Lauren Bravo asks…
What’s so smart about smart meters?
No more crawling under the stairs for your meter reading. The new generation of energy meters are here to save us money and springboard everyone into a better-connected future.
Lauren Bravo caught up with Pam Conway, Head of Eco & Smart Commercial Strategy at British Gas, to find out about the smart meter rollout and why British Gas has 2020 vision.
Lauren: Hi Pam. So what do smart meters offer that our old meters don’t?
Pam: Well for one thing, smart meters provide automated meter readings on a half-hourly, daily, or monthly basis, which means no more crawling under cupboards trying to find the meter. Whichever frequency you choose, your readings will only be sent to us once a day.
It also means your bill will always be accurate, not estimated, and it could help your energy provider give you a detailed breakdown of your usage for the month or year. With British Gas you can access an interactive online tool, my energy, which shows how much you’re likely to spend on heating, appliances, and lighting, with tips to reduce your consumption.
With smart meters you also get a smart energy monitor that shows you your energy use and cost in near real-time – in pounds and pence. It has a traffic light system that shows the effect on your energy use when you switch things on.
So it almost becomes an energy-saving game?
Yes, sometimes part of the fun is going round the house switching things on and off to see what happens! But I think the biggest surprise is how much you can save without making big changes, simply by being aware of what you’re using, like turning appliances off rather than leaving them on standby.
The average customer will cut their annual energy consumption by around 3%, though in our Smart Meter Challenge participants used as much as 7% less. By being conscious about energy efficiency they saved an average of £66 on their annual energy bill.
Not to be sniffed at! As well as saving money, how else will smart meters make life easier?
One of the key benefits is no longer having to submit meter readings – that’s taken away one chore for people. And no more estimated bills means people feel more in control, knowing that they’re paying the right amount for what they use. People using Pay As You Go meters also have an improved experience as they can top up online, over the phone, or via an app as well as the usual outlets, so it takes away that extra hassle – no more running to the shop in the rain.
So does a smart meter need the internet to work?
No, it doesn’t use wifi or the internet – we use the same technology as your mobile phone network, which is very secure. The smart meters are all installed by our Smart Energy Experts so you don’t have to do anything. Smart meters themselves don’t hold any personal data and the data sent out is protected by an advanced encryption standard, which is even more complex than that used for internet banking.
And are smart meters good news for the planet too?
Absolutely. So far, 40% of smart meter customers have been encouraged to tackle energy efficiency issues in their home, such as double-glazing and insulation. Manufacturers are working on developing their technologies to work with smart meters too; imagine a future where a dishwasher could switch itself on or off based on when energy is cheapest.
I’m sold! Can I have smart meters now?
Yes! British Gas is leading the way, with 2.4 million smart meters already installed in homes across Britain. As we are still at the early stages of a four year programme, more properties will become eligible as the technology is opened up for them, with everyone able to have one by 2020.
When it’s your turn, we’ll get in touch. You can also go online to check if you’re eligible now or register your interest in getting a smart meter and we’ll keep you in the loop.
Sounds good. Is there anything else smart meters can do for me?
Smart meters are a stepping stone into the future, transforming the energy industry. They allow new services such as time-of-use tariffs; at British Gas we can give customers free electricity at certain times, and we’re also currently trialling a smartphone app so you’ll be able to track your energy use wherever you are. If it suddenly spikes, you may think, “who’s at home and what are they doing?” Bad news for teenagers wanting to throw a party...
…But great news for our bills. So with all this information, are we all going to become energy geeks?
I glance at my smart energy monitor at least two or three times a day – I can’t help myself! I can log in to my online account and understand my energy use better than ever before. Does that make me a geek?! But what’s really exciting are the things other people will be able to build on the smart systems and data. This is just the first step into that new connected, clever world of energy.
Roll on 2020.
If you’ve already registered your interest in getting a smart meter then we’ll be in touch as soon as possible. If not then find out more about upgrading to a smart meter with British Gas.
Published July 2016, all facts and figures correct at the time of publishing.