recently challenged energy suppliers to bring household energy meters into the 21st century after it announced an industry-wide programme to break down barriers to “smart metering”.
According to Ofgem, smart meters could put an end to estimated bills and the need for meter readers to call as well as cutting household energy consumption, which would deliver savings in carbon emissions and on bills.
Ofgem will form an industry-wide group to set standards for smart meters and remove the regulatory barriers suppliers face in installing smart meters in customers’ homes. This includes requirements to inspect meters every two years, which reduces the cost savings of installing meters that can be remotely read. The government recently signalled its interest in smart metering, by allocating money in the budget for a pilot scheme. Ofgem is discussing with government a possible role for Ofgem in managing the trial.
Ofgem’s Chief Executive Alistair Buchanan, said: “Ofgem is determined to play our part in paving the way for a more widespread take-up of smart meters by removing regulatory barriers that make it difficult for suppliers to install smart meters. Such are the potential benefits of smart meters that wait and see is not an option. It is now up to suppliers to rise to the challenge to deliver a smarter future for the household energy meter.
“Energy suppliers are in the best position to offer a range of smarter meters which best meet the individual needs of customers. Better information, like showing energy consumption in pounds and pence, will empower customers to manage their energy consumption more effectively, helping them to cut bills and reduce carbon emissions.”
Ofgem’s in-depth look at smart metering concluded that it would be wrong to impose a centrally planned “one size fits all” solution on customers. This is because there is a whole range of different smart meters on offer which vary widely in what they can do and how much they cost. The majority of respondents to Ofgem’s consultation did not support re-regulation as a solution to introducing more smart meters.
Trying to enforce a centrally agreed standard on over 26 million customers with differing needs would risk denying customers the opportunity to be supplied with a meter which best meets their individual requirements. Technological advances could also mean that a centrally planned approach could impose a solution which might quickly be surpassed by better and cheaper designs.
Ofgem’s consultation has also shown that there may be cheaper alternatives than smart meters, like energy display panels, which work with existing meters to give customers information on their energy use.