Guide to smart meters for UK businesses
A 'smart meter' is a new type of gas and electricity meter that is due to be rolled out to every domestic household and millions of small business premises across the UK.
Smart meters are being hailed as the new generation in metering technology as they have a number of sophisticated and useful features that older, 'dumb' meters do not have. These include:
- Accurate, real-time usage data being available to both the energy customer and supplier.
- More accurate billing, because customers are only ever charged for the energy they've used, so inaccurate and estimated bills should become a thing of the past.
- Enabling customers to review their energy usage and identify ways to reduce it.
- Giving customers the opportunity to sell any excess energy they generate back to the grid.
How do smart meters work?
There are a three components that make up a business’s smart meter set up. These are:
- A smart meter (one for gas and one for electricity as necessary)
- A smart energy monitor
- A communications hub.
The smart meter will take an accurate reading of the amount of energy that a business uses every day. The communications hub will automatically communicate this data to your energy supplier and your smart energy monitor using wireless technology. On your monitor, you can then view in near real-time how much energy you have used - and your supplier can provide you with accurate bills.
How do I get a smart meter installed?
If you are interested in having a smart meter installed for your business, you must first consult your business energy supplier. On occasion, a business premises may not be eligible for a smart meter. This is typically due to poor mobile signal, which means the smart meter will not be able to communicate energy data to the supplier.
Providing your premises is eligible, your supplier will assign you an appointment date. On this date, an engineer will carry out the meter fitting. Installation typically takes about an hour per meter - with gas and electricity requiring separate meters.
Typically, your smart meters will need to be installed in the same location as your existing meters within your business premises, meaning it's a good idea to ensure that the area around your existing meters is clear prior to the appointment date. You may want to change the location of your meters, which – if possible – can sometimes be done on your appointment date before new meters are installed. However, be aware that this will usually come with an additional charge.
We have created a handy printable checklist for to help you make sure you have everything done prior to your smart meter installation date. To begin downloading, click here.
It’s important to note that suppliers require a responsible adult to be present when having a meter installed. This can be yourself as the business owner, or you can delegate the responsibility to a trusted party, such as a manager or a member of staff.
Providing you have followed the information above, once your smart meter is installed your supply will automatically swap over and you cans tart making the most of your new smart energy meter.
Business smart meter FAQ
Above, we have covered the basics of business smart meters, but you may still have some unanswered questions. To help, we’ve put together a helpful Q and A below to answer some of the more frequently asked questions. If you questions isn’t answered below, you can reach out to us on Twitter @MakeItCheaper
Why has the Government enforced smart metering?
Following lengthy consultations with the energy regulator Ofgem, the Government concluded that the rollout of smart meters will achieve the following goals:
- Support Britain's move to becoming a low carbon economy.
- Help Britain meet the challenge of ensuring an affordable, secure and sustainable energy supply.
- Give consumers information that will help them to reduce their energy usage.
- Allow energy suppliers to reduce their customer service and meter reading costs.
How does having a smart meter benefit me?
For a start, smart meters allow suppliers to bill you with a greater degree of accuracy. This comes in handy because seasonality means that energy customers will use different amounts of energy at different times of the year. When paying by direct debit, this can sometimes lead to you paying too much for your energy in the summer, and not enough in the winter months.
The ability to provide your supplier with real-time data means you will only ever be charged for the energy that you’re using.
Another benefit is that the whole billing process is automated. There is no need for your supplier to send a representative to read your energy meter, and you do not need to do this yourself. Instead, your smart meter will automatically send all of the relevant data to your supplier wirelessly once every 24 hours. This data can even be seen by you, which means you can have a better insight into the steps you can take to reduce the amount of energy that you’re using, and therefore the amount that you’re spend on energy.
What's the plan for the smart meter rollout?
The Government has confirmed that the smart meter rollout to domestic households and smaller, non-domestic sites (which applies to most small businesses with premises) must be completed by the end of 2020. This is an enormous task because there are currently over 2.2 million electricity sites and 1.5 million gas sites for non-domestic consumers in the UK.
Many energy suppliers have already started to provide their business energy customers with smart meters, while others are waiting until the rollout officially launches in 2017.
Are smart meters free?
Technically, no. While there is no direct, upfront cost to you, smart meters are not free. The installation costs that suppliers incur from installing smart meters are recovered through a slight increase to the price of your energy bills.
Ofgem predict that this cost will only amount to roughly £100 a year, and the money that you’re likely to save due to more accurate billing should cover this cost. By 2020, the cost of smart meters will be entirely paid off, leaving you to benefit from more accurate billing and lower energy costs as a result.
How do I read a smart meter?
Unlike a traditional meter, where you record figures and then give a reading to your supplier, with a smart meter this is all done automatically. However, if you are interested in seeing how much energy you’re using, you can see this through your smart energy monitor.
Each model of a smart energy monitor functions slightly differently, so you should consult your user guide for further information.
Do I have to have a smart meter fitted?
It’s not mandatory for businesses to have a smart meter installed. However, the official rollout is estimated to begin in April 2016, and suppliers will soon be taking reasonable steps to replace all meters. It’s recommended that you take this opportunity to replace your meter - especially if it’s old as it could pose a safety risk.