Few European countries have widely deployed smart meters in homes and a number of them aren't expected to make much progress over the next three years, according to research - which questioned how quickly the UK will reach its goals.

Smart meter technology provider Sentec commissioned IMS Research to check the progress of smart meter deployments in 2011 and to come to predictions for the state of play by 2015.

Any progress in the UK will depend on whether the UK government goes ahead with a plan to spend around £11.7 billion on a smart metering programme.

Centrica, the owner of British Gas, has already slowed its smart meter roll-out until the government makes a decision. Some critics of the government scheme say the money would be better spent elsewhere and that smart meters will not bring customers' bills down or encourage them to use less energy - two stated targets of the smart meter roll-out. Instead, critics say, the programme is a subsidy to the utility companies.

According to the Sentec report Italy and the Nordics are currently leading the pack with over 94 percent and 70 percent of homes having smart meters already installed respectively. Italy saw energy firm Enel invest $3 billion in deploying smart meters by 2006, and Swedish government regulations forced the utility firms there to ratchet up their roll-outs.

IMS' predictions for 2015 show France (49 percent), Spain and Portugal (73 percent) and the UK and Ireland (65 percent) catching up. However, it says "there is uncertainty on whether the UK will reach its potential this fast".

Mark England, Sentec CEO, said: "The deregulated structure of the UK market is uniquely challenging for rapid and co-ordinated action in a large scale initiative like this, and we believe that smart meter deployment in 65 percent of UK homes by 2015 is not possible."

England added: "There is a great deal of work still to do to finalise the technical and regulatory framework for smart metering."

According to IMS, even by 2015, Germany and Poland will see less than 30 percent smart meter penetration.

At the moment, says IMS, only 4.2 percent of homes in the UK and Ireland have smart meters installed.