Smart Meter, the revolution taking place in every UK home. What it is and how it works

The transition of Ofgem to Smart Meters (for convenience, we call SM), which has been in a transformation process for over three years now, could mean energy savings, a real and important digitization of the national electricity grid, a cultural change for all English families. But a part of the population tends not to welcome this digitization. Let’s make something clear. Overall, the spread of MS across the country seems to be a very good thing for the benefits seen.

Let’s start by defining the difference between MS, today there are two types: SMETS1 and SMETS2.

SMETS 1 is the most common variant, they use 3G to communicate single data with the supplier. This means that they lose some of their functionality when they change supplier, become “useless” and act like a normal meter. While SMETS 2 works differently. They feed their information into a centralized data network that all suppliers have access to; therefore, they are not canceled when you change supplier, and you can continue to keep an eye on all your analyses.

What are the benefits of having an MS?

  • It is not necessary to enter meter readings: automatic transmission of information on energy consumption from the MS, including meter readings. This eliminates the need to log into the meter, record meter readings and send them to the supplier.
  • Potential savings: By providing customers with detailed information about their energy consumption, MS can help families reduce their energy bills by understanding which energy appliances they use and when.
  • See energy consumption– By showing your energy usage not just in kilowatt-hours but also in pounds, smart meters can help customers understand how their energy use translates into consumption.
  • Free installation: you do not have to pay anything directly to have an SM installed.
  • No estimated invoices: With the energy consumption information regularly sent to the supplier, invoices will no longer be estimated based on history. Your bills will be accurate, you will only be charged for the energy actually consumed.
  • Network efficiency: By better understanding the flow of electricity and gas through the infrastructure and the grid, improvements can be concentrated where they are really needed thanks to applied technology.
  • Reduction of environmental impact: With a greater understanding of energy consumption, families can change their habits, not only to see savings on their bills, but also to reduce CO2, starting with the green tariffs offered by suppliers.
  • Change supplier easily: provide accurate supplier switching readings at the right time, they allow automatic setting of credit/prepayment.
  • Smart home: Customers can choose electric cars, heating systems and smart appliances, such as washing machines and dishwashers, which can connect to the smart meter to access price and consumption data. The activity of individual components can be planned to automatically take advantage of cheaper prices, thus reducing the impact on the energy grid and saving money.
  • Improved support monitoring: The Smart Meters for Independent Living (SMILE) project is an innovative trial of energy consumption patterns for people with disabilities and the elderly living independently. The project uses this data to gain insight into their daily routines and identify unusual changes in behavior that may cause concern.
  • High customer satisfaction: Citizens Advice consumer audit found that 80% of people who have installed a smart meter are satisfied with the installation and usage process.

What are any disadvantages of an MS?

  • Change behavior to save: MS does not automatically generate savings. Customers must actively engage with what the In Home screen shows and change their behavior based on their own information, or they won’t see their bills go down.
  • Costs distributed across all energy bills: it is estimated that the implementation of smart meters will cost almost 14 billion pounds, an expense that will be spread over all energy bills in the coming years. The way the costs are spread means the maximum cost impact on a customer’s bill will be an extra £11 per year.
  • Smart Meters may become unusable after the supplier change: Most SMS already installed are first-generation devices (SMETS1), which often become unusable and lose functionality after customers switch providers. The second generation (SMETS2) does not have this problem and most of the first generation SMs are updated slowly to prevent the problem.
  • Poor signal outside the home: not all families have a good wifi signal outside the home. If the signal is poor, the meters cannot communicate with the supplier. In these circumstances, an SM will still be installed, but it will be unusable and the readings will have to be done manually.
  • Bad signal inside the house: In large houses, those with thick walls, the signal from the communication hub of the electricity meter to the IHD (In Home Display) may not be good. If the signal is poor, the IHD may only work intermittently, which can be very frustrating.
  • Privacy issues: Some customers fear that information about their energy consumption will be made available to third parties. But UK law currently prohibits energy suppliers from transmitting their information without the express consent of the customer.

As we said at the beginning of the article, part of the population has fears in the use of MS due to problems related to privacy, electromagnetic pollution and correct measurements. However, the government is carrying out the installations of MS to upgrade the national grid. Recent studies have shown that: 9 out of 10 people with MS say they are satisfied with the installation process, 8 out of 10 people with MS say they have a good awareness of their energy costs.

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