Is it time to give in to demands from your energy supplier to replace your mechanical electricity and gas meters with a new smart meter?
Sadly, my answer is still “not yet”. Smart meters tell your supplier exactly what energy you use in near real time (for electricity) or half hourly (gas), so your bills will be accurate rather than estimated.
They also let you see how much energy you are using and what it is costing.
The hope is that this will make us use less energy. In the long term, smart meters will allow charges to be higher at peak times and lower overnight.
That will become more important as electric cars spread. Home charging points now only get a £500 subsidy if they can work at cheap times. These ‘time-of-use’ tariffs will also mean that cooking dinner at dinner time will be more expensive than cooking it mid-afternoon.
Some firms are still fitting first generation (SMETS1) smart meters. A deadline to stop doing that by 5 December 2018 was extended to 15 March for 12 energy companies, but it is still happening due to supply problems.
A huge number of these SMETS1 meters are not smart enough to cope when you change supplier.
After a switch they still measure what you use but cannot usually pass that data to you or your new supplier, so they still have to be read.
Latest figures show that about 2.5 million of these meters have stopped working in ‘smart’ mode. An ambitious programme to upgrade more than 15 million SMETS1 meters to cope with switching has still not begun.
The Government’s target to get smart meters in every home by the end of 2020 cannot now be met. In the last 12 months 4.5 million were fitted.
At that rate, it will be 2026 before the remaining 30 million old meters are replaced.
The regulator Ofgem admits “smart meters will need to continue to be installed beyond 2020”.
It’s not compulsory to have a smart meter but some suppliers offer their best tariffs exclusively to those who do.
If you want a smart meter insist on a SMETS2. If that cannot be guaranteed just say “no”.