/ Home & Energy

Stop and rethink the smart meter roll-out

Last year your comments about the government’s plans to roll out smart meters leapt to our attention. Some of you clearly weren’t happy. Today we’re calling for the government to stop and review the roll-out.

Some of you were also upset with Which? – you wanted us to do more to challenge the government on its roll-out plans. Well we have.

We’re urging the government to rethink its smart meter roll-out until it has conducted an urgent review.

There were over 500 comments on last year’s smart meter Convos. Some of you stood up for the new technology and its roll-out into all our homes by 2019. But some vented your fury over the UK’s smart plan, with a key concern being the cost – projected to be at least £11 billion.

What a ‘smart’ community

As your comments poured in we decided to commission a thorough review. And while this research (carried out by the Centre for Sustainable Energy) was being put together we also made sure that other important bodies knew about your comments.

In one Conversation, someone said they didn’t think I existed! Well, I can assure you I do. Over the past few months I have attended meetings and industry events where I have stood up – not always to welcome attention – to say how many of you have told us on Which? Conversation that you’re concerned.

We also sent some of your comments to the Public Accounts Committee – probably Parliament’s most powerful committee of MPs – which has been investigating the roll-out. Industry and government reps have previously told me that it’s too early to discuss smart meters with the public, but I said that our Which? Conversation ‘smart’ community was well and truly up and running.

Energy suppliers read your concerns

One of the best moments for me was when I sat next to one of the top directors of a big energy supplier and saw him studying Which? Conversation on his laptop, rather than listening to the conference speaker.

He scrolled through cat avatars and the string of comments you had made. He would have read about your concerns that energy suppliers would benefit from the roll-out, but would consumers? He probably saw that some of you wanted more reassurance about health concerns and data privacy. And I really hope he read Chris’ comment:

‘I see no real harm in the concept of a smart meter, it’s this use for that £11 billion I’m not keen on, especially as times are currently tough. It would buy an awful lot of insulation.’

It’s time to press pause on the roll-out

Now Which? has said to the government that we think it’s time to stop the roll-out. The government’s current strategy is flawed and it must review its approach. We want the government to convince us that it will have full control over the roll-out’s costs, as we all have to pay for it.

And, as it stands, the roll-out is far too industry led, with the government seemingly crossing its fingers in hope that suppliers will install 50 million smart meters into all of our homes in the most cost-effective and responsible way. The energy companies need to be reigned in.

So, what’s the smart way forward? Stop the smart meter roll-out, government, rethink and demonstrate that you are leading this, not big businesses. As always, let us know what you think. We are listening.

Comments
Guest
David Torrens says:
19 August 2016

I was contacted this week by OVO and asked if I wanted smart meter.
I asked a few questions.
I was told:
the OVO smart meter is only compatible with two other suppliers systems at the moment so there could be issues changing supplier in the future
she did not seem sure but in future there may be a system for all suppliers to read any type of meter
I asked about how smart this meters would be, apparently their system at the moment only helps automate readings. It does not do anything else such as offer cheaper power at certain times of day or allow any other clever stuff to facilitae managing the power network
then in turned out the arrangement of my gas meter in a ground mounted box was not compatable ith the type of meters they currently have

CONCLUSION:
probably better to wait till next year or next time switching supplier as the gains from a new type of meter and a new supplier may well go together and work better when the technology and back up systems are more developed.

Guest
Ron Barker says:
26 August 2016

Today I received a letter from Lynda Clayton, Customer Services Director of Scottishpower asking me to arrange a date for a smart meter to be fitted. I phoned and had to wait 10 minutes until an operative was available. I asked where the smart meter would be located as our existing meter is outside, some 100 yards from the front door. I was told that it was not possible to relocate the meter, although nobody has done a survey!
Some years ago meters were deliberately put outside premises so that meter readers did not have to gain access to the premises. This is true of my current home, my previous home (an apartment where all the meters were on the ground floor although the apartments covered 4 floors) and my mothers sheltered housing (she is 101 and cannot go out to read a meter).
If we are to have smart meters then they need to be positioned in a place that is convenient to the customer.
In my case Scottishpower have cancelled the installation of the smart meter!

