NEA comments on the publication of the National Audit Office report on smart meters

Embargo: 00:01 Friday 23rd November 2018

Media enquiries please contact Peter Smith, Director of Policy and Research at National Energy Action, NEA
Mobile: 07595780893 or email peter.smith@nea.org.uk

Today the NAO has highlighted that the Government’s original ambition of installing smart meters in every home by 2020 will not be met and the cost of the rollout could also escalate beyond initial expectations. Following the publication, national fuel poverty charity NEA, says the report’s conclusions are valid but must be responded to swiftly so there are no further delays to households accessing the benefits of a smart meter and In Home Display (IHD). NEA also says the NAO’s recommendations on the need for greater levels of energy advice should prompt the UK Government to urgently reinvestigate the need for a bespoke, tax-funded Extra Help Scheme. The charity highlights that if the roll-out is extended, Ofgem will need to work with the Competition Market Authority (CMA) to extend the current price cap for Pre-Payment Meter (PPM) customers so they continue to benefit from this necessary price protection.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of NEA said: “The NAO has rightly highlighted many of the risks with the current programme and what will need to be done to make it a success. We hope the UK Government, regulator and industry respond swiftly so there are no further delays to ending estimated billing and making payment for ‘pay as you go’ much more convenient for these customers.

As well as continuing to build on our existing work to ensure all customers have a better chance to receive a smart meter, we also agree with the NAO’s finding that some customers aren’t receiving adequate advice on how to save energy as part of the roll-out. This should prompt the need for a bespoke ‘Extra Help Scheme’. This tax-funded assistance would ensure vulnerable households receive the pre and post installation support they need, adequate help to understand and operate In Home Displays (IHD) and join-up to wider local or national energy assistance programmes.

The NAO also highlight the current Pre Payment Meter price cap is still closely linked to the current smart meter roll-out deadline. If the Government responds to NAO’s report by extending this deadline, Ofgem must work with the Competition Market Authority (CMA) to extend the Pre-Payment Meter price cap or these customers will be left without necessary price protections.

Ends

Notes to editors

  1. National Energy Action (NEA) works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that everyone in the UK can afford to live in a warm, healthy home.
  2. The main recognised benefits of a smart meter and In Home Display (IHD) are the capacity to end estimated billing, provide greater control over personal energy use make payment for ‘pay as you go’ much more convenient.
  3. NEA has a long-standing interest in smart meters and their roll-out in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, particularly with regard to their impact on vulnerable consumers. For more information on our views and engagement on smart meters visit:  https://www.nea.org.uk/smartenergygb/smartmetering/.
  4. Since 2015 National Energy Action (NEA) has been working with Smart Energy GB, the national body leading the campaign for a smarter Britain. NEA, working alongside charities Energy Action Scotland (EAS) and Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), is leading the work of the Smart Energy GB in Communities programme.
  5. Smart Energy GB in Communities recognises the importance of working in partnership with trusted intermediaries to ensure everyone in England, Scotland and Wales can understand the benefits of gas and electricity smart meters including those who may be vulnerable, living on a low income or dependent on a prepay meter so nobody is left behind. In 2017 alone the Smart Energy GB in Communities programme worked with 66 grant funded organisations, delivered training to 179 people and resulted in reported reach to more than 219,000 consumers. Evaluation reflected that direct engagement activities prompted by the Smart Energy GB in Communities programme proved particularly effective in increasing consumers interest in getting a smart meter.
  6. The 2018 programme is currently live and working with agencies who can engage people over the age of 60 with no personal internet access or people over the age of 65, people who are severe and profoundly D/deaf and people on a low income to ensure information, advice and support about the roll-out reaches them.
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