Energy industry extols government meter plan

The Government’s plan to roll out smart energy meters to all British households by 2020 will significantly improve the customer experience, say energy suppliers.

The plan, which was unveiled on Wednesday (2 December) by energy and climate change minister Lord Hunt, outlined the government’s plans to develop smart grids and smart technology to cut energy use and emissions.

Lord Hunt says: “Smart meters will put the power in people’s hands, enabling us all to control how much energy we use, cut emissions and cut bills. Smart grids will help manage the massive shift to low carbon electricity such as wind, nuclear and clean fossil fuels.”

The meters will measure energy use in real-time meaning an end to estimated bills and energy suppliers will be responsible for installing them in homes.

“The customer service implications of smart meter roll out will be phenomenal. It will open up a raft of new products and tariffs,” says an Npower spokesman adding that it will present a whole new marketing strategy for energy suppliers to differentiate themselves.

He adds that marketing will no longer be just about price, but on what kind of displays suppliers offer, or added services such as the ability to top up mobile phones from the smart meter.

An Eon spokesperson says: “Smart metering has the ability to change how customers use energy, empowering them to change their behaviour. It also offers more choice and flexibility for suppliers, tailoring products to individual customers. We can take this unique opportunity to simplify industry processes to substantially improve the customer experience. “

Npower says the move will be a huge change to the infrastructure of the energy sector but warns that meeting the 2020 deadline might prove difficult.

Energy providers British Gas and EDF Energy are already trialling smart meters.

EDF says that the meters will play a vital role in helping to deliver the government’s energy efficiency and carbon reduction targets for 2020.

Phil Bentley, managing director of British Gas, says: “We have the largest smart meter trial in the country. Our customers have told us they’re finding smart meters and display units easy to use, and that they’re helping them be more aware of how they use energy – and how they can save it.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, says that introducing smart meters is a step towards consumers getting accurate information to change their energy use behaviours.

She adds: “This is a huge opportunity for the industry to get consumers engaged in managing household energy, but there will only be one opportunity to get it right.”

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