Energy giant SSE agreed to donate £700,000 to the official fund for supporting vulnerable bill payers this week after failing to meet obligatory smart gas meter installation targets.
It’s the latest in a series of hits, delays and, ironically, spiralling bills to have plagued the much-vaunted smart meter rollout, designed to deliver cost-saving technology to 30 million homes and small businesses by 2020.
But experts are still urging us to keep the faith. “Smart meters will provide benefits to consumers,” Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, says.
“They put the customer in control – whether that’s by more accurate billing or helping them consider how to reduce the amount of energy they use.”
But she’s adamant that the deadline must be pushed back to 2023, adding: “The deadline for smart meters to be installed in all homes and small businesses by the end of 2020 remains unrealistic.”
The truth is, it’s not just SSE that’s failing to capitalise on the smart meter potential.
A huge number of homes are missing out on what smart meters can do to save us all much-needed cash.
Explosion of tech
Professor Will Swan is the lead researcher at the University of Salford’s smart meter laboratory. He says the UK is in the midst of an explosion of tech, but one that is having precious little impact on core objectives such as lowering bills, cutting carbon and improving customer satisfaction.
“Domestic energy systems are becoming more complex due to the advent of time-of-use tariffs, energy storage, renewables and greater fluidity in the customer-supplier relationship,” he explains.
“It is vital that science provides some clarity around the benefits, possibilities and pitfalls of this new home energy technology for consumers, regulators and innovators.”
He’s right that the smart meter tech has so far failed to excite many people.
Satisfaction is relatively high – Citizens Advice says 80 per cent of people who have had one fitted say they are satisfied with it.
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