it will take time for us all to get smart on energy
Replacing our old meters by 2020 is looking increasingly unrealistic
How clever are your home’s gas and electricity meters? Most have numbers which move onwards as you consume. Only a minority have smart meters – they can show energy costs, and can communicate with power suppliers so no more waiting for meter readers, estimated bills or trying to read the figures yourself.
And because you see pounds and pence usage in real time, you can turn off wasteful appliances.
By the end of 2020, two years away, the plan was that all our nearly 50 million gas and electricity meters should be replaced by smart meters.
But UK spending watchdog the National Audit Office has warned there is “no prospect” of meeting that deadline. One problem is many smart meters go “dumb” after a supplier switch – leaving the choice between keeping the meter and finding a better deal.
Second generation meters work better but so far few homes have them.
A second problem arose in parts of Scotland and the North of England where smart meters failed to connect to power suppliers because of infrastructure difficulties. Solutions to both these problems are in the pipeline. The meters do not use broadband and are designed to be impossible to hack.
At best, the watchdog says the £11billion replacement programme will reach about seven out of 10 homes and businesses by 2020. It calculates that with 39m oldfashioned meters yet to be replaced, there is “no realistic prospect” of all homes and businesses being offered one by the end of 2020.
Replacing meters in dual fuel households costs nearly £400 a time but longer term savings should outweigh this.
Energy suppliers agree the government deadline is unlikely to be hit.
Npower says “the obligation of power companies is to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to offer smart meter installation to customers.” Installation on request is a legal must for all companies except the very smallest.
While all who apply should get a new meter, some urge caution.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We firmly believe 2023 rather than 2020 is a more reasonable deadline so technical problems can be fixed.”
And Comparethemarket energy guru Peter Earl added: “Until the second generation of smart meters is rolled out nationwide by all suppliers, we could not confidently recommend them as they might fail after a switch.”
Smart meters should make it easier to monitor energy use... but could complicate changing your provider