MYTHBUSTING SMART METER PROBLEMS
There are lots of myths about smart meters and the rollout. Here we set the record straight about some of the key concerns.
1. YOU CAN'T SWITCH SUPPLIER
The new second-generation meters will allow uninterrupted switching between suppliers. The first generation meters can temporarily lose some of their functionality following a switch, but this just means you may have to read the meters yourself for a little while. It is not a barrier to switching. And soon all smart meters will be on a single, national communication network that will cover 99% of Britain.
2. SMART METERS CAN SPY ON YOU
A smart meter can't spy on you any more than a traditional meter could. It doesn't have the capacity to see or hear, it can only measure the amount of energy you use. You choose how often you share your meter readings with your energy supplier ranging from monthly, daily or half hourly.
Smart meters were designed in consultation with the UK's top security experts. They're not connected to the internet - they have their own secure wireless network known as a home area network; your energy data is sent to your supplier via a wide area network (WAN) that works in the same way a mobile phone sends and receives information. Personal details like your name, address and bank account details are not stored on, or transmitted by, your smart meter. Your supplier can't use any data from your smart meter for sales and marketing purposes unless you give them permission to do so.
3. RENTERS CAN'T GET A SMART METERThe gas and electricity meter in your home belongs to your energy supplier and if you pay the bills you are entitled to ask them for a smart meter. However, Ofgem recommends telling your landlord before getting one just in case you're breaching your contract. As a landlord, if you pay the energy bills directly for your tenants and are the account holder, then you will be the one to confirm your supplier's request to install a new smart meter to your property. You are also entitled to request a smart meter for your property from your supplier.
4. NOT ALL HOMES CAN HAVE A SMART METER
At the moment smart meters connect through existing mobile networks and according to Ofcom, just 88% of premises receive data from mobile networks. The new national communications network will cover more than 99.25%, which means almost all homes including flats, old houses with very thick walls and remote dwellings, will all be able to have smart meters.
The new network is highly secure and was designed in consultation with British intelligence agency GCHQ, and because smart meters don't connect via Wi-Fi or to the internet, only authorised parties such as suppliers and network companies, can communicate with meters. Also, initially the rollout prioritised some property types over others. Houses had meters installed before flats for example, however with the rollout of the second generation of smart meters (SMETS2) everyone should be able to have one installed by 2020.
5. SMART METERS POSE A RADIATION RISK
According to Dr Azadeh Peyman, principal radiation protection scientist at Public Health England (PHE), the Government watchdog on public health, smart meters don't pose a risk to health. "The level of radio waves they produce is typically one million times less than the internationally agreed guidelines," she says. The myth has arisen because they use short bursts of radio waves to allow readings to be taken remotely from gas and electricity meters. Some people fear that the radiation they emit is a health risk, but PHE believe they are safe. They exceed every EU and UK safety standard. "Smart meters have a very small power output and they transmit radio waves infrequently. In fact, most of the time there's no transmission," says Dr Peyman. "We don't consider that concerns regarding exposure should prevent people from having a smart meter."