- New licensing conditions for Suppliers means “No Backwards Step” once Smart Meters installed
- Conditions will prohibit suppliers from replacing Smart Meters with safer, more secure analogue meters, e.g. when a customer has moved house
- Government has now reneged on repeated commitments that Smart Meters would be “voluntary”
- Customers may be left with no choice but to use provisions of existing Gas & Electricity Acts to outmanoeuvre stealth restriction on free choice
LONDON, ENGLAND (23 May, 2013) Early last week, Edward Davey’s Parliamentary Undersecretary, Baroness Verma, made an announcement in the House of Lords that the UK’s Smart Meter programme would be delayed by at least “one year”. The announcement gained much attention and media exposure across the UK, but a crucial component of her announcement was seemingly omitted from all popular reports and commentary.
According to the recordings of the Baroness’s statement in Hansard (the official report of the proceedings in parliament), she revealed a second major shift in Government policy regarding Smart Meters which went unnoticed as admissions regarding delays overtook the media glare.
In a stunning and outrageous Government u-turn, Ministers have decided that from the end of this year, UK energy suppliers will be BLOCKED from fulfilling customer wishes to replace a pre-existing Smart Meter with a more safe and secure analogue alternative. This change will be enforced through modifications to supplier licensing conditions on 14 July 2013, meaning that from the end of the year, if an energy customer moves house and finds one or more Smart Meters in situ, their supplier will not be allowed to offer analogue replacements.
From Hansard, 13 May 2013, Baroness Verma:
“We have decided that from the end of this year, when a customer switches from a supplier who has provided them with a compliant smart meter, the new supplier cannot replace that smart meter with a dumb meter and must either rent the previous supplier’s meter or install their own new smart meter… We are also proposing for consultation that, when a customer with a compliant smart meter switches supplier, the new supplier must continue to provide remote meter readings.”
If you are left wondering why this generous concession has been made for Big Energy’s Smart Metering programme at your expense, the Baroness – drawing on a newly published Consultation Response document – added the following:
“This will give greater confidence to early movers over their investments… this package of proposals will give consumers and industry the confidence they need for a successful rollout. Subject to the successful completion of the parliamentary process, the licence conditions will come into force on 14 July 2013.”
This breach of public trust not only reflects a cowardly u-turn on commitments that the Government has made repeatedly that Smart Meters will be ‘voluntary’, but sends a clear message to consumers that free-choice is not compatible with the UK’s Orwellian energy policy. It also serves to reveal the long-term, ‘war of attrition’-style intentions for Smart Metering and exposes the lie that Smart Metering is primarily aimed at serving consumers.
What’s more is that these new rules for suppliers lay the foundation for ‘ripping-and-replacing’ Smart Meters when changing suppliers – as there will be an obligation on suppliers to either “pay rent” to a competitor or take the decision to rip-and-replace the meter with their own. In this light, it becomes impossible to resolve the contention that this programme will serve as a means of reducing energy and makes a mockery of Smart Meters making it “easier” to switch suppliers.
What may be of some interest, however, is how two pre-existing pieces of UK legislation might impact on DECC’s attempt to curtail freedom of metering choice.
In 1986 and then in 1989, the UK’s Gas and Electricity Acts were respectively brought into being. Amongst other provisions, these Acts enshrined into law the right for individuals to have their own gas and electricity meters installed on their property.
To explain specifically in relation to electricity, for example, Schedule 7 of the Electricity Act 1989,ss.1(2) &(2A) outlines the following:[(2) If the [authorised supplier] agrees, the meter may be provided by the customer [(who may provide a meter which belongs to him or is made available otherwise than in pursuance of arrangements made by the supplier)]; but otherwise it shall be provided by the [authorised supplier] [(who may provide a meter which belongs to him or to any person other than the customer)].
(2A) [An authorised supplier] may refuse to allow one of his customers to provide a meter only if there are reasonable grounds for his refusal.] [You can check the UK Association of Meter Operator’s website for more information.]
Our interpretation of this provision is that, so long as one’s own choice of non-smart/analogue meter complies with regulations and the supplier has no reasonable grounds for saying otherwise, any in situ Smart Meters can be sent back to the supplier. The only reasonable grounds for the supplier refusing this request that we can envisage would be if the meter is not compliant with safety or accuracy regulation. The issue of whether your own meter is “smart” or not seems irrelevant, and would certainly appear to have nothing to do with the Government’s “No Backward Step” policy nor its supplier-oriented licensing changes.
Original link for this article: http://stopsmartmeters.org.uk/uk-introduces-obligatory-smart-metering-via-backdoor/