Smartphones could render smartmeter in-home display redundant

The Public Accounts Committee’s latest report on smartmeters has warned that the government risks being locked into technology

The Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) latest report on the UK smartmeter programme has warned that the government risks being locked into technology, given the pace of technology change.

"Some aspects of the programme could be out of date by the time it is rolled out," the PAC stated.

The government wants to fit a smartmeter in every household, which will include an in-home display that allows consumers to see what energy they are using and how much it is costing.

But the PAC warned: "Evolving technology suggests customers could receive the information on their smartphones, making the in-home display redundant. Energy suppliers will therefore be required to offer in-home displays, even though customers may not want or use them."

The report also highlighted incompatibility in smartmeter technology. The report stated: "Smartmeters need to be fully interoperable so customers can switch easily  between suppliers, but there are no regulations preventing suppliers from replacing meters when customers switch."

In fact, the PAC reported that the Department of Energy and Climate Change considered that there were strong commercial incentives for suppliers to carry on using the existing equipment when consumers switched energy suppliers, rather than installing £200 worth of new equipment. 

But neither DECC nor Ofgem could confirm that existing regulatory requirements would prevent suppliers replacing smartmetering equipment when customers switched from one to another, the PAC report stated.

In the report, DECC confirmed that all smartmeters would be able to accommodate prepayment but not all energy suppliers have developed viable systems that allow them to offer prepayment services to customers.

As Computer Weekly has previously reported, the IT cost of the UK’s smartmeter roll-out is set to skyrocket as suppliers buy in IT consultants and recruit and train installers.

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