Why you should say no to getting a smart meter despite the rise in energy bills

Though these issues should not affect new smart meter users, they are indicative of the problems that have plagued the rollout.

These meters are being enrolled onto a national network to fix the problem, however nearly one in five smart meters is operating in ‘dumb’ mode. On top of this some in-home displays, which show a customer how much energy they are using, have ceased to work once the meters have been enrolled onto the network.

Energy firms were supposed to stop rolling out first-generation devices in March 2019. Despite this, energy firms installed 57,499 outdated meters in the six months to March 2021, according to auto-switching site Switchcraft.

Another issue is that many existing devices will need to be upgraded, after the Government and mobile phone providers announced plans to phase out the networks used by existing devices by 2033.

This will render many current meters obsolete, requiring upgrades by engineers.

The meters transmit data to a national network via “communications hubs”. In Wales and central and southern England, they use 2G and 3G mobile networks. The Government has confirmed these networks will be phased out.

You might miss out on the best energy deals

Traditionally, the best energy deals have not been available to smart meter users. Prior to the gas price crisis, only one in six deals were available for smart meter users. This is now less of an issue given the majority of households are on their supplier’s default tariff with prices protected by the price cap.

However, at some point energy firms will introduce smart meter tariffs that will cut household bills by varying electricity costs throughout the day.

“Time of use” tariffs drop the price of electricity when demand is low and increase the cost in times of high usage. However, currently only Octopus Energy offers this type of deal.

The policy on smart meters was first championed by former Labor leader Ed Miliband – and later by the Tories – as a way of reducing Britain’s energy use. They had been popular in Europe for this reason. However, some argue that there is no real evidence to back up the claim that the smart meter could revolutionize our energy habits.

Others claim the cost of the rollout itself, which has suffered several setbacks, will deny any savings made as it is ultimately paid for by consumers.

The rollout was initially estimated to cost £11bn. At that cost, the rollout would have added £374 to every household’s energy bills, according to Simply Switch. However, the final bill is likely to be far higher than this figure. Everyone will pay for this – even those with traditional meters.

Data privacy concerns still weigh heavy

The chief concern of smart meter criticism, besides the cost, is the potential privacy concerns that come with a household’s data being transmitted to a supplier. Energy firms are adamant that only they can see your data and that information cannot be passed on to a third party without the customer’s explicit permission.

Such fears will worsen as households are asked to share their usage data every 30 minutes.

According to Opus Energy, a provider, not even the DCC, the network operator, can read a customer’s electricity data, as it is encrypted before it reaches them.

According to a Privacy Charter drawn up by the Energy UK trade body however, the supplier trade body, organizations that your supplier has contracts with may be given access to the information collected from your meter.

It also stated in some certain circumstances the police or other organisations, including industry bodies involved in preventing and detecting theft or fraud, could be given access to your data in accordance with data protection law.

Although smart meters send meter readings to your energy supplier, they do not store your name, address or bank details.

Smart meters: your questions answered

Will a smart meter save me money?

The number of British homes with a smart meter is rising and many more are receiving letters from energy providers offering the device. As the rollout continues, does it pay to install the controversial energy counter?

Smart meters have proven hugely controversial since the rollout began in 2012, with many households unsure of how safe and reliable they are. However, the Government-backed program has shown no signs of slowing down. Even households that have declined meters will be contacted again as energy firms attempt to hit installation targets.

The project has been hit by several high profile delays and setbacks, leading many to suggest smart meters may end up costing consumers more money than they save. Telegraph Money takes a look at how and if they could save you money.

How do smart meters work?

Smart meters come with a display device to track how much energy is being used more accurately. It sends readings automatically to suppliers, meaning customers are less likely to underpay or overpay for gas and electricity.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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