To Smart Meter or Not to Smart Meter? That is the Question

by 28 March 2019

We all know what smart meters do, after all, it’s in their title, they are a smart way of monitoring your energy for both domestic and business use. But what does that actually mean?

Overview and timeline

Smart Energy an independent organisation supporting the rollout explains…

‘Smart meters measure how much gas and electricity you’re using, as well as what it’s costing you and display this on a handy in-home/business display.

With a smart meter you can wave goodbye to complicated meter readings. The smart meter shows a digital meter reading and automatically sends the reading to your energy supplier at least once a month, so you will receive accurate, not estimated bills.’

They are there to make life easier, eliminate estimated billing thus ensuring you are paying an accurate and fair amount for your energy usage.

Smart meters were initially rolled out in 2008 with an aim to have them in all homes and businesses by 2020. However, current figures forecast that this deadline will not be met.

Although the uptake has been progressive, it does however need to vastly speed up. The graph below, from the House of Commons Library, shows the trajectory required to hit the targets set by the government. Fulfilling these targets will be no mean feat.

Issues

In theory smart meters are an intelligent way of solving so many issues and the initiative is being received relatively well, however, the Money Saving Expert highlighted some key statistics, ‘Energy Minister Claire Perry said that 12.8 million smart meters had been rolled out, meaning “in general a quarter of all households have had an installation”. The downside? ‘she added that only 250,000 ‘switchable’ meters had been installed’.

It seems no matter how hard the government tries the smart meter is plagued by a poor reputation.

There are a variety of challenges

  • Inability to switch from initial supplier

This is the biggest issue and has been reported on strongly in the press. Due to technical errors with the first phase of the meters the coverage of them has been blighted. These faults meant that although whoever fitted the meter could successfully supply that customer, should they choose to switch supplier, the meter would no longer work. This could be seen as a manoeuvre by the supplier to ensure that customers had no choice but to stay with them.

This issue has however now been rectified and the majority of meters can successfully switch between various providers. It doesn’t, however, seem that the smart meter can shake its bad reputation and people still have a negative view of them even though the issue has been rectified.

Other issues have also arisen;

  • Difficult to obtain meter reading by customer and supplier
  • Problems with the in-home display: In-home Display won’t connect to the Smart Meter, has stopped working or stops working when far away from the meter.
  • Smart Meters don’t work with solar panels
  • Inaccurate bills

The story is not all doom and gloom, despite the bad press, smart meters can be extremely beneficial to both domestic and business user;

  • Puts the user in control: The Gov.uk website explains ‘With accurate information at their fingertips, consumers can easily understand how they can make small changes to the way they use energy in order to use less and save money on their bills. This information can help them choose a better tariff or switch supplier, increasing their savings even further.’
    In particular, for a business user, they provide accurate half-hourly data, which further helps with energy management.
  • Save money
  • Easy to budget
  • Accurate bills; Despite the previous reports, the smart meter does actually help provide accurate bills to the majority of customers. As the product life of it increases any issues will be overcome and no doubt performance will improve in these areas.
  • Convenience: The smart meter speaks directly to the supplier saving you the job of having to contact them directly or logging on to their website to provide meter readings.
  • They benefit the country: ‘Smart meters are set to be the cornerstone of the smart energy system of the future, potentially saving Great Britain up to £40 billion between now and 2050’  Gov.uk

In conclusion, as with any new technology, there are a few teething problems, albeit quite large ones. However, the government is working hard to overcome these. With energy efficiency at the forefront of the economy, there is no stopping initiatives such as these and in the long run they will help the country save billions of pounds. The best thing to do is accept and embrace it.

Utility Teamwork with the majority of suppliers in the UK and have a wealth of experience with smart meters and energy in general. If you need advice or help with your smart meter and/or energy don’t hesitate to contact us; 02476 997901 / enquiries@utilityteam.co.uk

Top right statistics infographic source- ‘Smart Meter statistics’: Gov.uk

Article written by: Kirk Cadden, Senior Business Energy Consultant