Smart Meter Roll-out

The Smart Meter roll-out is a government led initiative based on a positive business case showing customers will save energy and money once they have a Smart Meter. Smart Metering is also an important enabler for Net Zero.

Progress so far

Progress has been slow with the first deadline of completion in 2019 missed. At the end of March 2024, 63% of domestic meters were Smart and 56% were Smart in Smart mode (50% for gas and 60% for electricity). The percentages for non-domestic meters are similar at 52% of meters in smart mode.

Bar chart showing install progress of Electricity and Gas Domestic Smart meters
State of Domestic Meters at end of March 2024
Smart (Traditional mode)

Smart (traditional mode) means that the smart meter is not operating as a Smart meter, usually for one of the following reasons:

  • meters being unable to communicate with their current supplier via the WAN (Wide Area Network),
  • installed meters yet to be commissioned (e.g., in new build premises).

Government Commitments

Progress in rolling out smart meters has been slower than the government planned leading many changes in timescales and targets.

Government commitments to Smart Metering
Year Government Commitment
2008 Set out its intention to mandate energy suppliers to install smart meters.
2011 Set out a vision for every home and small business in Great Britain to have smart meters and an intention to effectively complete the rollout in 2019.
2012 Placed a legal obligation on energy suppliers to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to install smart meters in all homes and small businesses, by 2019.
2013 Extended legal obligation deadline to 2020.
2019 Planned to introduce a four-year framework starting in 2021 giving suppliers until the end of 2024 to install smart meters in at least 85% of their consumers’ homes and small businesses.
2020 Withdrew proposed framework and deferred introducing a new framework by one year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2022 Introduced the framework to the end of 2025 setting energy suppliers annual, individual installation targets “on a trajectory to 100% coverage, subject to an annual tolerance level”, set initially for 2022 and 2023.
2023 Consulted with energy suppliers and other stakeholders on achieving 80% minimum domestic smart meter coverage and 73% minimum coverage in small businesses by the end of 2025. This is part of a planned mid-point review to set targets for 2024 and 2025.

Roll-out Rules

The rollout of Smart Meters has been slower than required and the government has introduced a number of schemes.

In these schemes SMETS 1 meters counted towards the targets until 15th March 2019. After that date only SMETS 2 meters were counted.

All Reasonable Steps

The first government scheme to require suppliers to install smart meters was known as "All Reasonable Steps" or ARS. This meant suppliers had to forecast the number of installs for the year ahead and then they had to meet that target by using All Reasonable Steps to install at customers' premises. The suppliers' forecast was required to reach 97% of premises by the end of the scheme. The end date changed a number of times as the bullet points below show. A few suppliers have been fined for not achieving their own targets.

  • 30 November 2012 - Legal obligation established on energy suppliers to take all reasonable steps to install smart meters.
  • 16 March 2019 - Only SMETS 2 meters now count towards suppliers' target.
  • 31 December 2019 - First deadline to complete.
  • 31 December 2020 - Deadline extended due to slow progress.
  • 30 June 2021 - Deadline extended due to Covid-19 delays.
  • 31 December 2021 - Scheme ended.

The scheme allowed customers to refuse a Smart Meter when offered.

Should a supplier be willing to fit a traditional meter and have stock available then Ofgem have said it is reasonable for a supplier to charge for the installation of a conventional meter if a smart meter is refused.

New and Replacement Obligation

This obligation requires energy suppliers to use all reasonable steps to fit smart meters for all new metering points, and all meters requiring replacement through a fault or certification expiry. Customers cannot refuse a Smart Meter under this Obligation.

  • 30 June 2019 - New and Replacement Obligation (NRO) established.

Post 2022 Rollout

The 'All Reasonable Steps' obligation on Suppliers finished at the end of 2021. A new 4 year scheme has been established where suppliers have to meet installation numbers. Under the new scheme the government sets an annual milestone for each supplier based on a straight line forecast so that they eventually reach a coverage of 100%. Suppliers will be allowed a tolerance on the targets which will grow over the 4 years with a maximum tolerance of 15% in the final year.

