What to Expect From the New Smart Meters That Will Soon Replace Gas and Electricity Meters in the UK

The government have recently announced that the plan to install smart meters in every home in Britain will be delayed by another year, as there have been some concerns regarding their safety and reliability. The project will now begin in 2015, and is not expected to be completed until 2020. The £11.7 billion project has attracted some controversy, as many people consider the meters to be a privacy risk. The smart meters will replace the traditional gas and electricity meters that households already have installed in their homes, and the government promises that the new meters will offer much greater benefits to consumers. They will monitor the energy usage of consumers much more accurately then the standard meters, and developers claim that they are “the equivalent of using wireless broadband instead of sending a telegram.” Whether or not they can live up to the claims remains to be seen, but all households should be aware of just what to expect from their new smart meters, and what effect they will have on their energy costs.

Energy providers will be responsible for installing the new meters into 30 million homes across the UK. The main advantage of the new meters is that they will bring an end to the current practice of estimated billing. Currently, energy providers bill their customers by estimating how much energy they will use over a given period. They base this calculation on past energy usage and will send out a bill to customers based on their calculations. Customers can take their own meter readings and provide these to their energy supplier in order to check that they are being charged correctly. They can then request a refund for any energy that they have been overcharged for. The smart meters are designed to give a completely accurate account of a customers energy usage, and power companies will only charge consumers for exactly what they have used. The new scheme has been welcomed by thousands of households who have been overcharged for their energy usage in the past, and consumer groups claim that the energy companies have been “getting free loans” from their customers in the past.

A few households in Britain have already received the new smart meters, and the government are eager to get them installed in homes and businesses across the entire nation. The meters are part of a wider plan to install a ‘smart grid across the UK, where power companies can remotely access a network of devices that monitor and control our energy use. A few critics have raised privacy concerns regarding the new meters, as they have the ability to record huge amounts of customer data and send it back to the power companies. The meters will know exactly what devices customers are using in their home, what their energy habits are, and even what medical devices they use. Power companies and the UK government claim that all customers data will be protected, and that they may even have the option of deciding not to share their information on a daily basis. Campaign group Privacy International say that the meters will be able to spy on what customers do in the privacy of their own home, and that further measures must be taken to protect the nations privacy.

UK households will not have to pay to have the new meters fitted in their home, but they can expect to see the cost of installation reflected in their future energy bills. Many people have praised the governments decision to delay the project, as spiralling costs have become a major concern. Adam Scorer, a spokesman from watchdog Consumer Futures stated that “Delaying the date for the smart meter roll-out is a sensible move. The programme is not ready.” Many people have voiced similar concerns about the scheme, as installing the meters before they have passed through all the necessary trials and tests could prove disastrous. Trying to update and service the meters after installation will result in further disruption and hassle for UK households, so delaying the project seems to be the best course of action for all involved. To be eligible for a smart electricity meter, you must be a UK resident and have a standard electricity meter already installed in your home. The UK government will shortly begin contacting households to confirm their installation dates, so energy customers will soon start to enjoy more accurate gas and electricity bills.

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