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More than a million outdated smart meters installed as roll-out slowed

More than a million outdated smart meters installed as roll-out slowed

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Nearly one million out-of-date smart meters were fitted in the year after the deadline for ditching them passed, new figures revealed. Around 1.5 million first generation smart meters were installed last year, with 900,000 put into homes after the March 2019 cut off when energy firms were supposed to switch to the newer version. Last…

Nearly one million out-of-date smart meters were fitted in the year after the deadline for ditching them passed, new figures revealed.

Around 1.5 million first generation smart meters were installed last year, with 900,000 put into homes after the March 2019 cut off when energy firms were supposed to switch to the newer version.

Last year also saw a fall in the total number of devices installed, from 4.7 million in 2018 to 4.5 million, fuelling further fears that the Government’s target to have completed its £13.5bn rollout by 2024 will be missed.

The devices have been touted as a way households can save money by allowing them to track energy usage in real-time and in pounds and pence via an in-home display, but millions of the early iteration of meters have lost these functions after a customer switches supplier.

Peter Earl, an energy expert at switching site Compare the Market, said smart meters often do not live up to their “smart” billing.

“Smart meters should be an integral plank in the government’s green agenda by enabling households to track their energy usage,” he added. 

“In reality, energy suppliers have been notoriously slow to start installing the newest generation of meters, leaving many consumers saddled with outdated technology. 

“Energy consumers shouldn’t have to choose between a smart meter that works and switching to a better value tariff, but that is the unhappy predicament many undoubtedly face.”

The issues with the rollout, which will ultimately be paid for by customers, have created confusion and frustration. The deadline has already been delayed and the project has run over its original £11bn budget.

Energy firms were supposed to stop installing the early type of meters in March last year, in favour of an updated version which connects to a national network which allows for easier switching.

A programme to connect the first generation devices to this network and fix the problems began last year. The Data Communications Company, part of Capita, is in charge of this process but would not say how many meters had been successfully connected.

A spokesman said installations of meters connected to its network increased by 300pc last year and it expects the process of enrolling first generation meters to accelerate this year.

The majority of meters installed last year were second generation and so should be able to retain their functions after a switch. The Daily Telegraph has previously reported that some of these devices have run into issues.

The Government said that 29 per cent of domestic meters are now smart meters operating in “smart mode”, meaning they are tracking energy and sending readings automatically to suppliers.

It said a small decline in the number of installations was to be expected as suppliers switched to second generation models.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The replacement of outdated gas and electricity meters with smart meters is a vital energy infrastructure upgrade that will help make the UK’s energy system cheaper, greener and more efficient.

“With nearly 16.5 million smart meters now operating across Great Britain, millions of consumers are already taking control of their energy use and cutting their bills. Smart meters are future-proofing our energy system and reducing our contribution to climate change.”

Robert Cheesewright, of Smart Energy GB, which promotes the meters, said the fact millions of people had a smart meter installed last year was a positive in the fight against climate change.

He added: “Every single smart meter installed in Great Britain is a step closer to a smart energy system, which will enable us as a nation to make greater and more efficient use of renewable energy and tackle our aging energy system’s contribution to climate change.”

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