Each year the straight line to reach 100% will be redrawn to establish new target percentages.

The scheme allows customers to refuse a Smart Meter when offered.

A failure to achieve the binding annual installation targets allowing for tolerances will be a breach of a supplier's licence.

  • 1 June 2021 - Targets and tolerances for the first two years of the obligation confirmed.
  • 1 January 2022 - Scheme starts. Legal obligation on energy suppliers to install smart meters to government targets.
  • 31 December 2025 - Scheme ends.

The table below shows the starting points as a percentage of Smart Meters installed in premises, the target for suppliers, the minimum penetration and the tolerance allowed.

Smart Meter roll-out coverage targets
and tolerance levels
Market Start
Year 0
31 Dec 2021
Year 1
31 Dec 2022
Year 2
31 Dec 2023
Year 3
31 Dec 2024
End
Year 4
31 Dec 2025
Domestic Target 61.9% 72.1% 82.1% 100%
Smart Meter Penetration 49.2% 58.5% 64.7% 70.4% 74.5%
Tolerance 3.5% 5.1% 11.7% 25.5%
Non-Domestic Target 61.7% 70.2% 79.9% 100%
Smart Meter Penetration 49.0% 55.6% 60.1% 65.0% 68.7%
Tolerance 6.1% 8.3% 14.9% 31.3%

Progress by the end of 2022

Progress under this new framework in 2022 was very poor with Ofgem saying that Energy companies face “severe penalties” unless they up their game when it comes to the rollout of smart meters. Of the 49 Suppliers covered by the policy framework, 31 failed to hit their electricity targets and 23 Suppliers fell short of their gas targets. Only one of the large suppliers met their targets and this was E with a relatively small 0.6% market share.

It is a breach of their licence to fail to meet these targets so it's surprising that so many Suppliers have missed their targets again. Ofgem are in contact with all Suppliers who failed to meet the targets to set enforcement actions.

As a result, the rules are once again being reviewed and an 80% target is being considered.

Number of Meters on DCC

The Data Communications Company (DCC), which was set up by the government to manage Smart Meter communications on behalf of suppliers, reported the number of Smart Meters live on 30th June 2024 as:

Number of Meters on DCC
SMETS Version Number %
SMETS 1 11,541,159 37%
SMETS 2 19,535,452 63%
Total 31,076,611 100%

The figures above only includes SMETS 1 meters transferred to DCC. Many SMETS 1 meters still remain on older management systems.

SMETS 2 install rate

The rate of smart meter installations dipped severely during Covid lock down but has now recovered. However, the numbers are dropping over time as all the easy installs and willing customers have been exhausted, and technically difficult installations such as tower blocks and large houses are left. The DCC reported the average number of SMETS 2 installs per day during weekdays as 13,337 on 31st May 2024.

Installation Rules

The Smart Meter Installation Schedule (SMIS) is a set of rules and standards laid down by Ofgem to be followed when installing a new smart meter. This is managed by the Retail Energy Code Company.

It was developed to deliver the Licence requirement for Suppliers to follow an approved installation code of practice when installing the first smart meter for domestic and micro-business customers. The specific Licence conditions are:

  • Domestic: Condition 41 of the Standard Electricity Supply Licence and Condition 35 of the Standard Gas Supply Licence.
  • Micro Business: Condition 42 of the Standard Electricity Supply Licence and Condition 36 of the Standard Gas Supply Licence.

All suppliers must sign up to this Schedule.

Note that until 31st August 2021 this was managed by ElectraLink, and the standards were known as the Smart Meter Installation Code of Practice (SMICoP).

Access to Meters

If an installer cannot install a new meter safely, then the supplier has the right to ask the homeowner to provide safe access to the meter at his or her expense.

You can get a quote to have the meters moved, but this is very expensive, from £400 upwards and typically about £1,200.

