A recent report reveals that the roll out of smart meters in the UK is running well behind target. The onus is on energy suppliers to install an estimated 53m smart devices by the end of 2020. To date fewer than 9m have been fitted over a period of the last five years. The strategy of placing the onus for smart meter installation on individual suppliers appears to be impeding the rollout. Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at Oxford University has observed that no other European country has made this mistake and suggests that a more sensible strategy would have been to place this responsibility onto gas and electricity network operators. This would have allowed the roll out to be carried out on a street by street basis. As it is suppliers are installing a variety of different meter models which in some cases are proving to be incompatible with competitor’s systems.
Paradoxically, whilst consumers are constantly urged to be proactive and switch suppliers to ensure they are getting the most competitive energy deals, those who do switch may find their smart meter is unable to communicate with the new supplier’s technology. Energy suppliers are currently testing “second generation” meters which are designed to communicate with all networks, but these will not be available for a mass roll out for several months and a universal “communications hub” designed to allow existing meters to communicate with different suppliers after switching, is not due to be available nationwide until the middle of 2019.
The government now estimates that smart meters will save the average domestic customer just £11 a year by 2020, roughly 1% of a typical annual bill. This is a significant fall from a previous estimated saving of £26 a year. It costs about £270 to install or replace a smart device and whilst this cost is borne by the individual suppliers, it is highly likely they will eventually be recouped in higher energy charges.
Article by: Richard Clayton