Smart Meter roll-out accelerated to aid vulnerable

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Jersey Electricity is accelerating the final stage of its Smart Meter roll out in light of the Coronavirus crisis to enable Jersey’s 4,500 Pay As You Go (PAYG) key meter users to be able to top up their electricity meters remotely without leaving their homes if necessary.

JE’s meter installers, classed as essential workers in the current lockdown, have already converted over 700 households to the new Smart PAYG meters.  The meters’ remote charging capabilities mean friends, relatives or JE’s Customer Care Advisers can top up a housebound customer’s meter almost instantly without having to visit their premises with a key.

If circumstances allow, JE plans to convert the Island’s remaining key meters over the coming weeks by moving qualified electricians from other areas of the business to bolster this important project and enable the installation of around 50 meters a day.

JE has already been prioritising PAYG customers on its Extra Care Register, along with other customers identified as vulnerable who have no one to top up for them. The utility is now working with Government agencies, charities and parishes to ensure that group continues to be prioritised.

Around 70% of key meters are located outside or in communal areas and therefore do not require access inside all homes. Where access is needed, JE’s Metering Technicians will be following stringent measures to ensure the protection of household members and themselves.

The new Liberty meters mean keys, which have been in use for over 25 years are replaced with a Smart Card, the size of a typical credit card, that carry a premise’s unique meter number.  

As well as providing the convenience of there being four times as many top-up locations than the old system, the remote charging capability means friends or relatives of sick or housebound customers will be able to top up their meters on their behalf without travelling to and from their home with a key. The new Smart Cards also offer added benefit because they do not actually hold any money or have any monetary value if lost.

JE’s Head of Customer Care Brian O’Gorman said: ‘A trial involving around 150 Andium tenants went well and customer feedback on the installation and information they received was positive. Now over 700 of the new meters are in operation but we are now prioritising the vulnerable who are forced to self-isolate with no one to help them top up. Anyone with a key meter who finds it impossible to get out to top up, can access help from our Customer Care Team by calling us on 505460.

‘All of our off-peak tariffs are available under the new PAYG system and the meter installation is free.Any credit on a customer’s current meter will be automatically transferred to their new Smart Meter.’

The new meters will be automatically set with £5 credit, which will be recovered in stages as the customer tops up. When they do, they will be given a receipt containing a 20-digit code so that if in the unlikely event the meter did not credit automatically, they can charge the meter manually by entering the code on the meter keypad.

JE will be writing to every customer before commencing the new meter installation notifying them of the date and whether their technician will need access to their premises. Customers can change the appointment if it is not convenient or postpone it. The technician will deliver the ‘Smart Card’ and information pack to each household as the meters are changed out.

JE CEO Chris Ambler said: ‘The replacement of our aging Pay As You Go key meters with the latest Liberty Meters is the final stage of this project. It brings benefits to both customers and the business and in these uncertain times the remote charging capabilities will bring extra peace of mind to our community’s most vulnerable. I’d like to thank all those involved in the project, including Andium Homes for its support during the trial and the roll-out.’