Smart meter rollout deadline delayed by four years

The rollout of smart meters in every home has been pushed back by four years until 2024, the government has revealed.

Ministers previously insisted the government’s own 2020 deadline for the rollout was achievable, despite industry warnings that the technology was not ready.

But on Monday officials announced that the likes of British Gas, Eon and Scottish Power will have until 2024 to install the meters in homes because of delays in connectivity and issues cropping up with the batch already in use.

The government also revealed it predicts only half of households will have a smart meter by 2020 and that the cost of the rollout has risen from £11 billion in 2016 to £13.5 billion today – although total savings will also rise from £16.73 billion to £19.56 billion.

Consumer group Citizens Advice, which has been calling for the 2020 deadline to be extended, welcomed the decision and said it was in the best interests of customers.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “This new deadline gives suppliers time to fix ongoing technical problems and make sure customer service isn’t sidelined as the rollout continues.

“We’ve seen some energy companies use aggressive techniques to try to persuade people to have smart meters fitted as soon as possible to meet the existing timeline.

“It’s also apparent that the cost of the rollout is escalating, and the public are picking up the tab through their energy bills. 

“People will still benefit in the long run, but today’s cost-benefit analysis shows focusing on speed hasn’t worked.”

The number of smart meters in homes has risen steadily over the past few years, although the speed of growth has slowed more recently as problems have started to arise.

One of the biggest issues has been older generations of meters not working when a household has switched suppliers, with the data no longer being sent in real time to suppliers.

Government-backed company DCC is supposed to be installing infrastructure to ensure the older meters work and that technology is in place so newer versions can connect to the shared networks.

But a recent study by auto-switching service Look After My Bills found that some meters were still “going dumb” and homes in the north of England were more likely to get inferior meters.

Lily Green, head of research at Look After My Bills, said: “It’s been an open secret in the energy industry that the smart meter deadline will be pushed back.

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“Suppliers are miles off from installing smart meters in all homes, with around 35 million homes still without a smart meter.”

A consultation by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the proposals closes on 11 November.

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of the sector’s trade association, Energy UK, said: “The energy sector is committed to working with the government and other partners to complete the rollout so we will now consider the proposals in detail to ensure they are deliverable and do not place unreasonable costs on consumers.”

Press Association contributed to this report.


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