British Gas boss says every home should be forced to have smart meter installed

The CEO of Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, Chris O'Shea, has issued a stark warning about the future of smart meter installation in the UK.

He stated that a 'street by street' approach is necessary to meet the targets for smart meter implementation. During his address to MPs on the House of Commons Energy Select Committee, O'Shea emphasised the importance of mass smart meter adoption to achieve the UK's net zero goals.

He pointed out that smart meters will play a crucial role in managing household energy consumption to prevent demand from surpassing supply. O'Shea explained that smart meters would be instrumental in varying charges during peak times, such as early evenings, to encourage shifting energy usage to less busy periods.


This strategy aims to offer cheaper electricity rates at times like overnight, which could benefit activities like charging electric vehicles and operating appliances like washing machines or dishwashers. Backers of smart meters suggest that this advanced management of the nation's energy through a 'smart grid' could negate the need for building additional power stations, ultimately leading to reduced bills for everyone.

In his evidence, Mr O'Shea advocated for a collective 'street by street rather than customer to customer' deployment of smart meters over the next five years.

He stated: "We think that in order to have the proper smart grid that's required to keep costs low in the future, everybody should have a smart meter," reports by the Express. "One of the things we should consider as to whether this is a voluntary programme, or whether it should be mandatory."

A number of households have rejected offers from their energy companies to install smart meters, with some expressing doubts about the devices' functionality. Mr O'Shea disclosed that more than one in three British Gas customers have turned down offers to install a smart meter.

The chief executive, who earned £8 million last year, informed MPs: "I have customers that write to me saying, "Please stop bothering me. I don't want a smart meter.

"We found that 44 per cent of our customers don't have them, of whom 600,000, or about 8 percent, have said they don't want one. So for 36 percent of customers we are not sure whether they will take one or not."

Ofgem, the industry watchdog, has criticised British Gas and other leading energy retailers for not doing enough to persuade households to get a smart meter. In November of the previous year, six suppliers were hit with £10.8million in fines for failing to meet targets to install smart meters. British Gas alone was told to pay up £3.4million.

Smart Energy GB, a non-profit group pushing for the use of smart meters, has said that close to 35 million of these devices now exist in homes and businesses nationwide. Regrettably, about 4 million aren't functioning as expected due to problems with the first generation units that were installed.

Gillian Cooper, who heads up the energy division at Citizens Advice, spoke out about her serious worries over the failings of these smart meters stating: "Smart meters can bring huge benefits. But when things go wrong we know it can be incredibly frustrating for energy customers, whether it's a bigger than expected bill or issues when your smart meter goes offline."

She pointed out that the speedy resolution of issues linked to smart meters is a common struggle for many people, adding to her concerns about their rights being inadequate. In response, Smart Energy GB communicated: 'There are now almost 35 million smart meters (representing 61 percent of all meters) in Great Britain. "The vast majority are operating as intended, with an overall improvement in the proportion of smart meters operating in smart mode since 2022, up from 87.3 per cent at the end of 2022 to 88.6 per cent at the end of 2023."

They conceded that although most people have a highly satisfactory experience with their smart meter, they do appreciate how frustrating it can be for those whose meter may only be operating temporarily without all of its smart features. They reassured customers that if their smart meter is not sending automatic readings to their energy supplier, it will still be recording their energy use correctly. They recommended that customers send their supplier meter readings to ensure they receive accurate, rather than estimated, bills until all of the features of their smart meter have been restored.

Ofgem has stated that suppliers, as per their licence, must take all reasonable measures to ensure they can communicate with their customers' smart meters. The regulator further clarified that if a meter loses its smart functionality, it should still accurately measure usage as before, and customers will still have the option to manually read their meter in the traditional manner.