A few days ago, I was surprised to get a visit a home from a meter reader, who had come to read my gas and electricity smart meters. Both meters had been replaced on behalf my utility company – Ovo Energy last March 2015 – with smart meters that take readings every 30 minutes!!
So why does a real person have to come to read my smart meters?
After some investigation with the very helpful Ovo Energy Customer Service Team, I have now discovered why. After all it would seem pointless installing expensive smart meters and then employ someone to visit the house to take the meter reading. Ultimately, I as the consumer would be paying more. And the current UK government – energy efficiency policy – appears to be focused on encouraging the Utility companies to charge consumers less.
It appears that under current legislation, utility companies as part of their licence conditions to operate have an obligation to supply energy have to:-
- check for evidence of deterioration that might affect the safety or proper functioning of the meter,
- check for evidence of tampering or theft, and
- take a physical meter reading to ensure accurate customer bills.
Ofgem produced a consultation paper and invited comments during a consultation period which closed in September 2015. Their position was:-
“that health and safety obligations in legislation and industry codes, and recently enhanced theft detection and billing accuracy supply licence obligations, are more effective and proportionate ways to achieve the desired policy objectives of meter inspections. We expected repealing the licence conditions would improve competition in the retail energy market. We also thought that repeal would have the greatest potential to enable cost savings from smart meters.”
Ofgem’s preferred option is to:-
“repeal the meter inspection supply licence conditions. This is because we think other regulations and policies, including safety obligations and recently enhanced theft detection and billing accuracy obligations offer more effective and proportionate protections for consumer interests.”
These modifications would come into effect on 1 April 2016, subject to appeals made within 56 days from the date Ofgem publish the decision notices.
So home consumers with Smart Meters will no longer get a visit from a Utility Meter Reader – and perhaps bills might go done a bit?
PS The Meter Reader that came out did not know how to read the Smart Electric Meter!! So how easy is this for consumers? Ovo Energy then sent me the details of which button to press to read the data collected. It turns out that this is quite comprehensive. It’s a pity their current display readers , don’t show all this information! However, Ovo Energy admit they are not as good as they expected and there are plans to upgrade these devices.