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Failure to upgrade to smart meters could incur high costs, householders warned

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People who fail to install smart meters and choose to keep their old 'relic meter' are liable to face high costs, climate change minister Lord Duncan has told MPs.

Last month the Government was forced to extend the deadline by which energy suppliers need to install smart meters in at least 85 per cent of UK homes to 2024 from 2020.

This followed doubts that energy companies would make the original deadline following years of delay and confusion over the technology powering the meters.

“Once you have an 85 per cent smart network, the cost of maintaining the operation of the non-smart meters is significant, and that’s the individuals that have to go and visit, the call centre handlers, and so on,” Duncan said while addressing the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

“So I think you will find the stick and it will become quite significant as you move forward, because, once you get to the point of moving down from 15 per cent to 10 per cent to 9 per cent and so forth, the expense of maintaining these relic meters will be very high.”

Asked what incentives landlords and households would have to switch to the new meters, Lord Duncan said: “There’s every possibility that at that point it will become more expensive to hold a non-smart meter so you’ll see a disbenefit immediately insofar as it will cost you more to maintain the old-fashioned installation rather than the new one.

He said he was now confident that plans for 85 per cent rollout by 2024 would be achieved.

Energy suppliers who failed to reach their rollout targets would face financial penalties he added.

“There will be an awful lot of climate protesters glued to the side of their building if they are literally failing to meet what will be a moral obligation to help with climate change.”

The Government predicts that only half of households will have a smart meter by 2020 and that the cost of the rollout will rise from £11bn in 2016 to £13.5bn today - although total savings will also rise from £16.73bn to £19.56bn.

The number of smart meters in homes has risen steadily over the past few years, although the speed of growth has slowed more recently as problems start to arise.

One of the biggest issues has been older generations of meters not working when a household has switched suppliers, with the data no longer being sent in real time to suppliers.

The Government-backed DCC is supposed to be installing infrastructure to ensure the older meters work and that technology is in place so newer versions can connect to the shared networks.

Ministers had previously insisted the 2020 deadline for the rollout was achievable, despite industry warnings that the technology was not ready.

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