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Government says consumers should decide on meter data

Consumers should be able to decide how much data smart meters surrender about their energy use, says the government.

The plan to give consumers control is part of official guidelines for the mass rollout of smart meters - devices that show exactly how much electricity and gas is being used - to UK homes.

The meters should be fitted in 30m UK homes by 2019, at a cost of £11.7bn.

The guidelines come as FBI warnings emerge about attacks on smart meters that make them report low energy use.

The government proposals lay out technical specifications for the 53 million smart meters it wants installed in UK homes by the end of 2019. The move to bring in the gadgets aims to reduce power use, cutting bills and helping the government meet energy efficiency targets.

Mass roll-out of smart meters is due to start in 2014 and energy firms are expected to shoulder most of this cost.

But the government believes the high cost of the mass rollout will be offset by the £7bn or so of savings it will bring about for both consumers and power suppliers.

Audrey Gallacher, director of energy at Consumer Focus, said the watchdog group broadly welcomed the proposals.

She added: “We continue to have concerns that the costs of the scheme may be underestimated and that costs for consumers could rise.”

The guidelines cover what energy firms can do when installing meters. Energy minister Charles Hendry said the installation rules were “tough” because fitters would not be allowed to try to sell consumers more services during installation.

In addition, all households fitted with the gadgets must get an in-home display that logs how much power is being consumed.

Alongside the guidelines goes a consultation exercise to find out what should happen to detailed energy use data. The government proposes that consumers choose who can access this information. Basic data used for billing will be available to suppliers without asking.