21st October 2020
Why we can’t always tell you when your smart meter will be installed
John Szymik, CEO of Octopus Energy Services
We install thousands of smart meters across England, Scotland and Wales every week, and our fleet of wild Octopus vans are becoming a more and more common sight on our roads.
But just like every other energy supplier, we had to pause our smart meter installations earlier this year. We’re now fully mobilised post lockdown (depending on local government guidelines) and wherever we can, we contact customers who’ve asked us for a smart meter based on who’s been waiting longest - but I wanted to explain why we can’t always tell you exactly when you might get a smart meter, even though we’d love to.
1) We’ll always prioritise emergencies and vulnerable customers
We carry out many thousands of urgent installations for vulnerable customers - where meters are faulty, or dangerous, or have left someone without access to power. We plan this capacity into our systems so that it shouldn’t impact ‘normal’ work, but over the last few months all the standard ‘norms’ have been challenged. With customers staying at home more, we are working harder than ever - under intense pressure, to make sure we are there as soon as possible to support those who need their meters fixing right away.
2) We’re still seeing significant and continuing impacts of lockdown
Official guidance is ever-changing. As I write this, Wales is currently moving into full lockdown and we’ve just had to let thousands of customers know that we’ve got to postpone their appointments. Local authorities have the ability to apply additional rules to the government’s headline rules, so we’re having to constantly review the country region by region. In some regions travel is restricted, meaning engineers can only work in their home patches, reducing the area they can cover.
We also have to plan additional flexibility into our capacity because government rules now dictate that anybody who gets notified through the track and trace app has to go into a mandatory 14 day quarantine. As cases rise, and positive contacts increase, the volume of our engineers in quarantine has also increased, though thus far none of our engineers have tested positive - the safety protocols they follow seem to be working.
Any notification through track and trace has an immediate knock on effect on jobs planned, with engineers being stood down immediately, whenever they are informed, even part way through a day, or through an appointment. This means we’ve had to underplan slightly, so that we have some ability to pick up urgent appointments and so that not too many customers are disappointed with appointments cancelled at the last minute.
Lockdown has also halted our extensive recruitment and training activities, which were ramping up at speed through the first quarter of this year - and each qualified smart meter engineer we recruit still has to undertake two weeks of training with us before we can release them into the field. COVID closed the training centres, stalling this activity. We’ve now been able to reopen, but have 3 months of recruitment and training to catch up on, (whilst managing the fact that classroom sizes have been halved so we can now only train 6 at a time).
3) Our smart tariffs are uniquely unlocking cheaper, greener power
Our innovative smart tariffs, Agile Octopus, Octopus Go, Go Faster and Tesla Power are one of a kind, and need a smart meter to work. In many cases, lockdown has driven some sizable shifts in the way we consume energy, so we’ve also doubled the number of customers on the waiting lists for these tariffs.
Despite ongoing restrictions, each week that has gone by since national lockdown ended we’ve installed more meters than the previous week - and we continue to ramp up installations, with our engineers having become a regular sight up and down the country. If you want to know more, you can read more about the meteoric rise of our octo-engineers here.
But we’re also only human, and we’re working under pressure, and sometimes we don’t get it right. We’ll keep improving, despite these hurdles, and for now, if you think you might have slipped through the cracks, then please do email me at email@example.com and me or one of the team will get back to you with an update as soon as we can.
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