Call that smart? New energy meters won’t work in 1 in 3 homes: The farce behind scheme designed to cut bills (but actually costs us all £11bn)

Millions of homeowners can’t get smart energy meters because of where they live and the way their property is built.

Smart meters are being fitted across Britain so households no longer have to submit meter readings and can see how much gas and electricity they are using at a glance.

But Money Mail can reveal that suppliers are unable to install them in around three in ten homes.

Thick walls, properties in blocks of flats and areas with poor mobile signal can all cause problems that stop the meters from working.

Farcical: Millions of homeowners can’t get smart energy meters because of where they live and the way their property is built

Other homeowners are being told they are on the wrong type of energy tariff or their meter is in the wrong place.

And some suppliers are refusing smart meters to households with solar panels or which use the Economy 7 tariff, where you pay a different rate for power used at night and in the day, because some types of meter only work properly with regular power tariffs.

Meters can also go haywire if households use energy-saving light bulbs

Customers often find out they can’t get a smart meter after waiting at home all day for an engineer to visit.

Meters can also go haywire if households use energy-saving light bulbs or dimmer switches because they can’t record the different type of current used.

A study by Twente University in the Netherlands revealed this can lead to bills nearly six times too high.

The Government wants all homes to have a smart meter by 2020. Suppliers must offer to fit one, but households can refuse.

The total cost of this roll-out is expected to top £11 billion, adding hundreds of pounds to everyone’s household bills over the next few years.

An industry insider admitted to Money Mail that suppliers are struggling to meet the deadline because smart meter technology isn’t advanced enough.

Benefits: Smart meters are being fitted across Britain so households no longer have to submit meter readings and can see how much gas and electricity they are using at a glance

‘We can fit them in only around 70 per cent of homes because of where they live or how they pay for power,’ says the source.

‘The industry is frantically working to improve the technology, but we don’t yet have solutions for all the problems. We need more time. By rushing, mistakes will happen.’

Most of the major energy firms have started offering smart meters. Some are working their way around the country region by region while others allow anybody to sign up for one.

A smart meter is normally fitted in the same place as your old meter. It uses wireless signals based on mobile phone networks to communicate with your supplier so you no longer need to call in your readings.

You’ll be given a portable display screen that shows how much energy you’re using and what it’s costing you.

Crucially, the two devices need to be able to communicate with each other wirelessly.

This is a problem if your house is large or has thick walls because the signal won’t reach. The same is true in blocks of flats as meters may be on a different floor or in the basement.

Oversight: British Gas says solar panels are a problem because smart meters can’t yet show how much electricity is being generated

As well as households on an Economy 7 tariff, those with storage heaters are being told they can’t have a smart meter yet.

British Gas says solar panels are a problem because smart meters can’t yet show how much electricity is being generated. It says it is working on a solution, which it hopes to introduce later this year.

Insiders say many households in rural areas with a poor mobile phone signal are unable to get a smart meter.

Suppliers say they have data showing the so-called blackspots — but even where there is a signal, it may not be strong enough.

The Government is working on plans to ensure at least 99 per cent of homes have the necessary signal, but the deadline for that is 2021.

Customers with smart meters have complained their meter stops working if they switch supplier. Households also report that it can take several engineer visits to get the system up and running.

Suppliers insist these issues should be resolved in the future.

‘Nearly five million smart meters have been installed,’ says Claire Maugham, director of policy and communications at Smart Energy GB.

‘The technology is constantly developing to ensure everyone can get all the benefits.’

v.bischoff@dailymail.co.uk

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