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Developing an Extra Help Scheme for vulnerable smart meter customers

26 September 2014

Citizens Advice is concerned that consumers in vulnerable situations could miss out on the potential benefits of the £11 billion smart meter rollout, which they will be helping to fund through their energy bills. We want all consumers to have affordable, accessible and safe energy services, and government and industry need to address the particular risks faced by consumers in vulnerable circumstances.

We understand from both government and industry that they understand these consumers need extra help, but the question is what form should that take?

With this in mind we commissioned research from NEA to learn from other schemes that have helped vulnerable consumers through change. The rich detail of this research will help delivery partners shape their plans, answering such questions such as how to define vulnerability, the importance of choice, and the role of different communication channels.

Our accompanying position paper both summarises the research and starts to set out our expectations. There is a year left until the smart meter rollout starts in earnest. We want energy suppliers, government and third parties to use that time to develop and test potentially scalable options to deliver bill savings to those who need them most.

We think these approaches could be supplier or community-led. We think they may deliver better information or go on to install some practical measures. And we understand that success can, and should, be measured against multiple criteria. But we are yet to see packages of support that will ensure help will get to different types of consumers served by different suppliers, and time is ticking.