53 million smart meters are to be installed in 30 million homes and smaller businesses across Great Britain, and are estimated to have a net benefit to the nation of £7.3 billion over the next 20 years.
The revolutionary rollout is set for completion a year earlier than previously expected, in 2019.
This is the crux of the government's overall strategy and timetable for smart meters outlined today in a consultation document, which is in part a response to last year's Smart Meters Propectus.
The programme, to be overseen by Ofgem and to be implemented by energy suppliers, will cost over £11 billion but is expected to save over £7 billion more.
Smart meters have been trialled for several years in this country, and are seen as a crucial part of delivering energy security and a low carbon future, by encouraging energy efficiency. They will also lay the groundwork for the "smart grid" which is hoped to help lower peak demand, thereby reducing the number of required power stations.
“Smart meters are a key part of giving us all more control over how we use energy at home and at work, helping us to cut out waste and save money," said secretary of state for energy and climate change Chris Huhne, on his way to visit a technology expo at the SmartLIFE training centre in Cambridge, which includes companies specialising in smart meter technology.
“In combination with our plans to reform the electricity market and introduce the Green Deal for home and businesses, the rollout of smart meters will help us keep the lights on while reducing emissions and getting the best possible deal for the consumer, he added.
Smart meters are poised to deliver the following benefits:
The rollout of smart meters will occur in two phases. In the first stage, beginning now, the government will work with industry, consumer groups and other stakeholders to lay the groundwork, including finalisation of standards, encouraging consumer engagement and piloting.
A Functional Requirements Catalogue, published alongside the consultation document, sets out the minimum requirements that the smart metering system must provide.
The government will also establish the Data and Communications Company, under a competitive process, which will provide data and communications services for the nationwide system.