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Martin Lewis gives his verdict on smart meters as he weighs in on roll-out | Personal Finance | Finance

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Money saving guru Martin Lewis has delivered a damning verdict on the rollout of smart energy meters.

The installation of the meters into every home and business in the land is massively expensive and behind schedule.

The smart meters have been widely criticised with reports that as many as one in five fail to provide the promised real time information on energy use and cost.

Mr Lewis said: “The rollout of the smart meters has been a disgrace in this country. Twenty percent of them don’t work and meet people with nothing more than a fixed metre which is what you’ve got anyway.

“If it doesn’t work, you’re not necessarily worse off. (But) on a macroeconomic level it has been a terrible rollout.”

Consumer groups, such as Which?, and political parties of all stripes have supported the roll-out of smart meters, however the programme has been dogged with delays and an increase in costs.

Initial estimates suggested the mass installations would cost around £13.5 billion and be completed by 2019. The final bill will be billions higher and completion of the scheme is years away.

Speaking last year, chairman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “There are functionality issues with many. Millions will have to be replaced when they become obsolete, and the evidence is unclear whether their benefits are even working as advertised.

“On top of this, smart meters have serious reputational obstacles to overcome with the public.”

The meters are central to the switch to renewable energy and new variable price regimes where customers are rewarded for restricting energy of household appliances during periods of high demand.

On the same theme, Mr Lewis said he is supportive of households generating their own energy with solar panels. However, the payback time for the installation costs can be many years.

He said: “If you have the right circumstances for solar panels, with energy bills as high as they are right now, the payback time is anywhere from eight to 15 years.

“You get them installed right, fitted right, if you’ve got the cash, it certainly helps the environment.”

Smart Energy GB, who are responsible for promoting the rollout of the meters, recently recruited Angela Rippon to support the initiative.

The organisation’s director, Victoria Bacon, said: “It’s important for people of all generations to feel like they have the tools to understand and manage their energy use – smart meters give everyone the visibility they need to do this.”

She said they offer clear and practical benefits, not least because they do away with estimated bills.

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