Smart Meter Growth

Headlines such as ‘power bills to soar for the next 17 years’ and ‘more than four million expect higher energy bills’ have blanketed national newspapers recently and with the winter chill settling in it is clear that consumers could do with a break. Smart meters and the subsequent rollout will help lower their energy bills. They are not going to be a knight in shining armour, but if used correctly they will help consumers save money in future winters to come. However, in order for this to happen and for consumers to reap the benefits of smart meter installations, utility companies need to make sure their customers fully understand how these savings can be attained.

Due to the continued rise in energy prices it is rather unsurprising that research from ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) and CEBR (Centre for Economics and Business Research) identified a hub in the midlands and the Trans-Pennine corridor that would benefit the most from the installation of smart meters. The study aimed to show where utility companies should invest time and resources in the smart meter rollout and highlights ways to keep the consumer front of mind when planning the rollout strategy, to ensure implementation runs smoothly.

As an industry, we have established that putting the consumer first is crucial. So what do utility companies need to do to ensure success as the rollout approaches? Firstly they need to encourage consumers to become educated about the smart meter rollout – to better understand the reasons to want a smart meter and how it will impact their daily lives. Due to the UK public’s lack of awareness around the smart meter initiative (according to DECC, currently only half of energy bill-payers living in Great Britain have heard of smart meters), many customers are likely to be unaware of how they can personally benefit from the technology. In order for mass adoption and large-scale energy behavioural changes to take place, UK customers will not only need to become more aware, but start taking action – the next few years are critical for energy consumption change.

As we head into 2014 and energy companies look to key initiatives for next year, energy awareness with customers should be a top priority. Utility companies need to ensure that installers not only have the technical skills but the human skills to engage with consumers and answer any queries around the installation and usage of their new smart meter. In order for the industry to really see change, it is imperative that utility companies clearly understand their consumers’ needs. This message was clearly articulated in research produced by ESRI recently, stating that the rollout will benefit from a more targeted approach. 

Consumers across the country will need to better understand the rollout before we start seeing major behavioural changes. That said, certain demographics will likely benefit further from the rollout, for example,  those with less disposable income for higher energy bills as well as pensioners who generally spend more time at home. In order to penetrate specific communities it will be essential that not only utility companies are invested in education, but third-party groups such as local authorities and housing associations.

It’s going to be a long haul, but we’re making huge strides in the right direction. The recipe to success for mass adoption of the smart meter rollout involves many key elements that will need to click into place. The key that will bring all of these elements together will be putting the consumer at the heart of the rollout. If all of this is taken into consideration by energy providers, government officials and the wider industry, then there will be no reason why the smart meter rollout can’t revolutionise energy consumption across the UK.

Photo Credit: Smart Meter Rollout/shutterstock