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Star-studded smart meter adverts are raising YOUR energy bills by £50million a year as power firms pass on cost of campaigns featuring Twiggy and Maxine Peake to their customers

March 16, 2019

By Paul Homewood



Not only are we all paying for the roll out of smart meters, we’ve even got to pay for TV stars to advertise them!



A smart meter campaign that uses TV stars, actors and models to promote the gadget is adding about £50million a year to energy bills.

Celebrities such as Ainsley Harriott, Maxine Peake and Twiggy have appeared in TV, radio and magazine adverts boasting of the benefits of new digital smart meters.

Under an upgrade scheme energy firms must offer a smart meter to every home and small business by 2020 or face fines – although households are not obliged to have one.

The new digital meters can automatically send readings to suppliers as often as every half an hour, putting an end to estimated bills.

Celebrities such as Twiggy in 2017 have posed with smart meters in adverts

Celebrities such as Twiggy in 2017 have posed with smart meters in adverts

Ainsley Harriott has featured in the adverts which have added an estimated £50million to energy bills

Ainsley Harriott has featured in the adverts which have added an estimated £50million to energy bills

Customers can also see how much power they are using on a screen.

Smart Energy GB was set up by the Government in 2013 to encourage households to get a smart meter.

It claims it is an independent body but is funded by energy companies, which pass costs on to customers.

The Government initially estimated that a national awareness campaign would cost about £87million.

Now, industry insiders have told Money Mail that by the end of 2021 Smart Energy GB will have spent upwards of £220million. Its budget for this year is £48.4million.

The National Audit Office has warned that the group may need extra funding to take it beyond 2021 as the rollout is unlikely to be complete on time.

Last year Smart Energy GB spent £683,000 paying celebrities to be its spokesmen and feature in adverts.

But an industry source claimed the campaign group was not doing enough to boost the number of households actually installing meters.

He added that eyebrows had been raised over stunts such as arranging for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to perform ‘A Requiem for Meters’ on instruments made from old gas and electricity meters.

One advert featured TV cook Harriott preparing food for bodybuilders.

Twiggy, who was made a dame this week, has even taken part in a photoshoot posing among giant smart meters. Speaking in a YouTube video in 2017, she said: ‘When I was discovered in the 1960s it was an amazing time for the country economically and culturally… I’m here today to tell you about smart meters – another big change that affects every single household in Great Britain.’

Location, Location, Location presenting duo Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer also promoted the devices, as well as former Great British Bake Off contestant Ian Cumming.

Tory MP Grant Shapps said: ‘I cannot see how this unchecked spending could be considered a sensible or effective use of money.’ Consumer expert Martyn James said: ‘Expensive ad campaigns can go horribly off track if they don’t tackle the underlying problems. With smart meters, the problem is the public doesn’t believe they work.’

Smart meters have been beset by problems since their introduction. Customers may find their meter goes ‘dumb’ when they try to switch supplier.

Critics have also warned they give firms access to a ‘honeypot’ of private customer data.

This month, the advertising watchdog banned a Smart Energy GB ad featuring actress Miss Peake for misleading listeners about savings.

The Advertising Standards Authority said the advert had failed to make it clear that listeners had to change their energy use in order to save. Smart Energy GB said it was appealing the ruling.

Sacha Deshmukh, head of Smart Energy GB, said: ‘We are guided by the best practice in marketing and communications in designing and delivering our campaign. It is this that helps us create an effective, value for money and thoroughly evaluated campaign.’

  1. cajwbroomhill permalink
    March 16, 2019 1:04 pm

    Shocking but not surprising. Better grounds for a strike than “climate chaos” scam, but there will not be one, why not??

  2. Phil permalink
    March 16, 2019 1:08 pm

    Maxine Peake’s radio ad has been changed to say something like: “See how much energy you’re using and make changes to save . . .”

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      March 16, 2019 10:21 pm

      Yet it still goes on to say that, having saved all that energy, you’d have enough to make/bake all those teas/cakes anyway. Which kind of defeats the purpose of the advert.
      It has to rank as the most illiterate, disingenuous and dishonest advert ever made.

  3. March 16, 2019 2:09 pm

    Smart people will refuse to have a so called smart meter. They are little more than a controlling spy under the stairs.
    If you are forced to have one wrap it up in a faraday cage so it can’t spy on you.

    • bobn permalink
      March 16, 2019 2:21 pm

      Smart meters are for dumb people. Smart people do without them.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        March 16, 2019 2:55 pm

        Smart people don’t need a screen to tell them that an electric oven uses a lot of power. We are quite capable of reading the manual (or rating plate), and doing a quick calculation if necessary…

      • Gerry, England permalink
        March 16, 2019 4:47 pm

        Neither is it hard to give meter readings if you are connected – FFS they send you emails asking for readings when required.

  4. March 16, 2019 4:14 pm

    The DT (paywalled after first few paragraphs) is reporting on energy firms offloading stocks of old “smart” meters on customers:

    • Gerry, England permalink
      March 17, 2019 11:15 am

      Today’s MoS has a piece saying that the government will only include the new smets2 ‘smart’ meters in their 2020 target before they fine us – oh, sorry I mean fine the suppliers – despite them not actually working in large parts of the country. Will it be hoping too much for the suppliers when they do get fined and increase our bills to pay it, to grow a pair and clearly state the reason for the increase?

  5. Joe Public permalink
    March 16, 2019 7:57 pm

    Their main selling point was their ability to “put an end to estimated bills.”

    A solution to a non-problem.

    All estimated bills ‘catch-up’ at the next actual reading.

    Utilities have software that’s pretty accurate in predicting usage (provided the consumer doesn’t radically alter their consumption pattern).

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 16, 2019 10:23 pm

      They also have software that is pretty good at mis-estimating bills. Personal record was a bill for over £25,000 for one quarter for a meter that only covered common parts stairwell lighting on a timed switch in a house divided into three flats, where the usual bill was £10. Purposeful abuse of direct debits was also quite frequent at times when I was travelling abroad.

  6. It doesn't add up... permalink
    March 16, 2019 9:15 pm

    Bloomin’ ‘eck! That Maxine Peake must be able to afford a few dog blasters and cuppas by now. She must be exhausted, spouting all that nonsense.

  7. K Mackie permalink
    March 17, 2019 6:57 am

    It’s an absolute disgrace. But more importantly when the public actually find out why they are being installedit will be far more than just a disgrace.
    Nothing to do with readings, data collection, all to do with demand management and self disconnection when time of day pricing is introduced.

  8. Ian Miller permalink
    March 17, 2019 9:45 am

    It seems to me that the only, or main, benefit of so-called smart meters is to save the energy companies paying for meter readers.

    • Nick permalink
      March 17, 2019 1:50 pm

      I’ve been a meter reader for 15 years and we are still reading the so-called smart meters !!
      Us guys said years ago they are pointless and are of no benefit to customers in any way shape or form !
      Guess what ? I won’t be having one.
      Another Government screw up !


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