by The Curious Scribbler
I seldom use my website for rants about consumer issues but today I am moved to share my concerns on a matter which may affect many of my local readers if they heat their homes with storage heaters.
If you use the Economy 7 tariff you may still have a meter which uses a radio tele switch to tell the system when to charge up your storage heaters with off peak electricity. A separate circuit delivers off peak electricity to the storage heaters and hot water cylinder. It probably turns on at around midnight and turns off at 7am. It may be a large black box beside the meter labelled RTS.
Or the switch mechanism may be in a white meter such as mine which is labelled Radio Telemeter series K.
With some models you hear a loud click when the switch operates. Very soon this system will cease to operate because the BBC long wave radio frequency will be switched off. The OFGEM website reads thus:
If you have an electricity meter that uses Radio Teleswitch (RTS) technology
The BBC radio service that supports RTS meters is being phased out and is planned to end 31 March 2024. If you have an electricity meter which switches between peak and off-peak tariff rates, such as an Economy 7 or 10 tariff, or it automatically turns on your heating or hot water, you may have a meter that uses Radio Teleswitch (RTS) technology. Read about the changes and how they affect households in the Radio Teleswitch electricity meters: consumer guidance.
So if I do nothing the storage heaters will cease to work on April fools Day.
Scottish Power, they of the impenetrably unhelpful customer service, are eager to install a Smart Meter (indeed the government target demands that they do so within a year or so) but because of the location of my property, where there is no phone signal, a Smart meter will not communicate with the Smart Metering Wide Area Network ( SM-WAN). Scottish Power knows this. And as OFGEM succinctly puts it
Areas where smart meter signals do not work
Smart meters need a signal to work. The signal comes from the Smart Metering Wide Area Network (SM-WAN). This is a national network that connects smart meters and energy suppliers. Your electricity supplier will tell you if your home can connect to the network and if not what your options are for replacing your existing meter.
Scottish Power does not appear to offer options. They simply want to install a Smart Meter, perhaps in hope that one day the signal will be improved.
Of course where Smart Meters do work it is possible to receive differently priced electricity by time of day, even without a separate storage heater circuit, so not everyone will be affected. But I suspect there are a lot of radio teleswitches out in rural Ceredigion and in older flats which will not have been upgraded before the deadline, and some which may never be able operate their storage heaters again.
We are monitoring the progress of suppliers and have asked them for updates on their work to replace and upgrade all RTS meters. They must make sure that their customers have a suitable electricity meter installed and that their service is not disrupted.
I live in hope but am seriously worried. I can find no reliable source of advice. Meter installers are mysterious subcontractors who cannot be contacted except by your supplier. I guess a lot of people will wake up to a cold and expensive April.