The Smart Meter Implementation Program (SMIP) lays the legal framework in the United Kingdom so that a smart gas and electricity meter, along with an in-home display, can be installed in every household by 2020. Intended to reduce household energy consumption by 5–15%, the SMIP represents the world’s largest and most expensive smart meter rollout. However, a series of obstacles and delays has restricted implementation. To explore why, this study investigates the socio-technical challenges facing the SMIP, with a strong emphasis on the “social” side of the equation. It explains its two primary sources of data, a systematic review of the academic literature coupled with observation of seven major SMIP events. It offers a history of the SMIP rollout, including a summary of 67 potential benefits as well as often-discussed technical challenges, before delving into pertinent non technical challenges, specifically vulnerability as well as consumer resistance and ambivalence. In doing so, the paper not only presents a critique of SMIP, it also offers a review of academic studies on consumer responses to smart meters, an analysis of the intersection between smart meters and other social concerns such as poverty or the marginalization of rural areas, and the generation of policy lessons.
Written by Benjamin K. Sovacool, Paula Kivimaa, Sabine Hielscher and Kirsten Jenkins