Metering: EU policy and implications for fuel poor households
Fuel poverty is a function of household energy consumption, income, and the cost of delivered energy. The paper discusses ways in which current EU policy on the development of ‘smart’ metering could affect fuel poor households. The main focus is on developments in electricity metering and the development of ‘active demand’ and smart grids, so that demand can be matched closely with available supply. Advances in metering and related technologies open the way to time-of-use charging, easier switching between suppliers and between credit payment and prepayment, direct load control of some end-uses by the utility, greater scope for microgeneration, and improved consumption feedback for customers. These options open up both uncertainties and risks.
The paper offers definitions and discussion of various functions of smart metering, summarizes the EU policy background, and considers some possible equity implications of rolling out a new generation of meters. There follows an assessment of potential implications to the fuel poor of changes to metering, based on a review of the literature on energy feedback, tariffing, and supplier–customer relationships. Much of the discussion is based on the UK experience, with examples from other EU member states and, where appropriate, from other parts of the world.