'Urgent intervention' into smart meter roll-out called for by MPs

23 July 2018
Image

“Urgent government intervention” into the roll-out of household smart meters is needed, according to a cross-party group of MPs.

The British Infrastructure Group (BIG), which is made up of 93 MPs, has criticised the government’s roll-out of the energy gadgets in England, Scotland and Wales as being “plagued by repeated delays and cost increases, with suppliers now almost certain to miss the 2020 deadline, and programme benefits likely to be slashed even further”.

Issues stated in the report – many of which have already been reported on by Moneywise – include:

  • First generation ‘SMETS1’ meters are still being rolled out, which aren’t always interoperable on switching provider. They won’t become interoperable until the end of this year.
  • Suppliers using scare tactics to convince customers to accept a meter. These include stating bills would otherwise go up, smart meters are compulsory, current meters are unsafe, and booking installations without a customer’s consent.
  • A lack of supplier installation capacity, meaning suppliers are “almost certain to miss the 2020 roll-out target”.
  • Delays and cost increases meaning the saving on an annual dual fuel bill has fallen from £26 to just £11.14.  

In a damning comment, Ken Clarke MP and member of BIG says: “Personally, I have been declining to have a smart meter fitted in my home, until I can be absolutely sure that I will get a second generation meter that will not put any difficulties in the way of changing supplier if I ever wish to do so.

“It is absolutely scandalous that utilities are still providing smart meters which discourage their customers from considering switching and try to keep them captive in their old contracts.”

Georgie Frost, consumer advocate at comparison site GoCompare, adds: “Faced with a potential saving of £11 a year by sticking with your smart meter provider, or saving £210 by switching to a better deal, the ‘smart’ move currently must be to switch provider. Long term the objective has to be that all smart meters are fully portable to ensure the switching revolution continues, and smart meter customers get the full benefit of cheaper energy bills.”  

‘Installation of second generation meters should be fast-tracked’

As such, BIG is calling on the government to outline fully costed scenarios for the likely event the roll-out target is delayed until 2021 or 2022, including the savings which customers can realistically expect to see through their bills.

The group also wants the government and energy regulator Ofgem to ensure that suppliers “immediately” begin the mass production and installation of second generation ‘SMETS2’ meters.

It adds that suppliers should also be made to utilise the usage data they now possess to annually recommend the best tariff a customer could be on.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) comments: “Smart meters are putting consumers in control of their energy use and are already benefiting millions of homes and small businesses across Great Britain – with 80% recommending a smart meter to family and friends.

“It’s simply wrong to say first-generation meters are ‘obsolete’ as they offer smart services now and will continue do so as they are enrolled into the smart metering network. However we welcome ideas on how to ensure the ongoing success of the smart meter roll out and are already working with Ofgem on issues raised in the report.”

An Ofgem spokesperson adds: “The smart meter rollout is a major national infrastructure project and suppliers have a challenging and important task. By replacing an outdated metering system, suppliers will put an end to estimated bills, and pave the way towards a more energy efficient future. 

“Ofgem is closely monitoring suppliers’ approach to the rollout and will hold suppliers to account through their obligations to treat consumers fairly.”

Comments

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

To gain the publicised initial (estimated £110) 'saving' by switching to a Smart TARIFF, the public are FORCED to switch Supplier (even if happy with their existing Supplier). Do the Government realise that Suppliers are using this national programme for their own ends - to ONLY allow NEW customers who join them to go on their Smart Tariff , so long as they also sign up to a Smart Meter? - in effect, discriminating against their existing customers. I suppose that their response to this Government-imposed scheme - meet the targets we set or we'll fine you financially - is human nature: - i.e. bully us into doing this and we'll work it to benefit ourselves. My Supplier has, not surprisingly, now taken down the Smart Tariff it was promoting - in case it MISLED more of its existing customers? It is probably still available - (with the Standing Charges about a 1/3 of the norm for the first year) but only NEW customers will find out/be eligible.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

After looking at you-tube and the problems with ill health in America, with some type of RF radiation and a lot of people are fitting faraday cags around them, so making the smart meter unable to transmit back the amount of power or gas your using.So when the time comes for them to insist I have one, they'll have faraday cages around them, rendering them useless, lets see if they can stop you putting up cages on your own properties?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My generation were taught to be vigilant regarding energy and money, always turn off unused lights, set heating on a clock, etc. If everyone observed this it would not be necessary to waste money on installing a smart meter which after a few weeks would not be looked at.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I see energy decisions as Strategic or capital ones i.e. I only decide wether to buy a new boiler, when to turn on central heating, etc. etc. once every few years. I do not need a real time energy monitor. Also, I bought a plug-in energy meter from a high street store for under £15 and this tells me all I want to know, when I want to know it i.e occasionally. What a waste of effort and resource this programme is. Perhaps it is beng done for the benefit of suppliers, in which case this should be the marketing thrust.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I think the government made a major blunder by not coming up with a universal standard for Smart meter opertion before any were produced. This now appears to be happening for Smart meter 2 but it is far too late. I have been providing my energy use to my supplier for the last 10 years without the need for for a Smart meter and will never accept one being installed unless required by legislation as I am well aware of what appliances use the most power so would not gain from having a Smart meter.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Personally I see no benefit to me of having a smart meter but just disruption and the need to have power available near my gas meter (there isn't). It's a very minor inconvenience to have to submit my readings online once a month. Maybe if suppliers start introducing demand/time based charging enabled by Smart meters then I might consider it if the new tariffs were to actually fit our usage so I could save money....but I doubt it.My mum had a smart meter put in but then switched supplier so now just has a high-tech "dumb" meter that is harder for her to read than the old ones were! Until smart meters continue to work after switching it is ridiculous for government/Ofgem to continue to push them to be installed if they will then just need to be replaced.

Add new comment