For example, if the meter is hidden behind a kitchen cupboard, then homeowner must arrange their own tradespeople to either remove the cupboard or provide an access panel. The moral of the story is - never make your meters inaccessible in the first place. After all you need to read them too.

Operating as Smart or Dumb

Many customers have noticed that their SMETS 1 smart meters lose functionality when changing suppliers. This is because different unlinked systems have been used in the past to manage SMETS 1 meters. When a new supplier took over a SMETS 1 meter they often could not operate it and therefore it went "dumb" or operated as a traditional meter.

This will be addressed with most SMETS 1 meters moving to the DCC systems and becoming Smart again.

There are other reasons Smart meters don't always operate as required:

  • customers switching to suppliers unable to operate the meter in smart mode,
  • meters being unable to communicate via the wide area network,
  • installed meters yet to be commissioned (e.g. sitting in a new build).

Progress in getting all Smart Meter operating in a Smart Way has been very slow, with 10.9% of Smart Meters still not operating correctly. Suppliers must focus on these meters now.

SMETS 1 & 2 Meters Operating Mode - Large Suppliers
Smart (smart mode) and advanced meters Smart (traditional or dumb mode)
Date Number % Number % Total
31/03/2024 31,626,000 89.1% 3,857,000 10.9% 35,483,000
31/12/2023 29,988,224 88.5% 3,906,392 11.5% 33,894,616
01/10/2023 29,057,162 87.6% 4,098,037 12.4% 33,155,199
30/06/2023 28,065,713 86.8% 4,274,943 13.2% 32,340,656
31/03/2023 27,612,523 87.3% 4,010,664 12.7% 31,623,187
31/12/2022 26,634,183 87.1% 3,944,312 12.9% 30,578,495
30/09/2022 25,831,584 87.0% 3,857,506 13.0% 29,689,090
30/06/2022 25,056,142 86.9% 3,760,906 13.1% 28,817,048
31/03/2022 24,574,277 87.4% 3,531,819 12.6% 28,106,096
31/12/2021 23,002,787 84.8% 4,117,284 15.2% 27,120,071
30/09/2021 20,607,978 82.9% 4,246,884 17.1% 24,854,862
30/06/2021 19,671,801 83.0% 4,039,727 17.0% 23,711,528
31/03/2021 18,856,689 82.9% 3,877,181 17.1% 22,733,870
31/12/2020 18,141,217 82.0% 3,994,318 18.0% 22,135,535
30/09/2020 17,253,663 82.3% 3,722,377 17.7% 20,976,040
30/06/2020 16,578,091 82.0% 3,651,290 18.0% 20,229,381
31/03/2020 16,515,128 81.6% 3,715,188 18.4% 20,230,316
31/12/2019 15,706,298 81.8% 3,501,885 18.2% 19,208,183
30/09/2019 14,762,088 83.7% 2,865,248 16.3% 17,627,336
30/06/2019 14,151,613 85.5% 2,391,576 14.5% 16,543,189
31/03/2019 13,553,041 87.2% 1,986,945 12.8% 15,539,986
31/12/2018 12,971,863 88.9% 1,612,809 11.1% 14,584,672

These figures are published by DESNZ (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) every quarter for the Domestic and Non-domestic markets.

We have used the data for Large Suppliers as only this was available quarterly in the latest report.

Check your own Smart Meter

Citizens Advice have developed a Smart Meter Checker to tell you what type of smart meter you have in your home and if it's working in smart mode. The tool can also tell you if your meter should work in smart mode after switching supplier.

To use it you need the following information:

  • Electricity
    • MPAN (Meter Point Administration Number) bottom row digits
    • Postcode
  • Gas
    • MPRN (Meter Point Reference Number)
    • Postcode
The MPAN and MPRN references can be found on your energy bills.

Other Influences on Roll-out

Smart Meters also need to be rolled out due to old meters expiring the period for which they are deemed accurate, and for the RTS (Radio Teleswitch Service) which is shutting down in the future. See details below.

