Published On: Thu, May 9th, 2024
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British Gas smart meter ‘mandatory’ roll out move would make major change to every UK home | Personal Finance | Finance

The chief executive of British Gas has called for smart meters to be made “mandatory” in every UK household.

Chris O’Shea says the move would mean the nation is on track to hit net zero targets, although the energy measuring devices remain unpopular among some homeowners.

O’Shea, the chief executive of British Gas-owner Centrica, told MPs on the Commons energy select committee: “We think that in order to have the proper smart grid that’s required to keep costs low in the future, everybody should have a smart meter.

“One of the things we should consider as to whether this is a voluntary programme, or whether it should be mandatory.”

Smart meters measure the gas and power use of a home. It sends the data to a home digital display unit so consumers know how much energy they are using.

They also send the data to suppliers, meaning there is no need to send someone around to read the meter.

Their supporters say they help households keep track of fuel consumption and manage energy waste, which would help the environment.

There have been around 35 million smart meters installed across the UK since a scheme to bring them in was introduced by the then energy secretary Ed Milliband in 2009.

However, around 4m of those are thought to have failed since they were installed, meaning there are only 31m operational smart meters in the country, reports The Telegraph.

As part of their licence requirements, energy firms have to hit smart meter targets or risk facing fines.

Operators have however struggled to convince households amid a backdrop of public ambivalence and in some cases opposition to the devices.

O’Shea said 36 percent of British Gas’s 7.5 million customers ignored multiple offers to install a smart meter, while 600,000 said they would not accept one.

He told MPs: “I have customers that write to me saying please stop bothering me. I don’t want a smart meter.

“We found that 44pc of our customers don’t have them, of whom 600,000, or about 8pc, have said they don’t want one. So for 36pc of customers we are not sure whether they will take one or not.”

Originally, all homes were meant to have smart meters by 2020, but it is thought civil servants underestimated how long it would take to install the meters, display monitors and wireless networks.

O’Shea said one approach would be to install smart meters “street by street,” estimating that a programme could be completed within the next five years.

O’Shea, who was paid £8.2m last year, added: “Gas consumption falls by 3.5pc and electricity consumption falls by 3pc if you have a smart meter.

“It means those customers who don’t have smart meters will, on average, be paying more because they’ll be consuming more energy.”

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