In 2016, energy suppliers began to roll out smart meters in the UK. The original target was to install them in every home and small business by 2020. This target date has since been extended to the end of June 2025. Between 2016 and 2018, energy suppliers installed around 8.6 million first generation meters, also known as SMETS1 smart meters.
The shift to the next generation smart meter – called SMETS2 – began in 2018. From March 2019, suppliers were only allowed to install SMETS2 meters. The smart meter roll-out is now one of the largest national programmes currently underway with more than 21.5 million smart meters already installed in British homes and businesses . British Gas alone has installed more than 8 million smart meters in homes and business nationwide.
SMETS stands for ‘Smart Meter Equipment Technical Specifications’, which is why you don’t hear the full name very often – it’s not catchy. SMETS1 smart meters were the first generation of smart meters. They send meter readings over the 3G network. However, they only send automatic meter reads to the supplier who installed the meter. This means that if you switch suppliers, your meter becomes a dumb meter, and you’ll need to start sending manual meter reading to your supplier again.
These are the second generation, more intelligent smart meters that are not tied to any one supplier. They send data through the Wide Area Network (WAN). This is a closed and encrypted network that’s not connected to the internet. It communicates directly with the Data Collection Company (DCC) that the government set up for this specific purpose. As your data is encrypted, the DCC can’t see it. All they can do is to pass it on to your supplier. If you decide to switch, the DCC can then share your data with your new supplier, meaning you don’t have to send manual meter readings. Most importantly, your smart meter will stay smart with your new supplier.
If you have a SMETS1 meter
First generation (SMETS1) smart meters are being migrated onto the DCC’s secure network as part of the SMETS2 smart meter rollout programme through a process called adoption and enrolment. This means that SMETS1 meters are will become part of the DCC network alongside SMETS2 meters, so it will stay smart even when you switch.
Benefits of smart meters
Once connected, your smart meter will automatically send electricity meter readings to your supplier, so you don’t have to. This means:
- Your supplier gets regular meter readings meaning you get more accurate bills
- Estimated bills are a thing of the past, helping you to manage your business energy costs more easily
If you have a smart meter for your business, and you also manage your business energy account online, then it’s likely you can see your business electricity consumption. Reviewing how much energy your business uses can help you spot problems like a sudden spike or drop in energy use, either of which could mean that some equipment isn’t working properly.
With the SMETS2 meters rollout, different suppliers can access your energy consumption data more easily. The DCC hold the data, but they can’t read it because it’s encrypted. However, they can share it with suppliers when you’ve given your permission. For example, if you decide to switch energy suppliers, the DCC can share your data with your new chosen supplier. You won’t have to send any meter reads and you can switch more quickly.
Smart meters are an important step forward towards the UK smart grid and they’re free. The existing charges in your electricity bill cover the cost, in the same way as they pay for non-smart meters.
It takes about 60 minutes to install a smart meter and you’ll need to switch your electricity off for around 45 minutes. Someone must be on site to meet the engineer when they arrive and make sure the access is clear to avoid any delays in installing your smart meter. But that’s it.
Find out more about installing smart meters for your business, so you can start saving time and money.