According to new data from comparethemarket.com, millions of UK households have fewer options when it comes to switching energy provider because they already have a smart meter installed. The data has also shown that energy prices are higher for those affected, with the average annual cost being £1,089 for those with smart meters and £1,071 for those without.
The comparison site’s research revealed that of the 223 tariffs it analysed, only 37 (17%) were available to households with a smart meter installed. This is despite the rollout of smart meters being something that is meant to help make the energy system cheaper, cleaner and more reliable.
With this, Peter Earl, head of energy at comparethemarket.com, called for more to be done to encourage consumers to keep switching to tariffs that use smart meters: “The industry should be encouraging people who haven’t yet switched to smart meters, but this does not seem to be the case with tariff variety and pricing. There needs to be more incentives to encourage people to switch, including competitive pricing.”
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Millions of smart meters are also currently ‘dumb’
The latest Government figures show that in 2020, a total of 3.1 million smart meters were installed in domestic properties. However, the rollout of smart meters has been hindered by the installation of meters that do not retain their smart functionality when people switch supplier. Despite this, the Government still has a 2025 deadline for having all UK homes equipped with them.
What’s more, by the end of 2020, there were 22.2 million smart meters in domestic properties in Great Britain - 42% of all domestic meters. However, only 17.6 million were smart meters operating in smart mode, meaning as many as 4.6 million households are currently without a fully operational meter. These are instead operating in ‘dumb’ mode where they display readings, but are unable to communicate with the network – essentially meaning they are not working properly.
Mr Earl also offered his thoughts on this situation: “The original target to ensure all UK homes had been offered smart meters by the end of 2020 was clearly unrealistic, since only two-fifths of households have them installed. The rollout has been extended so there are fewer excuses for missing the next deadline even if timings are tight.
“Smart meters are a useful tool to help people manage their energy consumption, but millions of homes are stuck with smart meters that operate in the same way that a traditional meter does, which doesn’t allow them to receive the full benefits promised.
“We need to see dedicated action to ensure these meters are soon enrolled into the smart systems and so that customers get the smart benefits and do not lose them when switching supplier.”
What can consumers do about this?
While it might be a frustrating time for those with smart meters, the reality is that there are still deals to be had in the energy markets – it’s just about tracking them down.
As such, if you’re one of the affected customers, you may want to use an energy comparison service. With these, you can filter your results to find the appropriate tariffs and best energy deals near you. It’s likely you’ll find a good deal as some of the country’s best energy suppliers are still offering deals related to smart meters.
At the same time, with this new research and calls from experts to improve the situation, we may well soon see a number of suppliers offering new deals and smart meter incentives. The Government may also potentially step in to help, to keep the rollout on course for 2025.
The reality of course remains to be seen, but hopefully it will be resolved sooner rather than later and we will be able to make the most of the benefits smart meters have the potential to provide.
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Rich is a freelance copywriter and content strategist with over 10 years' experience. His career has seen him work in-house and in various agencies, producing online and offline content marketing campaigns and copywriting for clients in the energy industry.