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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Caroline O'Doherty

‘Smart meter plan makes no sense financially’ – engineer told he’ll lose discount if he switches tariff

Tony Calnan in his home. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Tony Calnan is the ideal electricity customer to have on a smart tariff.

But he has found the experience of trying to switch far from ideal.

The retired engineer got a smart meter installed at his house in Carrigaline, Co Cork, about a year ago but when he enquired about moving to a time of use or smart tariff, his then supplier did not have one to offer him.

When his existing plan expired last May, he switched to his current supplier, Electric Ireland, on a combined electricity and gas deal with an introductory discount of 26pc for new customers.

But the smart meter was still on his mind so he went back to Electric Ireland in recent days to ask about moving to a smart tariff only to find he would lose the discount and be left worse off.

“I was quite surprised, even shocked, when I discovered that because I’m tied into a deal for a year, if I move I lose the discount. It makes no sense financially.”

Tony is exactly the kind of customer suppliers should be fighting to sign up.

He was pleased when his smart meter was installed and keen to make the best use of it.

He also installed solar panels two years ago and has a battery to take more control of his electricity generation and usage.

“Because I have a solar pv installation and a battery, I have opportunities to avoid using power during the peak period which is the time everybody is concerned about.

“The option I was inquiring about was going to give me the facility to charge my battery in the night time when there is plenty of power available and when they’re willing to sell it to me cheaply so that I have electricity to use at the peak-time without adding to the strain on supply.

“I’m not going to do that now because it doesn’t make any sense.”

Tony says he is relatively tech savvy and has time to spend examining options since his retirement but even he could not get the full information online that he needed to make a clear decision.

“I was kind of lucky that I didn’t work out how to make the change on the internet without speaking to somebody because if I had, I would probably have unconsciously lost my discount.

“I didn’t find it easy to work out online how to change and I wanted to clarify the rates as they’re not very evident.

“I don’t have any problem with the customer service representative I spoke to because she told me exactly what the implications of switching were and how I would lose out.

“Somebody else might not get that information and might make a switch online that could work out as a very bad deal in a very hard year.

“I put a note in my diary to make a call again next April when my contract is coming up for renewal but the point is, I was willing to make the change now because it’s the right thing to do, but there seems to be no active part being played by the electricity companies to help the customer do the right thing.”

Tony is also waiting to be paid for excess solar power he has provided to the national grid.

Even though the payment scheme was signed off by the Government in February, suppliers have been slow to implement it.

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