Traditional Meter Certification Expiry

Image of top of Schedule 4 page showing list of meters and their certification period

Traditional meters have a recognised life within which should they record energy accurately. This life can be up to 45 years, but most are either 10 or 15 years and is defined in Schedule 4: UK nationally approved electricity meters.

When a meter is beyond its certification date a supplier must replace it with another meter and must use a smart meter unless there is a technical reason why this cannot be done. A customer cannot refuse a Smart Meter in this scenario. Suppliers will usually take the opportunity to replace both traditional meters with Smart Meters.

Unfortunately, some suppliers have been telling their customers that the meter is "unsafe" in this scenario to reinforce the fact that this change is compulsory and not something you can refuse. This is unnecessarily worrying; the meters are being changed to ensure they remain accurate which is in your best interests, so simply agree to have them changed, free of charge, at your convenience.

Radio Teleswitch

In the 1980s the Radio Teleswitch System (RTS) was introduced using a radio signal to switch on and off off-peak circuits such as those used in Economy 7 tariffs. Meters with RTS pick up a signal broadcast alongside the long wave signal for BBC Radio 4. England is covered by a signal transmitter at Droitwich, with smaller transmitters at Westerglen and Burghead providing signal coverage for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

RTS is used to flatten the load curve at night by grouping load into smaller segments. Without this, expensive flexible generating plant would be needed to meet peak demand.

A customer can be put into one of fourteen groups for control purposes, each group switching at a different time. RTS cannot control an individual customer separately. The RTS control box also randomly shifts the switching time for an individual customer so that the load for the group does not all come on at once.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) are responsible for management of the service.

Economy 7 meter and Teleswitch Unit
Economy 7 meter and Teleswitch Unit

To facilitate this service an additional device would be installed alongside the meter which would receive the Radio 4 long wave signal containing the switching instructions.

RTS Shutdown

The BBC plan to turn off long wave transmission system on 30th June 2025, although this date has been pushed back many times as suppliers still have too many customers left on the system. Progress is still very slow as the table below shows.

RTS is being decommissioned for the following reasons:

  • The old valve technology used for the RTS service has limited spares
  • Low quality sound
  • Transmitters are energy intensive
  • Smart Meter functionality can take over.
Number of RTS Systems in Operation
Year Month Number
2024 Apr 894,334
2024 Mar 904,570
2024 Feb 910,406
2024 Jan 915,966
2023 Dec 927,019
2023 Nov 937,961
2023 Oct 938,105
2023 Sep 947,408
2023 Aug 959,467
2023 Jul 956,956
2023 Jun 974,674
2023 May 986,568
2023 Apr 994,551
2023 Mar 1,004,521
2023 Feb 1,014,123
2023 Jan 1,022,997
2022 Dec 1,027,897

These figures are published monthly by Elexon.

Without the signal, the behaviour of meters with RTS is uncertain. Some may continue to switch between rates using stored settings while some may remain on whatever rate was in place when they last received a signal.

Customers Should Decide Now

Ofgem are saying that suppliers should complete the transfer of customers by 31st March 2025, although it is hard to see how that is achievable when looking at the progress suppliers have made so far.

If you have RTS your supplier will have written to you. We strongly advise customers to decide now what they want to do, that way you can take control of what happens. Our recommendation would be to ask for a Smart Meter as this is the only way to try to continue with a similar service to RTS.

Firstly, decide if you are happy to have a Smart Meter:

Yes: Ask your supplier to install a Smart Meter and tell them you would like to continue with your RTS tariff. Your supplier is likely to offer a similar tariff such as Economy 7 or Economy 10.

No: Your RTS service will fail in 2025 and you will move to a single rate tariff. You may also need to call in an electrician to make sure your off-peak circuits work as you would like, as they are likely to remain either on all the time or off.

Please do not put off this decision.


(Page updated: 2024-07-01)

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