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Five Million Second-Generation Smart Meters Now Live


Energy suppliers have now installed five million second-generation (SMETS2) smart meters in UK homes and small businesses, despite a lull in installations during the coronavirus lockdown.

The five-millionth SMETS2 meter was installed on Monday, 7 September, in Lincoln by renewable supplier Bulb. That’s according to figures from the Data Communications Company (DCC), which handles smart meter communications.

Around 21.5 million smart gas and electricity meters have been installed in the UK, part of a £13.5 billion rollout which aims to offer them to all homes and small businesses by 2025. However, until recently most of the meters being installed were first-generation SMETS1 meters, which frequently lost connectivity when consumers switched energy supplier. Last summer the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) estimated that nearly one in five meters then live had gone ‘dumb.’

SMETS2 meters avoid this hitch but their rollout only began in earnest last year. The millionth second-generation meter was installed in May 2019 and the two-millionth went live a year ago.

The pace was picking up, with another million SMETS meters installed between 11 September and 29 November and yet another million between November and 26 February. By February, 90% of all meters being installed were SMETS2, up from just over half during the second quarter of 2019.

But as the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing rules restricted home visits, suppliers paused their smart meter rollouts and furloughed thousands of installers.

Energy companies tentatively resumed installations in June but the damage had been done. In the second quarter of the year, between April and June, just 135,000 smart meters were installed, 850,000 less than were rolled out during in the first quarter. 

Installations rebounded in July, up 120% from June, although still 36% below last year’s figures. Consequently, it took six months for another million SMETS2 meters to be added to the total.

In light of the pause, the government has given suppliers an additional six months to offer every home and small business a smart meter, pushing the deadline back from the end of 2024 to 30 June 2025. Suppliers will now face stricter yearly targets for installations.

Angus Flett, the chief executive of the DCC, applauded the work of suppliers in continuing to roll out smart meters under “difficult circumstances” this year.

Chief executive of the DCC Angus Flett said: “The pace of the smart meter rollout has recovered well during lockdown, with one million meters being installed since February. This is testament to the hard work of our customers – the energy suppliers and distributors – who found new ways of working which allowed installs to continue in a safe way.

“Britain is more concerned about its carbon impact than ever before and the appetite for this greening technology remains strong. Our data shows that in the front-runner localities, more than a third of homes now have a second generation meter.”

One of those front-runner locales is Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, where residents are the fastest adopters of smart meters in the country.

Smart gas and electricity meters display consumption in kilowatt-hours and pounds and pence, both on the meter itself and on an in-house display. The hope is that they give consumers and businesses greater knowledge of and control over their energy use, ideally helping them trim consumption, bills and carbon emissions.

Smart meters also automatically send readings to energy suppliers and display consumption, eliminating the need for manual readings and for bills based on estimated usage.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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