Saturday, May 22, 2010

Post # 18 - British Consumers: Not Yet Ready for Smart Meters?

On the eve of the recent British elections, the UK government announced plans to equip every home in Britain with smart meters by the end of 2020. Energy suppliers would install approximately 26 million electricity and 22 million gas meters at a cost of £7bn – which works out to an annual per-household cost of about £15. Of that amount, £10 would be accounted for in supplier cost savings and £5 would be borne by their customers.

Balanced against these costs, the plan predicts major consumer benefits. Specifically, the plan envisions that the average consumer will see (through energy use reductions facilitated by smart meters) savings of approximately £25 to £35 per bill. See here and here.

But the question always remains: will consumers actually use smart meter data? In this regard, a recent survey suggests that, at least in the UK, consumers may not be ready for smart meters.

Late last month, on behalf of PassivSystems, a home technology firm, the British public opinion research organization YouGov conducted an online smart meter survey of 2085 adults. The YouGov survey suggests that approximately seven out of ten British consumers would not act on the information provided by smart meters even if smart meters were installed. See here and here. In other words, actual consumer behavior may trump the projected consumer cost reductions.

Of course, this type of survey – asking consumers to predict future conduct based on new, unproven, and not yet available technologies – cannot be viewed as definitive. But the YouGov survey is one more indication that consumers haven’t yet bought into the smart meter concept – and may prove resistant when asked to foot the bill for smart meter installation.

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