Smart meter rollout in the UK print media

A new paper by Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED) researchers analyses popular print media coverage of the smart meter rollout in the United Kingdom and finds that there is no uniform storyline of the type of future such meters can deliver.

The paper, written by Dr Sabine Hielscher and Professor Benjamin Sovacool, asks how smart meters are being discussed and envisioned over time, looking beyond what is said to where things are said and by whom.

The researchers identify nine different interpretations of smart meters, four of them depicting smart meters as a technology that can bring about positive social change and five viewing them as negative forces on society. However, the study finds that beyond seeing smart meters as a technology that can reduce energy bills and consumption, empower consumers and make them more energy-conscious; the potential wider societal benefits of a sustainable, more democratic energy system are rarely discussed.

Furthermore, when it comes to negative discourses, the research shows that there are a diverse set of institutions behind particular storylines, competing for attention in the newspapers, but they seem to struggle to achieve more than making people aware of particular issues.

The researchers conducted a content analysis of broadsheet and tabloid articles published in the UK media from 2006 to 2016.

Read the full article (Open access until 26 July 2018).

Find out more about our project on ‘Smart meter rollout in the UK: Dynamics of expectations‘.