Energy firms will have power to switch off household heating with new smart meters


ENERGY firms will have to power to turn off household central heating under new smart meter proposals.

The plans would allow providers to turn off a household’s heating supply whenever it felt usage was getting too high.

Smart meters could be used by providers to switch off households central heating supply

Normally, customers are entitled to compensation if their energy supply is cut off but if the new plans are passed it would see these rights waived.

The proposals have been put forward by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and are currently being considered by the watchdog, Ofgem.

The firm blames the rise in green energy products like electric cars and heat pumps for putting pressure on the national grid.

It argues that it would only switch off supplies when the grid was in a state of “emergency” and that it would be managed through smart meters.

The power cuts would be temporary and no longer than two hours a day.

Suppliers would need to get permission from households to sign up to the initiative but it wouldn’t need to alert them every time it is was going to cut off supply.

It leaves households at risk of being without energy when they need it but unable to claim compensation for the inconvenience.

But SSEN stressed that the measures would only apply to homes with an electric heat pump and not gas central heating.

Customers would also have the right at any time to ask to be removed from the scheme.

An SSEN spokesman said: “The proposed modification has been tabled to provide a last-resort contingency measure, protecting the security of customer supplies during an emergency scenario.”

They added: “Our preference for managing peaks in electric vehicle demand would always be a market-based solution such as a time-of-use tariff, provided by energy suppliers.

“This proposal provides an additional safeguard in exceptional circumstances.”

But critics believe that it could hand too much power to suppliers and leave homeowners vulnerable.

Energy expert Peter Earl, from comparison site Compare the Market, said: “I would have considerable concern about the impact of these measures.

“I would particularly be concerned about the more vulnerable households, and of course vulnerability is not in a constant state for individuals.”

He also acknowledges that there potential issues on the horizon with supplies meeting demands but doesn’t expect consumers make it happen.

Ofgem says that a decisions is unlikely to be made before spring next year.

A spokesperson said: “We would expect the proposer to provide further clarity on the governance arrangements that would apply, including the definition of an emergency situation and how consumer interests would be protected, before this modification is submitted to us for decision.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy added: “Network companies cannot remotely “turn off” smart meters, nor could they control the amount of energy supplied to homes without the express consent of consumers.

“Any proposals from network companies to do this would be rigorously challenged by Ofgem which serves to protect consumers.”

Robert Cheesewright, Director of Communications at Smart Energy GB, said: “Taking part would be completely voluntary for households; would mean choosing to have extra technology, not just a smart meter and only as an emergency safety net for the networks.”

The Warm Home Discount scheme has reopened for applications and you could get £140 off your energy bills if you’re eligible.

Energy bills have soared by £32 a month during coronavirus lockdown as many of us spend more time at home.

We reveal how to compare and cut your gas and electricity bills with Green Network to Tonik Energy.

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