Last week’s UK National Audit Office report on the roll out of smart meters to every home in the UK showed there is delay, rising costs, technical problems, and that the business case is increasingly questionable. Rising costs will be passed to consumers through their electricity bills. The original objective to have a smart meter installed in all homes by the end of 2020has now morphed into all homes will have been ‘offered’ a smart meter by then. The forecast future annual savings for consumers in their bills is now paltry, and the whole thing feels like a ‘white elephant’ – just as many commentators predicted it would be.
The Badger’s mused on smart meters before. What triggered today’s piece wasn’t the NAO report directly, but a conversation with the Badger’s 90-year old father who lives independently with support from his family. Like many elderly people, he’s overwhelmed by the ways of the modern world and its technology. He heard about the NAO report on the radio and asked the Badger why he needed a smart meter. By the way, he thinks he’s had many phone calls pushing their installation. However, we can’t be sure, because he always says ‘No Thanks’ and puts the phone down within 10 seconds for any call that’s not from a family member!
Anyway, the Badger addressed his question over our normal coffee and biscuit before taking him to his local day centre. He listened as the big picture was painted, and was reassured that he couldn’t be forced to have a smart meter. His face lit up as he made three comments. The first was ‘Great, I don’t need something I don’t understand, won’t use and only seems to benefit my electricity supplier’. The second was ‘It’ll go wrong and be a hassle to get fixed. Bills only ever go up regardless of what I do, so it won’t save me anything’. And the third was a real peach! He said ‘My doctor says I’ve to do as much for myself as I can and not to sit in the chair all day. When he says I need a smart thing because it’s good for me I might have one, but not before’.
So, there you have it. For smart meters to be a success with the UK’s elderly…mobilise health professionals! UK government statistics show there are > 2m over 75s living alone, and 1.6m over 85s. If they think like the Badger’s father, then it’s difficult to see how anyone will ever convince the elderly to have one. It feels like the ‘white elephant’ may be growing into a bigger ‘white elephant’ every day…