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Towards a smarter, more flexible energy system for GB

16 November 2020: In this sponsored article, Smart Energy GB urges businesses to install smart meters to help control their energy costs and better manage supply and demand as we move towards a more sustainable future.

Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters. They are being installed in every home and microbusiness across Great Britain by energy suppliers. Smart Energy GB is the campaign helping everyone in Great Britain to understand the benefits of smart meters and what their roll-out can offer. 

“To put it simply, Smart Energy GB is a national engagement campaign,” says Fflur Lawton, spokesperson for the campaign. “We talk to the public and businesses across Great Britain about getting a smart meter installed.” 

Smart Energy GB’s aim is to get businesses with fewer than 10 employees or £1.67m in turnover to approach their energy supplier and have a smart meter installed. “Smart meters measure how much energy you are using, in near real time, and send that information to your energy supplier. That means you get accurate bills each month, not estimates,” says Lawton.

Why get a smart meter? The reasons are two-fold: the first is to help you manage and monitor your energy use and costs, while the second is about contributing towards a smarter and more flexible energy system for Great Britain.

From a cost point of view, smart meters put an end to estimated billing, so a business only pays for the energy it uses because the system measures energy use in near real time. In other words: no more having to submit meter readings.

“It’s up to you to decide how often to share your meter readings with your energy supplier, ranging from half-hourly, daily or monthly,” says Lawton. “ The meter does it all for you and gives you that bit more control over your energy spend. It makes energy use much more visible.”

There are different ways energy suppliers display data, including on a display screen or via an app. Ultimately, however that is done you will get far more data about your energy usage, including how you may be over or underspending.

Lawton cites the example of a bakery that left all its machines running around the clock until lockdown, when it was forced to close. The business then realised the cost of not being smart with its energy use. There are also examples of offices that leave the lights on or shops that leave their signs lit outside all night.

Then there is the bigger picture of sustainability. “Smart meters are the foundation for a smarter and more flexible energy system for Great Britain,” says Lawton.

“They use digital technology to improve the efficiency of the system that we currently have. This helps better manage supply and demand. Smart meters help the energy system to know where and when energy is needed to help reduce waste and also to integrate more renewable power sources.”

She points out that we know energy needs in Great Britain are going up hugely and the energy supply system needs to become more flexible. One of the ways to manage all that better is to have data from smart meters.

So, what do companies need to do? “In the domestic setting, awareness is really high that people can get smart meters. In the business world, people don’t seem to know,” says Lawton. “This campaign raises awareness. Businesses need to contact their energy supplier to discuss their needs.”

It is the bill payer that is being targeted by the campaign. It does not matter that the business is not the landlord of the premises from where the business is run.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said that microbusinesses must be offered a smart meter, but larger companies would do well to talk to their energy supplier about getting one too. The smart meter roll-out is a government initiative, but the engagement campaign is funded by the energy suppliers themselves.

Many small businesses can get a smart meter at no extra cost. Depending on your business’s energy supplier and tariff, you may be charged for a part of the upgrade or for access to your energy usage data. Your supplier will let you know about any charges upfront. Installation takes about two hours. 

All meters being fitted now are second generation, and speak to the new smart data network. This makes switching energy supplier seamless going forward. In the final analysis, it is difficult to see why a business would not have that conversation with its energy supplier.

Request your smart meter by visiting https://www.smartenergygb.org/en/get-a-smart-meter