Why am I being offered a smart meter?
Smart meters are the new generation of energy meters. Suppliers are installing them as part of a national government programme to replace older energy meters. It includes prepayment meters.
Your supplier will contact you to tell you when you can get one. You can request one too.
All energy suppliers must aim to install smart meters in every home in Great Britain. The Smart Energy GB website explains the government’s rollout plan.
Your supplier is responsible for fitting any smart metering equipment. This includes:
- a smart electricity and gas meter
- an in-home display. This tells you about your energy usage in pounds and pence
- a communications hub. This is installed by the electricity meter. It sends and receives information over a secure network to your in-home display and to your supplier so they can take remote readings and bill you accurately.
Do I have to have a smart meter?
Unless there is a good reason not to, suppliers must install a smart meter if they are:
- replacing a meter
- installing a meter for the first time, such as in a new property.
You can choose not to accept an offer to have a smart meter fitted. You can also request to have one at a later date without being charged. Choosing not to have a smart meter might mean you have a limited choice of energy tariffs. Some smart tariffs could be cheaper.
Smart meter benefits
Nationally, smart meters are central to our shift to a cleaner, more flexible energy system. We need to be able to adapt to the new, greener ways we now generate energy, such as through wind or solar power. Also to changing uses of energy, such as electric vehicle charging.
For example, smart meters will record your energy use every 30 minutes. 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. Or it could be when it is cheaper to supply it to you, such as on a sunny or windy day.
Near real-time information on your energy use
Your in-home display can help you easily track your costs and understand when your energy use could be more efficient.
An end to estimated bills
Because of the connection between your meter and supplier to share data.
Access to a broader range of tariffs
Some smart tariffs could be cheaper. Smart meters can work in prepayment or credit mode.
If you’re a prepayment customer, there are particular benefits for you:
- Energy suppliers may be able to offer new and more flexible ways to top up. So you might not have to visit a shop.
- Your in-home display shows your credit balance. So you won’t unknowingly run out.
- You can set your meter to top up automatically. So you won’t be left without power if you run out of credit at night or when the shops are shut.
- You won’t need to change your meter if you switch between prepayment and credit tariffs (including direct-debit tariffs).
Getting a smart meter installed
What to expect from your installer
Your smart meter installer must follow a code of practice. This sets a minimum standard for fitting a smart meter, including:
- offering you an in-home display that shows your usage simply in pounds and pence
- showing you how to work any equipment they fit
- providing energy efficiency guidance.
You can learn more about the fitting process and the code of practice on the Smart Energy GB website.
If you rent your property
If you pay for the gas or electricity in your rented property, you can choose to have a smart meter.
We recommend you tell your landlord before you get one. That’s because there may be rules in your tenancy agreement about how energy is supplied to the property, including the type of meter that can be installed.
If your landlord pays the energy bills, the decision to get a smart meter is up to them.
If your tenancy agreement says you need your landlord’s permission to alter metering at your property, they should not unreasonably prevent it.
If your mobile signal is weak
Communications coverage is one of a range of technical and commercial reasons why your supplier may not offer you a smart meter just yet. But a range of technologies is being used in the rollout, not just mobile signals. It's best to ask your supplier to understand when you can get one.
Smart meter costs
Under current arrangements, you pay for the cost of your meter and its maintenance through your energy bills. This will be the same for smart meters. You won’t be charged separately for a smart meter or the in-home display.
Smart meters and switching
Use the Citizens' Advice Smart Meter Checker to check what type of meter you have in your home and if your smart meter is working in smart mode.
When you switch supplier with a first-generation meter it will continue to accurately record your energy usage as before. However, if the new supplier can’t run your meter in smart mode, you may need to temporarily take manual meter readings. Energy suppliers must tell you if this is a risk.
The Data Communications Company (DCC) is responsible for the national infrastructure that enables communications between smart meters and all energy suppliers. First-generation meters are being connected to national infrastructure through a remote upgrade. This will enable them to get back their smart functionality if it is lost when switching.
Over time, all suppliers will be able to operate first-generation meters as smart meters.
Suppliers are currently installing second-generation smart meters which all suppliers will be able to run.
Smart meters can work as either a prepayment or credit meter too. This means you can access more tariff offers when shopping around. You won’t need to change your meter if you switch between prepayment and credit tariffs (including direct-debit tariffs).
Smart meter data and functionality
Your smart data
Your smart meter will store data about your energy use every 30 minutes.
You have a choice about how this data is used, apart from where it is needed to bill you and for other regulated purposes.
Your energy supplier and the companies that run the pipes and wires of the energy network, can access data to ensure accurate billing and carry out other essential tasks. Suppliers can access your daily data unless you object. They have to get your permission to access half-hourly data or to use your data for marketing purposes.
If you give permission, suppliers and third parties can use your data to offer you new products and services. For example, they may give you advice on the best tariff for you, or offer a smart tariff that charges different amounts at different times.
You can see your real-time and historical data on your in-home display.
Energy UK and Citizens Advice have published a Data Guide for Smart Meters.
If your meter stops being 'smart'
It will continue to accurately measure your energy usage. You can take manual readings as you did with your traditional meter.
Your supplier must take all reasonable steps to get a meter reading from you at least once a year. You can also give your supplier more regular readings by calling them.
The Data Communications Company (DCC) is responsible for the national infrastructure that enables smart communications between smart meters and all energy suppliers. First-generation meters are being connected to national infrastructure through a remote upgrade. This will mean your meter can get back its smart functionality once it is connected.
If you have a first-generation smart meter, contact your supplier to find out when your meter will come under the upgrade.
Help with smart meter complaints
Follow these steps on making a complaint.
If you have a complaint with an installer, you can usually take a complaint further with their trade body if you can’t resolve it. Your smart meter installer must follow a code of practice. This sets a minimum standard for fitting a smart meter.
You can learn more about the code of practice and information about the government’s smart meter rollout plan on the Smart Energy GB website.