Every two months, I receive a text message to my mobile phone from the sender ‘SmartMeter’. It always says the same thing:
‘Just a friendly reminder from First Utility to call our partner Siemens to arrange your smart meter installation.’
I also frequently receive letters from it along the same lines and periodically e-mails. A recent one read: ‘Get your gas and electricity bills under control and upgrade to a smart meter today.
‘Book an appointment and become part of the nationwide smart meter movement that shows you your exact usage in pounds and pence.’
Smart meter: It now seems energy firms are offering incentives to get one installed
I ignore the correspondence. I’m not fussed about getting a smart meter – nor will I be mollycoddled into getting one, especially seeing as I don’t feel like I need one.
I don’t need to see my exact usage in pounds and pence. Like most things with ‘smart’ in front of the name, it doesn’t feel that smart.
They send readings direct to the supplier but I don’t mind doing it the old-fashioned way.
I don’t like giving up my privacy if I don’t need to and believe it will be a waste of time – it is unlikely I’ll be able to switch the meter to another supplier, which makes the whole exercise feel redundant.
This week, the energy firm sent me an e-mail with a slightly different tone. It said: ‘Claim your £30 Amazon.co.uk Gift Card.
‘For a limited time only you can get a £30 Amazon.co.uk Gift Card if you book a smart meter appointment and have it installed during April.
‘We’ve got appointments available in your area on a first come first served basis, so don’t delay!’
In the smallprint is says: ‘You’ll need to be at home for your appointment, which should take about 90 minutes.’
Am I going to take time off to get this done? No.
It also threatens a £30 cancellation fee if I fail to meet the appointment criteria.
It goes on to add: ‘The smart meter has been designed to make the most of managing your energy online. Some features may not transfer with you if you switch to another supplier.’
If I hold off for longer, will the bribes start getting bigger? If I’d jumped the gun previously, I would have missed out on this £30 voucher, which is still nowhere near big enough of an incentive for me to get one installed.
So why is First Utility – and other energy suppliers – seemingly desperate for smart meters to be installed?
It is likely to be because of targets. The Government was aiming for all homes and businesses to have them by the end of 2020.
Gaz and Leccy: Smart Energy GB, behind the smart meter roll out, has warned the Big Six not to drag their heels on the switch
The costly drive to install smart meters in homes across Britain is currently being reviewed by the National Audit Office.
In 2016, the Government estimated that the rollout would cost £11billion and that all households would have one by 2020. This looks likely to be missed.
In January, we revealed that despite the Government deadline to install 53million smart meters now in just two years’ time, figures showed that 8.6million have been fitted so far – some 84 per cent below target.
The NAO is investigating whether the multibillion pound rollout will actually save households money.
Consumer group Which? has calculated that installers will need to fit 24 meters a minute, 24 hours a day, every day, to meet the 2020 goal.
Today, the chief executive of Smart Energy GB – the body with a huge advertising budget and behind the Gazzy and Leccy characters – has warned that the ‘Big Six’ risk going out of business if they drag their heels on the switch to smart meters.
Sacha Deshmukh told the Guardian: ‘Some legacy companies, of the old large six, have really embraced the fact that the only choice they have for the long term is to embrace this.
‘You can either embrace this or fight it and find your business will be gone in less than five years.’
I’m not exactly a fan of the big energy firms, but this feels incredibly threatening. No wonder consumers are being bombarded with correspondence about smart meters.
Earlier in the month, This is Money revealed that Npower had sent e-mails to some customers saying a smart meter installation has been booked in.
SMART METER BRIBE?
Have you received correspondence about getting a smart meter installed along with an incentive?
Get in touch: email@example.com
The e-mail contains a date and time and instructs the customer to call the firm to confirm or re-schedule the appointment.
But nowhere in the e-mail does it say smart meters are not compulsory and it is up to consumers if they want to have one fitted.
The energy giant told us: ‘Customers who are offered an appointment but don’t want a smart meter can contact us to cancel, either online or by calling us; they can also amend their appointment using these channels.’
We’ve also reported on Eon and SSE sending similar messages out.
Are we likely to see energy firms become more desperate and roll out incentives to convince households to get one?
I reckon so – and ultimately, it begs the question: who will be paying for the bribes? I’ll report back if the incentives start getting bigger…