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Not-so-smart meters: Almost three million devices not working

Not-so-smart meters: Almost three million devices not working
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Millions of households could be charged the wrong amount for their energy bills due to issues with smart meters, according to a BBC report.

Smart meters are designed to save people money on their gas and electricity bills by providing energy suppliers with accurate meter readings, bringing an end to estimates.

When in ‘smart mode’ the meters send automatic readings via a remote connection to energy suppliers. In theory, this means customers don’t need to read their meter and send the readings to their energy company to get an accurate bill.

But BBC analysis of Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) data shows that a total of 2.7 million of around 33 million meters installed in UK homes are not in smart mode, which means customers are being charged incorrect amounts.

Not so smart meters

Smart meters can temporarily operate in “traditional mode” for several reasons, including customers switching to suppliers currently unable to operate the meter in smart mode, meters being unable to communicate via the wide area network at the point of reporting, and installed meters yet to be commissioned (e.g. in new build premises).

The DESNZ told the BBC the majority of meters were “modernising energy for millions” and added: “We understand a small proportion are suffering from technical issues and are working with Ofgem, energy suppliers and data experts to solve these issues.”

One woman told the BBC her energy company took more than £900 out of her account without warning, while another said her direct debit went from almost £200 a month to £2 and she now has to guess her usage to avoid getting into debt.

According to figures from the National Audit Office (NAO) earlier this year, of the 32.4 million installed smart meters, 9% or three million were not operating in smart mode at the end of March 2023.

If a smart meter is not working correctly, the customer will be sent estimated bills. This could mean they pay too much for their energy – or not enough, leaving them in debt to their energy supplier.