Smart Meters

Pros and Cons of Smart Meters

Overall the installation of Smart Meters across the country would seem to be a good thing but only by a small margin. Good or bad can be looked at in many different ways and whether you think that they're an advantage or disadvantage will depend on your needs and attitude. Let's look at the pros and cons of different aspects:

Accuracy

The accuracy of smart meters should be better as the reading will be taken at exactly the right time when your tariff changes or you move out, however there have been some concerns raised on their accuracy. Some tests have shown that power controllers, such as light dimmers, can prevent the smart meter recording accurately. Some experiments have shown that some smart meters over record the power used by up to 250% and some under record by 40 % depending on the power measurement technique used. Further work will have to be carried out in this area.

Financially

The government's own business case for the roll-out of Smart Meters is only just positive, based largely on the forecast that customer will reduce their use of energy by understanding it better and being better informed.

If you already have a display at home, of the clip on variety, showing your energy consumption then you are half way there. The In Home Displays (previously known as Smart Meter Displays or Home Energy Monitors) provided with Smart Meters will do more though, in that it covers both electricity and gas, and can show your current bill. To save money you will need to take action such as turning off unneeded lights. The In Home Display will help you see when you're using more energy than usual so can be trigger for you to look around the house to see what's left on.

More advanced energy products in the future, such as a different rates for peak times, should allow energy conscious customers to save more money, however ironically these conflict with the governments' drive to force suppliers to have a small range of simple products.

Features

Apart from PAYG (Pay As You Go) the features a customer can play with are limited. You will no longer have to submit a meter reading and therefore should never get an estimated bill again. This is especially important when you change supplier or move house as things often go wrong there currently when people either don't provide reading or provide conflicting ones.

In time we expect that suppliers will provide better on-line analysis of your energy use, provided you give them permission to take half hourly readings. The services offered in this area are currently very limited.

Privacy & Security

There are concerns from some groups concerning security of the data or privacy. Smart Meters have been built to the latest security standards and are very secure. Suppliers have to ask your permission to collect meters readings on daily basis, so you have control. Without your permission they can only collect meter readings on a monthly basis. Like any technical secure system today, such as banks and NHS systems, the weakest link is probably the staff involved along the way. If you are happy to use on-line systems for other purposes such as banking, it's likely you'll also be happy with your Smart Meter. If you have concerns you can ask your supplier to only collect one meter reading a month, this reveals very little about you.


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. See our Against page for information on why some people are worried about Smart Meters.

Why do suppliers keep pushing Smart meters?
It may seem strange why suppliers keep pushing smart meters even though customers can just say no. The reason for this is that suppliers have to tell the regulator Ofgem every year what they will achieve by the end of the year in terms of % of customers with a Smart Meter, and they must not miss this target.
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.

Does my SMETS1 meters have to be replaced?
In early 2018 the government and industry agreed to build interfaces which allow the earlier SMETS1 Smart Meters to be moved to the new DCC system supporting SMETS2 meters. This means that, although you may have lost Smart functionally when you changed supplier, when it is enrolled into the new DCC system that functionally will come back, and you’ll be able to change suppliers without technical problems. The process of moving the meters across system is called enrolment and adoption.

Are smart meters safe?
Yes. DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) have stated that all smart meters are subject to the same safety regulations and testing of any in-home technological devices, including baby monitors and mobile phones.

What services do I have on a meter that's "gone dumb"?
On a meter that's "gone dumb" you will only retain the ability to see kWh on your IHD. As the supplier can't communicate with the meter they cannot send a tariff so the p/kWh rates and £ will not be updated. Additionally no meter readings can be automatically collected.

What does "going dumb" mean?
When a meter "goes dumb" it means that the communications to the meter have stopped. This could be due to a communications failure or due to the current supplier not supporting the communication method to that meter.

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 information with third parties. You can also decide whether or not your supplier can use that information for marketing purposes.Just call your supplier if you want to check or change your preferences.

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.

How much will it cost me to run my In Home Display?
Your In Home Display (IHD) uses a very small amount of electricity. A typical IHD left on all year will cost less than £1 to run.

Why is two way communications important?
Smart meters send meter reading and event information to suppliers. Supplier can send product and payment details to the meter when you want to change your product or payment terms. Additionally this two way communications will supports Pay As You Go for energy.

Why are smart meters controversial?
Whilst earlier conversations about smart meters focused on safety (which you can read more about in Campaigns Against), more recent criticisms have sprung from how the government and suppliers are handling the roll-out. From cost to customer communication, the plan to get a smart meter into every home by 2020 has been a bumpy ride so far. In early 2014, EDF Energy, ScottishPower and npower called for a review of the roll-out, stating the cost to customers would be £1.8 billion. This, they said, was due to the "ambitious" deadline of every household in four years and the cost of the In Home Displays. The cost is ultimately paid by customers through measures on their energy bills. Instead, suppliers proposed, customers could link up their smart meter to their smartphone or tablet to save cost. In 2013, independent research commissioned by uSwitch found that 55% of us were "in the dark" about smart meters. That meant households did not understand what smart meters did and how they could benefit them. However, later studies of those with actual smart meters in their homes enjoyed more accurate billing and were more satisfied with their providers.

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 exact 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.
On SMETS1 and earlier meters there have been problems with customers losing Smart functionality when changing supplier, this will be addressed with the new SMETS2 meters.

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. Companies called MAPs (Meter Asset Providers) will now often own the meters and charge the current supplier a rental fee.

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.

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.

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 provided free to customers and cost suppliers about £25. Some suppliers are expected to offer enhanced Displays at a cost to the customer.
Suppliers have an obligation to replace a broken IHD in the first year after installation.

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 £11 by 2020, and with rising energy costs the saving will rise to £47 a year by 2030. The equivalent saving figures for business customers are £128 and £147 respectively.

Why is my Smart Meter being replaced with another?
The specification for Smart Meters has been developing of the last few years. The latest UK standard is SMETS2. Older Smart Meters which cannot be upgraded to the latest standard will have to be replaced, unless they are SMETS1 in which case they can be migrated to DCC and used alongside the SMETS2 meters.