Vulnerability and resistance in the United Kingdom's smart meter transition

Benjamin Sovacool, Paula Kivimaa, Sabine Hielscher, Kirsten Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

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 national household energy consumption by 5-15%, the SMIP represents arguably the world’s largest and most expensive smart meter rollout. However, a series of obstacles and delays has restricted implementation, and progress has been far more sluggish than envisioned. To explore why, this study utilizes a mixed methods approach to investigate the socio-technical challenges facing the SMIP, with a strong emphasis on the “social” side of the equation. It first explains its two primary sources of data, a systematic review of the academic literature coupled with participant observation of seven major SMIP events in the UK during 2015-2016. It then offers a history of the SMIP rollout, including a summary of 67 potential benefits as well as the often-discussed technical challenges, before delving into pertinent non-technical challenges, specifically vulnerability as well as consumer resistance and ambivalence. The article argues that the dominant focus on technical problems may obscure societal issues that the implementation program must address. In doing so, the paper not only presents a critique of the UK’s implementation program for smart meters, 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 lessons for other smart meter programs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-781
Number of pages15
JournalEnergy Policy
Volume109
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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