The Telegraph have recently published an article claiming that the UK government has backed away from its former mandate to install a smart meter into every household by 2019, a project expected to cost £12 billion.
Giving in to pressure from consumer advocacy groups that reject a wealth of research that maintains smart meters do not pose a health risk, Energy Minister Charles Hendry, has announced, “We believe people will benefit from having smart meters. But we will not make them obligatory.”
Therefore, officials are apparently devising plans that will give consumers the option of retaining their analog meters instead of using smart meters, which communicate remotely from households to energy companies. The move was seen by some in the energy industry as a step backwards.
In response to that article Sentec Chief Executive Officer Mark England, notes, “The news that smart meters will no longer be compulsory shows that more work is needed to educate consumers about the benefits they can deliver. Although the concept of half-hourly data may seem to threaten privacy, in reality this granularity is needed to enable smart decisions, for example time-shifting certain activities to reduce bills or to manage capacity on transmission and distribution networks. It certainly won’t be possible to effectively compare different tariffs and suppliers without this detailed data. As prices rise, so too will the importance of smart meters and the behaviour change they can inspire. Consumers who opt out may lose the opportunity to benefit from favourable tariffs and other incentives from energy suppliers, which will become more important to households as energy bills increase.”
Were this to be the case the DECC’s move would be seen as a victory for those who maintain the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the devices is a health hazard in part because the meters run 24 hours a day and cannot be turned off. Others worry that their privacy will be invaded via the information gathered by the meters on energy use. Allegedly anonymous Telegraph sources in the Department for Energy and Climate Change have been quoted in saying that the smart-meter-in-every-home proposal was amended to avoid the possibility of legal wrangling delaying the entire roll out.
In the United States, the California Public Utilities Commission recently ordered Pacific Gas & Electric along with other utilities to offer an opt-out to consumers who do not want the new meters. In that case, those customers will have to pay extra fees to retain their analog meter.