En­ergy firms’ new trick to in­stall more smart me­ters

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - FRONT PAGE - Sam Meadows

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.”


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