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Smart meter rollout costing households £11billion to be investigated by government spending watchdog

  • National Audit Office to assess 'economic case for rollout of smart meters'
  • Government deadline to install 53m by 2020 is currently way below target
  • Rollout is funded through energy bills

The costly drive to install smart meters in homes across Britain will be reviewed by the National Audit Office, it has revealed today.

In 2016, the Government estimated that the rollout would cost £11billion and that all households would have one by 2020.

With the Government deadline to install 53million smart meters now in just two years' time, figures show that 8.6million have been fitted so far – some 84 per cent below target.

Watchdog: The NAO says it will assess the 'current economic case for the rollout of smart meters'

Watchdog: The NAO says it will assess the 'current economic case for the rollout of smart meters'

The NAO will investigate whether the multibillion pound rollout with actually save households money.

The Government spending watchdog said it will assess the 'current economic case for the rollout of smart meters' and look at whether it is 'on track on achieve its target to rollout meters by 2020.'

It all said it will also consider whether the Government is maximising the chances that smart meters will achieve their intended long-term benefits.

The study follows up two previous NAO studies on the rollout, which were published in 2011 and 2014.

It is estimated by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy that the benefits are worth £16.7billion, with the cost of the rollout funded through energy bills.

Energy gadgets: The smart meter enables households to see how much they are spending - but there have been a number of problems

Energy gadgets: The smart meter enables households to see how much they are spending – but there have been a number of problems

Smart meters enable people to see what energy they are using in pounds and pence and communicate with their energy suppliers in real time.

Smart meters have a number of benefits, including helping households to manage their energy use better, ending estimated billing and making it easier to switch suppliers.

However, a number of concerns have been raised about the gadgets, including problems with installations, inaccurate bills and the fact some cannot be transferred from supplier to supplier.

The latter is a huge problem, especially given the fact households are encouraged to switch to cut bills. 

In fact, 2017 saw 5.5million households switch suppliers – a record high and up 15 per cent on the year before.

The IT system that allows meters to comminute with suppliers – the Data Communications Company – is also yet to launch, despite being due to go live three years ago.

Smart Energy GB defended the slow rollout on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme.

Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive, said eight in 10 with smart meters were 'very happy with the meters and would recommend them to their friends and family'.

The industry body had a budget of £25million for its 'multi-channel engagement campaign' in 2016 as it looked to raise awareness.

Recent adverts include one featuring chef Ainsley Harriott showing how much energy is used when cooking a meal with the device which aired during the final of the Great British Bake Off on Channel Four.

The NAO will publish its report in summer 2018.

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Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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