The UK’s provider of free, impartial guidance on matters ranging from finance and employment, to housing and benefits, has emplored the government to postpone its deadline for the nationwide rollout of smart meters for household energy usage to 2023.
The organisation’s Director of Energy Victoria MacGregor appeared on the BBC’s breakfast show and published a blog explaining the stance.
While Citizens Advice’s own research shows that 80% of people who have had a smart meter installed are happy with them, in 2017 people approached the organisation’s consumer helpline for assistance with over 3,000 smart meter issues.
With the current 2020 deadline fast-approaching and 42 million smart meters still to be installed, suppliers are scrambling to meet the target, risking sub-standard fittings and reduced value for money for customers.
The most commonly encountered smart meter-related issues were:
- First generation smart meters (known as SMETS1 meters) losing their smart functionality when consumers switch
- Aggressive sales practices from suppliers trying to get smart meters installed
- Installation problems, such as the meter not fitting in the space available
- Customers still having to submit their meter readings manually despite having a smart meter installed.
Being cleverer about smart meters
The frequency of these issues has increased dramatically over the last year, suggesting the government’s target is resulting in more and more unsatisfied customers.
MacGregor also highlights the fact that the most recent cost-benefit analysis was published in 2016. Given the rollout programme has changed significantly since, she says, the government should provide updated cost information.
Commenting on the organisation’s stance, she said:
We want smart technology to work for consumers. Extending the rollout of the programme to 2023, and providing clearer information on costs, are 2 simple steps the government can take to help make this rollout better for consumers.
Internet of Business says
Smart meters can confer several benefits. They provide accurate bills without having to manually submit a meter reading or have your supplier visit you. They also enable new ways of topping up credit for prepay customers – manually, ?though linked apps, or automatically, when credit drops to a certain point.
Smart meters also empower other smart products. Washing machines, electric vehicles, and other intermittently power-consuming devices, that are connected to the home network alongside a smart meter, can plan their energy consumption to avoid peak costs. This benefits the customer and better distributes the National Grid’s energy demands.
Yet, last month’s British Infrastructure Group report found that, “the planned £11bn roll-out has been 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.
“Moreover, although the entire programme has been funded by customers through higher energy bills, unlike energy suppliers themselves, they are not presently guaranteed to see the majority of the savings that do materialise.”
The report also found that one in 10 meters are operating in dumb mode (whereby they don’t relay data to the supplier). More than half of consumers with smart meters face this problem when switching energy provider. Thankfully, second generation products will work across suppliers.
Perhaps most significantly, the parliamentary group also referred to a 2016 report paper by the BEIS which estimated that the average customer saving on an annual energy bill will be just £11.
It’s therefore vital that the potential cost and energy savings to be had from smart meters aren’t eliminated in their installation. If the 2020 deadline is damaging to its own ends, then it must be reconsidered.