Smart meter installations have plummeted this year, thanks to the coronavirus, new data has revealed.
The number of smart meters operating in smart mode at the end of June is almost unchanged from three months’ previous – with an increase of just 0.4 per cent, according to official smart meter statistics from the Government.
In the first three months of the year, 980,000 meters were installed – compared to just 135,000 between April and June – a fall of 845,000.
It means there are ‘less than half the meters installed than were originally planned at this point,’ according to one industry expert. The gadgets are used to monitor energy use.
In quarter one this year, 980,000 meters were installed, compared to just 135,000 this quarter
The drop was expected, as energy suppliers focused on emergency metering work due to the disruption caused by coronavirus, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said.
Just 1,200 smart meters installed in smaller businesses by large energy suppliers in the second quarter of 2020 – a tenth of the total in the previous quarter.
The amount of installations taking place fell dramatically as many firms closed their doors due to the ongoing pandemic.
As of 30 June 2020, there were 21.5million smart meters operating in Britain in homes and small businesses, of which 17.4million were operating in smart mode or were advanced meters.
This means that overall, 31 per cent of all meters, including traditional meters, fitted in UK homes and small businesses are now in smart mode or are advanced meters, a small increase on earlier in the year.
Originally, the target was to have all homes with smart meters by the end of this year. This has been moved back to 2024. The project is forecast to cost around £13billion once completed.
A further 8 per cent of meters are smart meters operating in traditional mode – making the total number installed 39 per cent – meaning that 61 per cent still have standard, traditional devices.
BEIS said industry data suggests the impact of the pandemic is likely to continue in July to September figures, though volumes have been on an upward trend since the end of May 2020.
Chart demonstrating how smart meter installations have fallen dramatically this year
A BEIS spokesperson said: ‘The replacement of outdated gas and electricity meters with smart meters is a vital energy infrastructure upgrade that will help make the our energy system cheaper, greener and more efficient.
‘The current pandemic has had an inevitable impact on progress, however with 21.5 million smart meters across Britain and installations safely scaling up again, millions of consumers are already taking control of their energy use and cutting their bills.’
Peter Earl, head of energy at Compare the Market, said: ‘The drop off in installations was inevitable given the lockdown measures in place during much of the reporting period.
‘The Government has recently announced plans to ramp up installation efforts, but targets have been ineffectual to date with less than half the meters installed than were originally planned at this point.
‘It is disappointing to see that 4.1million homes still have a “smart” meter operating like regular meters and little progress has been made in updating meters that have lost smart functionality.
‘In theory, smart meters should help households save money on energy bills – but they meet this worthy goal if they work properly.
‘One of the most effective ways for people to reduce their household bills remains switching energy provider regularly in order to lock-in a good value one or two year fixed-deal.’
Non-domestic meter installations have taken a dive as businesses closed for months on end
Robert Cheesewright, director of corporate affairs at Smart Energy GB, added: ‘The climate crisis hasn’t gone away during the pandemic and we still need to act to ensure that our energy system is smart, clean and resilient for the future.
‘While the latest figures show a reduction in installation numbers at the height of national lockdown, we expect installation numbers to rebound in future reports as restrictions are eased.’
There are several reasons why many smart meters operate in traditional mode including customers switching to suppliers currently unable to operate the meter in smart mode, meters being unable to communicate via the wide area network at the point of reporting and installed meters yet to be commissioned, for example, in new build premises.
This is just one of the issues with the smart meter rollout that has been plagued by problems ever since it launched in 2016.
The first generation meters, also known as SMETS1 devices, were found to have a fault where many stopped working after customers switched suppliers.
The second generation meters, SMETS2 devices, were meant to rectify this problem, however, many suppliers are still not installing these and continue to install the SMETS1 models.
The take up of the smart meter off has also been considerably less than the Government anticipated meaning the initial target date of every home and small business being offered one has been pushed back multiple times.
In June 2020, in light of coronavirus, the Government announced that the current rollout obligation will be extended until 30 June 2021 and that a new obligation to roll out smart meters will commence on 1 July 2021, which will see the rollout continue until mid-2025.
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