Why such a long wait for smart meters?

I remember watching Joanne Carr of the charity National Energy Action explain (it must be more than eight or nine years ago) the benefits of smart meters to a group of the National Energy Action’s business supporters. I should explain that national Energy Action is one of those curious British institutions – a charity supported by the government and energy companies and other related businesses to lobby the government to abolish what is called “fuel poverty”. National Energy Action is in effect paid by the government to push the government to do more for those in fuel poverty.
There are a number a definitions of fuel poverty, most of which revolve around the proportion of income that people have to spend on keeping warm, clean and well lit at home. I prefer to think of fuel poverty subjectively; it is the cold that makes your fingers raw and your blood thin. It is the plight of having to wash in cold water, to go to bed early because you cannot afford the lights and the heat in the hope that eventually your bed will become warm by your body; it is the damp condensation of your breath in the early winter mornings when the water vapour you exhale condenses against the wall paper the windows and eventually forms small puddles on the linoleum.
The cold and the damp make your limbs hard to work, especially as you get older. You become more prone to illness and disease and you risk hypothermia every cold winter. That is fuel poverty, not proportions of income to energy expenditure; some things are better to feel than to measure.
Joanne Carr, when she first educated me about smart meters, did so because she thought that smart meters would help in the fight alleviate fuel poverty. It is likely that those who can see from a meter in their kitchen or front room just which circuits and appliances are costing money they would be able to track and reduce unnecessary expenditure on energy.
There is no theoretical limit as to just how smart the meters could be. Every source of energy could be tracked and costed and the meter could be read remotely, which might well end a scam that some energy companies perpetrate when they estimate bills too high, direct debited your bank account for a free loan. Those however are not problems for the fuel poor.
Governments have been talking about smart meters for at least ten years, praising the concept of them but not introducing legislation requiring them. Electricity meters have a working life of between ten to twenty years, depending on the type of meter. Gas meters seem to last twenty years. If smart meters had been introduced ten years ago at least half the country would be able to see monitor and make allowance for individual appliances consumption of energy and there is no doubt that we would be using less energy and as a by product producing fewer emissions of greenhouse gases.
Now the Department of Energy and Climate Change has announced that the government fully support the rolling out of a smart meter programme across the country. It has only taken ten years. Do not get too excited though; there is a consultation on howe the smart meters should be rolled out and what information they should contain. No, I am not making this up; we have government curiously unhappy to make decisions. www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/smart_metering/smart_metering.aspx
A cynic might suggest that the various published reasons that the energy companies chose not to adopt smart meters were perhaps, in hindsight, not completely accurate. A cynic might also add that the energy companies will be lobbying in the consultation for the smart meters to to be too smart, becasue the smarter the meter (the more inforamtion it shows) the more energy you are likely to save.
Installing a device that enables you to see how much energy you are using with the point of view of discouraging high energy use might not be in the business plans of the energy companies any more than turkeys would include promoting Christmas lunches in their business plans, if they had them.

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