The smart meter roll out
The Energy Act 2008 establishes the mandate for installing smart meters and requires that gas and electricity customers are provided with ’information on actual time of use’ as far as is technical feasible.1ss88-91 Energy Act 2008 The government’s aim was for every household to have a smart meter at no upfront cost by the end of 2020. This target was not met. Energy suppliers were subsequently required to take all reasonable steps to roll out smart meters by the end of December 2021. From January 2022, all suppliers have binding annual installation targets to roll out smart and advanced meters to their remaining non-smart customers by the end of 2025.
The term ’smart meter’ relates to the services and benefits obtained from such a meter rather than a specific type of technology. Smart meters measure your exact fuel usage and send the information electronically to your supplier without the need for meter readings to be taken. Smart meters can be set in either credit or prepayment mode.
Smart meters give better budget management tools such as low credit alerts and high consumption alerts which may safeguard against self-disconnection.
Fuel companies are responsible for meeting the cost of installing smart metering equipment.2Condition 33A SLC This comprise of a smart meter, a communications hub, an optional in-home display (IHD) and prepayment interface device. The Smart Meter Installation Code of Practice sets out the rules to be followed by suppliers when installing smart meters.3; Condition 41 Electricity SLC and 35 Gas SLC Second generation smart meters (SMETS2) are currently being installed (see here). These meters enable easier switching of supplier without losing smart functionality. First generation smart meters (SMETS1) are in a programme of software upgrades that will enable them to match the functionality of SMETS2. These upgrades are expected to be completed by end December 2023.
The IHD provides real-time information about your consumption, as well as showing the amount of energy being used at 30 minute intervals and over various time periods (day, month and year), and the cost of this energy in pounds and pence. The information may also be accessible online or via an app to track energy and costs. You can set up email or text message alerts to track unusual patterns of consumption.
Smart meters are expected to improve the experience of prepayment meter customers. Potential benefits include:
•more convenience and choice in payment top-up methods;
•greater flexibility and emergency credit arrangements – including low credit alerts;
•the ability to switch remotely between credit and prepayment modes.
Over time, smart meters are expected to result in greater consumer engagement and stronger competition between energy suppliers due to the increased ease of consumer switching, information on true consumption and tariffs. The digital energy infrastructure will enable new technologies and efficiency savings to be integrated into the existing system and respond to outages. The government publication, Smart meters: a guide is a useful source of information.4