Smart meter statistics for the first quarter of 2019, released by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), have shown that installation rates have continued to drop. This comes as we draw ever closer to the government’s original target of completing the rollout by 2020.

From January to the end of March, just over a million smart meters were installed by large energy suppliers, split between 457,900 for gas and 573,700 for electricity. This represents a 6.7 per cent decrease from the last quarter, and a 17 per cent drop from the installation rate during this quarter in 2018.

The ineffective rollout of smart meters has been the subject of much criticism and scrutiny. A recent survey from BEIS revealed that only 35 per cent of consumers own a smart meter. This has led to questions about whether the rollout deadline should be scrapped, or if it should be made opt-out.

Research carried out by Smart Energy GB warned that Britain risked missing its climate change targets if more people did not adopt smart meters.

As of 31 March, more than 14.3 million smart and advanced meters were in operation across Britain, an increase of 4.2 per cent of the figure at the end of 2018. This is compared to the 34.3 million traditional meters currently in service.

Of these smart meters, 13.2 million are domestic, and 1.15 million are non-domestic. The total number of smart or advanced meters installed to date comes in at roughly 17.4 million.

A quarter of all domestic meters operated by large or small energy suppliers are smart meters in smart mode. Over a third of all non-domestic meters are similarly operating in smart mode, or with advanced functionality.

Of all operational meters, at the end of 2018 small energy suppliers reported that they operated a total of 352,800 smart meters, 9.4 per cent of all domestic smart meters.

The slow uptake of smart meters has been blamed as one of the factors responsible for SSE’s planned job cuts.

Commenting on the quarterly statistics, Peter Earl, head of energy at Compare the Market, said:“Nearly 16 million homes are now set up with a smart meter but this is a million miles away from where it should be – the 2020 target is now implausible. The latest setback is made worse by the failure of larger energy suppliers to deliver at the speed required. In a frantic attempt to meet their targets, larger suppliers are insisting that customers install a smart meter when they sign up to some new tariffs, however, this practice is restricting access to some of the most competitive tariffs on the market for those people who already have one or simply don’t want one yet.

“It is disappointing to see that the SMETS2 rollout is moving at a mere trickle. It is absolutely critical that those homes yet to have been offered smart meters are issued with the newer model and that the old SMETS1 meters are replaced – or updated to enable connection to the smart network – to address the issue of them being rendered dumb after switching.”

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, added:“It’s disappointing that the industry continues to drag its heels when it comes to smart meter installations. It’s also unacceptable that millions of energy customers have been left lumbered with ‘dumb’ smart meters, especially if they’ve switched to avoid expensive energy tariffs or escape poor customer service.

“Smart DCC urgently needs to get on with rolling out its fix for first-generation smart meters without further delay and installing second-generation meters more widely must be a priority for all parties. Customers should benefit from monitoring their energy use and using this information to switch to a better deal – rather than enduring hassle and soaring costs.”

Last week, it was announced that one million second generation smart meters had been installed and connected.

Research released in March by Which? indicated that over half of consumers have interoperability issues with their smart meters when they switch suppliers. This may be one of the causes of the fast increasing complaints about switching made by customers.