Is getting a smart meter really the smart thing to do?
If you’ve got one of the early smart meters, you might have to get a new one installed if you want to change supplier. That’s why we’re putting pressure on to make sure all smart meters are compatible.
Have you got a smart meter yet? Despite there being no official roll-out of smart meters, some energy suppliers have started rolling them out to some customers.
And you can understand why – smart meters mean suppliers can get up-to-date meter readings without needing to pay someone to come and read it, saving them time and money.
But is an early roll-out a good thing? Here at Which?, we’re concerned that it’s not official and there are no minimum standards for smart meters. This means there’s no guarantee they’ll be compatible between suppliers.
So if you want to change your supplier but still have a smart meter, you might have to have a new smart meter installed. I don’t know about you, but going through the hassle of having another meter installed would make me think twice about changing my supplier.
So what’s being done about it? At the moment, not a lot. But earlier this month the Government published its Energy Bill. Once approved, it will set the standards for things like energy efficiency, tariffs, smart meters and the green deal.
What Which? is doing
We’ve been deeply concerned about the smart meter roll-out for a while, so we jumped at the chance to influence the Bill so that consumers will have better protection and be able to make the right choices about their energy usage.
We’ve written to Charles Hendry MP (Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change) and Ofgem, the energy regulator, to express our concerns. We’ve also written to members of the House of Lords asking them to suggest amendments to the text of the Bill to ensure that smart meters are compatible between suppliers.
The Energy Bill needs to ensure that all smart meters are built with minimum standards so they’re compatible between suppliers. And this should have happened yesterday – not in six months’ time.
Without minimum standards, there’s a great risk that consumers won’t switch suppliers because of the hassle factor, losing out on potential savings. Lack of compatibility will also increase costs, which are likely to be passed on to consumers in higher energy prices.
At the moment, the energy industry has been left in charge of putting together its own rules on smart meter installation. With only 20% of consumers trusting their energy supplier, it’s important that the Government and regulator need to set the standards.
Enforce a sales ban
Then there’s the worry that, when installing smart meters, energy suppliers will use the opportunity to try and get people to buy energy efficiency measures through the new green deal.
The green deal (being introduced in the Energy Bill) is a way of lowering your energy bills by installing products like solar panels to generate your own energy. If this happens, many households may find themselves buying a green deal product that isn’t suitable for their home, therefore not saving any money.
There needs to be a ban on all sales during smart meter installation – and marketing should only be allowed in written form to stop salespeople pushing people to sign up on the spot.
Have you got a smart meter yet – and if so, would you be put off switching if it meant getting a new one? Or would you prefer to have one early regardless of the consequences?
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