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Utilita Energy condemns ‘grossly unfair’ Ofgem smart meter warning

Smart meter installation. Image: SMS plc.

Smart meter installation. Image: SMS plc.

Utilita Energy has criticised Ofgem’s suggestion that it would take emergency measures if it fails to meet second generation smart meter targets, claiming it is ‘grossly unfair’.

The regulator last week suggested it may ban the company from taking on new customers unless it installs 15,000 second generation smart meters by 31 July 2021, as it has failed to install the SMETS2 meters, continuing to rollout first generation meters instead.

This warning was met by shock and disappointment from the utility, in particular as the release from Ofgem was not shared with it prior to publication, according to Utilita.

“Let’s be clear: our decision to continue to install first generation meters is a moral one made solely with the best interests of our customers at heart,” it stated in a response.

“Forcing PAYG (Pay As You Go) customers – tens of thousands of whom are vulnerable – to use unproven SMETS2 meters, which have major connectivity issues across large swathes of the north of England, and are clearly not user friendly, is unjustified.”

It continued to state that second generation meters (SMETS2 meters) are not proven at the transaction volume which it operates, with 25 top ups per second occurring at peak times. As such, it has concerns over the robustness and reliability of SMETS2 meters for PAYG customers, which it states the regulator is ‘well aware’ of.

Ofgem’s key concern with SMETS1 meters is that they lose smart functionality when customers switch suppliers, which can lead to inaccurate bills, manual reads needing to be taken and risks confusing customers by showing outdated information.

Utilita refuted the suggestion that first generation meters hinder competition, stating it exchanges thousands of customers a week without any loss of functionality.

The utility pointed to its strong track record with smart meters, with more than 90% of its customers having a smart meter installed – roughly double the industry average. It installed the first smart meter in Britain in 2005, before it became obligatory for utilities.

“We have made several suggestions, based on our considerable knowledge of operating smart PAYG since 2005. But we have not been listened to,” finished Utilita.

“We have always sought to act in the best interest of customers and have delivered a market leading service for the last decade. And we will continue to do so.

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