Guest

There are two parts involved – the meter, which needs to go pretty well where your existing meter is (both gas and electric) and a separate monitor. BG say: ” You can check how much energy you are using in pounds and pence as well as your meter readings through your smart energy monitor – which you can keep in a convenient place in your home “.

That’s OK. Are smart meters worth the cost we will all have to pay through our future bills? Will Brexit work? I don’t know but I doubt many people will alter their energy consumption habits to affect our bills. I’d rather the £11 billion they’ll cost (plus????) was set against Brexit costs or given to the NHS.

Guest

I though smart meters came with a monitoring unit that the consumer can use to see the meter readings and check consumption in various ways. This would obviate the need to physically visit the meter. I have been in many old houses where the meter is high up on the wall adjacent to the front door and impossible to read without climbing on a short step-ladder – putting a new smart meter there would probably be the solution adopted but providing a monitor would greatly improve safety and convenience. Be aware that power companies are rushing the installation of smart meters before a universal standard has been adopted and implemented across the nation; only a cynic would suggest that that could be an attempt to lock consumers into their service since a change of supplier might require a further change of meter.

Guest
D'raj says:
8 December 2016

Reading all the comments above , I feel like I am conned by my presant energy company. They have already fitted the electric and gas smart meters but no sign of the IHD unit. Upon ringing the customer service, they said it will take up to 4-5 weeks to arrive, some time in new yew year as they run out of the unit. There was not much info about pros and cons and compatibility of smart meter provided by the energy company. just an installation date and if I miss that appoint I occur a charge. My fix contract finishes in two weeks time to revert to higher variable tariff. I am not sure if i will be able to move to a better deal with another energy provider.

Guest
David Hunt says:
4 April 2017

I was contacted this week by my energy supplier SSE to ask if I wanted new smart gas and electric meters. Two years ago my then supplier British Gas installed smart meters in my home, but these cannot be read by SSE. Last year Eon, who supplied my energy, offered me new smart meters. As I use a community switching service every year to try to minimise my energy bills this means that I could have new smart meters fitted every year as my supplier changes and their system cannot read my existing meters. As, at the end of the day, we consumers will pay for the meters in increased energy costs this is another total waste of our money. The Government needs to wake up to this situation and force energy companies to install meters which can be read by all suppliers, or to create a central meter reading authority to read meters and pass the information to the relevant companies.

Guest

Hello David , as you found out “smart meters are not all the same, some are wireless transmitted, some are transmitted through the house wiring. Those transmitted through the wiring produce “dirty electricity ” and can effect remote house wiring wi-fi links and other communications devices reliant on a good mains supply . Some transmit -minute to minute-daily/weekly/monthly its all down to saving money for the public utilities-ie-profit. Smart meters can turn off domestic equipment and all electrical equipment that is modified to do that so that whole areas can be turned off in case of emergencies , in the shedding of loads electricity can be set so high anyone’s smart meter appliance will turn themselves off as well as technically,political motivation can enter into it , it can be transmitted over a phone line/radio/cellular/power line /wireless network or electronic receiver transmitter (ERT ) van comes round area and picks up data with a small receiver . Info= Pricing information/pre-pay info/disconnect/reconnect /alarm/loadshed instructions /programming of meter /upgrade to software /date/time . First they came for your fait money (internet banking) , then they came for your power supply-( government controlled ), then they come for you, does nobody understand whats happening ?

Guest

Since electricity supplies can be switched out remotely, immediately and instantly at the substation from the relevant distribution control centre, smart meters will not make any difference to this potential action, but it very rarely happens except when an external emergency disrupts supplies. So far as I am aware individual gas supplies cannot be turned off by smart meters as they would require a motorised valve to be installed in the supply pipe. As has frequently been said, there are a lot of legitimate concerns over the smart meter programme and the cost of it, but the notion that electricity supply companies would either be given the power to cut supplies, or would have any commercial incentive to do so, is unsustainable. Moreover, since the electricity supply companies have no knowledge of what electrical apparatus is in any individual home they would not be in a position to isolate any particular appliance even if they had the legal power to do so. At the moment having a smart meter is not mandatory but if people wish to have one they should not be frightened of doing so; they can choose whether or not, and to what extent, they will use the monitoring device that comes with it.