It is unsurprising that the Government has delayed the deadline for the smart energy meter rollout by four years until 2024. Previously, suppliers were required to fit smart meters to all supplies by the end of 2020. Customers are not obliged to have a smart meter fitted, but energy firms must have offered them to all UK households by the end of the new deadline. The benefits of the smart meter roll out are that readings would be automatic, billing would be easier, and a new world of flexible charges would be marketed.

Energy firms had warned that the deadline was unachievable in recent years given that the technology was not ready for the mass roll out to the domestic market given the lack of interoperability for the current meters in the market place. Interoperability will mean that meters will not require changing when switching suppliers, something which currently causes issues and has led to a vast number of meters installed being of no use after transferring to another energy provider. The lack of engineer time has also been cited as another reason for the deadline being impossible to achieve.

The extended deadline is likely to cause four more years of frustration for customers, many of whom are dissatisfied that, in order to maintain use of the meters they have been provided, they are tied to their current provider. The use of independent suppliers has increased as a result in the commercial sector, meaning data can be provided by the data collector to the supplier currently contracted to provide the energy. To maintain momentum beyond 2020 the Government is proposing strict yearly installation targets for suppliers from 2021.

Whilst the smart meter roll-out is undoubtedly a common sense move alongside the flexible smart grid technologies and infrastructure developments, the cost of installing the new equipment is likely to rise further, to more than £13bn in total. The new framework gives them until the end of 2024 to install smart meters in at least 85% of their customers’ homes.

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