In 2013, the UK Government rolled out a plan to have 53 million smart meters fitted in household and business premises by 2020. We are now at the end of 2017 and, so far, 7 million smart meters have been installed nationwide.
The idea behind smart meters is to bring control of energy costs back to the customer. One of the main benefits of having a smart, or AMR (automated meter reading), meter is that they provide real-time information on energy use. Having a smart meter on the premises will help better manage what time during the day electricity is used the most and ultimately avoid peak times, thus cutting costs.
Smart meters also give access to a wider spread of tariff options as suppliers will be able to analyse the data and see actual consumption patterns, which will result in them being able to better predict the distribution and transmission costs they will incur in getting the energy to the customer’s doorstep.
The biggest and the most immediate impact will come from the decrease in the number of estimated bills. Incorrect billing is one of the main causes of customer dissatisfaction and frustration. It is a starting point to numerous hours spent on hold with the supplier, emails back and forth, credit notes that do not add up, and taking meter pictures and meter read. Smart meters eliminate all this as they send hourly reads to the data collector, so you will be billed on what you actually use.
Despite the multiple benefits, the rollout did not go as smoothly as planned, both with suppliers and customers. Humans are not keen on change, and one of the main objections from clients is that they doubt the validity of the data collecting. They like to take their own meter reads at the beginning and at the end of the month and then compare that with the invoice. This is probably a result of bad experience with incorrect billing in the past and losing control of their energy usage. It can be greatly improved by educating customers on the matter and providing them with the information they need to better understand the logic behind this type of data recording.
Suppliers have also had issues with the first phase of smart meter installation. Even though every supplier should be able to log into any smart meter and use its data, this was not the case. If you switched suppliers, some AMRs would lose their functionality and could only be used as “regular” meters. This often meant that the suppliers would have to come on site and install their own smart meter, which was not convenient or cost-effective for anyone. The industry is aware of the issue and the new type of smart meters that are currently being installed should prevent this issue.
Even though the rollout did not go as smoothly or as efficiently as planned in its initial staged, smart meters are the future of energy consumption management, cost control, and energy efficiency. As with anything new, it will take some time to make them work as their best. However, the benefits significantly outweigh the negatives, so go ahead and contact your supplier/consultant and ask about the possibility of having one installed at your own premises.
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