Why UK consumers are yet to embrace smart meters

Why UK consumers are yet to embrace smart meters

Smart meters are supposed to help you save money, as well as being great for the planet. So why are UK consumers so reluctant to get them? Let’s find out more.

The stats tell a bleak story. Ten years on from the start of the UK’s smart meter rollout and only 42% of homes and businesses have had one installed. Even worse, around one-fifth of those meters aren’t running in smart mode. It’s fair to say that the rollout has not gone to plan so far, with technical problems, budget difficulties and the COVID pandemic all having an impact. However, one of the main obstacles to the rollout has been that Britons are not that interested in getting them. If the target of getting a smart meter into every home and business by 2025 is going to be achieved, the powers that be have some serious work to do.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the reasons why consumers have not yet been won over by the smart meter rollout.

Installation issues

It should be so simple. Energy companies will come to your house or business and install a smart meter, free of charge. Once you have a smart meter, you can use it as a guide to help you use less energy, which is good for your bank balance and the planet. What’s not to like?

In reality, quite a lot. The installation process is not simple at all. It takes at least half a day for the installer to rip out your old meters, replace them with new ones, then connect the smart monitor. It’s understandable that many people don’t fancy taking half a day away from work just to get a smart meter put in.

This problem has been exacerbated during the pandemic, as consumers have been justifiably reluctant to let strangers into their homes.

What’s the point?

Another reason UK consumers have not rushed to get smart meters is that they don’t understand the benefits. This is because no one has communicated with them on the advantages of smart meters. 

Once you have your smart meter, it’s up to you to monitor your energy usage and act on the information your meter gives you. A smart meter only helps you use less energy if you’re willing to put in the effort to check it regularly. Unfortunately, most people have got better things to do.

Also, people don’t like to feel like they’re being watched. Seeing your smart meter start flashing red when you put the kettle on can be quite unsettling. Many people would rather not know.

Savings? What savings?

Most consumers will not have seen their energy bills go down, even if they have a smart meter. In fact, their bills have likely gone up.

While energy companies install smart meters free of charge, the consumer ends up paying for them in the end. The smart meter rollout is budgeted to cost £11 billion. This cost will be passed on to consumers through higher bills with hidden admin charges.

It has also emerged that energy companies are not offering their lowest tariffs to smart meter customers. Plus, some smart meters stop working if you switch energy suppliers to try and get a better deal.

Bad news travels fast. People who have had bad experiences with smart meters will tell their friends, who will then not want to get one. 

Rollout problems

All the news around the smart meter rollout has been bad. It began with technical problems. The first generation of smart meters, known as SMETS1, shipped with a fault that caused them to stop working if you switched energy suppliers. Many of these meters have been ripped out and replaced with the next generation of meters (SMETS2), but the publicity around them was terrible.

There have also been shortages of meters due to problems with the manufacturers, budget increases, and numerous extensions to the target deadline. Currently, the date for completion of the rollout is 2025, but many experts doubt that the energy companies can hit this target.

All this bad news has cast a cloud around the smart meter rollout. It’s understandable that consumers don’t want to be associated with it.

Bad for business

It’s not just homeowners who have been reluctant to get smart meters installed – business owners have been equally reticent.

The prospect of getting a smart meter is even less interesting for businesses. Under the terms of the rollout, companies don’t get a smart meter monitor that displays energy use in real-time as homeowners get. Instead, businesses can only get this data from energy suppliers on request.

In addition, businesses need someone to monitor their energy usage and make recommendations if they are to reap any benefits. It’s no surprise that this is not a priority.

What can be done?

To win over the UK’s consumers and get the rollout back on track, the energy industry needs to overhaul the entire process. They should:

  • Fully communicate the benefits of getting a smart meter, so customers will want to get one
  • Engage better with smart meter users so they can make the most of their meter
  • Incentivise getting a smart meter by offering better tariffs to smart meter users (not worse tariffs, as they are currently doing)

Another idea that we regularly promote is shelving the smart meter rollout altogether, offering smart meters only as replacements when your existing meter reaches the end of its life. This plan would eliminate the hassle of getting an extra installation and give customers and energy companies one less thing to think about.

If smart meters are really the key to lowering the UK’s carbon emissions, as the government likes to promote, more needs to be done to get UK consumers to embrace them. It will be interesting to see what happens.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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