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July 7, 2014

Will the UK Government’s smart meters project fail?

The meters are expected to reduce bills by £26 a year and cut electricity usage by 2.8%.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

The UK Government’s £11bn plan to put smart meters into every home launches this week amid mounting fears they may not work and pose security risks.

Energy companies will begin installing smart meters at a cost of at least £200 per household in efforts to cut down on energy consumption and reduce bills.

The scheme, which was introduced to meet EU green targets in 2009, will be launched by Sir Bob Geldof on Tuesday, which will feature ‘out of control’ cartoon characters called Gaz and Leccy.

The meters, which are linked up to monitors called in-Home Displayers, work by recording gas and electricity every 30 minutes, showing users the cost of power they are consuming at one time.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) predicts that the technology will reduce bills by £26 a year by 2020 and cut electricity usage by 2.8% and gas by 2%.

But a study of 743 Dutch household revealed that the meters save less energy than predicted, with users consuming only 0.9% less gas and 0.6% less electricity.

A risk assessment carried out by energy watchdog Ofgem also identified threats, such as cyber, viruses and malicious software, while other official documents found that the meters will not work in a third of British homes, including high-rise flats, basements and rural houses.

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This is because the meters use wireless communication method ZigBee to transfer the information, which does not work in building with thick walls or multi-story flats.

Margaret Hodge, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "This is a typical Government project – they set up a big scheme but don’t think about the costs to the consumer because it’s being driven by the energy companies.

"This expensive equipment is already out-of-date, because we could get the information on our smartphones."

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