Smart meter rollout given five-year extension to ensure effective delivery
The smart meter rollout has been softened with a five-year extension to allow for changes to regulations to ensure it is "delivered effectively", the Government said.
The Smart Meter Bill, outlined in the Queen's Speech, said "good progress" was being made with the rollout, with nearly seven million meters installed to the end of March this year.
It referred to the manifesto commitment that "smart meters will be offered to every household and business by the end of 2020".
But the Bill also includes an extension to the Government's ability to make changes to smart meter regulations by five years, "making sure the rollout is delivered effectively, and that benefits are maximised into the future".
Commenting on the Bill, Energy UK chief executive Lawrence Slade said: "The industry has already installed nearly seven million smart meters in the UK.
"Suppliers remain committed to ensuring all households and businesses are offered a smart meter by 2020 and that the rollout is carried out efficiently and delivers a positive experience for consumers."
Smart meters have been promoted to consumers as a way to reduce their energy bills by checking their usage in real time via a monitor and avoid estimated bills as a result of the meter sending automatic readings to the supplier.
But a report in September from the Science and Technology Committee concluded that smart meters were likely to save individual consumers only a small amount of money on their energy bills, and the Government needed to work harder to convince households of the true benefits of the rollout.
The committee said evidence suggested there were major national benefits, such as a smarter and more secure grid and reduced pollution.
But there remained the "unresolved" problem of early meters installed in the first phase of the rollout losing their "smart" function when the customer switches supplier, noting that more than three million meters were already in place.
Last month, the Institute of Directors called for the next government to put the smart meters programme on hold to avoid "mushrooming" costs.
It said: "The programme has already failed to deliver interoperable meters for switching, is behind schedule, is over-budget and wedded to out of date technology.
"Not only that, the legal obligation on suppliers to install potentially incompatible meters by the deadline of December 2020 or else pay large fines is already pushing up inflationary costs in wages and advertising."
It called for "an urgent pause, and thorough review" and for policymakers to revise both EU-derived legislation and the 2020 rollout timetable.