UK Smart Meter rollout; updated official statistics due shortly…

The next official update of UK Smart Meter rollout statistics is due on the 25th August. The last update, here, covering the first quarter of 2022, showed that 41% and 48% of domestic gas and electricity meters, respectively, are now Smart Meters operating in smart mode. This means that, overall, 45% of all domestic meters are Smart Meters functioning as intended, an increase of 2.8 percentage points in the first quarter of 2022. It’ll be interesting to see how things have changed in the forthcoming update.

Since the National Audit Office’s spotlight on the rollout  in 2018, new obligations on energy suppliers, and a new target for completing the entire rollout by mid-2025, were introduced in July 2021 . The devil’s always in the detail with official statistics, so there’ll probably be scope in the forthcoming figures for politicians and energy suppliers to assert that things are on track to hit the new mid-2025 target. The Badger’s nose, however, is twitching, which is normally an early warning signal to expect more delay and cost. Why the twitch? Well, extrapolating into the future may be a dangerous game, especially in volatile energy supply, political, and economic times, but if the rollout continues to put just 2.8 percentage points on the overall number every quarter, then ~20% of the target will still be outstanding in mid-2025. If the forthcoming statistics are better than expected, then the Badger might need to recalibrate his nose as an early warning sensor!

Regardless of the marketing campaigns, Smart Meters provide little real benefit to the consumer who continues to pay for their rollout in their bills. They primarily benefit energy suppliers and the government, through various overhead and wholesale energy trading cost reductions and spin regarding commitments to 2050 net zero emissions. UK Subnational Electricity and Gas consumption statistics show that in 2020 domestic electricity consumption had reduced by 18.6% compared to its level in 2005. Similarly, domestic gas consumption had reduced by 28% over the same period. It’s notable that the national Smart Meter rollout began in earnest in 2016 and so hasn’t played any significant role in these reductions. The devil’s again in the detail, but you really have to be rather blinkered to believe otherwise.

The Badger feels that mainstream media’s focus on energy prices and their impact on the cost of living in recent months – a focus driven by post-pandemic, geo-political, and bust supplier issues – has changed the use of energy by consumers faster and more permanently than Smart Meters have or will do in the future. Well done the media, for a change! So, if the Badger’s twitchy nose still has some credibility, what’s next for the Smart Meter programme if the forthcoming rollout statistics are poor? Perhaps this expensive programme will achieve formal white elephant status and consumers will get a rebate? Dream on…

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