The truth about Smart Meters - the good and the bad
Energy supply companies have started installing smart meters for electricity and gas in homes across Great Britain. Between now and 2020, residential and small businesses across England, Scotland and Wales will be offered a smart meter by their energy supplier.
In Northern Ireland the Department for the Economy (DfE) has no plans at present to install smart meters.
A smart meter sends an electronic meter reading to your energy supplier, meaning:
- they won't need to take a manual meter reading - as the meters send back readings themselves
- you won't get estimated bills - as actual readings are available
- it'll be easier to switch energy suppliers - as the reading at changeover is readily available.
- there should be less arguments - as the readings are reliable and not subject to disagreement.
You'll also get a digital display in your home, helping you to keep track of how much energy you're using and how much it's costing.
You won't have to pay for your smart meter or digital display up front - the cost will be included in everyone's energy bill over the next few years.
A smart meter won't change how you currently pay for your energy bill, e.g. monthly or prepaid. This will still be determined by the product and payment method you choose.
Many people have questions about Smart Meters, this web site tries to answer them honestly for electricity and gas meters, thoroughly and without bias. This site does not deal with Smart water meters as our team do not have expertise in that area.
Questions & Answers
- SMETS2 meters are more secure than SMETS1.
- Functions such as prepayment are more reliable across a range of suppliers.
- Although 15th March 2019 was the end date for installing SMETS1 meters, this just means that suppliers can't count SMETS1 towards their Ofgem targets. They could still install them if they have stock left over.
- Even if your supplier says they are installing SMETS2 only, the installer may have some SMETS1 left in their van to use where they can't get a SMETS2 to work or physically fit.
- SMETS2 meters will have a solution for high rise flats and basements where the meters and IHD (in House Display) are far apart. This is known as the alternative HAN solution and should be available by the end of 2019.
Ofgem will also check that the rate of installation is high enough to cover all customers by 2020, so suppliers can't get away with just giving a low figure.
If suppliers don't achieve this forecast then they get fined. For example EDF Energy was fined £350k in June 2018 for missing their own forecast target.
However there is a risk that these timescales will slip as the complex transfer process has not been tested yet.
Provided your meters are on the list of meters which can fit into this process on table "SMETS 1 Meters for adoption by DCC" they should start working again during that transfer period.
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.
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 agreement to allow SMETS1 meters to be enrolled into the future systems and thus allow smooth switching for customers during 2018/19.
So today it is very likely that your smart meters will have to be replaced if you want to continue their smart functionality. If you don't want the smart functionality, most suppliers will leave them on the wall and treat them as a traditional meter until they can be migrated to the new DCC system.
Prepayment is when you pay in advance for your energy buy charging a key or putting coins in a meter. The new smart meters will allow you to pay through the internet.
However this is not easy to do, so if you have difficulty with the entry of this number then your supplier can provide a special keypad to allow you to enter the authorisation number more easily and, probably, in a more convenient location. These devices are known as PPMIDs (integrated in-home display (IHD) and pre-payment meter interface device).