Energy giants and the meters of misery

Nicola Clenton and her son Harley with the faulty electric meter box at their home at Vatten
Photograph by Willie Urquhart

Malfunctioning meters and the refusal of power companies to repair them promptly are causing distress for many residents in Skye.

It appears that a thunder storm and subsequent power cut which hit the island in late November caused some pre-payment meters to stop working.

The problems people are experiencing are different, but are all meter-related, and involve mainly SSE/Ovo customers as well as some with Octopus, formerly known as Bulb.

However, the defects are now causing stress and inconvenience for many customers who are unable to see how much electricity they are using at a time when energy costs are rocketing.

Frustrated customers complain they are getting nowhere with helplines and the power companies say the soonest they can get to Skye to effect repairs is “the spring”.

The problem was highlighted by Dunvegan resident Catherine Cullen who noticed that the power cut had knocked out the display on the pre-payment meter in a house which she bought in the village for renting out long-term.

Twice SSE/Ovo failed to turn up after Mrs Cullen reported the fault to the company.

She said: “In order to be registered as a landlord with Highland Council I need an electrical certificate to state the system is installed and working, which currently it isn’t. Ovo said there are no available appointments for a repair for three or four months.”

Mrs Cullen put a shout out on the ‘All Things Dunvegan’ Facebook page at the weekend to see if other customers were experiencing similar problems and 12 affected people have contacted her so far.

“I believe it’s a much wider problem,” she said. “I think the energy companies subcontract and outsource meter services so have no control over them. The excuses for lack of service have been numerous and laughable.”

Nicola Clenton, of the Old Schoolhouse at Vatten near Dunvegan, has also been left with a faulty meter since the power outage.

A single mum, Ms Clenton said: “I have an electricity supply but there is no display on the meter so I have no way of monitoring how much I’m using which is really worrying with rising energy costs. I can’t budget.

“I contacted Octopus and they say it will be the spring at the earliest before they can get an engineer out. They will estimate the bill because they can’t read the meter and I’m terrified I’m going to get a bill for thousands of pounds. It’s a really stressful situation.”

SSE customer Stephanie Duff from Suladale said: “My meter went blank just before Christmas. I still have electric but not paying so I’m running up a massive bill and they won’t do anything to fix it. I’ve been told an engineer is coming, then no engineers available.

“Calling customer services is a total waste of time. I am now contacting the ombudsman.”

A Bulb spokesman apologised that Ms Clenton’s faulty meter had not yet been replaced.

He said: “The delays were due to Siemens’ (Bulb’s metering partners) lack of availability around this area. In December, we raised this as an individual case to Siemens, however they responded saying they were unable to carry out more visits to the islands that year (2022).

“We’ve since been in touch with Siemens to arrange a visit, and as soon as they’re able to offer an appointment, we’ll let Ms Clenton know and book it in.

“We’ve also been in touch with Ms Clenton today and escalated the account so that a replacement can be booked with Siemens as soon as possible, and offered a goodwill payment of £60. Once the meter’s been replaced we’ll also reimburse her for any overcharges as a result of the faulty meter if applicable.

“We’ve also reassured Ms Clenton that we will reimburse her for any top ups and Energy Bills Support Scheme payments she’s had since the meter was faulty.”

An OVO spokesperson said: “We’re sorry for the delays in replacing her meter. Our team will book in a new appointment as soon as possible and keep Ms Cullen updated.”

Story by Jackie MacKenzie