While it can feel like you’re opening a can of worms each time you check your electricity bill, having an idea of the sort of figures to expect can make the whole experience much less stressful. With the help of a smart meter, you can avoid sky-high energy bills, become more aware of your environmental impact and keep track of every watt of energy you’re using.
In 2009, the governmental body BEIS (the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) kicked off the Smart Meters Implementation Programme, a scheme that pledged to provide a total of 53 million smart meters to over 26 million homes, smaller businesses and public sector premises. The government’s original target was to have them installed in all homes by 2019, a goal that was later postponed to 2020. The rollout of the programme began eight years ago in 2011, and with only one more year to go before the government’s target is meant to be reached, what does the public think about smart meters? And, crucially, has the use of smart meters resulted in changed behaviour among consumers?
Number of smart meters
15.3 million operational smart meters have been installed as part of the scheme, according to data recorded in March 2019. This equates to an average of 564,474 meters installed per quarter across the UK.
The implementation of smart meters hasn’t gone entirely smoothly, though. The first generation of smart meters, called “SMETS1” meters, have only a few birthdays left before they clock out for good. They age quickly and, unfortunately, not well. This is a problem that’s been exacerbated by the fact that suppliers ended up installing 12.5 million SMETS1s – 7 million more than planned. They work well until the user wants to change energy suppliers, which means that there’s likely to be 7 million meters exchanged in the not too distant future.
Level of interest in smart meters by age
Interest in smart meters among Brits isn’t exactly at a fever pitch. Data shows that just 35% of all Brits aged between 55 and 64 are keen. The most interest can be found among young people aged between 21 and 34. Over half (56%) of those in this age group expressed interest in having a smart meter installed.
Does having a smart meter actually make a difference?
Do we actually change our behaviour after having a smart meter installed? Survey results indicate that we do become more aware of our energy usage and change at least some of our habits accordingly. Well over half (57%) of respondents reported that they had begun to turn lights off and heating down when possible, while 46% of respondents answered that they had started to keep an eye on their energy usage. 29% of respondents said that they have researched tips and tricks to lower their daily energy usage.
It’s reported that customers using both electricity and gas have lowered their bills by £32 per year after installing their smart meter. Whether or not these change in behaviour will last in the long run, though, remains to be seen.
How smart meters have changed energy-usage behaviours
In 2016, the gross cost of the Smart Meters Implementation Programme was calculated to be £10.98 billion. The gross benefit of the scheme was estimated to be £16.73 billion, making the net benefit £5.75 billion. The largest proportion of these savings can be attributed to supplier cost savings (49%) and energy savings (32%). On average, households that use both electricity and gas energy should see a difference of £11 per year on their energy bills by 2020.
The real cost, however, has exceeded estimations in some areas. The cost of installing the devices has so far cost £500 million more than expected by 2018. To be able to finish the project in time, suppliers will also have to install three times as many smart meters per quarter, which the supplier Ofgem has said won’t be possible. Ofgem has concluded that the programme will continue after 2020, as in June 2018, 39 million smart meters still remained to be installed.
So, does the public appreciate the results of the £11 billion put into the project? It seems like it. After installing their smart meters, 80% of respondents were fairly satisfied or very satisfied with their new device, which is quite a big proportion of the population. Unfortunately, 7% were dissatisfied and not pleased with the new device.
Of those who have had a smart meter installed in their home, 70% are very likely or likely to recommend updating to a smart meter to others. 26% are neither likely nor unlikely to recommend the device, while 4% are fairly unlikely or very unlikely to recommend it.
Matthew Boyle is a mortgages and home services publisher at Finder. He has a 7-year history of publishing helpful guides to assist consumers in making better decisions. In his spare time, you will find him walking in the Norfolk countryside admiring the local wildlife.
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