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Smart Meters

Volume 637: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2018

Government research on consumer satisfaction published in August last year shows that satisfaction with smart meters is high. Eighty per cent. of consumers are satisfied with their smart meters and 80% would recommend them to friends and family. Smart Energy GB found that nearly 90% of people with a smart meter made energy savings and changed their behavioural patterns.

I thank the Minister for his response. It is good to hear that so many people are reaping the benefits from smart meters. No system is ever perfect, however, and that is the case for a small number of customers such as a club in my constituency, Killamarsh juniors athletics club, which is now on its third smart meter and is getting really unhelpful responses from its electricity provider. Can he provide any advice to the club in my constituency?

My hon. Friend has made a point about the Killamarsh juniors club in his constituency. I would be very happy to meet him on that specifically. However, I have not found this generally to be the case. The roll-out of smart meters is a very important national modernisation programme that brings major benefits to consumers generally and to his constituents specifically.

Smart meters are good for consumers and suppliers alike, but the roll-out relies on there being a good mobile phone signal for them to be effective, and in many parts of rural Scotland that is simply not the case. Can the Minister reassure me that he is working across the Government and with relevant stakeholders to ensure that residents in rural areas benefit from smart meters?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. We are working on that, and the Arqiva radio solution provides communications services for the north region. That covers Scotland, and it is contracted to cover nearly 100% of premises by the end of 2020.

Does the Minister accept that his statistics are based on surveys that are carried out about 10 weeks after installation? My own survey found that 54% of constituents would currently refuse a smart meter, 97% want to see the costs of the programme shown on their bills, and 74% said that receiving one had not yet made any difference to the size of their bills. Will he also take those findings into account?

The hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to know that I am very interested in anything he has to say. He contributed a lot to the passage of the Smart Meters Bill in the House of Commons. I would be very interested to receive those statistics, but we do receive them from quite a few different places, and I do not just quote one sample.

I am sure the Minister is speaking in good faith, but I have come across constituents who find that bills are not reducing, but increasing. Has he had discussions with the utility companies about keeping an eye on this and making sure that the effect of smart meters is to reduce costs for constituents, many of whom are poor, not raise them?

I am very surprised to hear what the hon. Gentleman says. As he said—I am grateful for it—I am talking in good faith; I know he is too. I would be pleased to hear of those examples, but I cannot quite understand why bills would go up, because nearly 90% of people with smart meters say that it is changing their energy patterns and that bills are going down.

As my hon. Friend, who also contributed a lot to the passage of the Bill, knows, SMETS 2 is the newer type of meter which at the moment is in its trial phase. As the months go on, SMETS 1 meters will be converted through software that is being developed by the Data Communications Company, and all new meters will be SMETS 2.

How satisfied are consumers when they realise that a smart meter becomes a dumb meter when they switch suppliers? Can he put an accurate timeline on the roll-out of SMETS 2 meters?

As I explained, the software that is being developed now and will be in place shortly after the summer will ensure that that does not happen. The comparatively small number of SMETS 1 meters that do not operate as smart meters when suppliers change will suddenly become compliant, and they will all be able to speak to one another electronically, which is what we all want.