DECC – Doggy paddling in the shallow end of the evidence pool…
As readers of my blog will know, I am concerned about the GB Smart Metering programme, not because of any issues with smart meters per se – they can be an important part of a smarter grid. My concern has always been that the GB programme will fail to deliver most of the potential benefits of smart metering, instead saddling consumers with the cost of a lot of obsolete technology.
Now it looks as if that message may be getting across. Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee has just started an evidence check and is requesting input from anyone with relevant views on the GB Smart Metering Programme. You have until midday on 28th January and can submit comments on their website. It claims they will be “pre-moderated” and that “Your comment will not be treated as formal written evidence to the Committee.” I hope that’s just standard wording and not a devious attempt to dismiss evidence.
Some initial mistakes pushed the technology in the wrong direction. Instead of correcting them, DECC has applied more and more complex sticking plasters whilst denying the underlying issues, to the point where the programme is now:
- The most complex system in the world
- The most expensive system in the world
- Based on technology which is heading to be obsolete by the early 2020s.
To justify its value, DECC has ignored evidence on consumer behaviour, relying instead on wishful thinking from academics and consultants. As more is learnt from other deployments around the world it is clear that the benefits have been vastly overstated. One utility – British Gas, almost certainly has enough data to provide a clear picture on long term benefits, but this has not been released, probably because it would torpedo the current impact assessment.
I believe it is the time for a thorough review to ensure that Britain gets the smart metering system it needs. If the current programme continues it will almost certainly overrun on cost. Parts of it will be obsolete by the time the deployment is complete and a new replacement programme will need to start by the end of 2020 if the meters are to continue operating, with all of the associated costs. It has all of the hallmarks of a major IT disaster, but one where the public will be more conscious than ever before of the true cost of a Government screw-up, because it will be clearly visible on their inflated energy bills.
The UK Government departments and Non-Departmental Government Bodies have widely different approaches to basing policy on evidence. At its best we have NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which is world recognised for its competence in using evidence to direct clinical and prescribing policy. However, at the shallow end of the evidence pool we find the desperate doggy paddling of DECC, whose mandarins still pursue the approach of policy leading evidence, i.e. they make up their minds about what they want to do, then manufacture the “evidence” to support the policy.