Millions of customers may need a new smart meter
Millions of customers with a smart meter will soon have to get a new one installed, warned a Midlands green energy expert.
Ron Fox was commenting on a recent report from the parliamentary accounts committee which said around seven million smart meters – out of a total of 32.4 million that have been installed before March this year – will need replacing.
This because those will be rendered useless because some 2G and 3G phone networks are being scrapped.
He said smart meters have a SIM card, like mobile phones, which needs to connect to a wireless network to function. So, when these networks finish, the smart meters won’t work.
Those customers will need a new functional smart meter which is connected to a 4G network, which will require a fresh SIM card.
But Ron explained they can only do this if they have a second-generation smart meter, which has better connectivity and is especially important for homes where mobile connections are poor.
And even worse, if they already have a second-generation meter, the option to move to a 4G network might not be available until 2025.
Until now home owners haven’t had to pay for smart meter instalments – but Ron warned this is likely to change.
It’s expected homeowners will have to pay the upgrade costs or the cost of new installations as part of this change, which the accounts committee said could be ‘significant’.
The deadline for smart meters to switch over from 3G and 2G isn’t until 2033 – but all the upgrades will need to happen before then.
Ron said that customers would have to ask their energy provider whether their smart meter was compatible with getting a new SIM, or if they would need to have a new one installed.
Details of how the switch over will happen among energy firms are unclear at the moment, although a number of firms charge around £50 to replace smart meters if they are faulty or if there are any issues. So, it could be the same cost to replace non-4G compatible meters.
Smart meters were introduced to UK homes in 2011, and the government had an initial aim that every household would have one by 2020. As of March this year, only 57 per cent of meters (32.4 million) were smart. The deadline has now been extended to 2025 when ministers hope to increase this figure to 75 per cent.
Energy suppliers are supposed to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to fix smart meters before declaring they need to be replaced.
But Ron, of Noreus Ltd which is based at Keele University’s Science and Innovation Park, said the government’s delayed targets mean they now have much more of an incentive to replace them rather than trying to fix them.
The committee’s report also highlights something that many customers may not realise – suppliers don’t have an obligation to replace smart meter displays if they break after a year of having them.
For more advice on green energy and smart meters contact Ron Fox on 01782 756995.
Caption: A modern smart meter.