The announcement was made today by Energy Secretary Ed Davey, who said that the nationwide deployment of meters – which was planned for 2014 – would be stalled for a year.
Davey said the decision had been taken after the Department of Energy and Climate Change carried out a consultation with those involved in the UK smart meter sector and “the consistent message was that more time was needed if the mass roll-out was to get off to the best possible start and ensure a quality experience for consumers”.
However some industry players said today that the delay was bound to happen. Hans Kristiansen of Orsis UK – which has fitted a smart meter at Prime Minister David Cameron’s residence at 10 Downing Street – said: “We have been saying to the government for nearly three years that its proposals were unworkable and the meter itself was becoming like a game of Buckaroo – too much being put into the meter and it is inevitable that it will pop.”
He said the government needed to carry out an impact assessment “with a new cost/benefit analysis and an examination of what technology is working today… because the current proposals are increasingly becoming unworkable and undeliverable”.
Richard Postance, Power & Utilities Advisory Services Leader at consultancy Ernst & Young, said: “Smart metering is one of the few green agenda items that is at the same time positive for the economy, the climate and above all the consumer, so a delay to full scale roll out cannot be good news.
“Pushing back the launch by 12 months takes away much needed control and transparency over their energy consumption from an already hard pressed consumer base, as well as potential jobs for the UK.
However, he added that “the imperative is to ensure that consumers’ experience of this new and crucial initiative is second to none, in order to build their trust in the ability of smart meters to deliver. Delays to key elements of the programme made clear that the above would not have been possible, leading government and industry to reach this pragmatic solution.”
He said pushing back the roll-out “will allow an industry with an already fragile relationship with its customers to avoid another pitfall by engaging and communicating properly and ensuring that all processes and systems are ready”.
David Smith, chief executive of the Energy Networks Association, backed the government’s decision, saying it would “enable outstanding technical issues to be resolved and allow industry parties sufficient time to be better prepared for what is a complex and ambitious task that will deliver real benefits to consumers in the long run”.
He added: “While the network companies are not rolling out the meters themselves, they are critical to the success of the programme. Close working between the suppliers and the networks will be crucial to deliver the smart meter rollout efficiently as addressing network issues in a coordinated way will ensure the best experience for customers.”