Yesterday I spent some time filing away several months of paperwork, including bank statements, updates to terms and conditions, council tax demands and fuel bills. I should do this more often.
While I was doing so, I noticed one particular missive kept cropping up - a letter from my electricity provider urging me to get a smart meter. I shuffled all of these into one pile and discovered that I've been sent no fewer than thirteen such letters since February last year. I fear there might have been more, but I binned them.
Feb 2017: Have more control over your energy with a smart meter Apr 2017: Important - book your smart meter change today Jun 2017: We're installing smart meters in E3. Book your smart meter change now! Aug 2017: We're installing smart meters in E3. Only pay for the energy you use! Sep 2017: We're installing smart meters in E3. Take control of your energy by claiming yours today! Nov 2017: We're installing smart meters in E3. Only pay for the energy you use! Dec 2017: Great News! You can now get a smart meter installed Dec 2017: Don't forget to book your free smart meter upgrade Jun 2018: We're installing smart meters in E3. Only pay for the energy you use! Sep 2018: Great News! You can now get a smart meter installed Sep 2018: We're still installing smart meters in E3 Oct 2018: Great News! You can now get a smart meter installed Oct 2018: Don't forget to book your free smart meter upgrade
They sound increasingly desperate, I thought. Why are they so very keen for me to sign up?
Smart meters allow householders to view real-time usage data on an in-home display screen, and send back information about power consumption to the supplier, ending the need for estimated bills. The government would like all meters for electricity and gas in UK homes to be smart by the end of 2020. Connected consumers can make better decisions about over-hungry appliances, saving money, and energy companies are better able to manage demand. Installation is free, you can't be forced to have one, and it's your choice whether data is passed on half-hourly, daily or monthly. Unless you're employed as a meter reader, it all sounds pretty positive. [more]
But I've been holding back because there are two kinds of smart meter - SMETS1 and SMETS2. Almost all of the 12 million smart meters installed so far have been first generation SMETS1, which don't necessarily continue working if you switch to a new supplier, deterring early adopters from exiting a duff contract. SMETS2 meters use better technology so avoid such drawbacks, but are being rolled out painfully slowly. Only 2000 SMETS2 devices had been installed by the end of June, and at the end of September that total had only risen to 47000. [more]
The switchover from SMETS1 to SMETS2 was originally intended to take place in 2014, then 2015, so you can see how incredibly behind schedule this rollout is. Issues with a lack of trained installers slowed things down, as did delays to the secure data network which SMETS2 uses to communicate. Eventually the government set a deadline of 13th July 2018, after which SMETS1 would be mothballed and only SMETS2 meters could be installed. In January this year they pushed the deadline back to 5th October, and then at the very last minute extended it again to 5th December. It's no wonder I've been receiving letters with increasing urgency. [more]
Many energy companies, mine included, have a large stock of SMETS1 smart meters which they had hoped to have installed by now, and which will suddenly become entirely redundant after 5th December. Sending repeated mass mailouts to their unsmart customers may be expensive, and mostly unproductive, but it's still cheaper than having to bin a warehouse full of SMETS1 devices in five weeks time. I'm expecting at least a couple more letters before then, which I shall be disregarding because I don't want to be palmed off with the old version merely to hit a target. They need us at the moment more than we need them. Great News!