- Smart meter early adopters could face switching difficulties until meters are adapted for the new smart meter network being rolled out in 2016
- Appetite for smart meters is strong – 60% say having a smart meter “would encourage” them to reduce energy usage
- Need for smart meters is clear – 85% rarely contact their supplier to query bills
Although 60% of consumers say having a smart meter would encourage reduced energy usage, there is also widespread scepticism about the effectiveness of the first wave of this technology. comparethemarket.com calls on households to hold off from getting smart meters installed until the second half of 2016, when energy companies are mandated to install the next breed of smart meter. The new smart meter – SMETS2 – due to be rolled-out in 2016, will communicate with a new data network, a network which will not be compatible with the old ‘SMETS1’ meters until work is completed to enrol these on to the network. comparethemarket.com warns that those 1.3 million households which already have the old type of smart meters may lose the ‘smart’ element of their smart meter if they look to switch providers.
James Padmore, Head of Energy, comparethemarket.com, explains: “The 1.3m smart meters currently in UK homes are known as SMETS1. As of next year, the smart meter roll-out gathers pace with a new range of SMETS2 smart meters being installed across UK homes. These new smart meters will be configured differently and will be hooked into the new smart energy network due to go live at some stage in 2016.
“Unfortunately, for the SMETS1 early adopters, this may present some issues as these meters are not currently connected to the new smart energy network. If they then want to change energy providers, they may not be able to keep the benefits of their smart meter without upgrading to SMETS2 and if they don’t switch, are likely to miss out on the best deals. Work is underway to enrol the SMETS1 meters onto the new network, however at present there are no timelines against this – potentially leaving at least 1.3 million households in switching limbo.”
comparethemarket.com polled 2,000 adults to gauge consumer appetite for smart meters and attitudes towards them. The findings reveal an appreciation of the benefit of smart meters in terms of providing accurate information, with 60% of respondents believing that having a smart meter “would encourage” them to reduce their household bills. The level of inertia in the energy market is highlighted by the fact that 85% seldom contact their energy supplier about the accuracy of their bills”. Given the tens of thousands of complaints about energy suppliers submitted to the Energy Ombudsman every year, and that nearly nine out of ten of these thousands of complaints relate to billing issues1, it would appear that
one thing consumers tend not to contact their energy supplier about is the accuracy of the readings or the invoice amount relative to energy usage. Smart meters would solve this bill checking inertia problem.
However, amongst those that already have smart meters, there appears to be some scepticism and negativity around how much value they appear to be delivering:
- Almost half (46%) of those polled think their energy bills have "remained roughly the same" whilst 17% think their bills have actually gone up.
- Only a quarter (27%) think that their bills have gone down since they had their smart meters installed. Over the medium to long term however, comparethemarket.com would expect this proportion to rise significantly, as the whole system adapts to accurate real-time meter readings and tariffs are changed accordingly.
- In terms of switching, over two thirds (69%) of respondents who already have a smart meter said they haven’t tried switching suppliers since having the smart meter installed. They have yet to discover the difficulty in keeping the ‘smart’ element of their new meter when switching to suppliers with SMETS2 configured meters. comparethemarket.com anticipates difficulties for these households next year.
Despite 17 day switching being introduced by Ofgem in 2014, down from around five weeks previously, it seems that there is appetite to speed up the switching process more dramatically still:
- Nearly two thirds (62%) would be more likely to switch energy supplier if next day switching was introduced.
This may give regulators and policymakers food for thought – smart meters may be the technology to enable this and make next day switching a reality, as there will be no need to send someone to make final meter readings and there should be no final bill disputes – all readings and consumption will be on a central database.
James Padmore concludes: “The smart energy network has the potential to save UK homes significantly, not by just helping reduce consumption but also helping to engage households to switch suppliers quickly and get the best deals for them. It is therefore vitally important that the roll-out of the network has the appropriate oversight to benefit as many UK households as possible.”
All statistics cited are from a survey, commissioned by comparethemarket.com and conducted by Populus, of 2000 UK adults.
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