Energy firms’ new trick to install more smart meters
Energy suppliers have introduced 15 tariffs so far this year to nudge consumers into getting a smart meter. Switching service energyhelpline analysed new energy tariffs to find out how many required customers to have a smart meter installed or at least “register their interest”.
The average price across 14 of these dual-fuel deals, excluding one tariff that is electricity only, is £1,049 a year. The cheapest is Ebico’s Night Out (Economy 7 only) at £847.56.
Figures from Ofgem, the industry regulator, show that the average standard variable tariff (SVT) across Britain’s Big Six energy suppliers cost £1,145 in July, meaning the majority of smart tariffs represent a saving.
E.On, one of the biggest suppliers, was criticised last year when it said customers with smart meters would be moved to a cheaper deal, rather than the SVT, the usual default option, when a fixed deal ended.
Consumers with no desire to have a smart meter risk being forced to have one installed or pay the penalty if there are few cheap tariffs available for those without.
Smart meters, which send meter readings to the energy supplier, come with a display unit showing energy usage in pounds and pence.
The Government argues that the devices will reduce energy use and save households money. However, the current generation of smart meters lose their smart functionality, or “go dumb”, when a consumer switches supplier. Telegraph Money has called for the roll-out to be halted until this can be fixed.
Suppliers are using smart tariffs to encourage uptake under pressure from the Government. Green supplier Solarplicity’s smart tariff is the cheapest it offers, which it said was because it wanted its customers to consider a smart meter. A spokesman said its non-smart rates were still competitive.
SSE, another “Big Six” firm, offers a £50 credit to those who accept a smart meter. However, the company said it would honour the offer even if it found itself “unable” to complete the installation.
Of the suppliers that offer smart tariffs, some commit to charging smart and non-smart consumers the same.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “No one is being forced to get a smart meter. These devices give customers more control of their energy use, but it is up to them to choose which tariff benefits them.”
Robert Cheesewright, the policy director of Smart Energy GB, the industry-funded body tasked with promoting the roll-out, said smart meters were essential to managing the country’s future energy demands.
He added: “The best advice we can give people is not to miss out on a deal that gives you both a cheaper tariff and a smart meter.”