Are you in one of those households which has recently received a communications from your energy supplier to tell you that it has made an appointment to come to your home to fit a new Smart Energy Meter? They even tell you when the appointment is and, if that is not convenient, how you can change the date and time online.
Of course, they don’t tell you that you are not legally obliged to have one of these Smart Energy Meters. Nor do they make it easy to say “Don’t bother coming. I don’t want one.” You are required to ring the energy supplier and then listen to all the reasons why you should have one.
But before I explain why you might want to say “No, thank you. Not at the moment.’, let me explain what has happened.
Energy smart meters are a new kind of meter which can digitally send meter readings to energy suppliers for more accurate energy bills and come with in home displays so consumers can view their energy usage.
The Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government committed to a national Smart Metering Programme which ‘requires energy suppliers to take all reasonable steps to offer – but not necessarily provide – the installation of an energy smart meter to all domestic customers and non-domestic customers by the end of 2020’. Energy suppliers were to be hit financially if they didn’t get the Smart Meters installed.
An all-party Select Committee estimated that the total benefits of smart meters could be £5 billion to consumers from energy saving and micro- generation; but the benefits to the energy suppliers would be £8 billion. And, of course, it is the customers who are actually paying for these meters. They’re free at the point of installation, but the cost will be included in your bills.
Installation costs are some £130-200 per household. When two of the Big Six energy companies announced price rises last month, they specifically stated a big part of the 10% increase is because of the smart meter policy. But, the Government’s own cost-benefit analysis shows that smart meters would, at best, reduce combined gas and electricity bills by £11 in 2020 and £47 in 2030. So, it will take more than a decade for consumers to feel the benefit.
The installation rollout was poorly planned by the Government, has suffered considerable delays and almost certainly won’t be delivered by the 2020 deadline.
The IT project required to make smart metering all work – the Data and Communications Company (DCC) – had its launch pushed back at least four times, eventually going live only at the end of last year, but is still not fully operational. DCC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Capita plc.
Besides all this , there are two significant reasons why you might want to say ‘No’ to the Smart Energy Meter right now.
First, there are worrying reports about these meters giving fluctuating and inaccurate readings.
Secondly, current Smart Meters don't have a common functionality. So, if you change supplier, you will be required to have a new Smart Meter. And who will end up paying for a succession of Smart Meter installations? Yes, you.
It is just another of those ill-thought through bad deals that Cameron and Clegg left behind.