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The government views the smart meter roll-out as an important step in giving consumers more control over how much energy they use by providing accurate and timely information on domestic energy consumption. This will help consumers make more informed decisions to reduce domestic energy bills and carbon emissions.
Smart metering is also an important step to improve the efficiency of the energy network by balancing the energy supplies we have more accurately with our consumption patterns. This is a major undertaking for energy providers as the roll-out will see 50 million gas and electricity meters installed in 27 million homes by 2020.
Between now and 2015, installation trials are being undertaken to build and test business processes, and to establish what works best for consumers. The government is working with industry, consumer groups and others to prepare for the mass roll-out. This includes confirming a code of practice to ensure householder protection and setting up the data and communications infrastructure needed to read meters remotely and securely.
Almost 1.5 million smart meters have already been installed throughout the UK as part of pilot work by energy providers.
Each energy provider will have its own plans for rolling out smart meters to customers. In accordance with government proposals, all providers will be obliged to offer their customers a smart meter between 2015 and 2020. Once the roll-out begins, your energy company will get in touch to arrange a suitable time and date for your smart meter to be installed.
Energy providers are responsible for arranging installations with customers to complete the roll-out. The installation of smart meters in homes and businesses has already begun as part of trials. The main smart meter roll out will begin in 2015 and will provide all customers with smart meters.
The installation itself will be carried out by a trained installer from the energy company. A typical smart meter installation takes around one and a half hours – but this will differ from property to property, and depend on where your current meters are located.
Some providers may respond to requests for smart meters, others will work through different geographical areas one at a time. The government advises consumers to shop around and contact different energy companies to find out how they plan to roll-out their smart meter programmes.
Both smart meters and in-home display units will be supplied by energy providers. There will be no up-front or one-off charge for installation – costs will be recouped over time through bills. As part of the installation, an energy company may offer to carry out an energy-efficiency inspection of your home, but you're not obliged to take up any of the recommendations, or buy any additional products.
When your smart meter is installed, it is important that you get advice on how to use it properly, either through your energy provider or an independent organisation, such as the Energy Saving Trust.
During mass-roll-out, all customers, including pre-payment customers, will receive a smart meter. A smart meter will have the added functionality of being able to be remotely switched by the energy supplier from ‘credit mode to ‘pre-payment mode’ and vice versa. Consumer protection rules state that if a provider wants to switch you to ‘pre-payment mode’ they have to make sure it is safe and practical for you.
The UK Government’s technical specification for smart meters is still being finalised. This means some smart meters already installed may not comply. For example, they may not have the capacity to act as export meters. Energy providers may have to fit a replacement smart meter in your home (at no cost to the owner) before the end of 2020.
Some providers are successfully upgrading smart meters remotely, without having to visit the home. We suggest that you discuss this with your energy provider now, and if possible, before having a smart meter installed.
The UK Government is working with industry, consumer groups and other stakeholders to ensure that the smart meter roll-out is conducted in the best interest of all consumers, particularly vulnerable ones. There will also be a new code of practice for energy providers who install meters, to protect consumers from a range of potential problems including data protection and miss-selling.
A smart metering system will enable you to maintain control over the amount of consumption data passed on to the energy provider, as well as third parties.
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