Smart meters are the latest method of monitoring home power consumption. They are available for both electricity and gas usage, and provide a much higher level of accuracy and convenience than previous generations of power meters. Live energy usage readings use can be delivered to anywhere they are needed using modern communication technology. Readings can be sent to a monitor situated conveniently within the home, meaning that residents can monitor their own usage, but this capability also means that energy companies no longer have to send meter readers to individual homes as readings can be sent directly to the company.
Smart meters can also provide a breakdown of historic power use, and meters from specific suppliers may have additional functions. One function that is likely to be included in most is the ability to work out which appliances were using power in a given time period, allowing more detailed monitoring of household energy consumption. Smart meters will also be able to handle both prepay and standard payment options without needing a change of hardware.
What does this mean for users?
For home energy users, smart meters provide an opportunity to monitor their own power use and to make real-time changes to reduce consumption. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that this could help users save up to 10 percent of their current energy costs. A smart meter also means that energy companies will never need to wait for meter readings, reducing overpayments and the need to reclaim money paid on estimated bills. The ability to move to and from prepayment methods means that customers will be able to use the payment method that is appropriate for their circumstances more easily, and that this can be changed as those circumstances change.
What does this mean for energy companies?
Energy companies will also benefit from live, accurate data, as this enables them to bill accurately and more adequately monitor energy usage. It will help them to work out when the highest demand for energy is, and to be more responsive to this customer demand. The savings on meter reading employees and contractors is also a bonus for energy companies and a disconnection or reconnection is required, this can also be handled remotely, creating further savings in personnel and transport costs. Removing the need to provide a new meter if a customer requires a prepayment plan to prevent debt or manage payments more effectively will also provide savings to the companies concerned.
When will this happen?
Currently, the government in the U.K. is supporting plans to ensure that all homes have smart meters by 2019, but the initial roll-out phase has already begun. Many suppliers are running trials, particularly in the south-west, and these should extend throughout the country very shortly.