How smart is your meter?

Technology needs updating before you should say yes to a smart meter

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Should you give in to the pressure to have a smart meter to monitor the gas and electricity that you use? At the moment my answer is “no”. The meters currently being fitted are the original version of the technology.

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They have the major flaw that if you decide to switch supplier to get a better deal – and Government policy is that you should – then these original meters will usually stop being smart and will have to be read by a human.

One of the key advantages of smart meters is that they report back your energy use to your supplier, as often as every half hour. That means bills can be accurate, not estimated. Lose that and you lose one of the main purposes of having a smart meter.

About 11 million of the original smart meters – called Smets1 – have already been fitted. They send the consumption data back to your supplier using mobile-phone technology.

Each provider has its own way of using that, so when you switch your smart meter will probably not be able to communicate with the new firm. It will go dumb. The intention was that from 5 October suppliers would no longer be allowed to fit out-of-date Smets1 meters and would start fitting Smets2 meters, which don’t go dumb when you switch supplier.

However, problems with a new data communication system means that only 1,000 had been fitted by June, most still in test conditions. The Government is shortly expected to announce its extending that deadline by up to five months. No plans have been announced to extend the final deadline of 31 December 2020 for every home to have a smart meter.

Suppliers need to fit more than a million meters a month to achieve this, which is three times the current rate. In July, MPs called on the Government to extend the deadline by two years. It also concluded that households would save only £11 a year in lower fuel bills even though they have paid the full £11 billion cost of installing the meters.

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If you’re offered a smart meter, ask if it’s a Smets2. If it isn’t, then it’s best to wait