Accepted Paper:

The UK smart meter rollout: Dynamics of expectations   


Sabine Hielscher (University of Sussex)
Paula Kivimaa (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

Smart meters have taken a prominent role in the UK government’s low carbon energy discourse over the past decade. Drawing on discourse analysis and examination of around 100 documents and supportive interviews, the paper analyses changes expectations for the smart metering roll out during 2000-2015.

Paper long abstract:

Smart meters have taken a prominent role in the UK government's low carbon energy discourse over the past decade. A substantial regulatory, policy and organisational apparatus has been established, setting in motion in 2016 the rollout of 53 million residential and non-domestic gas and electricity meters by 2020. The expectations of possible benefits for consumers and producers are described to be high. In addition, the rollout of smart meters links to broader visions of future electricity systems based on the smart grid. They are thus an element of an envisaged broader transformation of the electricity sector.

Drawing on a Hajer's discourse analysis and based on an examination of around 100 documents produced by multiple actors (such as activist groups, NGOs and policymakers) engaged in smart meters and supportive in-depth interviews, we examine the changing discourses surrounding the smart meter rollout, in particular, the ones linked to expectations within the period of 2000-2015. We make use of Konrad's (2010) conceptualisation of the 'governance by and of expectations' to examine the negotiations of competing expectations and the less formalised forms of expectation building. In doing so, we aim to contribute to the literature on the sociology of expectations. We explore how expectations have changed over time and, in particular, look at governance modes associated with the performative role of expectations within the UK smart metering rollout.

Panel T094
Emerging science and technology : questioning the regime of promising