Smart meters are available to domestic customers and smaller businesses alike.
What is a Smart Meter?
Smart meters are the new generation of gas or electricity meters that can communicate securely with other devices, such as with a portable display and your energy supplier’s systems wirelessly. This means that you can monitor your business’ energy usage more accurately and see what you are using in pounds and pence.
It also means that your energy usage is sent regularly and automatically to your energy supplier so there will be no need to submit meter readings, no more estimated bills, more accurate billing, and no more meter reading visits.
The smart meter package consists of separate electricity and gas meters, a communications hub, and a portable display device. The smart meter will record your energy usage every 30 minutes and will enable energy suppliers to offer tariffs that meet your energy needs better.
In September 2017 there were almost 7.7 million smart meters installed in domestic properties in the UK and almost 47,000 in non-domestic properties.
Not all energy suppliers are currently installing smart meters as their systems are not ready to take the smart meter readings or they do not have the infrastructure in place to deliver the smart meter rollout. But all energy suppliers are obligated as part of their licence to install smart meters wherever possible by 2020 but businesses are forced into accepting a smart meter.
Which Businesses Can Have a Smart Meter?
Businesses can have smart meters installed if they meet the smart meter criteria. Smaller business may be eligible for a smart meter if they have less than 10 full-time equivalent employees.
Some businesses may have Automated Meter Reading (AMR) meters instead of smart meters if they are large users of gas or electricity. In September 2017, there were almost 47,000 smart meters installed and 892,900 AMR meters installed in businesses across the UK.
From 21 May 2018 smaller businesses will no longer be able to have AMR meters installed and smart meters will be the only form of advance meter available to these customers.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Smart Meters?
There are many benefits of having a smart meter which includes:
- Almost real-time energy use (updated every 10 seconds for electricity, 30 minutes for gas)
- Ability to track your energy usage
- Helps your business to work out where you can make savings on your energy bills
- No estimated energy bills
- More accurate energy bills
- More informed information about energy usage to assist the selection of the best energy tariffs
- A broader range of tariffs as energy suppliers will start to tailor their tariffs to smart meter customers which may offer cheaper deals and encourage energy to be consumed at low demand periods
- Creates a smarter and more dynamic energy market which may be more competitive
How Do Smart Meters Differ from AMR Meters?
AMR meters and smart meters are similar, but they operate differently using different technologies. Smart meters will communicate through a centralised data communication network which will then send the data to the relevant energy supplier, they also have a small digital display device that is portable.
AMR meters record and transmit data through Data Controllers. The AMR meter and the transmission network for the data come at a cost to the business whereas smart meters are free-of-charge. Depending on the provider of the AMR meter to what data and software you will have access to, but this tends to be more detailed than the information available from smart meters.
Until 21 May 2018 smaller business could choose to have an AMR meter if they wanted to but after that date, only smart meters will available to them.
Is There a Charge for Having a Smart Meter Installed?
There is no cost to the business for having a smart meter installed. The cost of the smart meter is included in the energy bills as part of the energy suppliers’ costs, as it has previously been the case for meter replacements and maintenance in the past.
Can I Change Suppliers If I Have a Smart Meter?
Having a smart meter installed does not tie you to your energy supplier and there is no obligation to stay with them for a fixed amount of time after it has been installed.
If you switch to an energy supplier who is currently not installing smart meters as their systems are not ready yet, you can still switch to them, but you will need to submit meter readings manually until they are able to receive them automatically.
However, if you have a first-generation smart meter this may not be compatible with all energy suppliers as a lot have configured their systems for second generation smart meters. If this is the case, you may need to submit meter readings manually until the national infrastructure is updated in 2019 to accept first-generation smart meters.
Some very early smart meters may not meet the technical specifications required and you may need to get the meter exchanged but these meters are no longer being installed.
In mid-2018, more energy suppliers began installing second-generation smart meters which communicate to energy suppliers through the Data and Communications Company’s national infrastructure and not directly to the energy supplier. Second-generation smart meters are compatible with all energy suppliers, so having a second-generation meter installed should not cause any issues switching suppliers.
Further Information on Smart Meters
If you want to learn more about how smart meters work, any issues with them, secure and data concerns, installation, and other factors visit our guide to smart meters.