Citizens Advice has called on the government to extend its smart meter rollout by three years to 2023.
By 2020 every home in the UK is to have been offered a smart meter installation.
But problems have plagued the rollout, with a number of customers reporting their devices “go dumb” when they switch provider.
Writing in a blog Victoria MacGregor, director of energy at Citizens Advice, said in the summer of 2017 Citizens Advice received more than 3,000 calls to its helpline regarding issues with smart meters.
MacGregor said with the deadline fast approaching, suppliers have to install meters at an “increasingly unrealistic place”.
She added: “With 42 million smart meters still to be installed, we’re concerned that the time pressure caused by the current rollout deadline will lead to a poorer quality installation experience and risks reduced value for money for consumers.”
The most frequently reported smart meter problems are:
- First generation smart meters (known as SMETS1 meters) losing their smart functionality when consumers switch
- Aggressive sales practices from suppliers trying to get smart meters installed
- Installation problems, such as the meter not fitting in the space available
- Customers still having to submit their meter readings manually despite having a smart meter installed
MacGregor believes if the deadline is extended to 2023, suppliers have more time to resolve the issues which would enable providers to roll out the remaining 42 million meters in a way that gives the “best possible” customer experience.
“If the deadline is not extended then consumer confidence in this programme will continue to be undermined, making it much harder to deliver”, she said.
Energy UK and BEIS have both strongly defended smart meters.
Lawrence Slade, Energy UK’S chief executive, acknowledged there have been “challenges” and some still remain but he said it is important to ensure there is an “honest conversation” with the public about smart meters.
He stressed smart meters have reduced cases of inaccurate billing – a key issue in the sector.
Meanwhile BEIS said smart meters “put consumers in control of their energy use” meaning they can save more on their energy bills. The department estimates those savings will be worth more than £1.2 billion a year by 2030.
BEIS outlined several myths and presented the facts to dispel them in a government response called “Smart meters – the smart choice” published on Tuesday (7 August).
The government is consulting on plans to further extend the deadline for the installation of the first generation of energy smart meters (SMETS1) to 5 December 2018.