Making smart meters voluntary makes the benefit case even more important
Tuesday 7th February 2012
week the Government confirmed that it would no longer be rolling out smart meter technology on a compulsory
basis. Instead the new meters will
be voluntary, with the Government now committing to designing methods for
people to have a choice and be able to opt out. Though it is undoubtedly right that people
should have a choice on these matters, it’s a decision that will have long term
implications on the UK’s ability to better manage and lower its energy use.
commentators have highlighted various concerns from consumer groups and MPs over smart meters -
from privacy of data to worries about the potential health effects of
electromagnetic radiation. Indeed, it has been suggested that this decision has
been taken to avoid potentially time-consuming legal challenges that could hold
up the roll out.
let’s not lose sight of some of the facts. The final specifications for smart
meters have not yet been agreed. Issues such as privacy and data security have
been discussed extensively and seriously, and will form an important part of
the final specifications.
course the public concerns need to be taken seriously, and it is critical that
these issues are addressed. But in a situation where these final guidelines are
not agreed it seems somewhat needless to take the decision to make smart meters
voluntary to head off potential criticism.
I have often said, smart meters are as much about consumer engagement as
technology or infrastructure. Without the right information or proper advice over
the benefits these new meters can bring, I am not
surprised that consumers will be wary of such a significant change. In light of
recent criticisms and last week’s decision, clearly this engagement with
consumers and influential stakeholders hasn’t been as effective as it needs to
by making smart meters voluntary the issue of consumer engagement does not go
away - in fact if the Government is serious about meeting its emissions targets
and lowering energy demand, the need to engage with and educate consumers on why
they should voluntarily opt for a smart meter is even more vital.
smart meters are not compulsory then Government and energy suppliers are going
to have to work even harder to persuade consumers of the benefits in order to
drive take up and ensure that we can make the long term behavioural changes
needed to reduce our energy consumption.
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