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Smart Meters – what are they?…and what makes them smart?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Smart meters are coming to replace your traditional and conventional meters over the coming years. And by 2020, it is likely we will all have one. Research by uSwitch highlighted that 55% of us are “in the dark” as to what smart meters are.

What are Smart Meters?

So firstly, what is a smart meter? Smart meters are a new type of electricity and gas meter which will replace your current meters.  In many ways they act in the same way as your current ones; they record how much electricity or gas that you are using.  The clever bit is that they are “connected”, some using technology similar to a mobile phone, and will automatically send your energy meter readings to your gas or electricity supplier.  We will come back to this bit later.

Another clever thing about a smart meter is that it can record and display your energy usage in near real-time.  Each smart meter comes with an ‘in-home display’, which will show you how much energy you are using at that moment in time and how much your energy has cost you during the last day, week or year.  Also, the display can even help you see if you are using more or less energy than a previous day or against a target.  They can therefore help you understand if your energy saving efforts are working.

Other benefits of smart meters are:

  • your supplier you will no longer have to ask you to submit meter readings, and also
  • they bring an end to estimated bills.  No more bill shocks!

When do I get one?

Smart meters are being rolled out nationally from Autumn 2015 through a Government lead initiative.  Your energy provider (gas or electricity), will have an obligation to offer installation of a new meter/s, free of charge, over the roll out period between 2015 and 2020. You are going to see a lot more of Gaz & Leccy, the mascots of the roll out.   You are not obliged to have a smart meter installed if you do not wish to. Some energy companies have started to introduce smart meters already, such as British Gas.




Gaz and Leccy

Gaz and Leccy the smart meter mascots. You will see lot of these two in the papers, on TV and even hear them on the radio.

How much do Smart Meters Cost?

The roll out of smart meters have been controversial due to the estimated costs of installation, up to £10.9 billion.  Households will not pay for a smart meter to be installed, the cost will be covered by the supplier installing your meter.  Consumers and households will pay indirectly through their energy bills, much like how part of our energy bills cover costs of maintenance and reading of our current meters.

The Government have touted that smart meters will help households save money, £26 per year, or about 2% off your bill.  Unfortunately, the smart meter itself will not save your money.  It will however give you more, and hopefully better, information to help you reduce your energy consumption and hence save money on your bills. According to the Public Accounts Committee, your energy bill will £11 per year bigger from 2017 to cover the costs of installation.  Be sure to check out our other Know-How pieces, blog and of course the Forum to find some great energy saving tips.

Who owns my smart meter data?

I promised we would come back to the issue of data, and here goes…smart meters will potentially capture A LOT of data on and how and when we use energy. Firstly, you own your data and the Information Commissioner’s Office (the independent body that protects information rights and the public’s interest) are establishing a new code to empower households to control who has access to your data and how it can be used.

Smart meter - data flowYour electricity or gas supplier does not have direct access to the data created by your smart meter. The data from all smart meters is collected by a national company (Smart DCC), operating under licence from Government. Your meter data is collected by a regional company depending on where you live in the UK.  Your supplier requests your data from the data services provider (part of Smart DCC).  They will have basic access to your energy usage data.  A household can allow other organisations to access their data if they give permission e.g. a switching site.

Share your experiences of Smart Meters

Have you had a smart meter installed already?  If so, how are finding the experience, are you becoming more aware about your energy usage?  Share your experiences on our Forum here and help support others before smart meters roll out.

If you found this Know-How  helpful, or know someone who could benefit from reading it, use the Facebook and Twitter sharing features below to share the knowledge.


  • Andrew Timmis
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    Andrew Timmis
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