Energy bill payers face ‘very high’ costs without a smart meter

Accept smart meters or expect ‘very high’ bills – that’s the message to households from the UK’s Climate Change Minister.

Tom Harrison
Content writer
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Posted 31 OCTOBER 2019

Energy customers who resist smart meters have been warned they risk “very high” maintenance costs and bills in the future.

Despite what critics have branded a “botched rollout” of smart meters across the UK, the Government wants 85% of homes to have one installed by 2024, enabling more billpayers to digitally monitor their power usage.

And Climate Change Minister Lord Duncan has told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that those who refuse the technology will soon “find the stick” of rapidly rising bills.

A ‘very high’ expense

Lord Duncan explained how the upkeep cost of traditional meters will rocket as smart meters become commonplace, with suppliers charging more to collect manual readings.

He added: “Once you get to the point of moving down from 15% [of homes without smart meters] to 10% to 9% and so forth, the expense of maintaining these relic meters will be very high.”

In an installation rollout plagued by delays, the Government admitted in September that only half of households are on target to have a smart meter by 2020 – the original target for all UK homes.

So far around 16.6 million smart meters have been installed.

In extending suppliers’ timeline by four years, ministers also accepted a £2.5 billion rise in estimated project costs, taking the new calculation to £13.5 billion.

Peter Earl, Head of Energy at Compare the Market, said “fanciful targets” and a stuttering rollout have made the public distrusting of technology the Government “wanted to be their friend”.

Emphatically behind schedule

Peter Earl explained how, at the current installation rate, the smart meter programme will fall well short of the revised 2024 deadline by almost 13 million meters.

“In order to achieve this lofty target, energy companies would need to install more than 2.6 million smart meters every quarter to deliver the 85% minimum completion rate proposed. This is fully 1.6 million more than was achieved in the second quarter of this year,” he added. 

MPs have criticised Ofgem for continuing to “waste money” by installing older models they believe may soon have to be replaced.

Mary Starks, Executive Director of Ofgem, said older models would be installed only under exceptional circumstances, for example if a property was unable to connect to new models.

Peter Earl added: “For energy customers on the receiving end of a rollout plagued with problems, including cases of smart meters losing their smart functionality when a customer switches supplier, extending warm feelings to their device will be a stretch.”