20th March 2019
Smart meters are here
Maddie Inglis, Social Media Manager
Smart meters are here. These are energy industry game changers, and we’re buzzing about their potential. The technology will save UK consumers a lot of time (no more meter readings!) and with innovative electricity tariffs like our Agile Octopus and Octopus Go making the most of the smart meter tech, potentially a fair bit of dough too.
The UK's smart meter roll out
The government plans to have smart meters in all UK homes by 2020. We're fully behind this mission, and the exciting implications it'll have for the future of energy.
This has a massive, phenomenally ambitious government programme. It's been successful so far – over 25% of the UK has a smart meter – but the scale of the project means it's a really complex one.
Our CEO, Greg, updates regularly with the latest smart meter news on our blog. Read his latest here.
Can I get a smart meter with Octopus?
We're installing smart meters now. At this stage, we are prioritising installation for people who need a new meter urgently (emergencies, broken meters, customers with mobility issues), and customers that require one in order to make use of one of our innovative tariffs (Agile, Go, Outgoing). If you'd like one of our innovative tariffs, please email email@example.com.
We'll fit SMETS2 wherever possible, but these aren't suitable for some homes, in which case we'll fit SMET1s.
Anyone else who is interested in getting a smart meter, just register your interest here to be notified when we're rolling out in your area.
There are two types of smart meters in the UK.
SMETS2, the upgraded version, is what’s slowly being rolled out by UK suppliers now. SMETS2 tech is brand new, so most suppliers, including us, are rolling out cautiously, with lots of test installations taking place to make sure everything's working smoothly first.
The earlier model, SMETS1, is what the majority of UK installs have been up until now. Most suppliers are ramping up SMETS2 installs now because SMETS1 installations after March 15th 2019 won't count towards our smart meter quota (a target set for all suppliers by Ofgem).
So what’s the difference between the models?
SMETS1 is miles ahead of a standard credit meter. Its big issue is that it can’t usually stay smart if you decide to switch suppliers. This means that if, say, British Gas installed your smart meter and you decided to switch to Octopus, your smart meter would revert to functioning like a traditional meter. You’d have to give manual readings again and your In-Home Display might not work.
The update, SMETS2, can be transferred between suppliers without any faff, which is why Ofgem are trying to make sure as many people as possible get SMETS2 meters.
If you have a SMETS1, good news…
The tech in a SMETS1 is just as good as a SMETS2, and within the next year, SMETS1 meters can be made transferable between all suppliers, too. The new smart meter sends all data to a centralised body called the Data Communications Company (DCC), instead of sending it directly to suppliers. It’s very likely that SMETS1 will be programmed to send data to the DCC — even ones that are already installed — meaning soon SMETS1, too, will be transferable between all suppliers.
What is going on right now with smart meter installation bookings?
As of March 15 2019, SMETS1 meters are no longer Ofgem compliant.There's limited SMETS2 stock available in the UK currently, and because the tech is really new, we're starting out slow and waiting for everything to be perfect before we start installing on a large scale.
If you have an existing smart meter appointment, you may still get a SMETS1 meter after the 15th. At the end of the day, we have to do what's right for our customers, and so we're not cancelling existing appointments, and will fit whichever meter works best in the property on a case-by-case basis. (In some areas, SMETS2 meters aren't quite up and running just yet).
Why should you get a smart meter?
Smart meters are, believe it or not, pretty exciting. Not only will they save you the hassle of conjuring up a meter reading with your own weary fingers, but they have the potential to save you tons of money, making you more aware of your energy usage and unlocking a wealth of game-changing tariffs.
Agile Octopus, for example, is a 100% green tariff with half-hourly energy prices based on the wholesale price of energy, saving you even more money than one of our fixed tariffs, helping to balance out heavy demand on the grid and making the most of the clean energy generated out of peak times.
Your smart meter means:
- No more manual meter readings – your smart meter will send them to us automatically.
- No more estimated bills – as we take the readings ourselves, we never need to estimate, meaning you’re always billed for exactly what you use.
- Efficient usage – you can see how much energy you’re using, and what it costs, through the In-Home Display
- You can access smart tariffs – our Agile Octopus tariff changes the price we charge for your electricity every half an hour, so you can start to use more when it’s cheaper. And our Octopus Go tariff for electric vehicle owners offers a super-cheap rate for four hours each night, so drivers can charge up for next to nothing.
Get Smart: read our smart meter FAQs
Can I have one now?
Anyone else who'd like a smart meter – register your interest here and we'll be in touch within the next few weeks with more information.
Will my smart meter work with Octopus?
If you have a SMETS1: We use the smart meters made by the company Secure. Secure also supply meters to Utilita, First Utility, OVO, E.ON and Bristol Energy - so if you have a smart meter from them, and it’s a ‘Secure’ meter, it will work. (A different brand of meter from them unfortunately won’t.)
If you have a SMETS2: Yes, it will!
I’m leaving Octopus - will I be able to use your smart meter with my new supplier?
It’ll work if you’re leaving us for Utilita, First Utility, OVO, E.ON, or Bristol Energy, but if not, it will again become “dumb”. We recommend checking with the new supplier to find out what your options are.
My smart meter became "dumb" when I switched. Will it become smart again?
We expect that all smart meters will become interoperable (work with all suppliers) later in 2019. SMETS1 meters were only designed to send data to the supplier who installed them, but ultimately all smart meter data will begin to be sent to a central body called the Data Communications Company (DCC). And hopefully, at this point your meters will become smart again.
What’s this I hear about smart meters causing health problems?
We’ve written about this previously. The low-frequency radio waves used by smart meters are classed as safe (with emissions considerably less than TVs and mobile phones), and leading public bodies including the World Health Organisation have been unable to find any conclusive evidence of harm.
And what about security issues?
Smart meter technology is being built with security squarely in mind and follow the highest encryption protocols. We keep our ear to the ground for the latest research into the viability of smart meters, and we’re confident that the technology will benefit all of us rather than causing harm.
Robert Cheesewright of Smart Energy GB (the government-backed agency promoting the smart meter rollout) has assured that the meters are securely encrypted, and even so, the only data stored on the meters is energy-related –
“your name, address, bank account or other financial details are not stored on the meter.”
Will I be able to get an old “dumb” meter if I want one?
Eventually, it’ll be virtually impossible to get a standard meter. Like classic car parts, they’re becoming scarce as the demand for newer, better technology increases. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to keep manufacturing obsolete technology. So if your standard meter breaks, your only option for replacement could be a smart meter. If you’re worried about this, get in touch with us. You’re not legally obliged to have a smart meter installed.
I booked an appointment before March 15th. Will I get a SMETS1 or SMETS2 meter?
If you have an existing smart meter appointment from before we put new bookings on pause, you may still get a SMETS1 meter.
While Ofgem have made SMETS1 non-compliant after March 15th, we've got to do the right thing by our customers.
SMETS2 installs are still really new, and there've been some early teething problems. These meters aren't connecting properly in every installation site.
If we do install a SMETS1 meter, the good news is – with SMETS1's remote upgrade due in a year or so, they’ll be functionally equivalent to SMETS2, so you can switch suppliers without losing smart capabilities.
If you'd prefer to wait for a SMETS2 appointment, do get in touch.
If you’ve got any other questions, get in touch and we’ll help.
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