We're bringing you smart meters, but not quite yet. Here's why.

 
smart-meter
 

We’re planning to roll out free smart meters to you towards the end of this year. That’s a little later than we originally thought, but we believe it’s the right thing to do. This post explains why. And we’ve answered some smart FAQs at the bottom too.

 

Smart meters are the future

Smart meters are the future. They can send accurate data about your energy usage directly to your supplier, so you don’t need to take manual meter readings or rely on estimates. They give you real-time information about your energy use habits, so you can find ways to use less and cut your bills. And with access to more information about the country’s energy use, we can design new ways of delivering energy that are better for the grid and the environment.

So, in short, we love smart meters. We think they’re a great idea. And we’re right behind the government’s plan for all energy suppliers to offer them to their customers ahead of 2020. We originally hoped to introduce smart meters at the start of this year, but we’ve decided that the end of 2018 is the best time to begin. Here’s why.

 

Installing the right generation of smart meters

Virtually all the smart meters currently installed in the UK right now are first generation smart meters (known as ‘SMETS1’ meters). They’re fine except for one big problem: in most cases when you switch supplier, they stop being smart and revert to ‘dumb’ status. So you have to take manual readings all over again.

But putting power in the hands of people to easily change supplier is a big part of how we at Bulb want to make energy better (it’s why we pay your exit fees when you join and don’t charge them when you leave).

So we’ve decided to invest in the second generation of smart meters (‘SMETS2’ meters) instead. SMETS2 meters will stay smart even when you switch supplier. We believe that’s the right thing to do even though the roll out is taking a little longer than expected.

 

Beginning the roll out in late 2018

We originally aimed to roll out smart meters at the beginning of 2018, but industry-wide software delays meant this wasn’t possible. These delays have affected all suppliers wanting to install SMETS2 meters. You can read more about that in the FAQs below. But a lot of progress has been made recently. We’re now able to get going and are testing our smart set-up as we speak. We think we’ll be able to start installing second generation smart meters in our members’ homes by late 2018.

We believe in smart: it’s better for you, and it’s better for us too. But we’re in this for the long haul and we want Bulb smart meters to really be smart. That’s why we’re investing in the next generation of smart meters, even if it does mean waiting a few months longer.


Smart meter roll-out FAQs

Why are there two different generations of smart meter out there?

The first generation of smart meters (SMETS1 - short for ‘Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications’) was originally intended by the government to be a small-scale trial, to prepare the UK for the introduction of the second generation of smart meters (SMETS2), which can be used with any supplier.

But the group responsible for building the technical infrastructure for SMETS2 - the Data and Communications Company (DCC) - has fallen behind schedule. Instead of waiting for the SMETS2 technology to be ready, lots of SMETS1 meters were installed in homes. There are now many more SMETS1 meters out there than originally intended, and only a tiny number of SMETS2 meters. All suppliers wanting to install SMETS2 meters are affected by the delay.

 

How are Bulb planning to roll out smart meters?

Right now we're testing whether Bulb can communicate with SMETS2 meters in a reliable, secure way. We’re testing with real SMETS2 meters installed in homes. We’re running a pilot scheme with a few thousand installations from now until the end of November. After that, we’re planning to roll out SMETS2 meters to all our members who want one, free of charge.

 

I have a smart meter installed by a previous or current supplier. Can it work with Bulb?

Right now you’ll need to take a manual reading from your smart meter. To help with that we put together this handy guide to manually reading smart meters.

If you join Bulb and need any help reading your meter, just ask. You can even take a photo of your meter, email it to help@bulb.co.uk and we can advise on how to take a read.

The good news is that we recently partnered with a company who make it possible for any supplier to read some of the existing SMETS1 meters in homes (about a third of them). This will mean that, soon, we’ll be able to receive readings from this set of original first generation smart meters. We’ll contact all the members we can successfully receive smart readings from individually.


Find more FAQs about smart meters in our Help Centre and join the discussion in the Community.

Clementine Hobson