Lack of clarity on rollout funding and consumer nerves mar positive rollout story

Almost 87 per cent of consumers who have had smart meters installed in their homes say the installation was successfully completed in a single visit according to new study conducted by Utility Week in partnership with market research firm Harris Interactive.

Although high, this proportion falls short of the official estimate put forward by the department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. It believes that only around five per cent of customers will require a second visit before installation can be completed.

Campaign groups including the Big Deal have previously raised concerns that an unexpectedly high requirement for second visits to homes could push the overall cost of the smart meter rollout up. The Big Deal insists the additional cost could be as much as £1 billion.

Utility Week’s recent survey included responses from over 1,000 adults from across the UK.

41 per cent said that they have already been offered a smart meter by their supplier while 14 per cent have had a meter installed within the last six months. Of those customers who have had meters installed, 97 per cent said they found the installation process either very straightforward or fairly straightforward and 76 per cent said they were happy with the technical and service skills of the installer.

Furthermore, 64 per cent of respondent said that following installation of their smart meter they have since enjoyed better visibility of their energy costs. 36 per cent said they had achieved savings.

Harris Interactive energy specialist Mark Brenton, observed that the responses reflect an expected ramp up in the volume of smart meters being deployed.

But he added, that despite positive feedback on cost visibility “a minority of consumers (ca. 12%) still experience billing issues”.

Brenton said this “backs up recent headline news stories that the customer experience is far from perfect for all and this could have a detrimental impact on the potential for future engagement with energy.”

In addition, the survey found that among customer who have not yet had a meter installed, there is some nervousness about the prospect.

Three in ten consumers said they are not interested in receiving a meter and another three in ten said they would need more information before wanting to go ahead.

Among customers who expressed specific worries about smart meters, security of personal data was the biggest concern followed by a fear that energy suppliers will use smart meters to manipulate energy usage.

Finally, the survey showed a significant lack of awareness among consumers about how the smart meter rollout is being funded.

Brenton told Utility Week: “It is fascinating to see that over 60 per cent of all consumers, regardless of whether they had a smart meter installed or not, are unaware that the rollout is being funded by contribution from customer bills.

When asked how they felt about this “many of the comments suggest that this doesn’t sit well with the majority”.

One response on this issue said: “Absolutely disgusting as the companies benefit more than the user. They save money by not having to employ companies to read meters”.

Other comments expressed “disgust” and “disappointment”.


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