BEIS and Andrew Warren’s smart-meter debate: both letters in full

Read Andrew Warren's full-blooded exchange with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in full.

Dear Sir,

We are writing in relation to Andrew Warren’s article (October 2017 page 9), ‘Implementation would be the dumbest move’, and a number of inaccuracies and misleading statements on the roll-out of smart meters that we would like to correct.

You claim there is no solution to SMETS1 meters losing functionality when switching. This is untrue. The Government has made clear in consultations and public statements that SMETS1 meters will be enrolled into the DCC, which will mean these meters becoming interoperable without the need for meter replacements. Meanwhile, millions of people are benefiting from SMETS1 meters, which eight out of ten people would recommend.

You also say that consumers using Economy 7 tariffs won’t find them compatible with smart meters. This is not true either. SMETS electricity meters actually support 48 registers, i.e. the ability to charge 48 different prices depending on time of use, and therefore all Economy 7 tariffs.

Finally, the article states that smart meter technology doesn’t work with smart phones, which people would like to use instead of IHDs (In-Home Displays). But recent BEIS research shows that a majority of people are satisfied with and making use of their IHDs. The smart metering technology being installed in Great Britain will also enable consumers to access their data on other devices, such as smartphones and tablets, if they so wish. Several energy suppliers and third parties are already deploying apps to their customers which are doing this.

Smart meters help consumers control and understand their energy use, end estimated billing, transform the experience of pre-payment customers, and enable smart energy systems and home automation. That is why the Government is committed to this vital national upgrade, which will bring our energy infrastructure into the twenty first century and make the energy market work better for consumers.

Yours faithfully,

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)


Andrew Warren replies:

There are three specific statements which I make in my column which are being challenged in the official complaint. In each case, I stand by what I actually wrote.

To begin with, I certainly never stated “there is no solution” to SMETS1 meters (the acronym for the 7m meters already installed, and still the current statutory requirement) losing functionality “when switching” suppliers. What I actually wrote remains true: “those consumers with smart meters already installed who also take Government advice to switch suppliers will likely find their meters lose any smartness they may once have had-a fault that has been acknowledged for five years. But still never rectified.”

The Government may well have made “public statements” about their intention to rectify this. Their Official Complaint contains yet another such statement. But as I write, this problem continues to exist.

I am also accused of telling porkies about Economy 7 Tariffs not currently being compatible with smart meters. I didn’t go into this in detail in October, as I had covered this exact point in my September column, when writing about the National Grid’s objective to switch most electric vehicle charging to cheaper times of night. I wrote then:

“The trouble is, the “smart” technology that Government is mandating to be installed simply isn’t offering that option. This doesn’t just affect customers of the Big Six. Take First Utility, the largest of the insurgents. Their agents Siemens specifically tell prospective smart meter recipients “if your current meter has multiple reading rates (for example day and night rates), and you no longer require that functionality, we can install a single rate smart meter for you. First Utility do not support multiple rate smart meters at this time.”

I hold a copy of just a letter, coincidentally sent by the same company whose subsidiary manufactures millions of the very smartest meters, that are still not being installed as a matter of course.

My third gross calumny was apparently to point out that the spread of smart phone apps is increasingly rendering redundant in-home displays from smart meter technology . Again, the Official Complaint chastises me for suggesting this, claiming that “a majority of people” (which people?) are satisfied with in home displays. Tellingly, yet again, we are offered mere promises that this “will” - at some unspecified time in the future - enable smartphone users to monitor usage. Significantly, there is no mandatory requirement for this right now; again, precisely the point I am making.

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