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Blast for Government over smart metering

The Government risks prosecution by the European Commission if it fails to help small businesses become more efficient by providing them with better information about energy use – according to the director of the Association for the Conservation of Energy.

Andrew Warren, who is also deputy chairman of the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes, insists the Government must take action on improving billing and introducing smart meters for small and medium enterprises to meet commitments under the Energy Services Directive, which came into force in May.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) said it was consulting on the issues and only had to introduce measures “where appropriate”.

Mr Warren said: “If the UK is to meet its challenging carbon dioxide reduction targets, shouldn’t the Government be making the most of any possible opportunity to engage householders and businesses in saving energy?

“The UK’s approach to implementing the billing provisions of the directive goes against the whole spirit of the directive, which is to encourage energy saving.

“In a time of rising fuel prices, energy bills are more likely to catch the attention of customers and could be a very useful tool for providing feedback on efforts to reduce energy consumption and promoting energy saving.

“Even if Government decides to roll out smart meters to SMEs and householders, this will take at least 10 years to complete, so in the interim, frequent accurate billing with historical comparisons is even more important.

“Article 13 of the directive is very clear that regular information – including comparative data – should be given in fuel bills. We have no doubt that the commission will proceed if the situation is not remedied.”

Article 13 requires countries to ensure all customers have meters that provide time-sensitive consumption levels where “financially reasonable and proportionate to the potential energy savings”.

The Government has already agreed to introduce advanced meters for large businesses, but is still consulting on whether it should introduce smart or advanced metering for smaller firms.

Mr Warren said extending these provisions properly to smaller companies would help them better understand the financial case for improving energy efficiency and could unlock a huge potential market for installers.

He said: “There are several million SMEs and most operate from buildings similar to residential premises.”

The BERR spokeswoman said: “Far from ignoring SMEs, Government is currently consulting on the provision of smart metering to smaller business sites, including those of SMEs. Our initial impact assessment indicates there is now a broadly positive economic case in this sector.”

She added that  the Government had decided not to force suppliers to provide benchmarking and historical information in bills after feedback from previous consultations, but this might be reviewed in the future.