Energy companies failing to support consumers with smart meters

by Search Gate staff. Published Wed 21 Sep 2017 13:01
Energy firms are not passing on proper information

The UK’s energy providers are falling short in providing energy efficiency initiatives that meet consumer demands and failing to educate on the money-saving benefits of the smart meter rollout, according to a new study from Navetas Energy Management.

The study also uncovered a confusing energy landscape for consumers, with the approaches to energy monitoring from energy providers varying widely, making it difficult for consumers to make informed choices when trying to reduce their energy consumption.

The report, ‘Time for smarter thinking’, follows research from Navetas that showed 96% of British adults are concerned about energy prices and 88% want to better understand how they are using energy and would value information at an appliance level.

Against this backdrop, and with the government’s rollout of 53m smart meters looming, the Navetas report studied ten UK energy providers, including the “Big Six”. Through email communication, telephone calls and website reviews, it looked at whether energy providers are meeting consumer demand for energy efficiency initiatives and doing enough to convince consumers of the benefits of the smart meter rollout.

Energy saving is a key message for energy providers, but the products and services offered varied widely. At the time of the study, British Gas and Southern Electric were promoting energy efficiency prominently, while EDF Energy, E.ON and Scottish Power focused on fixed pricing deals, and npower on services such as boiler care.

Smaller companies Good Energy and Ecotricity looked to appeal to customers by focusing on renewable energy, while new entrant Co-operative Energy highlighted pricing promotions – putting them in direct competition with the bigger players in the market.

With 88% of consumers saying they would value energy monitoring at an appliance level, the study also looked at the energy monitors on offer. Only 50% of energy providers assessed provide an energy monitoring device and these varied considerably, with some requiring plugs, some with in-home displays, others online displays, some monitoring at appliance level and others only providing top-line energy data.

Overall, energy providers are providing some information on the government’s smart meter rollout, but offering little evidence of tangible benefits that will help consumers. British Gas was the only energy provider to put a figure against the savings that smart meters could give consumers, of 10%.

Calls to customer service teams painted a particularly worrying picture, with many agents not knowing when the rollout of smart meters will start or whether consumers would be charged.

Only agents from British Gas, E.ON and Scottish Power were clear that the consumer would not have to pay for their smart meter and few could cite the key benefits of smart meters outside of accurate billing and automatic meter readings. One customer service agent from a Big Six utility even stated: “it’s all a bit sketchy at the moment”.

Chris Saunders, CEO at Navetas Energy Management, comments: “The UK energy industry is entering a challenging phase, with strict carbon reduction targets, implementation of the smart grid and an £11.7bn smart meter rollout. But for the consumer, saving money is the key concern and energy providers have a lot to do to rebuild their trust following recent high price rises.

“The smart meter rollout is an initiative that will impact every household in the UK and it offers the opportunity for energy providers to deliver customers the services, cost savings and added value they want. The smart meter rollout can be a win-win for both energy providers and energy users, but smart meters need to be smarter.

“Energy providers need to transform these devices from simple displays for consumers, to intelligent energy measurement and management systems in the home that will engage consumers and help them save energy. It’s time for energy providers to find new coherent and purpose-driven ways of motivating and engaging consumers in their bids to become energy efficient.”

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