Pros and Cons of Smart Meters
Overall the installation of Smart Meters across the country would seem to be a good thing but only by a small margin. Good or bad can be looked at in many different ways and whether you think that they're an advantage or disadvantage will depend on your needs and attitude. Let's look at the pros and cons of different aspects:
The accuracy of smart meters should be better as the reading will be taken at exactly the right time when your tariff changes or you move out, however there have been some concerns raised on their accuracy. Some tests have shown that power controllers, such as light dimmers, can prevent the smart meter recording accurately. Some experiments have shown that some smart meters over record the power used by up to 250% and some under record by 40 % depending on the power measurement technique used. Further work will have to be carried out in this area.
The government's own business case for the roll-out of Smart Meters is only just positive, based largely on the forecast that customer will reduce their use of energy by understanding it better and being better informed.
If you already have a display at home, of the clip on variety, showing your energy consumption then you are half way there. The In Home Displays (previously known as Smart Meter Displays or Home Energy Monitors) provided with Smart Meters will do more though, in that it covers both electricity and gas, and can show your current bill. To save money you will need to take action such as turning off unneeded lights. The In Home Display will help you see when you're using more energy than usual so can be trigger for you to look around the house to see what's left on.
More advanced energy products in the future, such as a different rates for peak times, should allow energy conscious customers to save more money, however ironically these conflict with the governments' drive to force suppliers to have a small range of simple products.
Apart from PAYG (Pay As You Go) the features a customer can play with are limited. You will no longer have to submit a meter reading and therefore should never get an estimated bill again. This is especially important when you change supplier or move house as things often go wrong there currently when people either don't provide reading or provide conflicting ones.
In time we expect that suppliers will provide better on-line analysis of your energy use, provided you give them permission to take half hourly readings. The services offered in this area are currently very limited.
Privacy & Security
There are concerns from some groups concerning security of the data or privacy. Smart Meters have been built to the latest security standards and are very secure. Suppliers have to ask your permission to collect meters readings on daily basis, so you have control. Without your permission they can only collect meter readings on a monthly basis. Like any technical secure system today, such as banks and NHS systems, the weakest link is probably the staff involved along the way. If you are happy to use on-line systems for other purposes such as banking, it's likely you'll also be happy with your Smart Meter. If you have concerns you can ask your supplier to only collect one meter reading a month, this reveals very little about you.
Questions & Answers
Can I refuse to have a smart meter installed?
Yes. You are under no obligation to have a smart meter installed in your home. You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier. Many energy companies have dedicated teams to handle questions about the technology and the installation process.
Are smart meters safe?
Yes. DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) have stated that all smart meters are subject to the same safety regulations and testing of any in-home technological devices, including baby monitors and mobile phones.
Can my supply be turned off remotely?
Smart meters have the facility to remotely disconnect and reconnect both the electricity and gas supply. However most suppliers seem to have decided it is too dangerous to remotely disconnect or reconnect, as in the case of disconnection they cannot always be sure that the customer isn't relying on a supply for serious health reasons and in the case of reconnection the customer may have left a cooker on for example.
What will energy companies do with the information they collect about my energy consumption?
Under Ofgem codes published July 2013, you can dictate how much data your energy supplier can retrieve from your smart meter and whether your supplier can share that info with third parties. You can also decide whether or not your supplier can use that information for marketing purposes.
How much will it cost me to run my In Home Display?
Your In Home Display (IHD) uses a very small amount of electricity. A typical IHD left on all year will cost less than £1 to run.
Why is two way communications important?
Smart meters send meter reading and event information to suppliers. Supplier can send product and payment details to the meter when you want to change your product or payment terms. Additionally this two way communications will support Pay As You Go in the future.
Why are smart meters controversial?
Whilst earlier conversations about smart meters focused on safety (which you can read more about in Campaigns Against
), more recent criticisms have sprung from how the government and suppliers are handling the roll-out. From cost to customer communication, the plan to get a smart meter into every home by 2020 has been a bumpy ride so far. In early 2014, EDF Energy, ScottishPower and npower called for a review of the roll-out, stating the cost to customers would be £1.8 billion. This, they said, was due to the "ambitious" deadline of every household in four years and the cost of the In Home Displays. The cost is ultimately paid by customers through measures on their energy bills. Instead, suppliers proposed, customers could link up their smart meter to their smartphone or tablet to save cost. In 2013, independent research commissioned by uSwitch found that 55% of us were "in the dark" about smart meters. That meant households did not understand what smart meters did and how they could benefit them. However, later studies of those with actual smart meters in their homes enjoyed more accurate billing and were more satisfied with their providers.
How does a Smart Meter help me change Supplier more easily?
A Smart meter will automatically provide the supplier you are leaving, and the supplier you are moving to, with the correct meter reading for the point of changeover. Often this reading was a point of confusion as there could be different views of the changeover reading between suppliers and the customer.
Who owns the Meter?
Traditionally the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) owned all the meters but the Supplier led rollout means that the suppliers must purchase or rent the Smart Meters. As you as a customer change supplier a rental fee for the meter will be exchanged between your supplier and the owner of the meter.
What is the cost of the meters?
Traditional meters (sometimes called dumb or legacy) meters lasted for about 40 years and cost about £10. Electricity Smart Meters cost about £50, gas meters about £80. The life is not yet certain but expected to be from 10 to 15 years.
Can I have a smart meter if I'm a prepayment customer?
Yes. Smart meters work in both credit and prepayment modes. In fact, prepayment customers will have more flexible payment options available to them with smart meters, including remote top-up facilities.
What are the benefits of having a smart meter?
There are a number of benefits if you have smart meters:
- More accurate bills
- Smart meters mean the end of estimated bills, and the end of overpaying (or underpaying) for your energy
- No one has to come to your home to read your meter; you do not have to submit meter readings yourself
- Better oversight and management of your energy use with a real-time data display in your home
What is the cost of the In Home Display (previously known as an SMD or HEM)?
In Home Displays (previously known as Smart Meter Displays or Home Energy Monitors) are expected to cost suppliers about £25. Some suppliers are expected to offer enhanced Displays at a cost to the customer.
How much is this all costing?
The total cost is estimated to be £11 billion, however the estimated savings are expected to be £17 billion. So even after the investment of installing smart meters for everyone, there should be a national saving of £6 billion by 2030.
How much can I save on energy costs every year?
The average household can expect to make yearly savings of £26 by 2020, and with rising energy costs the saving will rise to £43 a year by 2030.
Why is my Smart Meter being replaced with another?
The specification for Smart Meters has only recently been agreed and manufacturers have only just started making meters to the standard. Therefore older Smart Meters which cannot be upgraded to the latest standard will have to be replaced.