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Over the past few months energy prices have become a major political battle in the UK, with each part trying to gain the advantage in the lead up to the 2015 general elections. The government now hopes to quell consumer anger at rising energy bills with a new infrastructure project that will give the public more control over how much they spend on energy.
The government’s £12 billion ($20 billion) plan involves installing 53 million smart meters in homes and business around the country by 2020, giving consumers more information on the amount of energy they use, and the cost of running appliances such as washing machines, televisions, and dishwashers.
Lawrence Slade, the Chief Operating Officer of Energy UK, stated, “let’s be honest here, everyone understands pounds and pence, but not all of us - and I count myself in this sometimes - understand kilowatt-hours.” The point of the smart metres is to give people a better understanding of exactly what energy costs.
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177,000 meters have already been installed, and a survey by uSwitch has found that nearly half of the users claim that the meters have helped them to reduce their energy consumption.
Andrea Sella, a chemistry professor at the University College London, who was part of a smart meter pilot study for RWE npower, explained that “we could see at any given moment what was going on, and we could adjust, by saying let's not turn the dishwasher on but do that later.”
Energy bills have been on the rise for years, and many have accused the ‘Big Six’ (British Gas, EDF Energy, RWE npower, SSE, Scottish Power, and E.ON) of oversharging.
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Ofgem, the energy watchdog, claims that the average energy bill in the UK has more than doubled since 2004, at around £1,315 a year, and recent price hikes of around 10% have caused outrage. In order to try and gain support, Labour party leader Ed Miliabnd has even promised to freeze prices for 20 months if he is victorious in the elections.
The EU has set the target of installing meters in at least 80% of households and businesses in each of its member states, but only 14 of the 28 countries have actually begun the installation of meters as part of a mandate. Italy and Sweden have already installed meters for all consumers, but the real success will depend on whether or not the public use the information the meters provide to reduce their energy consumption.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com