Why every home will have a smart meter by 2024

According to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), there were 22.2 million smart and advanced meters in homes and businesses across the UK as of 30 September 2020, but reducing energy bills is just one of the reasons why the government is pushing the roll-out of these vital additions to our properties. 

A deadline originally set for 2020, the government is now aiming to have smart meters in every domestic property and small business premises by the end of 2024 – setting out rules for energy companies to ensure they take all reasonable steps to make this target a reality.

But why? Earlier this month, our CEO Steve Lees spoke to Energy Management to explain. In case you missed it, you can catch up, here.

Led by and regulated by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), the deadline for the smart metering implementation programme may have been pushed back by four years – but it is still an integral piece of work that is central to ensuring our energy network is operating at maximum efficiency.

In the first instance, the overhaul of traditional gas and electricity meters forms part of a wider essential infrastructure upgrade for the UK, helping to make our energy usage cleaner, more efficient in delivery and storage, as well as reliable and available on demand – in the right places at the right times.

Transparency around how much energy you’re using – and the true cost of every cup of tea – not only prevents nasty surprises when the invoice drops into your inbox but, encourages individuals to pay more attention to how much power they may be wasting.

A range of intelligent functions, which highlight how much energy a particular appliance may be using as well as giving live ‘billing’ updates via an In-Home Display (IHD), helps households to regulate their energy use and save money – reducing their emissions as a result.

Switching lights off in unoccupied rooms, and only using the washing machine once you have plenty of laundry will all play a part in saving energy, but smart meter technology also exists to support the UK’s transition to a low-carbon energy system.

By encouraging users to ‘spend’ their power outside of peak times – such as charging electric vehicles overnight – energy providers will reward those which support ‘best practice’ with incentives such as reduced tariffs.

Of course, commercial property tends to use much more energy than the average household, but in such instances, a smart meter can identify what items within the business are using significant amounts of power so that suitable alternatives can be explored.

For example, a car body shop may have previously used heat to dry paint, but infrared solutions use far less electricity – and don’t produce anywhere near as much carbon.

What is the wider benefit?

An integral part of the smart grid – which includes smart appliances, renewable energy, and efficient resources – smart meters provide a wealth of insight into local and national energy habits, particularly with relation to supply and demand.

As an example, one street could be home to working families who – under normal circumstances – leave their homes empty and use little electricity and gas between 8am and 6pm, but require a great deal during the evening. Within that same postcode could be an area of sheltered housing, which draws energy for much of the day. Both streets will have very different usage needs, but at present we have no sure-fire way of knowing what is going where, and when.

Targeted information such as this helps to inform not only tariffs, but the location of battery storage technology too – and removes the need to continuously upgrade the UK’s electrical system in order to cope with fluctuating demand.

Smart meters can actually prove good for PR too.

Finally, energy companies can sometimes find themselves in the news for all the wrong reasons, and overcharging customers can quickly see people jumping ship. As the current climate sees a reliance on estimated billing, clarity around charges – and a lack of under and overcharging – can ultimately lead to improved customer retention.

While the decision to have a smart meter installed in your property remains with the bill payer, these little innovations will certainly make a significant difference to our energy infrastructure – and your pocket.

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