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Smart meters: what are they and how can they help you?

Smart meters: what are they and how can they help you?

A smart meter is a new kind of gas and electricity meter that digitally sends readings to your energy supplier. They are a substitute for the current standard meter that requires households to track their own readings and then submit them to their suppliers to attain accurate bills.

By 2020, the British government requires all energy suppliers to offer smart meters to every home and small business in the UK. This comes after the European Union requested that all members look at smart meters as a method of tackling climate change, whilst upgrading our energy supply.

The programme has already been implemented by the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Italy and the Netherlands are among the early EU countries benefiting from smart meters, with most other European countries currently rolling them out. Whilst it is not compulsory, four in five people who have a smart meter would recommend one.

How do smart meters work?

Smart meters use a secure national communication network to automatically and wirelessly send your actual energy usage to your suppliers. This network is run by the Data Communications Company (DCC), which is overseen by the energy regulator Ofgem. Smart meters do not use the Internet to send or receive data, enabling it to work without Internet connection.

They also come with an in-home display. This display gives the household real-time usage information, including kWh use and cost. As a result of the high exchange of data, there are strict new regulations and codes of practice to keep smart meter data private, secure and safe.

How does having a smart meter benefit you?

According to Smart Energy GB, there are numerous benefits to smart meters:

  • More accurate bills: With the smart meter sending energy supplier’s accurate, regular information, bills will be more accurate and remove the need to submit meter readings.
  • Better manage your energy usage: With the smart meter in-home display, you can see the direct impact your habits and lifestyle have on your bill. The information provided by the smart meter includes how much energy is being used in near real time, how much energy was used in the last hour, week and month, and the costs.
  • Better control of energy cost: As the smart meter provides a good insight of your usage and spending, it’ll give you a better idea of usage and how to budget. Therefore, this will help you to make smarter decisions to save money, in particular for those that prepay for their meters, allowing them to better track how their usage impacts their credit.
  • Improve the environment: With more households being able to save energy, greenhouse emissions from a power plant can be reduced due to the lower demand for electricity. This will also maximise the utility of existing energy resources and eliminates the need for new plants.

With smart meters being relatively new to both customers and households, common issues like ease of functionality and how smooth the system runs are to be expected.

Long-term, the benefits will be apparent as customers learn how to properly use the system. To aid the transition, our government has provided adequate information on how the smart meter functions. This can be found on the Smart Energy GB website.

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