Plans to install smart meters in all British homes by 2020 have raised concerns that homeowners will have to foot the bill for this new technology. The Government scheme is estimated to cost somewhere in the region of £11bn, but researchers justify the expense with the claim that advanced power meters could potentially save £17 billion over the next 16 years.

Smart meters are the energy systems of the future. Designed to help people monitor gas and electricity consumption in order to reduce usage and bills, the devices are seen as key to improving the infrastructure of the UK’s energy system and indoctrinate a smarter approach to the way we use energy.
The Public Accounts Committee has raised concerns that the new energy monitors will not save enough money for their installation to be worthwhile. As well as this, home owners are being asked to foot the bill to install the £215 box meters in their homes—although in practice, the cost of this will be naturally factored into bills over the next 15 years.

The cost of installing the new power meters will only add around £14 to energy bills, but government estimates claim users can save around £23 a year by using the smart meters in a clever way.

Smart research

Comprehensive research conducted by Oxford Economics and British Gas claim that smart meters could save homeowners £65 a year.  The report explains that improving the energy efficiency of every household in the country will save the UK economy £14 billion by 2030.

Energy Infrastructure by Hugh Venables via Wikimedia Commons

By Hugh Venables

Smart meters are fitted with in-home displays which allow users to monitor the amount of energy consumption for each appliance at a glance. Users can therefore calculate how much they're spending in relation to the energy they're using. It is hoped the energy meters will encourage people not to leave TVs and PCs on stand-by or charge portable devices overnight, all of which wastes electricity unnecessarily.

British Gas calculated that for every £4 spent on electricity, £1 is wasted, which contributes £1.3bn worth of loss to the British economy. Because smart meters provide information of energy consumption in real time, everyone in the household can immediately see the impact of switching off devices when they are not being used.

The report conducted by British Gas and Oxford Economics details how home owners and energy providers can benefit by incorporating the new power meters into the smart grid.

Smart meters provide accurate, near-real time information around energy consumption that will allow electricity suppliers to determine the level of resources they need to provide at certain times of day and year during peaks and troughs of consumption. With accurate data provided by smart meters, energy companies can match supply and demand and work much more efficiently.

In the future, the more sophisticated data provided by the meters may mean that energy companies may also lay the groundwork to promote deals on energy at busy times of day when energy consumption is at a premium. This could be, for example, during popular TV shows aired at prime time or when live televised football matches are on. With basic energy prices continuing to rise, smart meters offer a solution to help control power consumption and reduce bills.

Smart ways of using energy

The responsibility of improving the running of the country’s power infrastructure and supporting the economy depends on how well the nation adapts to saving energy. If everybody buys into the scheme it brings more benefits to the nation and the UK economy as a whole. The government has asked that reduced energy usage is passed back to consumers and estimates savings of £6.3bn by 2030. It is forecast that if consumers follow personalised energy advice, they can save 5% on their yearly bill. For the average UK household this is around £60.

Furthermore, a lower demand for energy will reduce trading costs of carbon and save a further £3.2bn in energy services. Information collected by smart meters is transferred directly to your electricity supplier and negates the need for a meter reader to enter your premises making further savings on unnecessary human resources.

Energy companies will provide literature and customer service lines designed to educate electricity users to be more energy efficient by using appliances less and watching how much energy they spend on entertainment, appliances, and heating in their homes.

In times of financial hardship, smart meters offer a solution to put money back into the pocket of British householders and give the British economy a much-needed boost. And by making energy users self-conscious about the amount of energy they are consuming, the country will make even greater savings by avoiding some of the damage to the environment caused by climate change.

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