Just over a month ago, Smart Energy GB published a consultation paper as part of its work to support the roll-out of smart meters in an inclusive and engaging manner.
In ‘Smart energy for all’, Smart Energy GB set out what it has learned from research about the potential difficulties which might challenge the programme amongst some sections of the population, and what it does not know and where it would welcome more evidence.
The consultation paper is thorough and comprehensive. The point is that here we have, within the next five years, the opportunity to really change the way the British public thinks about and uses energy, and we ought to get it right from the start.
What about older people
Older households make up a third of the national total. We know that older households see advantages in understanding more about their energy use, so that they can use it with confidence to keep adequately warm, without worrying about unwelcome and unexpected bills.
The end of estimated bills, and the ending of meter readers’ visits, will be applauded. But can the simple process of installing a new meter and a domestic meter display unit help older people to take maximum advantage from the new technology?
The energy provider will make an appointment, fit the new meter, offer an explanation of the gadgets, and leave – once and for all. How will people cope when they are left on their own?
Even before the physical meter installation happens, householders will need to understand the broad picture of the programme. In an ideal world, they need to be receptive to an approach from their energy provider, be prepared for an installation, and be ready to adapt to seeing, for the first time, how much energy they are using and how much it is costing them.
Keep warm, keep well
A key concern for Age UK is that they will not rush to switch their heating off: there is powerful evidence that keeping adequately warm is essential to good health and general wellbeing.
So the comprehensive approach of Smart Energy GB is to be welcomed – to ensure that no stone is left unturned and no banana skin is left sitting on the road.
The consultation document is essentially addressed to people working with potentially disadvantaged groups, and sets out what is known – and what is unknown – about the barriers which could limit or restrict householders from experiencing the benefits of smart meters, but the consultation welcomes contributions and insights from everyone. It is only with a reliable map that we can take people with us on this unique journey.
Older people are a key constituency for the programme. Their help, and help from people who care for them, is crucial to getting it right.
Please take part in the consultation which is open until 5 June.