ECOLOGY Minister Ségolène Royal wants to speed-up the programme of changing over to new Linky “smart” electricity meters despite opposition from consumer groups which doubt families will see any benefit and fear extra costs.
In all, about 35 million limegreen Linky meters will be fitted across the country by 2020 – with three million by 2016 – but Ms Royal said this should be speeded up to meet France’s aim to cut nuclear power and use more renewable energy.
She said consumers would have a “better understanding” and thus more control over their energy spending.
The Linky means enormous savings for national grid company ERDF which can collect accurate meter figures from a distance and no longer needs an army of readers or technicians to make changes - or cut off supply.
It says fitting the boxes will cost €4.3billion which will be recouped through the savings made; but local authorities estimate it will be nearer €8bn.
Linkys will be fitted for free in place of the mechanical meter, so generally outside the home but consumers can check usage online and fit one of eight “controllers” to switch heating or other appliances on or off to change their consumption.
However, consumers do not see the cash cost of their energy use as the Linky only gives information in kWh. ERDF says this is because it runs the distribution grid while supply firms such as EDF and Direct Energie control the pricing.
Consumer group UFC Que Choisir says suppliers will develop software to make the calculation – but it warns that price structures may change.
Once set up as part of a “smart grid” Linky could mean consumer demand drives the need for energy and not the availability of energy supply, allowing greater renewable use.