Smart meter roll out
The government has set the energy companies the target of installing smart meters in every home in England, Scotland and Wales by 2020.
Designed to end estimated billing and help us manage our energy use better, the meters send the supplier automatic readings and consumers can see near real-time information on their energy use in pounds and pence. However, a report published in July 2018 by the cross-party British Infrastructure Group of Parliamentarians (BIG) said that suppliers are "now almost certain to miss the 2020 deadline".
The report also suggests that consumers might not receive the savings anticipated, partly because the programme has been "plagued by repeated delays and cost increases".
One of the factors that’s been putting people off getting smart meters is that many first-generation meters lose their smart features when people switch suppliers. Plus, people in places with poor mobile signals have found that their smart meters don’t work.
The report suggests that savings could be as low as £11 on a dual fuel bill and some consumers have decided that getting a smart meter installed is currently not worth it. On the other hand many people find smart meters useful because it means that their bills are always accurate, and they don't find themselves with large catch up bills when they have forgotten to supply a meter reading in time.
However, if suppliers fail to meet the installation targets they face fines of up to 10% of turnover.
Some suppliers are introducing cheaper smart meter tariffs, as an incentive to get people to switch. Most are currently from small suppliers but the Bix Six are beginning to offer them too.
Suppliers are now being pushed to speed up the roll out of second-generation smart meters – but it looks as if the deadline might slip to 2021 or 2022.
BIG has recommended that Ofgem protects customers from the ever-increasing costs of the roll out and fines simply being passed on.