Smart meter installations are beginning again after a two month hiatus due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
Of the so called ‘Big Six’ providers, EDF, E.On, npower, SSE and British Gas have all restarted their smart meter operations, as has OVO, the second biggest supplier in the UK.
The move followed loosening of government lockdown regulations at the beginning of the week, which have made it easier for an engineer to enter a home to install the meter.
A spokesperson for E.On explained: “Now that government guidelines have changed, many of our customers have told us that they are now comfortable that we visit their premises to fit smart meters. That’s why we’re now approaching customers in England and are seeking to fit smart meters for them if they want one.
“We do this following all government guidelines and have published our COVID-19 Secure protocols on our website, so customers can understand the measures we are taking with PPE and social distancing while in their home. This decision is entirely at each customer’s discretion and if anyone in a customer’s home is aged 70+, has underlying health conditions, is pregnant or is self-isolating, we’ll discuss this with the customer and only proceed if and when it is safe to do so.”
Speaking to Current±, OVO said that it started taking bookings for smart meter installations from the 19 May following conducting and publishing the required risk assessment. It did not proactively market that bookings were open however, but started a small number of appointments for those who had requested them.
All of the companies have brought in increased safety measures to help protect both consumers and engineers.
A spokesperson for EDF said: “The health and safety of our customers and employees remains EDF’s number one priority. Following the latest government guidance, we’re getting the business ready to restart activity, initially in small volumes, while ensuring the safety of all involved.”
Increased safety measures means that those classified as vulnerable will not yet be able to have a smart meter installed, as an engineer would not be able to visit their home.
E.On added: “Our engineers will, of course, follow social distancing guidelines, as well as wearing appropriate PPE and cleansing surfaces before and after they touch them, helping to ensure their own safety as well as that of our customers.”
Smart meter installation was paused at the end of March as lockdown measures were brought in to limit the COVID-19 pandemic.
This led to a number of employees across major energy suppliers being furloughed, as they were unable to work. OVO – which furloughed 3,400 employees including smart meter engineers – confirmed that employees would now be coming off of furlough and returning to work.
Other companies are yet to restart the smart meter rollout, including big six company ScottishPower. Speaking to Current±, the company confirmed that it is planning to get back to work in England, and given changes to government guidance in Scotland and Wales this week would now begin plans for its operations in those countries.
The impact of COVID-19 on the smart meter rollout has already been felt, with installations dropping by 15% in Q1 of 2020 according to figures released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.