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Smart meter 2020 rollout target will not be met, says National Audit Office

The Government’s ambitious target looks set to cost consumers half a billion pounds.

smart meter display

Despite pledging that every home in the UK would have a smart meter installed by 2020, the Government appears set to miss that target, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

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The second generation of smart meters began rolling out in the summer of 2017, three years later than had originally been forecast. This was due to significant technical delays and an underestimation by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy of how long it would take infrastructure and technical standards to be implemented. The NAO, the UK’s spending watchdog, now says that energy suppliers expect only 70-75% of homes and small businesses to be using a second generation smart meter by the end of 2020.

How will consumers be affected by the missed smart meter target?

This will cost consumers in the region of half a billion pounds, or around £17 per household. In the absence of second generation smart meters, suppliers have instead installed 12.5 million first generation smart meters. These can “go dumb” if the customer switches their energy supplier, and nearly a million have gone dumb so far. This issue means that customers could feel that they have to choose between remaining on a more expensive tariff or losing the benefits of their smart meter.

Richard Neudegg, Head of Regulation at uSwitch, says this constitutes a risk that up to nine million smart meters “may need to be ripped off the wall and replaced at considerable cost and inconvenience to households.”

Richard also said: “The NAO’s report lays bare what has long been suspected: that the Government rushed ahead with the smart meter roll-out without a good enough plan, before the technology was ready – with consumers ultimately paying the price.

“Households will now be questioning whether the smart meter programme has been fully thought through. The NAO estimates the programme is going to cost energy customers at least an extra half a billion pounds, and says the Government isn’t even monitoring whether people are actually saving energy as a result.

“It’s time for the Government to come up with a realistic timetable for resolving these technical delays if it wants consumers to really believe in the benefits smart meters will eventually bring.”

Responding to the National Audit Office report on smart meters, Robert Cheesewright, Director of Corporate Affairs at Smart Energy GB, said “Britain’s smart meter rollout is a hugely complex and challenging infrastructure upgrade, but we must not lose sight of the bigger picture which is that we urgently need a modern, connected energy system with smart meters at its heart.

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“That’s why millions of smart meters have already been installed and they are paving the way for more clean and renewable energy and the widespread take-up of electric vehicles.

“The alternative is that we are stuck with estimated, inaccurate bills from an outdated system that can no longer keep up with the way we use gas and electricity in the 21st century.”

Read more about smart meters here:

  • Keith M V

    We had a Smart Meter fitted (1st Generation) and changed supplier and have now lost the smart meter display, so now have to crawl under the stairs to read the meter (we was not told which buttons to press to get readings and when you do get it up the different readings keep rolling round and initially do not know which is which. Also we are still trying to work out how you save money with the smart meter as most of them do not tell you how much power each appliance uses power. Biggest waste of time going. You can not get a new meter put in to give you any display after having one put it, they also don’t tell you that if you change supplier they use different meters….. So frustrated with it all, all at the consumers cost…

  • speedgeek

    A blind relative cannot use his prepayment gas meter, because one needs to follow prompts on the display, which he cannot see! He loves his smart electric meter, as he can top up without assistance.
    However, British Gas refused point blank to supply a smart gas meter, unless he switches his electricity from Utilita to BG, which he is totally unwilling to do!
    Seems British Gas WANT to lose customers!

  • Gillian C

    I take it that you realise that these meters are a health risk as they put out huge amounts of radiation and that they are a fire risk as they can spark and go on fire, with the risk of setting your property on fire?! Also they aren’t cheaper, as they are costing the consumer around £450 per house hold extra. I’ll stick with my submissions of readings. I’m having the smart meter taken out from my home.

    • Mark Gurmin


  • Patrick Montgomery

    * Providing 12 meter readings is hardly traumatic.
    * Energy companies mostly use fixed monthly billing anyway.
    * IF consumers HAD to save money; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell anyone to switch off redundant appliances or use more efficient appliances – THAT’s what saves energy – not meters!
    * SMART meters make Energy Companies more money because they’ll eventually start a variable-rate spontaneous charge tarif to recoup any “lost” consumer-saving revenue.

  • Patrick Montgomery

    POTENTIALLY saving £21 pounds per year is about 6 pence a day or about 1/50th of a cup of coffee from a well-known brand chain. How much do meters cost to install?