More than half (51%) of the 2,396 people interviewed in three face-to-face surveys by Ipsos Mori said they had never heard of smart meters, with a further 5% claiming to own one – a figure so high compared with the current roll-out that it appeared some of those respondents had misunderstood what a smart meter is.
The devices, which are being installed in homes and businesses now but will be fitted on a larger scale from 2014 to 2019, do away with estimated bills, and some can provide real-time energy use via small wireless displays that can be placed in more visible locations than under the stairs to encourage energy-saving.
The research shows widespread indifference to the new meters, with nearly half (45%) saying they had "no feelings either way" on supporting or opposing one in every home. A further 4% said they did not know to the same question, with overall 32% supporting them and 20% opposing them. The two most highly cited downsides to smart meters were expense and privacy concerns, with reduction of waste and money savings listed as the two main positives.
Despite the current lack of public awareness, Mark England, the CEO of smart meter company Sentec, claimed that the UK approach to smart meters would address the problem: "The advantage of the UK's unique supplier-led rollout is that it's in their interest to educate customers about the energy and money-saving benefits of smart meters to encourage participation and retain their customers. The report has found that the more respondents felt they knew about smart meters, the more likely they were to support the rollout, highlighting once again that if the rollout is to be a success, it is imperative that it remains consumer-focused and that any confusion or lack of knowledge is avoided."