Deadline for UK smart meters ‘impossible to hit’

The Government’s new smart meter rollout timetable for a device in 85 per cent of homes by 2024 cannot be met, the energy industry has warned.

A central heating smart meter
A central heating smart meter

Trade body Energy UK, which represents suppliers across the country, said its members are being set up for failure and could face massive fines under the deadline.

The body took a swipe at the new plan after officials were forced earlier this year to abandon their original target of a smart meter in every home by 2020.

“At best only 68 per cent” of homes will have a smart meter by the deadline, research commissioned by Energy UK shows.

This is far below the Government’s proposed target of 85 per cent.

In a letter to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the trade body said it “will not be possible” to reach the 85 per cent target.

Energy UK members, which include most of Britain’s energy companies, overwhelmingly agree with the assessment, it added.

The Government laid out its calculations in September, saying that if suppliers could keep up the pace of the rollout, they would reach full coverage by 2023.

However, it recognised that low-hanging fruit has already been picked and that some households may be reluctant.

Yet BEIS concluded that 85 per cent is still “realistically achievable” by 2024.

The department was unable to comment as it is governed by pre-election purdah rules.

The letter was sent in response to a BEIS consultation on the proposed new rules.

These suppliers are being set up to fail under the current system, which allows customers to say no to a smart meter, the letter said.

“There is the prospect that suppliers will face significant financial penalties for non-compliance of legal obligations as a result of factors outside of their control,” the letter warned.

It is a blow to the Government’s policy of trying to get a smart meter in every home in the country.

In September, BEIS suggested a new deadline for smart meters to reach 85 per cent of homes by 2024, abandoning its old 2020 target, with fines for suppliers who fail to meet annual targets until then.