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How to check for RTS meter as BBC service shutdown announced

The long-wave Radio Teleswitch Service used by hundreds of thousands of households to monitor electricity is shutting down after 40 years.

A reading on a domestic household electricity meter.   (Photo by Nick Ansell/PA Images via Getty Images)
Nearly a million households will have to switch from electricity RTS meters to smart meters or face higher heating bills. (Getty)

The long-wave Radio Teleswitch Service (RTS) is shutting down after 40 years, the BBC has announced.

The move, which has long been suggested, will mean around 900,000 households will have to switch from electricity RTS meters to smart meters or face higher heating bills. The service has been broadcasting since the late 1980s and is used primarily by those not part of the gas network and using electricity for heating and hot water.

These households utilise tariffs such as Economy 7 or Economy 10, which reduce the cost of electricity during the night. The RTS system communicates with meters to lower the charges through the BBC transmitter located in Droitwich, Worcestershire. BBC said the service will be closed by June 2025.

Customers who are currently using RTS systems are being advised to upgrade to a smart meter as soon as they can. Smart meters allow households to track energy usage and access smarter tariffs that can save money by encouraging energy use outside peak times or when there is an excess of clean electricity available.

Energy UK's deputy chief executive Dhara Vyas said: “Doing so in good time will minimise the disruption, help ensure a smooth upgrade to a smart meter and mean that customers continue to enjoy the benefits they currently get from RTS.”

How to check if you have an RTS meter

If your home or business uses electricity for heating and hot water, and you pay lower rates during off-peak hours, you may have RTS equipment installed. This equipment is usually located in a large black box next to your meter.

If you still need to find out if you have an electricity RTS meter, you should contact your supplier. The government has set a target for the energy suppliers to replace all RTS meters with smart meters by 2025. It is possible to opt out of upgrading to a smart meter. However, energy regulator Ofgem warns this decision may result in limited functionality and options when choosing tariffs.

A home smart meter showing energy use is seen in the kitchen of a home in Manchester, Britain, January 23, 2023. REUTERS/Phil Noble
The government has set a target for the energy suppliers to replace all RTS meters with smart meters by 2025. (Reuters)

Energy firms British Gas, Ovo, Bulb, E.On, Scottish Power and SSE, who fell short of the smart meter delivery target for 2022, have all agreed to pay into Ofgem’s fund to help vulnerable households, with British Gas paying out the most, at £3.4 million, followed by Ovo at £2.4 million and Bulb, which was bought out of administration by Octopus in December 2022, at £1.8 million.

Scottish Power will also make a further £440,000 payment into the redress fund in relation to missing its own smart meter goals in 2019, before the latest government targets were set. The UK government set the industry annual minimum goals to roll out smart meters, as they are seen as being an important part of reducing energy usage and switching to a more flexible energy system.

Last year, experts at Cornwall Insight, a consultancy, said it was unlikely that 100% of homes would have one of the meters by 2025. The current target is already a watered-down ambition from the original plan to fit a smart meter in every home in the country by 2020.

The ofgem sign. Ofgem regulate the electricity and gas markets in Great Britain. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
Ofgem is urging customers to switch to smart meters. (Getty Images)

That target was abandoned in 2019 when the government realised there was no chance of it being met. At that point, the target was extended to 2024, but after COVID caused further delays another year was added to the deadline.

Energy regulator Ofgem said it expected companies to switch customers to smart meters at least three to four months before the RTS service was closed in 2025. It said: “Smart meters bring immediate benefits for customers, helping them to access more competitive tariffs. It also makes it easier for suppliers to spot when households might be struggling with bills and offer support such as emergency credit.

“We have written to suppliers to raise our concerns about the slower progress of installations for smart prepayment meters, and the potential impact of that on vulnerable households.”