Britons in the Dark About Smart Meters

Despite the UK’s ambitious smart meter deployment plans, most Britons have no idea what the devices are or what they entail.
Published: Sat 06 Oct 2012

What happened

The majority of Britons still do not know what a smart meter is. This is according to a survey carried out by Ipsos Mori which was commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy and Climate(DECC)

The research team interviewed 2,396 UK energy consumers and discovered the following about consumers’ knowledge of the smart meter:                           

  • 51% say that have never heard of them
  • 24% know a “fair amount”
  • 23% have heard of the meters but don’t know anything about them
  • 2% claim to know "a great deal"


The UK’s government plans to install smart meters in the country’s 30m households by 2019. The meters are currently being installed but will be deployed on a larger scale from 2014 to 2019. Estimated bills will soon be a thing of the past as meters provide real-time energy consumption which is hoped to encourage energy-saving habits.

According to the DECC, smart meters will save consumers approximately US$37 (£23) per year on their electricity bills by 2020. Despite the obvious positive aspects of the smart meter , the research shows that only 32% support the roll-out and 45% are indifferent to the devices. 20% are against them mainly due to privacy concerns and cost. [Read: Smart Meters Spark Security Concerns in Germany]

Mark England, the CEO of smart meter company Sentec, explains that the UK’s supplier-led rollout will rectify the problem as it is in the suppliers’ interest to educate customers about the positive aspects of smart meters in order to “encourage participation and retain their customers.” He adds that the report shows that once customers understand the benefits, they are likely to support the rollout.

Mark England, CEO Sentec explains, “…if the rollout is to be a success, it is imperative that it remains consumer-focused and that any confusion or lack of knowledge is avoided."

Most European governments are actively endorsing smart meter rollouts as they are instrumental to the development of the smart grid which will aid energy efficiency, energy security and lower carbon emissions. [Read: UK’s Smart Grid Will Boost Economic Growth]. Since residential areas account for 40% of the region’s total energy consumption, the European Commission believes that smart meters will help reduce energy demand and its associated carbon emissions. The Brattle Group consulting firm estimates that the cost of smart meter deployments across European households will cost US$66nn (€51bn) by 2020.

Following recent concerns that smart meters may not be economically viable, EU member states must submit a cost-benefit analysis of the meters to the EU Commission by September 2012. [Read: EU Commission Unconvinced Over Smart Meters]. If successful, 80% of European consumers will be equipped with smart meters by 2020, writes EurActiv.

According to Pike Research, global spending on smart grid initiatives is on the rise and smart meter installations should exceed 55% by 2020.

The final say

It’s clear that smart meter suppliers and the UK government have not done enough to educate Britons on the advantages of smart meters. However, once consumers see exactly how much electricity they are consuming and the cost thereof, will they come to realize the advantages of having a smart meter.


BBC-‘Tough’ rules govern smart meter data sharing

Department of Energy & Climate Change-The Quantitative Research into Public Awareness, Attitudes and Experience of Smart Meters [pdf]

eMeter-New energy efficiency directive from the European Commission

EurActiv-Consumers unaware of smart meters ahead of EU-wide roll-out

EurActiv-Doubts cast over consumer benefits of smart meters

European Commission-Energy Efficiency Directive [April 2012] [pdf]

Office Journal of the European Union-Directives [pdf]

Pike Research-Smart Meters

Pike Research-Smart Grid: Ten Trends to Watch in 2012 and Beyond

The Brattle Group-Unlocking the €53 Billion Savings from Smart Meters in the EU [pdf]

The Guardian-Majority of UK unaware of smart meters, research shows