The UK's second-biggest energy supplier wants new powers to switch off customers' energy supplies in emergencies.
SSE, which provides 9.1 million customers with energy, has proposed changes to the law that would allow it to switch off home energy supplies in emergency situations, using smart meter technology.
It says the changes are needed to cope with changes to the way customers consume energy, as the uptake of electric cars accelerates.
At the same time, the UK's supply model is also going through a period of change, as several large fossil fuels and nuclear power plants are expected to reach the end of their life over the coming years.
The proposal is currently being considered by energy watchdog Ofgem and government representatives.
Electricity networks in Great Britain were not designed to accommodate the significant additional demand that certain consumer devices (such as electric vehicle (EV) chargers) present. In some circumstances, distributors will be required to act to find a balance between their obligation to operate cost-effective, safe and reliable electricity networks and the need to support customers who wish to adopt low carbon technologies.reads the proposal tabled SSE's readiness manager, Richard Hartshorn.
Although SSE said they would only cut off energy as a 'last resort' measure, the supplier acknowledged that its experts were still uncertain how often they would need to implement shut-offs as the uptake of electric vehicles increases.
Under the new suggestions, suppliers and distributors would be able to contact customers when network usage is dangerously high, and ask to switch off their power supply at short notice.
The group insisted that customer participation would be voluntary and said that it would only apply the measures in cases of overload, not as a substitute for planned maintenance.
Even so, the proposals are likely to mean changes to consumers' rights, if they go ahead as planned.
At the moment, all suppliers are required to give customers at least two days' advance warning before cutting-off their energy supply. Under the new rules, this would clearly be impractical.
Speaking to This is Money.co.uk, an Ofgem spokesperson said that the proposal was ongoing and a final decision would not be expected before Spring 2021.
It added that it would need more detail on how SSE defines 'emergencies' and how the energy giant plans to protect customers' interests before making any decisions.
More than 1 million smart meters have been installed in the UK since the start of the year. Remote switch-off of energy supply through a smart meter is made possible because unlike traditional meters, smart meters use mobile technology to communicate with the energy network.
This means that suppliers and distributors can control meters digitally, without having to send somebody to the address to physically disconnect the meter.
Proponents of smart meters say that they can help consumers' save money by managing energy consumption, and help fast-track emerging technologies by providing suppliers with data that could help them to build a more flexible energy network.
However, critics argue that meters are ineffective at saving money, not accessible for everyone due to their reliance on digital networks, and pose a security risk due to their reliance on 'hackable' technology and centralisation of detailed household data.
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