What’s so smart about smart meters?

calendar15 July 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

What’s so smart about smart meters?

Written by Sarah Haywood

Anything that can make the complicated things in life a little simpler to understand should surely be a good thing, right? The welcoming of smart meters across the UK by 2020 is set to bring clarity to the complicated world of energy bills and usage to 26 million British homes.

This nationwide initiative is set to replace traditional meters including prepay key meters in what has been called ‘the biggest improvement to our energy system in decades’, catapulting our energy network into the 21st century. The move will adapt our current system to be able to cope with the rise in more complex energy usage or generation, such as electric cars and solar panels and help the national grid more accurately plan for the future.

What’s more, your energy provider fits the device. For those with more than one energy provider, the company that will fit this new meter is whichever provider gets in contact with you first, and any other providers you use will have to channel their information through whichever meter you have fitted.

The new digital meter for gas and electricity sends automatic, accurate readings to your energy companies and also provides you with a simple monitor display, which could help you better understand and manage your energy usage. The portable tablet-like monitor is said to be simple to use and displays ‘near real time’ usage information.

The running of these shouldn’t make much impact on your energy usage, costing less than £1 to run over the course of one year. Additionally, it has been suggested that giving us a heightened awareness of our usage levels will help us realise when we use energy most and where we can effectively reduce our usage and save some money!

Ellie recently had a smart meter installed and said, ‘I know how much a cup of tea costs and see the usage go up when the washing machine or dishwasher are on. It tells you your predicted bill for the month and shows you all sorts of stats across the months you’ve had it. I think it’s brilliant!’

Now this all sounds well and good, but it’s certainly facing some obstacles as it begins to roll out across the UK. Some have reported that certain areas lack the right network coverage. In addition, due to the expanse of the roll out, customers who have installation issues can find themselves waiting a long while before technicians are able to come to their assistance.

Whilst any large initiative is sure to face growing pains, the motive at the heart of this development seems to be admirable: helping us, as a nation, better protect and manage our energy generation and enabling customers to understand and monitor their usage more accurately.

(Here's an example of a smart meter in action!)

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