Smart meter installation deadline put back another six months
Energy firms will have an extra six months to install smart meters due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has said.
Last September, the deadline for all homes to be offered smart meters was extended from 31 December 2020 to the end of 2024, but this has now been pushed back to 30 June 2025. The Government is currently consulting on exactly how the deadline will work, with the possibility that fines could be levied against firms that don't meet targets.
Energy suppliers are still supposed to take "all reasonable steps" to install smart meters in all homes and small businesses by the end of 2020 if they can. But the Government has put back the date for this too, to allow for difficulties caused by coronavirus, with firms now given until 30 June 2021.
About 19,000 smart meters were being installed each day in early March, but installations ground to a halt once the lockdown was introduced. Now the Government says as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased, engineers have restarted non-emergency installations.
What are smart meters and what are the problems with them?
Smart meters are next-generation gas and electricity meters which send automatic meter readings straight to your supplier, theoretically ending estimated bills. They are free to get, and all homes in the UK are supposed to be offered one by energy firms in due course – but they are not mandatory.
There are two types of meter:
- SMETS 1: Most people who already have a smart meter will have the first generation – known as SMETS 1 ('Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications'). They communicate with your supplier over the 3G network. When you switch energy supplier, it's unlikely the new supplier will be able to pick up that communication, so they'll still work as basic meters but they'll go 'dumb' and lose some functionality.
- SMETS 2: If you've had smart meters installed over the last year or so, or you're set to get them, they're more likely to be second-generation SMETS 2 meters. These use their own communications systems via a central data network to which all suppliers have access. So when you switch, your new supplier should be able to see your usage and meter readings, and your in-home display should show you your usage with the new supplier's costs.
What does the Government say?
Minister for Climate Change Lord Callanan said: "Smart meters are playing an important role in helping the UK deliver a cleaner and more efficient energy system, with the added benefit of also saving tens of billions of pounds in the process.
"By allowing households to conveniently track their energy use, and prepayment customers to more easily top up credit, we are working with industry to safely install even more across the country in a way that keeps consumers and suppliers safe."