Smart meters suffer blow with 10 percent drop in number of installations | Personal Finance | Finance

The number of smart meters being installed by energy firms is falling – putting at risk the supposed benefits of using the devices.

New official figures show that some 747,272 were installed in the first three months of this year.

That was down 10 percent from the 825,257 in the final three months of 2023 and by almost 100,000 for the same period last year.

The fall comes against the background of concerns that millions of the meters do not work properly.

It also appears that energy firms are finding it increasingly difficult to persuade sceptical householders to have one installed.

The total number of installations in the first three months of 2024 is put at 747,272. This is the lowest quarterly figure – leaving aside the pandemic period of lockdowns – since early 2016.

New official figures show that the total number of smart meters – both for electricity and gas – now installed is at 35.5 million. This represents 62 percent of households.

However, some 3.9million – around 11 percent – of these were effectively ‘dumb’. This is because they are not using their smart function to provide accurate real time information on energy use and cost to energy firms and householders.

As a result, the customers involved may be getting inaccurate estimated bills.

The Director of Energy at Citizens Advice, Gillian Cooper, said its research suggests the smart meter failure rate is higher.

“Smart meters can help households save money on their energy bills, but today’s figures show millions are missing out on these benefits because their meters aren’t working as they should,” she said.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. Our research shows 20 percent of households with smart meters still have to submit regular manual readings. And nearly a third experienced issues with their in-home display.

“Suppliers have been too slow to fix issues with people’s smart meters.  We need new rules to ensure energy suppliers identify and fix problems as quickly as possible.”

The boss of Centrica, which is the owner of British Gas, recently suggested that the only way to overcome the problem of falling installations is for the government to support a street by street installation programme.

The national roll-out of smart meters is central to government plans to bring down CO2 emissions, meet net zero targets and bring down bills.

The meters give householders and energy firms the ability to measure electricity and gas use in real time.

They will be used to introduce a new billing regime that will charge householders higher tariffs during peak periods and less at other times, such as through the night.

The hope is that smoothing out demand will reduce the need to build expensive new power stations – a saving that will lead to lower bills.

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