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

Supplier says to you that they must fit a Smart Meter - What should you say?
Say No. We recommend customers waiting until winter 2019 before saying yes for a Smart Meter in order to increase the chance of getting a SMETS2 meter. The reasons are:
  1. SMETS2 meters are more secure than SMETS1.
  2. Functions such as prepayment are more reliable across a range of suppliers.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
We will keep reviewing the installation figures from Elexon to see if the winter 2019 recommendation can be brought forward.

Can I refuse to have a smart meter installed?
Yes. You are under no obligation to have a smart meter installed in your home, and you can change your mind and accept one later. You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier. However there will come a time when only Smart Meters are available and so if your meter breaks due to a fault it will be replaced by a Smart Meter. 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.
See our Technical page for a list of SMETS1 meter types that can be upgraded.

When will my SMETS1 meter operate again?
The upgrade and transfer of SMETS1 meters into DCC's systems is planned to occur between June 2019 and the end of 2020. For more details see Annex B on this DCC planning document.
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.

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.

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 are supported by all suppliers and allow customers to switch without losing any services or requiring any equipment changes. SMETS2 meters are now being installed in large volumes.
SMETS1 meters usually require replacing when you change supplier to retain a smart service. However due to the large volume of SMETS1 meters, there is now an agreement to allow SMETS1 meters to be upgraded and enrolled into the new DCC systems and thus allow smooth switching for customers. See our Technical page for a list of SMETS1 meter types that can be upgraded.

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 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 information with third parties. See our Customer Rights page for your rights on meter readings. 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.

When will I get a smart meter?
Each supplier started installing high volumes of SMETS1 Smart Meters in 2017, and started on SMETS2 meters in 2018. They are keen to install as many as they can to meet government targets. Whether they can install at your particular address is mainly governed the the signal availablity on the new SMETS2 DCC Network; there was 97% coverage by the end of 2018 and there will be 99.25% by the end of 2020.
Contact your supplier if you would like a smart meter installed, however it is up to you if you want a smart meter as they are not compulsory.

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. SMETS2 equipment has been designed 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. However the earlier SMETS1 standard did not always interoperate unless the meters were on the same system, and even then support for interoperability by suppliers was poor.

Should I wait for a SMETS2 meter?
There are three types of smart meters, two in use currently (ADM & SMETS1), and one (SMETS2) is only now being installed in small volumes. 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.

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.

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 about one hour per meter. However this will vary according to your property and where your meters are located.
Your electricity and gas will only be off for about 20 minutes though.

Why does my IHD show CO2?
The measure of CO2 on your IHD (In Home Display) shows the amount of CO2 given off by power stations generating the electricity you are using. The calculation is set by Ofgem based on the average amount of carbon dioxide emitted for every kWh of energy generated. The average is for the fuel mix across entire UK energy industry, so may be misleading if you have opted for a CO2 free source such as Wind or Nuclear.

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 Meters must be fitted in place of or near your old meters as it is too expensive to move the incoming power cable and gas connection, 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 don't need your landlord's approval but 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. If you have concerns about the accuracy of your meter you should contact your supplier.

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 is addressed by the new DCC system which supports SMETS2 meters and upgraded SMETS1 meters.

Can I still switch energy supplier if I have a smart meter?
Yes. Ofgem has put in place 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 be operated as a traditional meter, meaning you will have to provide meter readings. The new DCC system allows customers to retain Smart functionality when switching between suppliers.

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 usually own the meters and charge the current supplier a monthly rental fee.

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 late 2019. Small blocks of flats are being treated the same as other smaller properties during the national roll-out.

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 potentially saving you money.

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 a PPMID?
Customers who opt to pre-pay for their energy should have a fall back means of applying a top up locally to their meter in the event of a temporary loss of WAN communications. This can be most easily achieved with a PPMID (pre-payment meter interface device), which allows the customer to easily enter a purchase reference number. Most suppliers now use IHDs with integrated PPMID functionality.

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 will a smart meter cost me?
Your supplier will install your smart meter for free under the national upgrade programme that begun 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 Meter Installation Code of Practice (SMICoP), 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 outlines 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. See this government document for more details Smart Meter Rollout Cost-Benefit Analysis.

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.

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 replacement 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. It would be a good idea to let your tenant know that you are happy with this.
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 including energy saving.

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