Smart meter installation has slowed, dropping 16 per cent in the final three months of 2018 compared with the same period the year before, according to new data.
There has been a two per cent decrease in domestic smart meter installation in the final quarter of 2018 compared to the three months before, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says.
This is despite the Government’s target to have a device fitted in every home and small business by 2020.
The report revealed that a quarter of all domestic meters, which are operated by both large and smaller energy suppliers, are now operating in smart mode.
Meter installation slowed by 2% in the final quarter of 2018, compared to previous quarter
This means that nationally, 25 per cent of households have ‘smart’ meters automatically sending readings.
The rest are traditional ones – or smart meters without smart functionality, for example, they unable to send automatic meter readings or show energy usage in pounds and pence.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: ‘These latest figures show suppliers have a mountain to climb, given that only a quarter of meters are operating in smart mode.
‘All parties involved should be focusing their resources on ensuring the rollout delivers on the promise to bring greater convenience and a more competitive energy market – not just hassle and soaring costs for customers, funded by their very own bills.’
However, there are now around 13.8million smart and advanced meters working in homes and businesses across the UK – an increase of eight per cent from the previous quarter.
Overall, around 16.09 million smart and advanced meters have been fitted in homes and businesses across the UK by both large and small suppliers with 93 per cent of these installed in domestic properties and the rest in smaller domestic sites.
Robert Cheesewright, director of corporate affairs at Smart Energy GB, said: ‘It’s good news that 13.8million smart meters are now installed in Britain, many more people are seeing the benefits of having one in their home or small business.
‘Every smart meter installed is a step closer to a smart grid, which will enable Britain to make full use of renewable energy and tackle our aging energy system’s contribution of climate change, creating a network that will be fit for the 21st century.’
Are smart meters important?
Smart meters have been introduced as a way of accurately monitoring energy bills for UK businesses and households.
By taking accurate meter readings, it is hoped customers will save money as they will use less energy and not rely on estimated bills from their suppliers.
Using less energy will in turn will help the environment.
Smart Energy GB said: ‘When everyone is using a smart meter and keeping an eye on the energy they use, the collective CO2 savings would be like planting more than 10 million trees a year until 2030 or taking a total of 600,000 cars off the road by 2030.’
Despite the growing number of smart meters being installed, the devices have been plagued by problems since their introduction in 2016.
One of the main issues is with the first generation meters (SMETS1) that go ‘dumb’, meaning they lose all functionality, when customers have tried to switch supplier.
Worryingly, 58 per cent of customers did not know their meter would go dumb when switching supplier, according to a survey by comparison site, Compare the Market.
In its poll of 1,200 energy customers, it also discovered that a huge 35 per cent of people found their smart meter has gone dumb since initial installation.
Whilst the rollout of the second generation meters (SMETS2) is expected to solve this problem, it has been pushed back and first generation meters are still being fitted.
Customers have also reported being bullied by their energy companies into having one installed – even though it is optional.
A further 19 per cent of those surveyed think the Government should scrap the smart meter scheme altogether.
Peter Earl, head of energy at Compare the Market, said: ‘The slowing roll out of smart meters makes the 2020 deadline for every home to have one look implausible.
‘It has been blamed on the switch from the first generation of smart meters to the second generation and the sluggish rate of installation of the newer meters will do little to strengthen consumer faith in the project.
‘The SMETS2 rollout has been delayed and delayed. It is absolutely critical that those homes yet to have been offered smart meters are issued with the newer model and that the old SMETS1 meters are either replaced – or updated to enable connection to the network – to address the issue of them being rendered useless after switching.
‘We believe that the cost of the roll-out now outweighs any consumer benefit. We would not recommend SMETS1 smart meters to our customers.’
The National Audit Office said in November of last year that the government has ‘no realistic prospect’ of reaching its 2020 target.
It’s report said installers will need to replace 39 million old meters within the next two years if it wants to meet the deadline.
Which? said the industry would have to install 30 meters every minute over the next two years to meet the target whereas it currently installing fewer than ten.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: ‘It’s worrying that at this key moment, when the switch to second generation smart meters should be accelerating, installation rates overall are actually slowing down.
‘This is adding to the confusion for customers. Millions of people who have had a smart meter fitted may find it doesn’t work properly when they switch supplier, while millions more are not able to get a smart meter installed even if they want one.
‘Customers on prepayment tariffs, in rural areas, and in large parts of the north of England and in Scotland, are in danger of being left behind.
‘Smart meters will provide benefits for customers, but with the rollout beset by technical problems, the current timetable is unrealistic.
‘There’s little chance that the 2020 deadline will be met, it should be extended to 2023.’