Smart Meter Roll Out – could it roll out of steam?

As advocates of smart energy usage, you would think we would be flying the flag for smart meters. But the project continues to be dogged by scepticism and with government figures suggesting savings of around £11 per year, it’s difficult to promote the economic benefits.

Of course, the main advantage is being able to track your energy usage and make adjustments to your lifestyle to reduce your carbon footprint.

But it’s one thing collating the data and quite another putting measures in place as a result.

The government is aiming to have a smart meter in every home and small business by the end of 2020. That equates to 50m But how realistic is that goal?

Latest Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS) figures (up to Q4 2017) reveal more than 10 million smart and advanced meters are now in operation in homes and businesses in Great Britain. That’s 17% up from the previous quarter, and a 71% increase at 31 st December 2016. However, to date, more than 11 million smart and advanced meters have been installed and nine out of 10 (91%) of
these are in domestic properties.

The next quarter figures will be published on 31 May 2018.

According to a report by The Guardian suppliers are installing 400,000 smart meters into UK homes, but if the target is to be met, that number needs to be at 1m. Yet, says the article, consumers are struggling to book appointments with energy suppliers.

Consumer group Which? found energy companies would have to install 24 meters a minute, 24/7, to have a chance of hitting the target.

But by giving the job to the energy suppliers, it relies on people booking on an individual basis whereas if it had been handed to the gas and electricity network operators, which run the energy infrastructure, a more logical approach could have been adopted such as whole streets at a time.

With average annual savings of just £11 by 2020 with a cost of £125 for each household (source: Which?), which will be met by higher bills, many consumers will be questioning the point.

By 2030 the government says Smart meters will cut £47 a year on average from our energy bills although this will be mostly as a result of suppliers having to deal with fewer customer enquiries and making fewer home visits, and, assuming that those savings are passed to customers.

There are advantages of smart meters, they provide you and your supplier with accurate, real-time information making the estimated bill redundant. The data also provides you with the means to monitor your energy usage and therefore you can control your use better potentially reducing your consumption.

Which? provides a full guide on smart meters answering consumer queries. Your smart electricity meter and your smart gas meter talk to each wirelessly as well as to the smart meter wide-area network, so it can send your energy data to your supplier.

Consumer information body Smart Energy GB report more than three quarters (76%) of people with smart meters are likely to recommend them, and similarly three-quarters of Which? members with smart meters installed said they met or exceeded expectations on providing information on energy spend, energy use and accuracy of bills.

Energy companies are obliged by the government to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to install smart meters in their customers’ homes. Although quite what this means is not clear. The energy regulator Ofgem will decide if suppliers have achieved that in 2020.

Interestingly, the Which? survey also found two fifths (41%) felt smart meters did not improve their understanding of their energy use. It is likely consumers already had a good understanding of how they use their energy and as we said earlier, the information is only worth it if action is taken.

In our experience, small businesses are much more likely to embrace energy monitors. Just as the name suggests, monitors measure your energy usage and our consultants use the information to come up with a plan to help firms reduce their consumption.

There’s a word of warning from Which? we would echo that whilst energy monitors can be bought and installed yourself, you need to ensure you’re purchasing a good quality product. There are plenty which can be difficult to use and not the easiest to install. We send an installer to your business and guarantee your energy monitor is of the highest quality.

Contact us for more information about booking an energy audit and creating an energy consumption reduction strategy.