Utilita Energy has confirmed it has filed for a judicial review into the end date for the installation of SMETS1 meters for Pay As You Go (PAYG) customers.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has moved the deadline back another three months from July to October 2018, following a number of previous delays.
But Utilita has repeatedly urged BEIS to push it back to at least 2020 for PAYG customers.
Utilita says SMETS2 meters can negatively impact them – potentially leaving millions of vulnerable households in the dark, if the network is down.
“We have been left with no choice but to take this course of action - this is not a decision we have taken lightly,” said Utilita Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bill Bullen.
“The smart meter rollout is designed to offer a better level of service for households. We believe abandoning SMETS1 meters at this time will have the reverse effect for millions of low income households that use PAYG.
“It’s been suggested SMETS2 meters are more advanced than SMETS1 meters – but this is simply not true. Indeed, for the PAYG market SMETS1 are secure, cost effective, interoperable and provide additional functionality not supported by SMETS2 meters.
“Our motivation is purely in the best interests of PAYG households – many of whom are among the most vulnerable in the country.
“It is indisputable that SMETS1 meters currently offers them a better level of service.”
Notably, Utilita’s SMETS1 meters have a keypad which allows vulnerable PAYG customers to serve themselves if there are any difficulties and the network is down. SMETS2 is not designed for self-service – potentially putting millions of households at risk of going off supply.
“We cannot rush this. We fully support the roll-out of smart meters, indeed with 90% of our 650k customers already having them, we are more advanced than any other company – but it has to be at the right time for everyone, and this is clearly not the right time for SMETS2,” said Mr Bullen.
“There is still huge uncertainty regarding the full scale deployment of SMETS2 meters which have not been properly tested for the PAYG market.”
As things stand, there are only a few hundred SMETS2 meters in operation – and none in PAYG – yet BEIS says the SMETS1 option should be taken away in less than six months.
Mr Bullen added: “If we get this wrong, the effect on the entire rollout could be catastrophic – there is a very real danger it will discourage millions of households from wanting a smart meter, the exact opposite of what the government is setting out to do.”
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Utilita Energy is one of the UK’s fastest-growing independent energy suppliers, according to Cornwall Energy, and one of the main challengers to the Big Six.
Utilita was the first energy supplier in the UK to install a smart meter, with nearly 90% of its 650,000 customers having been installed with one already – by far, the largest percentage of any UK supplier.
In 2018, Utilita is a Which? Top 5 energy supplier for Customer Service and a double uswitch winner for Best App and Best Smart Meter Experience.
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