Whose crazy idea was my faulty 9ft high smart meter? I need a pogo stick to read it, says an angry retiree
When Joy Thomas was told to replace her power meter with a “ smart one ” five years ago, her supplier said she could save money by seeing live power usage data.
But the 73-year-old, who lives in the Cornish hamlet of Goonlaze, four miles west of St Austell, found that her bills were actually skyrocketing. She called her supplier, EDF Energy, who confirmed that the smart meter was not working properly – and told Joy to provide the readings herself.
There was only one problem: the meter was installed 9 feet from the ground due to the area’s weak mobile signal, which the devices rely on to operate.
Our reader’s meter is installed 9ft from the ground due to the area’s weak mobile signal
“I’m only 1.5m tall and a chocolate tall,” Joy explains. “They told me to stand on a chair to read. I’m not going to risk myself just for the convenience of an energy supplier.
“If I was a few years younger, I might have tried jumping up and down on a pogo stick to get up that high, but even on a chair I can’t see.”
One of the main reasons for the introduction of smart meters was that energy suppliers could read meters remotely using radio wave signals. But the deadline for every household to have a smart meter installed has recently been pushed back five years to 2025 due to issues with the equipment working properly or getting it accepted.
The original gadgets often become ‘stupid’ and only work as a traditional meter if you want to change energy supplier. And despite the introduction of more reliable meters – called SMETS 2 – two years ago, there are still problems with weak signals.
Those in areas with poor cell phone reception often do not pick up a strong enough radio signal to allow power providers to read remotely. Joy now has a meter reader who comes to visit and climbs a ladder to check usage.
She says, “Some twit in an London office came up with this crazy idea without thinking about it – forgetting that it doesn’t really save people energy and won’t work in millions of houses like mine where there is no cell phone reception . “
Across the country, 27 million smart meters are being installed as part of a stunningly expensive £ 11 billion project. These costs are borne by homes through higher energy bills.
Once assembled, energy suppliers should be able to save money by not having to come out to read your meter. Each household also gets a hand-held gadget that allows them to see in almost real time how much energy is being used. In theory, it’s easier to cut back when you see how much energy you’re using, for example, by turning off the lights.
But it is believed that more than two million homes suffer from a ‘black spot’ on mobile phone reception – so they can also struggle with the ‘smart’ meters.
The meters are not mandatory and customers can refuse to have one installed. But energy companies have resorted to underhanded tactics to ensure they are fitted – including offering cheaper rates to those who agree to have one of the new meters.
Until mobile phone reception is improved across the country, those homes in a black spot will continue to be contaminated with a smart meter that is effectively ‘dumb’. Initially, the new meters would be installed in all homes by this year, but only about half were actually installed.
EDF Energy says: “Sometimes for technical reasons, such as signal strength, we may not be able to install or connect a smart meter during an appointment. If a smart meter cannot be connected, it still works the same as a non-smart meter, registering energy. She adds, “While we understand this is frustrating for customers, we will do that as soon as we can connect the meter.”
The government-supported campaign body Smart Energy GB promotes the roll-out of smart meters. It has a budget of £ 224 million to spend on ads to convince everyone to have a smart meter installed.
Smart Energy GB says: “All second-generation smart meters use a dedicated, secure network that will cover 99.25 percent of Britain by the end of the rollout. If you live in an area with a poor cell phone signal, that won’t be an obstacle to upgrading to smart meters. ‘