Digitalisation is transforming the way we do everything. Now, we carry a phone, our musical back-catalogue, all our photo albums, a camera and an A-Z of any place we visit in our pockets. We can find out the answer to any question and buy any product at the touch of a button.
Yet, the way we deal with our electricity is still in the dark ages. It is the only critical infrastructure which runs on an analogue, rather than a digital system.
Smart meters have the opportunity to change this. They provide real-time information directly to the service provider, meaning no more having to clear out the cupboard under the stairs every time you need to take a meter reading, no more estimated bills and a full understanding about the energy you are using.
Chances and challenges
In a world where we need to reduce energy consumption, smart meters put homeowners in control of their own energy usage. However, it has been well documented the process of introducing smart meters isn’t running as smoothly as it should be.
Much of this is for positive reasons – challenger brands have entered into the energy market giving the customer more choice, and the digital revolution has brought a host of new apps and smart appliances also giving the customer control.
But, installing smart meters in 27 million UK homes is a mega project. Giving the responsibility for that to energy suppliers means it is done on a piecemeal basis. It is done house-by-house, rather than street-by-street which would have been the case had the local network operator been responsible. Teething issues with the national data infrastructure that will support smart meters have also slowed the progress, meaning perhaps the 2020 deadline for full implementation should be extended.
The process has also been slowed as households understand more about the difference between first and second generation metering technology.
It has been well documented that first generation smart meters don’t always work between different suppliers. With more energy suppliers and savvy customers switching more regularly, this has caused problems.
What we need to see is faster completion of second generation meter testing.
First generation meters will go into ‘dumb’ mode if a customer switches meaning a return to providing the supplier with meter readings. This will change with the launch of the second generation meter and first generation meters will receive a digital update, or a homeowner can choose to have a new meter installed.
Several delays in launching the second generation meters mean more households are choosing to wait until then to get a meter. What we need to see is faster completion of second generation meter testing. This will help households and increase the speed of installation, providing clarity to suppliers and installers, safeguarding jobs and protecting future technological investment.
Don’t scrap the programme!
Some have suggested the programme should be scrapped. We don’t agree with that. The UK will benefit hugely by the roll out. Many of the costs associated with the programme are already paid for and the benefits yet to come.
In an increasingly digital world, we need to embrace the change and finish the project we started. The digital revolution is here to stay and we need to bring energy into the 21st century.
Meter Installation and Maintenance
Business Case Studies
BBC Article: ‘What’s so smart about smart meters?’