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What do smart meters mean for small businesses?

As the Government rolls out smart meters across Britain, you need to know about the impact they could really have on your small business. Here's our assessment of the situation.

Why are smart meters good for small businesses?

The smart meter initiative is being rolled out across Britain because, in principle, it is a good idea. Installing smart meters will give business consumers and energy suppliers unprecedented levels of information about their energy usage and reveal ways to bring that usage down.

The roll-out is a positive move towards more accurate billing, which has the potential to reduce our impact on the environment and bring down energy bills.

Smart meters sound what's the bad news?

If we fast-forward to 2020 when all small businesses have their smart meters up and running, it should be working nicely. But until then, there may be a few bumps in the road.

The smart meter roll-out doesn't begin officially until 2014 and must be completed, by law, by 2020. But, due to the lack of coordination surrounding the roll-out, many suppliers have started to offer their business customers smart meters right now.

For business customers who have already had smart meters installed, we've seen a big increase in failed switch attempts due to non-compatibility issues. This means that, while your smart meter works with your current energy supplier, other suppliers may not be able to supply your meter. And even if theycansupply your meter, they may not be able to support its 'smart' features - rendering it a 'dumb' meter once again.

Furthermore, some energy suppliers are adding a daily standing charge to smart meter tariffs, which ranges from 20 pence to 60 pence per day (£73 to £219 per year).

I still want a smart meter - what should I look out for?

If you already have a smart meter or you think you'd like to get one installed, here are our top five tips to get the most out of your meter:

  1. Check it out. Ask your supplier which technology platform your meter uses and whether or not it is supported by other suppliers.
  2. Rental charges. Ask your supplier how long your installation contract lasts for and if you still need to pay them a rental fee if you switch to another supplier.
  3. Negotiate at renewal. If you can't switch supplier, you may be able to use this as a reason to negotiate down your future prices.
  4. Use your meter. Make the most out of your smart meter's features; understand your energy consumption and bring it down where you can.
  5. Accuracy. Now you know that you'll only ever be billed for the energy you use and won't be vulnerable to estimated billing!