There are sighs of relief in the beleaguered smart meter offices of the big energy suppliers – they now have until 2024 to put them in our homes.
Previously, suppliers were trying to get them fitted by the end of 2020.
But the extra time could lead to more years of frustration for customers, many of whom are fed up with the new meters they have been given.
It also means the cost of installing the new equipment is likely to rise further, to more than £13bn in total.
The promise of smart meters was that readings would be automatic, billing would be easier, and a new world of flexible charges would be ushered in.
In practice, millions of people found they had new meters which didn’t work properly if they switched suppliers – and millions more have not been given the technology at all.
The government is adamant that its targets are being met and that the new regime outlined on Tuesday does not amount to a let-off for suppliers.
There was a pledge in the Conservative Party’s 2017 election manifesto that every household and business would be offered a smart meter by the end of 2020 – and there is still that expectation.
The energy regulator, Ofgem, had a rule that the energy companies had to take “reasonable steps” to fit meters, which left them plenty of wriggle room.
The Minister for Climate Change, Lord Duncan of Springbank, said: “We remain on track for suppliers to offer every home a smart meter by the end of next year, but to maintain momentum beyond 2020 we are proposing strict yearly installation targets for suppliers from 2021. This will deliver even greater benefits for households and reduce emissions.”
But it is clear to gas and electricity firms that ministers have recognised reality and allowed them an extension. The new framework gives them until the end of 2024 to install smart meters in at least 85% of their customers’ homes.