Eamonn England at Haringey Advice Partnership explains the pros and cons of smart meters
Public Voice delivers a number of community-based services in Haringey, including the Haringey Advice Partnership, and through this work we come into contact with older people in need of support, information and guidance.
As the government rolls out its smart meter installation programme, we’ve found that older residents are both embracing and questioning the technology.
According to official statistics collected by the government, as of March 2023, 57% of all homes had smart meters installed, translating to around 30.6million homes nationwide, including 31,000 homes within Haringey. It is hoped that in-home displays, showing how much energy is being used in real time, will help users to identify where they may be able to save money on their energy bills.
However, progress on rolling out smart meters remains slow. In a report published in October 2023, the House of Commons public accounts committee (PAC) warns that not enough has been done to ensure that the rollout has the support of the public. Reports from last winter of forced switching onto smart meters may have put people off from having one installed, although this practice has been temporarily suspended since February following intervention from energy industry regulator Ofgem.
Prepayment meters can be installed when a customer is in debt and are pay-as-you-go, meaning power is cut off if payment is not made. Ofgem has now tightened the rules, banning energy suppliers from forcibly installing prepayment meters for people over 75 with no support in their house and homes with children aged under two.
We’re pleased that action has been taken to protect potentially vulnerable consumers, but the rules could be widened to include more vulnerable people, especially those over 65. People in the 65+ age bracket without support in their home may find it difficult to manage their bills and finances at times and this really should be a consideration under the latest changes made by Ofgem.
Smart meters are next-generation gas and electricity meters that can digitally send meter readings to energy suppliers for more accurate
billing. You get one meter for gas and one for electricity. They are free but not compulsory in the UK, and whether you accept one is
up to you, but they can be a useful tool for managing energy usage. It’s important to note that smart meters won’t save you money by themselves. It’s down to the user to monitor use and make adjustments where necessary.
Smart meters support a wide range of off-peak and variable rate tariffs. Suppliers could offer you tariffs that reduce your charges if
you use power when it is cheaper for them to buy it on the wholesale market. They shouldn’t increase your energy costs and could save you money if used properly.
If you refuse a smart meter when offered, you might find it hard to access all tariffs. This is because in future the cheaper tariffs offered
by suppliers might only be available to customers with smart meters. If you need to replace your old-style meter because it’s unsafe,
you might not be able to refuse a smart meter. This is because not many old-style meters are made now – your supplier might not
have any in stock.