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Energy firms unlikely to meet 2020 smart meter deadline

Image credit: DREAMSTIME

Large energy suppliers would need to triple the current rate of smart meter installation to hit a target of replacing all existing meters by 2020, according to new analysis from Which?.

The firm said that the large suppliers would need to work around the clock, installing 30 smart meters per minute, every day, for the next two years, to fully replace the 46 million existing meters their customers have and meet their targets as part of the £11bn roll-out.

Smart meters have had a rocky rollout since the government set targets for their introduction. A shortage of installers, weak mobile network signals and interoperability problems are just some of the issues that have plagued efforts to bring the technology into UK homes.

The government wants energy firms to install smart meters in every home in England, Wales and Scotland by 2020 to give consumers more control over their energy usage.

But according to Which?’s analysis large suppliers are behind schedule, having installed more than 11 million smart meters to date, just a quarter (25 per cent) of the 46 million existing meters that could be replaced.

Energy suppliers have maintained that they will meet the 2020 target, but as the deadline draws closer, Which? said this is looking “increasingly unlikely”.

The government’s estimates for expected savings for an annual dual fuel bill in 2020 have already fallen from £26 to just £11.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: “The smart meter rollout has been plagued by problems and been massively delayed, the benefits have been overstated and the savings they could bring consumers are at risk.

“Therefore it’s time for the government to replan with industry and consumer groups to ensure people get the maximum benefit at the minimum cost.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the government remained committed to its smart meter target: “Millions have already chosen to have a smart meter and take control of their energy use to cut their bills,” he said.

The spokesperson argued an £11 reduction in annual fuel bills was “not insignificant”, representing £300m of savings in 2020 alone.

Up to 53 million smart meters, that will replace traditional electricity and gas meters in homes and businesses, are due to be installed across Britain by the end of 2020.

Large energy suppliers, those with 250,000 customers or more, are responsible for rolling out 46 million meters but Which?’s research suggests installation rates are slowing down.

A spokesman for Energy UK, which represents the energy industry, said suppliers were committed to ensuring all eligible households and businesses are offered a smart meter by the deadline date.

“The industry is working hard to reach as many customers as possible and to ensure the roll-out is carried out safely, efficiently, cost-effectively and delivers a positive experience for customers,” he said. “With more than 12 million smart meters now installed in the UK, more and more customers are enjoying the benefits that smart meters bring and are reporting high levels of satisfaction.”

Robert Cheesewright, director of corporate affairs at Smart Energy GB, which runs the public awareness campaign for the smart meter roll-out, said: “Britain’s smart meter roll-out is a vital upgrade for the nation’s energy infrastructure.

“Smart meters are crucial if we want to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon footprint.”

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