Supplier led roll-out

The government requires suppliers to install smart meters in their customers' homes, and is setting out rules to ensure that they do this in a way that is in the interests of customers, including rules around:

  • data access
  • security
  • technical standards for the smart metering equipment
  • meeting the needs of vulnerable customers.

Smart Meters will be rolled out as standard across the country by 2020. But there will not be a legal obligation on individuals to have one.

Energy companies will be required to install smart meters and take all reasonable steps to reach everyone. However, the government do not expect energy companies to take legal action to fit a smart meter if they cannot get the householder's co-operation.

So does this mean you could refuse to have one? Yes it does. But for most people it would be difficult to think of a genuine reason to refuse a smart meter. Refusing does not save you money and reduces the options you have to monitor your energy consumption and the selection of products and payment options open to you in the future.

The uswitch web site provides a useful guide to each suppliers' progress with the smart meter roll-out.

Questions & Answers

Can I refuse to have a smart meter installed?
Yes. You are under no obligation to have a smart meter installed in your home. You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier. Many energy companies have dedicated teams to handle questions about the technology and the installation process.

Can my supply be turned off remotely?
Smart meters have the facility to remotely disconnect and reconnect both the electricity and gas supply. However most suppliers seem to have decided it is too dangerous to remotely disconnect or reconnect, as in the case of disconnection they cannot always be sure that the customer isn't relying on a supply for serious health reasons and in the case of reconnection the customer may have left a cooker on for example.

I have moved into a house with a smart meter. Can I get it removed?
You can ask your supplier to turn off the 'smart' functionality in your Smart Meter, which would mean they no longer send messages to it and would ask you to send meter readings, as they would for a traditional meter. They would have to do this and the regulator Ofgem supports this right.
However this could still leave the communications module switched on, albeit with little traffic, and the rules are not clear on whether you could insist on it being turned off. It would require a site visit by the supplier and unfortunately, on most models, the communications module cannot be turned off. We suggest you talk your supplier about any concerns you have.

Will my meters have to be changed if I change supplier?
There are a number of meter standards out there currently, only the latest SMETS2 standard is fully interoperable, meaning only SMETS2 will be supported by all suppliers and allow customer to switch without losing any services or requiring any equipment changes. Unfortunately SMETS2 meters are just being tested and will only start to be installed from June 2017.
The SMETS1 meters currently being installed usually require replacing when you change supplier. However as the programme has been so slow in implementation, there is now an initiative to allow SMETS1 meters to be enrolled into the future systems and thus allow smooth switching for customers, but that is some years away.
So currently it is very likely that your smart meters will have to be replaced if you want to use their functionality. If you don't want the smart functionality, most suppliers will leave them on the wall and treat them as a traditional meter.

Do I have to be at home for the installation?
You must be at home for the installation even if your meter box is outside. The government rules under SMICOP (Smart Installation Code of Practice) say that the suppliers must explain to you how the Smart Meter and In Home Display work. Additionally it is considered dangerous to disconnect and reconnect the supply without checking with the householder that it is safe to do so.

What will energy companies do with the information they collect about my energy consumption?
Under Ofgem codes published July 2013, you can dictate how much data your energy supplier can retrieve from your smart meter and whether your supplier can share that info with third parties. You can also decide whether or not your supplier can use that information for marketing purposes.

When will I get a smart meter?
Each supplier will plan their own roll-out to customers but all are expected to start installing high volumes in 2017. The uswitch web site provides a useful guide to each supplier's progress with the smart meter roll-out. Contact your supplier to find out when your region can anticipate smart meter installations to start.

If my electricity and gas is with different suppliers, what happens?
If your electricity and gas is with different suppliers, each supplier will contact you to make an appointment to install a smart meter for the fuel they supply to you. The equipment has been design to a particular standard so that all the meters and In Home Displays can talk together, this way you only need one In Home Display which will normally be supplied by the first supplier who installs a smart meter in your home.

Should I wait for a SMETS2 meter?
There are three types of smart meters, two in use currently (ADM & SMETS1), and one (SMETS2) will be available from April 2017. Only the SMETS2 meter, in conjunction with the new systems provided by DCC, will allow all customers to switch and allow more options for communications. Unless you want to try out the new technology early, we suggest you wait for a SMETS2 meter; eventually all meters will be replaced by these.

I want a smart meter fitted by my small supplier. They say they don't fit them yet, what should I do?
Small Suppliers are allowed by regulation to keep fitting Advanced Meters (an older type of electronic meter, not compliant with new SMETS1 or SMETS2 standards) until 12th March 2018. So it's their choice until that date. Large suppliers are already fitting SMETS1 smart meters but only for particular tariff and customer groups that they can currently support. Large suppliers will have to stop fitting older Advanced Meters by 12th November 2017.

Can I look at my energy usage on the internet?
You will be able to view your energy usage on the internet at some stage. Suppliers are all working on new systems to make this possible.

How long will it take to install a Smart Meter?
A typical installation will take one and a half to two hours. However this will vary according to your property and where your meters are located.

Are there special considerations for the location of a Smart Meter?
When a meter fitter first arrives at your premises they will usually check the signal available with a special tool and decide if the installation can go ahead; in some cases an additional aerial or alternate communications system can be used if the signal is poor. The Smart Meter must be fitted in place of or near your old meter as it is too expensive to move the incoming power cable and not good to have long cables from the main fuse (cutout) to the meter.

