In another day of bad press relating to the GB smart meter rollout, the initial champion of the technology for the UK, Michael O’Brien, the former energy minister, said they “made bad assumptions in designing the programme.”
O’Brien admitted that he had his smart meter removed, saying: ‘I had an early version, after a while I barely looked at it, didn’t use it. We got rid of it,’ he said.
He continued that the assumption had been that consumers would check their meters regularly to determine consumption.
According to a number of UK papers, in addition to the consumer’s not monitoring consumption, many are finding it harder to change suppliers, or that their meters don’t work if they are in a ‘mobile blackspot’. This comes amid accusations that the energy companies are pressuring customers to accept smart meters, even if they don’t want one.
Former energy secretary (2012 and 2015), Edward Davey, told reporters he feared the companies were trying to eliminate the threat of competition. He said the energy companies were attempting to create a ‘captive’ market with smart meters that make it harder for customers to switch supplier.
“I am genuinely worried that what gave the promise of more competition and reduced consumer bills could end up in less competition and higher bills.
“You can see energy companies thinking we have lost a load of customer share.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to find a new way to make it more difficult for people to switch?’
Davey’s sentiments seem to be supported by research conducted by uSwitch, which found that 52% of people with smart meters would not change supplier. The study further found that one in ten people who did sign up for a better deal with a different company ended up with a meter that didn’t work with their new supplier.
According to the Telegraph:
Richard Neudegg, uSwitch’s head of regulation, said: “It’s encouraging that households with smart meters are making changes to use less energy. But those benefits are in danger of being squandered by the fact that smart meters can go dumb if consumers want to switch energy supplier.
“Two thirds of energy customers aren’t even aware of this problem – which suggests that communication about smart meters has not been good enough – while more than half of energy customers with a smart meter say it would put them off switching.
“We’ve seen no evidence so far of the promised ‘over-the-air upgrade’ to first generation smart meters to resolve this issue, nor of the roll-out of second-generation meters which don’t suffer from this glitch.
“These issues need to be resolved. Smart meters must not end up sticking customers on a tariff or with a supplier that isn’t good value. Likewise, industry and government must work to avoid 11 million meters needing to be ripped off the walls and replaced again.”
The Energy Department said more than 11 million smart and advanced meters were installed in Britain and more than 400,000 were being installed every month.
‘Smart meters are expected to take £300 million off domestic energy bills in 2020 alone, rising to an annual saving of £1.2 billion by 2030,’ it said.
Fflur Lawton, Smart Energy GB’s head of policy and communications, said: ‘For most households, having a smart meter installed could help them save enough energy each year to power their home for a week.
‘This is a significant national infrastructure project, modernising equipment in all our homes so naturally there have been a few bumps in the road.
‘What’s important to remember is that smart meters will reduce energy bills, help keep the lights on and deliver billions of pounds of savings to our economy.’