The rate of smart meter installations in the UK dropped in the last quarter of 2018, according to figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
According to the data, 1,105,400 smart meters were fitted in domestic properties between October and December last year, representing a 2% fall in domestic smart meter installation since the previous quarter. Compared to the final quarter of 2017, installations were down by 16%.
The government plans for every household and small business in the UK to be offered a smart meter by the end of 2020, but many critics have been saying this target is unrealistic and needs to be adjusted. By the end of last year, just 12.65 million smart meters had been installed in residential properties – around a quarter of all homes in the country. There were also around 1.12 million smart meters in operation in commercial properties.
An upgrade to the technology is partly to blame for the slowdown in smart meter installations, according to the promoters of the rollout, Smart Energy GB. Many of the first generation of smart meters, called SMETS1, lose their smart functionality once a customer switches supplier. However, the new generation, SMETS2 meters, has addressed this issue. Of the 12.65 million smart meters in British homes, only around 240,000 were SMETS2 meters.
“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,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice. “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.”
The National Audit Office said in November that the government had ‘no realistic prospect’ of their deadline being met. They also claimed that consumers will save less than £11 a year for having a smart meter, well below the £26 in savings promised by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
“The rollout of smart meters has been plagued with problems,” said Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?. “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.”