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:
Do people like Smart Meters?
The government are carrying on with Smart Meter installations boosted by customers liking the experience. Recent surveys from August 2017 and March 2019 have shown:
- 9 in 10 people with smart meters say they are satisfied with the installation process.
- 8 in 10 people with smart meters say they have a better idea of their energy costs.
- 76% of people with smart prepayment meters say they would recommend them to family or friends.
- 9 in 10 smart prepayment customers say that topping up has become easier since getting a smart meter.
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.
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.
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. (Updated: 2019-10-18)
Questions & Answers
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. (Updated: 2018-09-01)
On SMETS1 and earlier meters there have been problems with customers losing Smart functionality when changing supplier, this is addressed by the new DCC system which supports SMETS2 meters and upgraded SMETS1 meters. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
- 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 potentially saving you money.