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One in three smart meters has issues

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Written by: Emma Lunn
29/08/2019
A third (31 per cent) of smart meter owners have encountered issues with their devices, from meters ‘going dumb’ after switching suppliers to displays breaking, according to uSwitch.

Every home in Britain is supposed to have a smart meter, which avoids the need for manual meter readings, by the end of 2020. But with just over a year to go until the deadline, about 4 million households are encountering problems with the devices.

Price comparison website uSwitch surveyed more than 2,000 households with a smart meter and  found that four in 10 (39 per cent) had issues with smart displays not working, while a third (32 per cent) had experienced devices ‘going dumb’ after switching. Just over one in 10 (13 per cent) meters had ceased to function entirely.

SMETS1 vs SMETS2

SMETS stands for Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications. There are two types of smart meter – SMETS1 and SMETS2. The main difference between the two types of meter is how the meter sends data.

The first generation of smart meters (SMETS1) can temporarily lose smart functionality when a household switches energy supplier.

The second generation of smart meters (SMETS2) don’t have this problem as they are fully compatible with the Data Communications Company (DCC) which is a secure national network that the meters ‘talk’ to all suppliers through.

Energy firms are supposed to be focused on installing SMETS2 meters in people’s homes. Since 15 March 2019 they are still allowed to install first-generation smart meters but cannot count them towards their installation targets.

However, uSwitch found that one in five (20 per cent) smart meter owners have been offered a first generation smart meter device (SMETS1) since March. It also found that SMETS2 meters are not as fault-free as anticipated with a third (33 per cent) of households with this type of meter encountering issues since installation.

Smart meter benefits remain unexplained

uSwitch found the majority of smart meter owners (53 per cent) are still in the dark about the benefits of having a smart meter, with more than half saying that their supplier didn’t fully explain the advantages of owning one before it was installed. However, this is an improvement from a year ago when 61 per cent of people claimed they didn’t receive a proper explanation.

You are not obliged to accept a smart meter in your home, but more than a fifth (22 per cent) of households reported feeling pressured by their supplier into taking a smart meter, though this is fewer than the 30 per cent who felt this way in 2018.

Worryingly, 5 per cent said their supplier tried to install a meter without their permission, but this is a reduction on the 11 per cent experiencing this a year ago.

Despite the issues with smart meters, 29 per cent of households told uSwitch that owning a smart meter has helped reduce energy bills, up from 16 per cent last year. Two-thirds (67 per cent)  of households said their device had made them more aware of how much energy they use, compared to just under a third (28 per cent) in 2018.

Rik Smith, energy expert at uSwitch.com, said: “While it’s great to see smart meters improving energy habits and helping consumers to save on their bills, there are still far too many issues with the rollout which are damaging consumer confidence in the whole scheme.

“There is a real opportunity to build more confidence in smart meters now, if households are given the right information to make the most of their new device, and if they’re only offered a second generation meter which shouldn’t go dumb if someone switches supplier.

“But people say that they’re still being offered first generation meters, despite the legacy of them going wrong and the risk they will go dumb when someone changes to a different provider. The lack of clarity around when these SMETS1 devices will work seamlessly with multiple suppliers is losing the scheme the advocates it desperately needs. Energy companies should only be offering second generation meters to their customers, which will give them peace of mind that it should stay smart if they switch.”

 

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