How much energy?

Had your Smart Meter installed yet? If not, here's what they're all about.

What is a smart meter and why am I getting one?
We all hear about climate change, global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions to protect the environment we live in and the introduction of smart meters is partly designed to help us do just that. The government is committed to updating our aged energy system here in the UK, which is why smart meters are being introduced. As part of this commitment, energy companies are required to have a smart meter installed in every home that wants one by the end of 2020.

More importantly it will do away with the dreaded ‘estimated’ bills that we are all familiar with.

What do they do?
In a nutshell, a smart meter will show you how much gas and electricity you are using as well as what it is costing you. Your existing gas and electricity meters will be replaced by the new meter and this will include a display screen positioned inside your home – it is this screen that will display your usage data for you in ‘near’ real time. ‘Near’ real time means that the data is updated every 30 minutes and it will also be sent directly to your energy supplier every month. As a result, you will no longer need to submit meter readings yourself, or have a meter reader visit your home. More importantly it will do away with the dreaded ‘estimated’ bills that we are all familiar with.

What’s it going to cost?
The short and much publicised answer is nothing – the meters will be installed by your energy supplier into your home free of charge. However, as they say there is no such thing as a free lunch, and in fact every household in the country is helping to subsidise the project with an estimated £200 increase in energy bills to help pay for it.

Will it save me money?
The simple answer to this question is that it depends on you. The government hopes that the installation of smart meters will help to educate people about their energy usage, and that once they can see what this is costing, it will reduce energy consumption. Estimates suggest that the installation of these meters will see between a 2% and 3% reduction in energy usage per household.

When can I expect to receive a meter?
There are in excess of 26 million homes in the UK at present and the stated target is that each home should have a smart meter installed by the end of 2020 – a mammoth project for the energy companies to implement. It’s already started with around 2 million of the meters having been installed, but clearly there’s still a long way to go. Not all energy companies are offering the meters across the country at the present time, but do expect to see the roll out of the technology increase during the remainder of this year and into next. If you want to check whether you are eligible to have a smart meter installed now then you should contact your energy supplier direct.

Once I have a meter installed will I be able to change my energy supplier?
One of the biggest complaints amongst consumers is the poor customer service that many energy suppliers provide, and the lack of transparency on pricing. While the government is introducing ways to simplify the energy pricing market it can still be a bit of a minefield. But the installation of a smart meter will not affect your ability to switch energy suppliers in the future – the meters are compatible with all suppliers.

Do I have to have one?
The programme is voluntary – so while the energy companies have to offer smart meters to each and every home that they supply, you as the homeowner can choose not to have one installed should you wish.

For more information, you can visit www.smartenergygb.org or alternatively make direct contact with your gas and electricity supplier.