The government’s plans to implement a near-universal rollout of smart meters to properties risks becoming a “costly failure”, according to the latest report from the energy and climate change committee.

The committee warns that a number of policy delivery challenges have failed to be fixed, hampering the implementation of the scheme. Specifically, the committee identifies five major barriers that the government has not cleared which continue to slow progress:

  • Technical communication problems with multiple occupancy and tall buildings which should have been resolved by now

  • Compatibility problems between different suppliers and different meters

  • A slow start to full engagement with the public on meter installation and long-term use

  • A delay by the government-appointed communications infrastructure company which has further set back confidence in the programme

  • A reluctance to improve transparency by publishing the Major Project Authority’s assessments on the smart meter programme

The committee believes that the sluggish adoption of smart meters is a result of government leaving the national programme “largely to suppliers” who have “failed to drive forward effectively”.

As a result of the scheme’s poor progress, the committee is calling for urgent industry-wide solutions, recommending: “For the government to succeed with this nationwide project, it must now grip the reins and take a more active role to support the industry-led rollout.” The committee also suggests that the government should look at how it can reduce the cost of the national rollout to consumers by persuading DNOs to play a more active role in smart meter deployment.

The committee concludes by reiterating its belief that smart meters could help cut energy bills for UK consumers, stating that getting the rollout “right will eventually cut energy usage and bills for 30 million homes and businesses in the UK”. However, the committee warns that “getting it wrong risks embarrassment for the government through public disengagement with a flagship energy policy and a costly missed opportunity”.