One of the really great things about Smart meters is that it gives homeowners the chance to view in real-time just how much energy they are using.
How is that better for the environment? Well, the idea is that by being more aware of the energy they are using, the lower their usage will be. And the lower the usage, the lower the carbon emissions. Hence why smart meters can help us to look after the environment.
Not only does it enable homeowners to see how much energy they are using, they also send the data back to the supplier meaning you’re more likely to get a more accurate bill.
How do smart meters work?
Smart meters have quickly become popular with home-owners by giving them easy visibility of how much energy is being used in their home.
Thanks to wireless technology, your supplier will also receive data on your energy usage which should result in a more accurate bill for you.
There are 2 main parts to your smart meters. The meter itself takes readings of your gas and electricity usage to send back to your supplier. The IHD (in-home display) enables you to keep an eye on your energy usage yourself in your home.
The Smart Meter IHD
As a consumer, the main interest in your smart meter will be the in-home display – The key part.
Having this real-time display easily to hand in your home means that you can keep an eye on your energy usage. Having this information will help you to be more conscious of your energy usage, as well as identifying areas where you could potentially cut down. Helping the environment as well as lowering your energy bills!
What information can I get from my smart meter?
- Energy usage in real-time
- How much energy you have used in the previous hour, week and month
- The costs attached to the energy you are using / have used
- An identification of whether your use of electricity is seen as high, medium or low
- Some meters may also show you your carbon dioxide emissions
- On pre-payment meters you will also be able to see your credit balance
Can smart meters really help the environment?
The idea behind the rollout of smart meters was that they could potentially play a vital role in lowering energy use across the UK, and thus the demand for energy. When consumers can see in real-time what energy they are using, how much it is costing and whether it’s considered high for their home, they are more likely to make changes.
Smart meters have the potential to help the environment by:
- Helping people become more conscious of the energy usage in their homes by providing a real-time display
- Suppliers have access to real-time data, helping to reduce over-generation
- Showing consumers which of their home appliances aren’t running very efficiently
- Reducing the need for home visits to take manual readings, hence cutting down on vehicle emissions
Smart meters aren’t all for the consumer’s benefit
Smart meters are also hugely beneficial to suppliers too. The live data delivered by smart meters in people’s homes means that suppliers can be more accurate in meeting demands. This means that over-delivery will be prevented, resulting in the reduction of energy wastage.
The ability to deliver this data wirelessly, rather than an actual person travelling to homes to measure readings also helps reduce vehicle emissions on a national scale.
If smart meters were consistently used nationwide, then suppliers could be more flexible in their energy systems. This ultimately would mean that electricity would be generated in a more sustainable way, thus reducing carbon emission.
The company leading the campaign roll out of smart meters is Smart Energy GB. They have shared that if every home in the UK was to get a smart meter, then as a country we could save enough energy to power all the homes in Aberdeen, Cardiff and Manchester for an entire year.
Why is a lower demand for energy good for the environment?
UK electricity generation is carbon intensive. By lowering the demand for energy through more conscious choices in individual homes nationwide, we can start to lower energy generation and carbon emissions. This is why smart meters could have such a big role to play in helping the environment.
There are many forms of electricity generation, but the main source for many years has been the burning of fossil fuels. This includes coal, natural gas and oil. Burning these fossil fuels, as many of us well know, causes carbon to be emitted into the atmosphere.
Thankfully, in more recent years, we have seen the rise of more renewable energy sources like wind, solar, nuclear and hydro. We’ve started to see a higher percentage of electricity generation from renewable energy since 2019 (48.5% compared to 43% fossil fuels).
We have a long way to go before our National Grid can be considered ‘green.’ The more renewable energy sources we use, the less carbon will be emitted into the atmosphere.
Whilst we wait for more electricity to be generated from renewable sources, we can also help to lower the demand for electricity through the use of smart meters in people’s homes. The more conscious people are of their energy usage, the more they can do to change it for the better. For their bills and the environment!
It all seems very straightforward – Are there any challenges faced by smart meters?
Whilst it seems a no-brainer that the rollout of smart meters nationwide will make a difference to energy usage, it does depend on homeowners themselves.
The IHD may well clearly display the energy usage of a home, but to have an effect, that consumer needs to be looking at it and considering the information it’s showing them.
Some people may not be influenced by seeing how much energy they are using, or have any wish to change their habits.
Logistically, there are also difficulties. Every home was supposed to have been offered a smart meter by last year, but this has had to be pushed back to 2024.
Also, as with most things technological, there have been some issues with the display on the smart meter itself. A smart meter that isn’t working – Whether due to a faulty display or changing of supplier – isn’t going to be much help.
Will a smart meter help to lower my energy bills?
Lowering energy usage and demand is obviously a great thing for the environment, but it could also have a positive impact on your pocket as well.
Depending on your energy supplier and tariff, through being more conscious of your energy usage you can make changes to lower it, thus using less energy and so paying less on your bills. Smart Energy GB have seen 85% of smart meter owners reducing their energy consumption.
Good news if you have an electric vehicle too! You can also use your smart meter to automatically store energy when it is cheapest. This means you can use this energy for your vehicle charging point rather than the higher rates at peak times.
Smart meters and green mortgages
A further incentive for making more energy efficient choices when it comes to our properties, is benefitting from a green mortgage. These lower mortgage rates are given in exchange for energy efficiency and improvements.
This means that the data collected by your smart meter is highly valuable. By monitoring the energy usage in a home, the smart meter can verify how energy efficient a home is, and thus give support to a green mortgage.
Data on energy usage and house prices also suggests that a more efficient home could mean you see a higher property value.
Smart meters and striving for carbon neutral
Ian Duncan, the Minister for Climate Change, has stressed how vital the replacement of conventional gas and electricity meters is for the UK to become carbon neutral.
From this year he proposed strict targets for smart meter installation from suppliers. He believes they offer huge benefits for households as well as the reduction of emissions.
Do you have to pay for a smart meter?
There are no upfront costs to pay for a smart meter. As with conventional meters, any costs (e.g. maintenance) would be paid through energy bills.
Do you have a smart meter?
There is no doubt that smart meters could well be the first step on the journey to lower carbon emissions.
A smart electricity grid that provides enough energy for the demand without over-production can help us achieve our nationwide target of carbon neutral, and we can help get there through more conscious decisions on our energy usage on a household level.
Do you already have a smart meter? If not, do you think you will get one?
Thank you to Smart Energy GB for the image, via their Facebook page.