Government target 'infeasible' as smart meter rollout slows

Politicians Debate Rising Electricity Prices
Many households are being left with so-called dumb meters (Source: Getty)

The government’s target of installing a smart meter in every home by 2020 is “implausible,” experts have warned as new figures show the rollout slowed last quarter.

Just over 1m smart meters were installed in the first three months of the year, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed today, a 6.7 per cent decrease compared to the last quarter of 2018.

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The rollout of electricity meters was the worst hit in the period, dropping 7.4 per cent to 574,000, and overall activity dropped 17 per cent year-on-year.

The figures fall well below the government’s own estimates that 15m meters would have to be installed over the year, and installations would have to treble in the first quarter.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said the “infeasible” target should be extended by three years to 2023.

“Smart meters are critical to modernising our energy infrastructure and we’re all paying for the rollout through our bills. A rush to install meters to hit the 2020 deadline risks giving customers a poor experience and undermining people’s faith in this important technology,” she said.

The rush has led to many customers being left with first generation smart meters, which lose their ability to show real-time usage data if customers change suppliers.

“It’s … unacceptable that millions of energy customers have been left lumbered with ‘dumb’ smart meters, especially if they’ve switched to avoid expensive energy tariffs or escape poor customer service,” said Natalie Hitchins, the head of home products at consumer agency Which.

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Peter Earl, head of energy at Comparethemarket echoed sentiment that the government’s target is “implausible”.

“In a frantic attempt to meet their targets, larger suppliers are insisting that customers install a smart meter when they sign up to some new tariffs, however, this practice is restricting access to some of the most competitive tariffs on the market for those people who already have one or simply don’t want one yet,” he added.