When we launched our smart meter challenge, we were surprised by how many said they didn’t want one at all. And although we support the roll-out, we’re working hard to tackle the issues that could be bad for consumers.
Many of you clearly have concerns about smart meters, which is why we’re campaigning on this issue and will be for some time to come. But overall we think there are significant benefits.
How smart meters can benefit us
In a market where we’ve heard a lot about innovation but seen little of it, this new metering technology is a real improvement. We’ll get accurate bills and we’ll all be able to better understand how we use energy. There should also be improvements to the market, as companies can better balance the grid to match energy demand.
Commenter Mike D presented two examples of how smart meters could help his family – a smart meter could have identified his daughter’s faulty fridge freezer as the cause of her excessive quarterly bill. And daily readings could stop his elderly father from worrying about surprise sky-high bills.
However, Phil rightly pointed out that there are concerns about smart meters, ‘Which? should be addressing these matters, not providing an unqualified approval.’ So I’m here to explain why our approval isn’t unqualified and what we’re doing to ensure the roll-out benefits consumers.
Is the roll-out happening too soon?
The most immediate issue with smart meters stems from the fact that companies are rolling them out early – before consumer benefits have been agreed and explained, and before universal standards are in place.
It isn’t right that suppliers can roll-out meters that aren’t up to spec and expect you to pay if and when they need to be replaced. We think that any company that does this should bear the cost of upgrading or replacing them when the government does decide on a universal standard – it was their commercial decision to roll-out early, so they should shoulder the risk.
This also goes for the problem of switching energy suppliers. Commenter Ron asked, ‘will each supplier have a propriety system, resulting in a re-installation cost if you switch?’ Having a smart meter shouldn’t make it more difficult for you to switch, which is why we’re continuing to push for a universal standard.
Why are we paying when energy companies benefit?
In our previous Convo, Paul Moran said ‘The people who are going to profit from them year after year are the energy companies who will save on meter reading.’
Others are also worried that if we reduce our energy consumption by using an energy monitor, suppliers will just raise prices again. Otherwise, why would suppliers be interested in us using less of their energy?
To tackle this, we’re making sure that Ofgem and the government keep a close eye on the prices energy companies charge after the roll-out. Plus, energy companies are now making new profits by helping us use less energy, like selling us insulation and solar panels.
Do I have to have one?
Some of you are also concerned that you’ll be forced into getting a smart meter before you’re ready for one. But at the moment it’s important to note that you do not need to have one installed, even if you’re offered it. This may change in the future, but in the meantime we’ll continue to work with government and energy companies to make sure consumers are heard and protected throughout the roll-out.
Our ‘no selling, just installing’ campaign is just one part of our on-going work on smart meters, and we will continue to launch campaigns for the different elements when it is appropriate, so I hope that you’ll all continue to be as actively engaged in this issue.
In the meantime, do you think there are any areas where Which?, the government or your energy supplier could be doing more to inform people about smart meters?