraced by all households and small businesses up and down the country.
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