Smart metering: an intelligent way to cut costs?

Smart metering: an intelligent way to cut costs?

At the end of 2015 the government will begin the roll out of the national smart meter programme. It will cost in the region of £12m and will take a number of years.

Why is this being carried out? Fundamentally once you or I have a smart meter installed at home, we will be able to take more control of our domestic energy usage. We will be able to see, on our in-house display consoles, how much energy we are using, by what means and how much it is costing. By having this instant feedback we can then understand how much it costs to run our household equipment and then to decide if we want to continue spending in this way. We will no longer need to have our meters read as this can be done remotely and accurately.

By the same token the energy companies will be able to see how we use energy on an individual, street and regional basis. The supply of energy is most efficient if the demand load can be controlled and the breakfast and evening peaks are flattened.

Incentives are already being offered to commerce and industry not to crank up demand at certain times of the day. In the same way domestic users may be offered favourable tariffs to encourage them to switch the kettle and oven on at 7.00 pm, say, instead of 5pm which will have a higher tariff. In other words if am prepared to change my energy usage habits I will save money because the grid is under less strain and the likelihood of black-outs is diminished.

So, smart meter roll-out is perfectly sensible and logical. We all have more control of our costs and the grid will be working more efficiently and under less strain. If only life were that straightforward.

As with any new development, of course, there are concerns.

At some time in the future I will get a phone call from my energy supplier to ask if they can install the new smart meter. If I am elderly or vulnerable how comfortable will I be with strangers in my home for a couple of hours? Can I trust the people coming into my home? Will they be properly trained? Will I be able to understand the new technology? Will it actually cost me more to keep warm?

How can I get the reassurance I need? Who can answer my queries? It is the utilities that will have the responsibility to install the meters. I know that trying to phone any of them for information is an almost impossible task unless I am prepared to sit on the phone for 40 minutes being told how valuable my custom is whilst my phone bill is steadily increasing.

How safe and secure will my personal information be as it whizzes continually through the ether? Once my personal usage habits and trends are deciphered will it be sold on (even to trusted ‘third’ parties) so that I am hounded by unrelenting and unwanted sales ‘offers’?

If I change suppliers will the smart meter be compatible with all energy suppliers?

So many questions thrown up. And unfortunately, it is difficult to get answers to them. One thing I do know, however, is that the estimated £11bn costs will ultimately be passed on to consumers.

In conclusion, are smart meters a good thing? I would say “yes”, because of the greater control we will have over our spending and the improvement to strategic grid management.

Also, I think that the smart meter roll-out will help to raise awareness of the ways we consume energy in general, and of the benefits of effective metering in particular – not just in the domestic sector, but also in business.

As far as businesses are concerned, at a technical level, metering can be a fantastic way to reduce energy wastage, boost competitiveness and improve the level of control you have of your business operations and financial performance.

To find out more about energy monitoring for businesses and other ways to boost efficiencies through intelligent energy management, visit: