Significant smart meter roll-outs are starting in the United Kingdom as part of the Department of Energy and Climate Change's ambitious plan to install smart meters in over 27 million British homes and over 2 million British businesses by 2020. But, as I have noted before (see Post Nos. 41 and 18), significant questions of consumer acceptance and buy-in remain.
This is highlighted again by a recent report by uSwitch.com, a UK-based price comparison and switching website that, since 2000, allows consumers to compare prices for a range of energy, personal finance, insurance and communications services. Last August, uSwitch.com commissioned an on-line survey of over 5,000 British energy customers by YouGov, the internet-based market research firm. The findings are contained in a report released early this month
The report, “Brits in the Dark About Move to Smart Metering,” makes interesting reading. Among the findings:
- Only 40% of British consumers know what a smart meter is. An additional 35% have heard the term but don’t really know what it means.
- While the British government predicts that smart meters will lead to a net savings of £14 a year on energy bills by 2020 – approximately $22.40 – 42% of consumers say this is lower than expected, while 38% think the savings are too small to be of interest.
- At the same time, 74% of households say they would used the information provided by smart meters to cut down on energy usage and be more efficient.
- However, 40% have misgivings about the amount of information suppliers will be able to glean though smart meters – and 16% are concerned about how the information will be used.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, just 15% presently welcome the move to smart meters!
The report asserts that while smart meters can create "a golden opportunity to put consumers in control of their energy usage and to allow them to understand the positive impact energy efficiency could have on their bills," those benefits will accrue "only. . .if consumers are on board." The report concludes that industry needs to "start talking to customers." Clearly explaining the role of smart meters will be "vital in securing consumer co-operation when the time comes for the meters to actually be installed."
In the meantime, consumer buy-in clearly has not yet been achieved in the U.K. And, as we know, not in the U.S., either.