Monday, May 11, 2009

Yes, it's a meter. But, is it smart?

It was all over the news. And now in my editorial in-box from HMG.

I'll share, E&EO, but have some thoughts I'll share afterwards, based on a bit of science, a bit of consumer insight, and a dash of personal experience.

UK Smart Meter roll out moves forward

* Hi tech meters will change our energy habits
* No more estimated bills or staying in for meter readings
* Easier switching between energy suppliers
* Suppliers will be able to offer cheaper off-peak energy

All homes in Britain will have smart meters installed by 2020 under plans published today. Great Britain will be the first country in the world to have an overhaul of this size for both electricity and gas meters.

Smart meters enable meter readings to be taken remotely and together with a display device give householders real time information on their energy use.

The new information smart meters provide will help consumers to see what energy they are using and how to save money on their bills.

Smart meters will mean the end of estimated bills, no more having to stay in for home readings, quicker and smoother switching between suppliers and cheaper, easier prepayment.

The Government has today set out the different options for rolling out the revolutionary kit across Great Britain and on what the smart meters should be capable of doing.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said:

"This is another part of our Great British refurb. The meters most of us have in our homes were designed for a different age, before climate change. Now we need to get smarter with our energy.

"Smart meters will empower all consumers to monitor their own energy use and make reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions as a result. Smart meters will also mean the end of inaccurate bills and estimated meter readings.

"This is a big project affecting 26 million homes, and several million businesses, so it's important we design a system that brings best value to everyone involved."

Smart meters signify the start of a change in our energy habits. They are a key step towards future smart grids which have the potential to help our shift to a low-carbon economy - making it easier for renewable generation to feed into the grid, including micro and community level generation and will support the decarbonisation of heat and transport through the greater use of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Suppliers will be able to offer more tariffs and services, such as 'time-of-use' tariffs, encouraging more efficient and economical energy use.

The preferred roll-out option is the central communications model - where energy suppliers are responsible for the installation and maintenance of the smart meter but the communication to and from the device is coordinated by a third party across the whole of Great Britain.

The other principal models considered are:

* Competitive model - where energy suppliers manage all aspects of smart metering, including installation and communication.

* Fully centralised - where regional franchises are set up to manage the installation and operation of smart meters with the communications to and from the meters managed centrally and on a national level.


1. The consultation is open to the public from today and will run to 24 July 2009. Further information on how to take part can be found here

2. Based on our Consultation Impact Assessment, rolling out smart meters to all households will deliver net benefits of between £2.5 billion and £3.6 billion over the next 20 years. These benefits fall to suppliers, to customers and to the country as a whole.

BBC - Smart meter plans to be outlined -

On balance, a why not? But I have two main concerns. One is the enviROI of this, but really this would require data that one could trust to assess.

This looks like an awful lot of kit, and an awful lot of man hours, and I remain unclear where the main benefits may lie.

The other is usage. Other than being a bit miffed that my ecometer purchase may have been a bad investment (and I think the Wattson makers will be livid), I have to confess that, after a flurry of attention when we first set it up, we ended up ignoring it. And frankly it was gobbling a ton of batteries on the remote so we stopped that too.

So, will folk use it? And if they do, will they really get the info they need in a way that makes them alter their lifestyles? Or is it just another gimmick, and expensive one at that, with a load of benefits that might not prioritise the consumer or the planet as much as they are being PR'd?

Gaurdian - NEW - Householders must not foot the bill


Dave said...

I heard on the radio that the cost of installing these will be in the region of £7 Billion to £9 Billion.

To 'deliver net benefits of between £2.5 billion and £3.6 billion over the next 20 years'?

Over a twenty year period does that sound like a good ROI to anyone?

Peter said...

That will be a no, then.

I wonder how much £3b would do if invested in reduction initiatives such as insulation, that would also serve to reduce both emissions and pocket pain for those in need.