Energy suppliers are calling for powers to force households to install a smart meter if their traditional device breaks down.
Businesses have fallen short of strict installation targets as the government aims to have smart meters in 80 percent of homes by the end of 2025.
In March, it moved away from its original goal of installing the devices in all households.
This is the third time the deadline has been extended after plans to meet this target by 2020 and then 2024 were postponed.
But energy suppliers have warned that they have now exhausted the “low-hanging fruit” of households willing to use the appliances, making meeting this deadline difficult, a report from the Netherlands Court of Audit (NAO) found today.
In a fix: Patricia Worby — whose device hasn’t worked properly in the two years she’s had it — has to crawl under her stairs with a flashlight to read her device
Around 57 per cent of all meters in the UK are now smart, meaning 32.4 million households currently have the device.
In the first three months of 2023, almost 900,000 smart meters were installed.
Consumer rights expert Martyn James says it would be a “terrible idea” to allow energy suppliers to force households to install smart meters when traditional meters break because he fears suppliers would misuse the power.
“Given that during the initial rollout of the smart meter the energy companies made such a mess with meters that didn’t work and extremely aggressive tactics to get people to sign up, I’m not convinced they can be trusted,” he says. say.
Money Mail has been warning for some time about failures in smart meter technology. According to the NAO report, more than three million households reported faulty devices in March.
Smart meters should automatically send readings to energy suppliers to ensure electricity and gas bills are accurate and the small display should show households how much energy they are using.
Rollout: Smart meter suppliers have fallen short of strict installation targets as the government aims to have smart meters in 80% of homes by the end of 2025
They are designed to help households accurately track their energy usage and budget accordingly.
In recent months, our mailbag has been full of correspondence from readers who say that their smart meter is not suitable.
Many report that their device never sent a measurement to their supplier. Some say the technology isn’t working because the mobile signal in their area is too weak.
Others are disappointed because the monitors that are supposed to help them track usage are faulty or often display the wrong information, resulting in shocking bills. Many have been stuck with broken smart meters for months and do not know how much gas and electricity they use.
Among them is Doug Bruce, 84, who was harassed by his energy company for months before agreeing to have a smart meter installed at his home near Braemar, Scotland.
SSE fitted the device in August 2021, but from the start it failed to connect to the SSE system, giving inaccurate meter readings.
Ovo later acquired SSE and Doug’s account was moved to the new vendor. However, it has yet to be resolved.
The retired teacher says: ‘I was pressured to buy a smart meter. SSE sent me many emails and letters to persuade me to buy one. I thought it might be a good idea as I am abroad a lot but the meter never worked.
‘It’s very annoying. I got estimated bills from SSE and then from Ovo because they can’t track my usage.’
Doug has since been billed £1,000 as Ovo claimed he had underpaid his bills. But he disputes this.
Readings: Smart meters should automatically send readings to energy suppliers to ensure bills are accurate and show homeowners how much energy is being used
Patricia Worby, 57, had no choice but to switch energy suppliers after her original company refused to fix her broken smart meter.
The therapist, from Southampton, says her smart meter has been malfunctioning for more than two years since she agreed to have it installed by Scottish Power in May 2021.
Patricia’s smart meter is not communicating with her internal display and is not sending meter readings to her supplier, meaning it needs to be replaced.
But when she contacted Scottish Power, she was told there was a nationwide software problem but her supplier would not send her a new device. As a result, she joined Octopus Energy earlier this year and will soon have a new appliance installed.
Patricia says: ‘I spent hours on the phone trying to get my smart meter fixed and three technicians came to my house.
“One said every house he visited that day had a broken smart meter.”
Patricia now has to provide a smart meter reading herself every three months by crawling under the stairs with a flashlight to read the device.
She says: ‘I have been given a smart meter, so that I no longer have to pass on readings. I never would have gotten it if I knew it was going to be such a problem.’
A spokesperson for DESNZ said: ‘As the NAO recognises, we have made good progress in the roll-out of smart meters with over 32 million now in homes and small businesses across the UK, giving them control over their energy consumption and saving money on bills. .
“But we want more people to benefit as quickly as possible. That is why we have set ambitious but realistic installation targets for energy suppliers and are working with them to accelerate the rollout.”
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