I rent my home. What happens for me?
If you rent your home and pay your energy bill direct to a supplier the request and installation of a Smart Meter will happen in the same way as those who are not renting. You should inform your Landlord that it is happening in case the suppliers also contact them.

How do I know the meters are accurate?
Just as with traditional meters, smart meters must be certified by the Regulatory Delivery section of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

How does a Smart Meter help me change Supplier more easily?
A Smart meter will automatically provide the supplier you are leaving, and the supplier you are moving to, with the correct meter reading for the point of changeover. Often this reading was a point of confusion as there could be different views of the changeover reading between suppliers and the customer.

Can I still switch energy supplier if I have a smart meter?
Yes. Ofgem has created regulations to ensure that smart meters do not present an obstacle to customers wanting to switch suppliers. Should a customer have a smart meter installed and wish to switch to a supplier not yet supporting the technology, the new supplier is obligated to take on the customer, and the smart meter will revert to a traditional meter.

Who owns the Meter?
Traditionally the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) owned all the meters but the Supplier led rollout means that the suppliers must purchase or rent the Smart Meters. As you as a customer change supplier a rental fee for the meter will be exchanged between your supplier and the owner of the meter.

I live in a block of flats. When will I get a Smart Meter?
Large blocks of flats, say over 20 homes, can have technical problems connecting the Smart Meter to the In Home Display, as the meters are often in a common area at some distance from the room where the In Home Display will be located. The roll-out to these properties will be later when technical solutions have been investigated, probably starting around 2018. Small blocks of flats will be treated the same as other smaller properties during the national roll-out starting in 2017.

What is the cost of the meters?
Traditional meters (sometimes called dumb or legacy) meters lasted for about 40 years and cost about £10. Electricity Smart Meters cost about £50, gas meters about £80. The life is not yet certain but expected to be from 10 to 15 years.

How often will my IHD (In Home Display) be updated with data from my meters?
Your IHD will be updated by your electricity meter about every 10 seconds and by your gas meter about every 30 minutes. The gas meter updates less often in order to preserve its battery life which in normal use is expected to be at least 10 years.

Can I have a smart meter if I'm a prepayment customer?
Yes. Smart meters work in both credit and prepayment modes. In fact, prepayment customers will have more flexible payment options available to them with smart meters, including remote top-up facilities.

What are the benefits of having a smart meter?
There are a number of benefits if you have smart meters:
  • More accurate bills
  • Smart meters mean the end of estimated bills, and the end of overpaying (or underpaying) for your energy
  • No one has to come to your home to read your meter; you do not have to submit meter readings yourself
  • Better oversight and management of your energy use with a real-time data display in your home

My supplier says my signal is too weak?
Smart meters communicate through mobile communications and so the signal strength is an important factor to consider for installation.
For SMETS1 meters the installer will usually test on site and make a decision there and then whether to install. If there is not a sufficient signal they will usually walk away.
For SMETS2 there are more options. The communications are provided by the Data Communications Company (DCC) and suppliers can check that a premises has communications before visiting a site. Once on site they can check with a signal checking device if the signal is strong enough in the meter location. If it isn’t they can fit a number of different aerials to try to boost the signal. If that doesn’t work an external aerial or an alternative mesh communications method is available in some areas. Even then they can leave the meter de-commissioned and ask the DCC to get the communications working.

What is the cost of the In Home Display (previously known as an SMD or HEM)?
In Home Displays (previously known as Smart Meter Displays or Home Energy Monitors) are expected to cost suppliers about £25. Some suppliers are expected to offer enhanced Displays at a cost to the customer.

How much will a smart meter cost me?
Your supplier will install your smart meter for free under the national upgrade programme set to begin in 2015. All households currently pay for the cost of their meters and required maintenance as part of their energy bills, this will be the same with smart meters. The overall cost is estimated to be £11 billion, however the estimated savings are expected to be £17 billion. So even after the investment of installing smart meters for everyone, there should be a national saving of £6 billion by 2030.

Who will install my smart meter?
Your energy supplier or an installer acting on their behalf will fit your Smart Meter and In Home Display. Ofgem has enacted the Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice, which protects customers by prohibiting sales attempts during installation (unless previous consent has been given by the household). The code also ensures companies will properly explain how the smart meters work, and outline how households can use the data available to them to improve their energy efficiency.

How much is this all costing?
The total cost is estimated to be £11 billion, however the estimated savings are expected to be £17 billion. So even after the investment of installing smart meters for everyone, there should be a national saving of £6 billion by 2030.

How much can I save on energy costs every year?
The average household can expect to make yearly savings of £26 by 2020, and with rising energy costs the saving will rise to £43 a year by 2030.

Could my IHD (In Home Display) link to my neighbour's meters?
Your IHD is paired to your own meters by the installer. It won't pick up information from your neighbours and can't be used in another house. If you need a repalcement IHD this will have to be paired with your meters.

I'm a Landlord. What should I do?
If your tenant pays their energy bills directly to a supplier they will be contacted for the installation of a Smart Meter and you do not need to do anything. However if they pay you for energy and you pay the Supplier then you should arrange the installation of a Smart Meter or wait until you are contacted by a supplier.

What is meant by a supplier led roll-out?
Across the world different models have been used for rolling out Smart Meters to peoples' homes. Most countries have chosen the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to do this as they traditionally own the cable to your premises, the main fuse (cutout) and the meter. They were also able to work their way down whole roads at a time. In the UK the suppliers have been chosen to roll-out Smart Meters in order to leverage their relationship with customers to help achieve the benefits forecast.