As part of a (mercifully) occasional series on this blog, where I comment about things that might not be all they seem in our industry, I thought I should say a few words about ‘Smart meters’.
You will probably have heard, or seen, advertisements encouraging homeowners to have them installed.
Smart meters are being promoted as helping you, the customer, understand where your energy consumption originates from, and manage it better to reduce costs. They are also being sold as being a key part in the process of you being facilitated to change suppliers easily, to obtain the best prices for energy.
So, what do I want to tell you about Smart Meters?
‘Smart meters come at no extra cost’.
Every Smart meter installed costs the customer, this is added to everyone’s energy bill over a 10 year period. You might think that it would be fraud to claim that something is free, when you are being charged for it.
I thought that, so I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), in October 2016. I received a reply in late November 2016;
Thank you for contacting the Advertising Standards Authority with your concerns about a recent tv ad by Smart Energy GB. We note from your online complaint form that you believe the claim “at no extra cost” to be misleading because you understand that the cost is actually included in consumer’s energy bills.
You may be interested to know that we investigated a similar complaint about this ad, which you can read about in full here. In that case, we acknowledged that the ad promoted the benefits of the government’s roll-out of smart meters and noted that consumers who decided to upgrade to a smart meter would not incur an additional cost for its installation or an extra charge on their energy bill, but would pay for the meter through their energy bills. We therefore concluded that, because consumers would not be charged further fees for upgrading their meter to a smart meter and that there would be no changes to how consumers would be charged for their household meter, the claim “At no extra cost” had been substantiated and was unlikely to mislead. As such, we concluded that the ad had not breached the Code for the reasons suggested and no further action was taken against the advertiser.
Given that your complaint raises the same concerns which the ASA has already investigated in terms of this particular ad and concluded that it did not breach the Code, we don’t propose taking any further action with regard to your complaint in this instance. We realise that this may not be the outcome you had hoped for but would like to thank you nonetheless for taking the time to contact us with your concerns. If you would like more information about the ASA, including details of other recent investigations, please feel free to visit our website, www.asa.org.uk
I’ll mention, for the first time, the figure that the Smart Meters are costing;
Smart meters allow you to swap energy suppliers easily
Er, no – they don’t.
All current Smart Meters work on a system called SMETS1 and you will be pleased to hear that they allow monitoring and remote meter reading to your current supplier.
However, when you change energy supplier – they no longer work.
Meters that are compatible with SMETS2 will come out in late 2018, and they will allow remote reading when you change energy supplier.
So, just modify the current ones?
It is thought unlikely that any SMETS1 meters can be upgraded in the field, and possibly not at all. So they might all have to be scrapped.
So if you currently have a Smart meter, congratulations, it’s already out of date, and won”t be any help whatsoever in changing supplier.
So, surely the’ve stopped fitting SMETS1 Smart meters?
Of course not. We are talking about a state managed IT project here.
They will continue to be installed until late 2018, because the Government will penalize energy companies who do not meet their meter rollout targets, and there are no SMET2 meters that have passed testing.
But we are paying for all these useless things!
Yes. But only over a number of years on our energy bill, so apparently it doesn’t matter.
I’ll give you the figure again, £13 billion.
But their expensive advertising doesn’t tell me any of this?
No. I would complain.
But I already have.
Is there any more I should know?
I’m afraid so. Studies have shown that many smart meter owners see no value in them.
Which is a shame, because did I mention, as a nation, the cost is £13Billion?
Why are we being made to have them?
The Government say it is all for the good of the people. The Smart meters have become necessary because when the Government enabled lots of competition in the energy market, they had to find a way of enabling customers to easily switch supplier.
But they weren’t going to pay for it – we were.
They have decided not to tell us the cost, and have set up a huge publicity campaign with those characters, Gaz and Leccy, to confuse the real reasons behind the smart meter rollout.
So who is getting the £13 billion, Gaz and Leccy? And why don’t you mention the cost in your adverts?
It is not clear where all the money goes. It is another Green Tax*, which is code for moving money from the poor to the already rich.
Certainly, most of the meter manufacturers will now be selling 2 for every 1 installed, because every single one so far installed will go out of date next year.
Just in case you find this depressing;
A recent piece on the BBC Radio 4 consumer programme, ‘You and Yours’, featured a network expert who explained that none of this matters.
It seems likely that the radio network used for Smart Meters to communicate will go out of commission in 2024.
What can I do?
Say you don’t want one, and save everyone some money.
The best way to reduce energy bills, it seems, is not to have a Smart meter.
*My definition of a Green Tax;
Something that sounds like a good idea, but usually involves money moving from poor people to those with lots of spare capital. It further enriches the very wealthy, to the detriment of everyone else in society.
For example, what poor person can utilise a £4500 grant to buy an electric car? Where does the money come from for the grant?
How many social housing tenants can invest in a solar farm, and take advantage of being paid cash by Government Feed in Tariff? Or a biomass plant? Where does the money come from for the Feed in Tariff?