Utility Week

Utility Week 27th September 2013

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Policy & Regulation News analysis Who's the smartest? Utility Week's Senior Executive Panel is by and large supportive of Decc's smart metering strategy – though not necessarily with the consumer front of mind. By Karma Ockenden. T he smart meter rollout here in the UK may be unconventional, and now delayed, but it has the confidence of utility leaders, according to Utility Week/ Accent research. We polled our Senior Executive Panel – a group of high level utility executives assembled to give comment, opinion and feedback to us on topical issues – on various aspects of the smart meter rollout. While a sceptical minority emerged, most endorsed the policy in the round. Two-thirds agreed that smart meters were vital for cutting household energy use while all respondents said the devices would alter consumer behaviour to some extent. There was some uncertainty as to whether the industry would be ready for the challenges about to be thrown at it, although 73 per cent felt it would or might be ready and the panel was completely confident that consumer privacy and data use did not pose any great concern. However, the results suggest that some of the positive sentiment towards smart metering may be motivated by self-interest rather than consumer concern. Over half the respondents said benefits would outweigh costs (though around one-third were unsure). But respondents were split over who exactly would benefit most: 40 per cent said energy companies; 40 per cent consumers; and 20 per cent businesses. Moreover, a third felt the rollout would disadvantage the customer to an extent, with verbatim answers pointing in particular to the costs consumers would have to shoulder. Rob Sheldon, managing director at Accent, comments: "We have seen a real mix in opinion on the topic of smart meters and have uncovered some useful points which could be of real benefit to consumers, suppliers and government when it comes to rolling out this project. It's interesting to see the even split between who will benefit the most from this programme." Full results are shown in the charts, together with a selection of comments from panellists. For all the latest news visit: utilityweek.co.uk 14 | 27TH SEPTEMBER - 3rd OCTOBER | UTILITY WEEK Q: Decc considers the introduction of smart meters as a vital step to cut energy use by households. Do you agree? 13% completely agree 60% agree to a large extent 27% don't agree a great deal Comments: "Smart metering offers an opportunity to understand, manage and reduce consumption through better information on consumption." "Unless a customer can see their usage in real time, and see it change in relation to their behaviour, there is little incentive to reduce usage." "It's more complex than just cutting energy use - it involves time-shifting to save money, smoothing out peak demand and bringing greener energy online. The smart meter is the essential device in the home that will help enable these changes which will have a bigger impact." Q: Are you concerned by the privacy risks related to the collection of consumer data by smart meters? 33% no concern 67% minor concern Comments: "Some customers and organisations have real concerns and whether the industry agrees with their views or not it is essential to engage with people to improve understanding and acceptance - therefore there is a concern but it should not be insurmountable." "The risks for consumers are minimal and the industry has legal responsibility through DPA [Data Protection Act] and privacy law. Customers will carry the same rights as they do with their bank or credit card and the technology is already mature. The benefits for the consumer far outweigh any risks." Q: Who will benefit most from smart meters? 40% energy companies 40% consumers 20% businesses Comments: "Households will finally be empowered as this will enable them to know their individual demand profile and can be contrasted with time of day pricing." "For the first time they [suppliers] will actually be connected to their customers and up to date with actual use. It will reduce bill queries and improve collection time. The smart meters are also the end points of the bigger smart grid which in the longer term will drive efficiency. Customers will benefit in the short term through accurate bills and visibility, but hopefully more-so as services are brought online to enable them to take advantage of dynamic pricing etc."

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