The government has announced plans to install ‘smart electricity meters’ in all of the UK’s 26 million homes by 2020. Smart meters are energy meters that enable communication with both the consumer and the energy companies. They will help empower customers to make choices on how much energy they use and enable them to take advantage of flexible cheaper tariffs.
The installation of smart meters:
- Provides a unique opportunity to carry out safety checks on the electrical intakes in all of the UK’s housing stock
- Requires the development of an agreed procedure for installation
- Will require a large number of meter changers to be trained to an appropriate standard
- Requires consumers to be provided with advice and guidance.
Electrical Safety First considers the safety of consumers and meter installers to be an important aspect of the smart meter installation programme and has been working with interested parties to raise awareness of the safety issues and how to address them. We have raised a number of electrical safety issues relating to the forthcoming UK smart meter programme with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and electrical supply industry bodies.
The most urgent of these has been the case for including an isolating switch in the smart meter specification, which was due to be finalised in summer 2011. DECC asked us to submit a business case to support our position. A detailed and costed case, developed in collaboration with various industry bodies, including: AMO (Association of Meter Operators), ENA (Energy Networks Association), ECA, ELECSA, NAPIT, NICEIC and SELECT was submitted to DECC.
Other electrical safety issues
The other electrical safety issues relating to the smart meter programme that we have raised with DECC and others are as follows:
- The need for meter installers to visually check consumers’ electrical equipment adjacent to the electrical intake equipment, and to issue safety notices to occupiers where appropriate
- The need for meter installers to check the adequacy of the earthing arrangement before re-energising the installation. Many existing electrical installations are likely to have inadequate or even non-existent earthing arrangement, putting the occupiers at risk of electric shock or fire should a fault develop.
- The need for the tightness of the connection of the ‘meter tails’ at the main switch in the consumer unit to be checked by meter installers after the cables have been disturbed during the meter replacement process – loose connections can and do cause fire
- The inclusion of basic electrical safety advice in consumers’ smart metering information packs
- The fitting of a label in consumers’ premises warning against storing combustible materials close to electrical intake equipment (a joint CFOA/ESC initiative)
In October 2010, we hosted a round-table event attended by a wide range of interested parties.
Electrical Safety First will continue to work with government and industry to ensure that due account is taken of the safety interests of consumers and electrical contractors.