As energy prices are spiraling upwards, with many households eager to monitor their gas and electricity usage in real time – and, importantly, how much it all costs – is the big attraction of smart meters with this feature.
Last month, the Guardian Money published a letter from a reader whose shell energy smart meters stopped working after the introduction of a new high energy price cap in April, and we asked other readers to tell us if they were experiencing a “smart loss”. ness “.
The answer was a resounding yes. The hundreds of letters we’ve received are in line with last week’s publication of government statistics showing that millions of smart devices are being read manually.
Officials say there are now more than 28.8m of smart and advanced meters in households and small businesses in Great Britain, but closer to 3.6m in what the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) calls the “traditional mode”, possibly for a reason. The homeowner has gone to a “currently unable to operate meter in smart mode” supplier, or has network communication problems. However, the number of operations operating in the traditional mode is declining, according to BES.
We’ve looked at issues raised by readers about specific energy providers, as well as other questions about smart meters.
When will my smart meter be smart again?
The original letter to our Consumer Champions was about shale energy, and our request inspired many customers to write. Jennifer, a client of Shell Energy whose meter was also muted in March, spoke out for many when she said she was unable to monitor her use, and so her costs were a source of concern.
“I don’t immediately see how much it costs to do something special, such as heating for an hour, or turning on the oven and grill for 40 minutes, when the energy price goes up,” she says. “Could it be that I could spend more on heating, or maybe there are some things I’m doing that are spending a lot that I can cut … which is definitely the whole point of a smart meter?”
Some Shell Energy customers say their problem was caused by an “unreliable signal” to their device, while others with the problem say their meter stopped working when they moved from a failed supplier to the company or when the price cap. Has changed
Shell Energy says: “As is the case across the industry, a small proportion of smart metering equipment may lose communication. Where the cause of the error can be identified and under our control, we work to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Where the issue is out of our control, we We work with our industry partners to try to address this.
It adds: “We are not aware of the problems with smart meters due to customers moving from failed suppliers to our systems or changes in price caps. These events can reveal a symptom – that is, we find that there is a problem because we have not seen the new tariff information in IHD. [in-home display]But these events are not the cause in themselves.
The company also says that “when we talk about smart metering devices not working properly, it’s a communication problem, not a supply problem – the supply of electricity and gas to the home, billing and direct debit are all unaffected.”
Smart Meter 2.0?
CS, an EDF Energy customer, reports that his smart meter also stopped working, and says he blamed his first generation, or SMETS1, meter. The same reason was clearly given to some E.ON customers whose meters were bad.
SMETS1 stands for “Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specification 1”, and was the first wave of meters connected to these homes. The industry has now moved on to installing SMETS2 devices.
“I didn’t know there was a need to upgrade smart meters and I’m a little worried that manual readings could increase my bills versus smart meters over a period of rapid price growth,” says CS.
With more than 2.8m smart meters in its books, EDF says it has been fitting SMETS2 devices since the end of 2018. It added that at the beginning of the Smart Rollout program, all UK energy customers were connected to SMETS1 meters, which lacked capacity. Always operate effectively when the customer is moved between suppliers.
The company has an industry-wide plan known as Enrollment and Adoption (E&A), which specializes in SMETS1 meters and involves enrolling them in a new secure network. “The goal is to give SMETS1 meters the same functionality as SMETS2 meters without having to go through the inconvenience of another meter exchange. Most of our SMETS1 customers have successfully enrolled.”
Philanthropic Citizens Advice has developed an online tool to help you figure out what kind of smart meter you have and troubleshoot.
Gillian Cooper, head of energy policy, says some early meters can lose their smart functionality when you switch. “It can happen, for example, if your supplier has collapsed and you have moved to a new one,” she says. “If you haven’t switched energy suppliers and you’re having problems with your smart meter, you should contact your energy company for support.”
My supplier is blaming the data communication company. What is it and can it be its fault?
DCC is the “digital spine” that connects smart meters to energy suppliers and is the new network described by EDF. The network is owned by Capita, and many readers, including customers at Shell Energy, EON and Octopus, say they were told their problem was with DCC.
Jeffrey Town, one of the many Octopus Energy customers who wrote to us, reports that both of his meters went “dumb” on March 16. When he reported the error, he was told: “Large number of communication centers lost communication with us in February. This is a high-priority error that has been investigated and dealt with by the DCC.”
Octopus tells Guardian Money that it is aware of a problem caused by a software bug affecting a particular type of meter. “The problem is caused by a software bug in the firmware of this smart meter type communication hub, which damages the connection. However, this is not a big problem – it only affects about 1,000 of our smart meter customers, “said the company.
It adds: “We are working with DCC on this and have developed a solution that does not require full smart meter replacement. It will be rolled out to all our affected customers in the coming weeks.”
The DCC network has 11.8m SMETS2 and 8.7m SMETS1 meters. Millions of first-generation meters stopped sending automatic readings before being enrolled in a smart network, and since many of them migrated to it, some of the connection issues reported by readers need to be addressed.
Migration is complex, and involves retrofitting more than 500 technology variants.
A DCC spokesman says 20.5m meters are now in the smart meter network, and the vast majority are operating “they should”.
They add: “As with any of our scale and high-growth networks, a small number of devices may experience temporary problems, which we solve, working closely with energy suppliers and meter manufacturers.”
Is smart meter a waste of money?
The suggestion that they’re not as smart as they’ve been advertised – the recent promotional push to present Albert Einstein as a brand ambassador – has led some readers, such as Peter Holmes, to conclude that meters are a “waste of money.”
“I’ve been having problems with smart meters since I converted to shale energy,” he writes. “I have reported twice but have not been able to correct it yet. I had a second generation smart meter connected by EDF, but when I switched to Green, the electricity meter stopped communicating, although the gas was fine. “
However, when Holmes later switched to the shell, he says the gas meter restarted the communication but the electricity meter turned off again. “Personally I think smart meters are just a big waste of money. Smart meters have no effect on my energy usage,” he writes.
Russell Wing, who says his smart meter has never worked, adds: “We’ve tried to work with at least five suppliers at least five times. On the plus side, it has a nice display with backlight, so it’s easy to read. “
She says the smart meter has only worked well for a short time, and ecocity customer JN thinks the whole project is a way to green wash and evacuate employees.
“It certainly doesn’t save me any money because I’ve kept a close eye on what I’m using, and I’m afraid to think about what rare minerals are used to make meters and gadgets,” she writes. “The arguments for establishing them are, in my opinion, a green tune.”
The rollout of smart meters in 30 million homes is projected to be completed by 2025, and BEIS describes the replacement of traditional gas and electricity meters as an upgrade of national infrastructure to help make the country’s energy system “cheaper, cleaner and more reliable”.
A BEIS spokesperson said the rollout was “making good progress”, adding: “Customers with smart meters are more satisfied with their energy suppliers overall, but we want all consumers to have a better experience and continue to work closely with the industry. To be fully benefited. “
The cost of the project is spread across everyone’s bills as part of the fixed fee. Smart Energy GB, a government-backed campaign tasked with educating the UK about the quality of smart meters, says the devices have given consumers more visibility and control over their energy bills.
A spokesman for Smart Energy GB said: “This is especially important in the current climate as many households are concerned about rising energy costs.”
“Smart meters also eliminate manual readings and estimated bills, so consumers are only paying for the energy they actually use.”
Upgrading the country’s energy infrastructure was “the most ambitious and complex our generation has ever seen,” he added. “It is technically important for the UK to reach net zero. Accurate energy data provided by smart meters is helping to produce the right amount of electricity at the right time, reduce costly waste in the system and flatten demand peaks.”