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The Energy Bill [HL] 2022-23 has passed the third reading in the Commons, and Lords amendments will be considered in the Commons on 18 October 2023.

The Bill includes clauses relating to energy efficiency in buildings, smart meters and hydrogen heating. The Government’s Energy Security Bill overarching factsheet explains that the aim of the Bill is to provide a cleaner, more affordable, and more secure energy system.

However, concerns have been raised recently that the Bill would create new criminal offences and penalties and that technologies could be installed in homes by force.

This briefing answers some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about what the Energy Bill would do if it became an Act in its current form.

Does the Energy Bill mean I could be fined or sent to prison if I don’t improve the energy efficiency of my home?

No. There are no existing penalties for failing to meet specific energy performance targets or installing technologies, such as heat pumps. The Energy Bill itself would not create any new criminal offences or penalties, although it would allow the Government to do so via separate secondary legislation. Any new criminal offence or penalty would need to be approved by Parliament, separately to the Bill, before it could become law.

The Government has said that it doesn’t intend to amend or extend criminal offences and that it would consult before introducing new regulations.

Does the Energy Bill mean I could be forced to have a smart meter installed?

No. There are no provisions in the Bill that would allow anyone to enter a property by force to install a smart meter. Consumers will continue to have the right to refuse a smart meter installation.

The clauses in the Energy Bill relating to smart metering extend the timeframe during which existing powers can be used and do not change the nature of existing powers.

Can the Government or others use energy smart appliances to control the supply of energy into my home?

Energy smart appliances can be switched on or off remotely but only if the consumer gives consent. Consumers do not have to allow their appliances to be controlled remotely and the Bill wouldn’t change this.

An energy smart appliance (ESA) is an appliance, such as an electric vehicle charging point or a heat pump, that is capable of increasing or reducing its electricity demand in response to signals received remotely from a third party (rather than manually by the consumer). These third parties are called ‘load controllers’. The Energy Bill would allow regulations to be created for energy smart appliances and require load controllers to have a licence.

Energy suppliers can switch off energy supply remotely through a smart meter, but there are strict rules about when they are allowed to do this. The same consumer protections apply to those with smart meters and traditional meters. Suppliers cannot disconnect any customers without first taking all reasonable steps to help them repay their debts and are not allowed to cut off supply for certain vulnerable consumers.

Does the Energy Bill create powers of entry to force me to install energy technologies at home?

No. There are two parts of the Bill that mention powers of entry: first, in relation to energy smart appliances (ESAs) and second, in relation to a hydrogen heating trial.

For ESAs (appliances capable of increasing or reducing electricity demand in response to signals received remotely from a third party), part 9 of the Bill mentions powers of entry. However, these regulations apply to those making, supplying, importing or distributing energy smart appliances or carrying out load control. It specifies that enforcement action of any kind cannot be taken against the end-user (such as the consumer) of an energy smart appliance. The Bill would not force anyone to have energy technologies installed.

Under existing regulations, energy companies are already allowed to enter properties if there is an emergency. The Bill would give the Government powers to ensure the delivery of a hydrogen village trial whereby hydrogen would be used for home heating. The powers of entry in the Bill would allow the person running the trial to enter private properties to carry out essential works for the purposes of the trial, including safety measures and checks and to disconnect the gas supply. The Government is considering Redcar, Teeside as a potential location for the hydrogen heating trial.

Further information  

More detailed background on the Bill, including analysis of clauses and amendments made during its passage through Parliament, can be found in the following Library briefings:

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