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The business energy guide to smart meters

Are you looking to install a smart meter in your business premises? Get all the information you need and help installation go smoothly with our guide. Read on to find out more.

The business energy guide to smart meters

When switching your business gas or electricity, there’s a chance that you’ll be offered a smart meter with your new contract. But, before committing your business to a smart meter, it can help to understand more about them, to better understand if they suit your business’s energy consumption needs.

Read on to find out more about business energy smart meters, or click the links below to jump to the relevant sections of our guide.

What is a smart meter?

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 don’t have, such as:

  • 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 more accurate bills without you having to lift a finger.

How do I get a smart meter installed?

If you’re interested in having a smart meter installed on your business premises, then it’s important to follow the steps outlined below:

  • Step 1 – 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.

  • Step 2 – Organise an appointment date with your supplier

Providing your premises is eligible, your supplier will assign you an appointment date to have an engineer visit your premises.

  • Step 3 – Have your business smart meter installed

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.

Please note: When having a smart meter installed on your business premises, it can also help to keep in mind the following information.

Typically, your smart meters will need to be installed in the same location as your existing meters on 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.

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 can start making the most of your new smart energy meter.

Business smart meter FAQ

Above, we have covered the basics of business smart meters and the installation process, 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 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 the average cost of an energy bill.

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.

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 2017, 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.

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