Call for evidence on 'Smart meter roll-out'

20 December 2012

Smart meters and smart grids have the potential to bring many benefits to the energy industry and to consumers.

For example, energy suppliers are expected to benefit from reduced operating and generation costs, and some of these savings should be passed on to consumers through lower energy prices. Consumers are also expected to benefit from using the information about energy use provided by the in-home display to reduce their energy consumption and save money on their energy bills. In future, automated controls and smart appliances may help consumers to reduce their energy use further.

Some consumers have smart meters already, but most people will not get them until the mass roll-out programme between 2014 and 2019. Evidence from our recent Consumer Engagement inquiry suggests that currently about half of people have heard of smart meters and that not all of them support roll-out. If engagement levels do not increase and people refuse to allow smart meters to be installed in their home, then roll-out may be hindered and consumers may not benefit from the technology as they could. Consumer concerns have hampered roll-out in other countries, and in this inquiry we seek to learn how such concerns could be addressed in order to prevent similar problems in the UK.

The Government has conducted several consultations on different aspects of its Smart Metering Implementation Programme this year and has recently published its responses to these consultations. In its response to the consultation on the Consumer Engagement Strategy, it stated that the larger suppliers will now be required to set up a Central Delivery Body to undertake a centralised engagement programme. 

Terms of reference

The Committee will monitor progress towards delivering the smart meter roll-out. We now invite written evidence on any or all of the following terms of reference:

  •  Are the Government’s cost and timescale predictions for roll-out realistic and will it deliver value for money?
  • What are the potential benefits of smart meters for consumers, and what barriers need to be overcome in order for consumers to realise them?
  • Is there a possibility that suppliers will gain considerably more than consumers from smart meters? Is enough being done to ensure that any financial benefits accruing to suppliers will be passed on to consumers?
  • What lessons can be learned from successful smart meter implementation and usage elsewhere in the world?
  • Will smart meters empower customers to take greater control of their energy consumption?
  • Will consumers on pre-pay meters obtain the same benefits from smart meters as other consumers?
  • Should vulnerable customers and the fuel-poor be first in line for smart meters so they can get the benefits sooner?
  • What is the best way of involving third-party trusted messengers, such as charities, consumer groups, community organisations, local authorities and housing associations in roll-out?
  • What are the potential obstacles to rolling out smart meters in the UK and how should these be addressed? What pitfalls have hindered roll-out programmes elsewhere and are we doing all we can to avoid them?
  • Are levels of public awareness of and support for smart meter roll-out increasing?
  • Is enough being done to increase consumer awareness about smart meters?  Could DECC’s consumer engagement strategy be improved?
  • Are consumers’ concerns about privacy and health being addressed adequately?
  • Is there any evidence that consumers’ concerns about smart meters are declining or growing?
  • Will the commercial benefits of smart meter roll-out be captured within the UK?
  • Will DECC’s current approach to roll-out, including on procurement and establishment of the central Data and Communications Company, deliver an optimal data and communications strategy?
  • What criteria should DECC use to measure the ongoing success of roll-out?               

The deadline for the submission of written evidence is 7 February 2013. As a guideline submissions should be no longer than 3000 words, please contact the Committee staff if you wish to discuss this. If you need to send hard copy please send it to: The Clerk, Energy and Climate Change Committee, 7 Millbank, London, SW1P 3JA.

Notes on submission of written evidence

As part of a scheme to encourage paperless working and maximise efficiency, the Committee is piloting a new web portal for online submission of written evidence. Written submissions for this inquiry should therefore be sent via the link at the top of this page.

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases.

Publication of evidence

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by printing the evidence, publishing it on the internet or by making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

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