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NAO casts yet more doubt over smart meter targets being met

THE UK’S National Audit Office (NAO) has become the latest group to dismiss any hope of the government’s smart meter installation targets being reached. 

The current deadline to convert every meter to be smart is the end of 2020, but the latest report says that there is “no realistic prospect” of that being met.

The news comes days after Which? researchers released a report showing that energy companies would need to install 30 smart meters per day, every day, until the end of 2020 in order to meet their deadline for switching the UK.

According to an investigation by Which?, the current rate of rollout is just 9.7 smart meters, meaning that the target won’t just be missed, but will be missed spectacularly.

To give you a flavour – so far, the big suppliers have managed to fit 11 million in total – but many of those are going to need updating further.

The switch to smart has been beset by problems, not least from the imposed deadline, which has led to meters being fitted quickly or by staff who are only just out of training on how to do it.

Worse still, many companies have fitted meters that meet the minimum specification (SMETS1) but aren’t completely compliant with the standard that will eventually need to be adopted (SMETS2).

The NAO estimates that around one million installed meters will need to be replaced as they are no longer working, on top of those still on traditional meters. This can be because of poor installation, technical problems, or the customer opting to change supplier which is not supported by SMETS1. 

As a result, many smart meters will cease to work properly if you switch supplier and will, therefore, need further upgrading.

SMETS1 meters are no longer available, as of last month, but a great many have been fitted already.

After the Which? report, the body overseeing the changeover, Smart Energy GB said: “In line with the government’s figures, smart meters will help people save on average almost £50 a year on their energy bills by 2030.”

However, today it has said that it refuses to speculate.

It follows the government line which is the target can and will be reached, despite MPs and Citizens Advice voicing their concerns. 

But Alex Neill from Which? begs to differ: “The smart meter rollout has been plagued by problems and been massively delayed, the benefits have been overstated and the savings they could bring consumers are at risk.”

The government has been asked to rethink the plans, but we suspect the government will claim it has more pressing things distracting it right now.

Some quarters are questioning whether there’s any tangible benefit for the UK by having smart meters at all, but the industry is determined to continue.

Government figures at the time that work began suggested that customers could save an average of £26 per year on a smart meter, but the NAO says that figure is more like £11, a figure first mooted by concerned MPs over the summer. 

It adds that the government isn’t doing enough to assess the actual benefits anyway.

Smart Meters in the UK work with a mixture of a SIM card to send readings back to the supplier and a firewalled Zigbee connection between the two meters. μ

Further reading

Source : Inquirer

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