Assessing the UK’s Smart Meter Situation

The smart meter rollout campaign is a step towards Britain’s 2050 decarbonisation goal, but over one-third of households with smart meters still encounter several issues. These problems include technical glitches, display malfunctions, and others.


According to new data gathered by uSwitch, four million households reported problems with their smart meters despite the looming deadline for installation at the end of 2020. Accelerating the rollout is imperative, but criticisms keep coming, which could cause another delay to the installation deadline – which has already been extended to 2020.


Smart meter issues


The latest figures show more than 14 million smart meters have been installed in Britain, with Scotland having around 903,000 of these digital devices connected. However, there have been numerous complaints since the rollout came into full effect.


The uSwitch study reveals that 39% of problems are related to malfunctioning smart displays. Around 32% complained that the device stopped working after switching to a new provider, and 13% reported that their smart meters failed to work entirely.


The second-generation ‘SMETS2’ meters are subject to complaints from a third of all households that have one, citing a variety of issues with installation and functionality. The SMETS2 devices were supposedly designed to dodge any such technical problem, but that’s not proven to be the case after rollout.

Energy retailers are raising concerns regarding whether or not the SMETS2 smart meter is up to the job. Some retailers believe the first-generation SMETS1 is superior to theSMETS2, and is considerably easier to operate and capture data with.


uSwitch also disclosed that one-fifth of smart meter owners were offered SMETS1 smart meters since March 2019, even when suppliers indicated that they would only install the newer models in light of the smart-meter rollout campaign.


Other news firms have also reported incidences ofcustomers receiving eye-watering power bills of as much as £2,000. Further investigations revealed that in some of these cases, the smart meter installed was faulty.

Other complaints involvea faulty smart box that sits with the existing fuse box andbroken display screens. Some people say their smart meter suddenly loses connection, beeps uncontrollably, or seems to be affected by the weather.


Views from different sectors


In the uSwitch study, half of the homeowners using smart metersare not entirely convinced about the benefits of the device. Over a fifth of the respondents confessed that they felt pressured into switching to a smart meter by a retailer, although the number has declined over recent years.


On a positive note, 29% of households say that their power bills have decreased thanks to smart meters. 66%believe the digital device helped them become more aware of their power consumption.


However, representatives from challenger suppliers who attended the roundtable event to discuss the rollout campaign expressed their opinion on the matter of smart meters. One delegate was convinced that SMETS2 shouldn’t have been pushed forward the way it was, because the full functionality developers had promised failed to be delivered in many cases.

Another representative pointed out instances where customers say they have lost trust in a specific supplier due to faulty smart meters. They also discussed SMETS2 meters being unavailable for prepayment accounts, straining the target deadline for the rollout.


The Data Communications Company (DCC) answered the claims, saying that the SMETS2 model provides an advantage due to seamless supplier switching, which encourages competition in the energy market. DCC revealed that over 3 million SMETS2 meters were already fitted, and that the technology is bound to improve and mature.


Meanwhile, the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) released recent figures showing that 3.1 million of the smart meters installed persisted had turned ‘dumb’. As of September, 15.6 million smart meters have been put into service, which is a 4% increase compared to the previous quarter.


Smart Energy GB ambassador Carol Vorderman said that smart meters help update the energy system, ensuring a more intelligent way of managing energy usage.


Smart Energy GB is an organisation that helps encourage households to switch to smart meters, and conducts awareness campaigns to introduce the benefits of these digital devices to the public.