Edie explains: Non-domestic smart meters

Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters. But what are the business benefits of using them? How expensive and complicated are they? And are you obliged to have one in your organisation? edie explains...

The basics: What are smart meters?

Smart meters measure the total energy used in the same way as a traditional meter, but they can also tell you when you have used it and how much it costs.

They offer a range of intelligent functions over traditional energy measurement – most of the smart meters that are being installed today provide up-to-date real-time information on gas and electricity use throughout a business, in a single display. They also use mobile phone-type signals to send meter readings straight to suppliers. 

How will a smart meter help save energy?

Smart meters can ultimately highlight if energy is being used when it doesn’t need to be, so a business can look at information from its meter and analyse the way it uses energy. This could be a simple analysis energy use, or a more specific breakdown of the energy efficiency of things like the fabric of the building and the equipment within it.

How are businesses using this technology to save money?

One good example here can be found in the supermarkets. Asda and Tesco have reported significant energy savings using advanced metering energy management. The companies signed deals to receive reports on energy patterns across their stores. These reports can be circulated to store managers and corporate executives to help pinpoint where energy is being wasted.

Since adopting the advanced metering energy management programmes, Tesco and Asda’s energy consumption has fallen by 30%.

What is the ‘smart meter rollout’?

The smart meter rollout is a major energy infrastructure project led by the Department for Energy and Climate Change that will see the replacement or upgrading of more than 50 million domestic and non-domestic electricity and gas meters by the end of 2020.

DECC says the smart meters will allow faster switching times between suppliers, an end to estimated bills, and will provide customers with detailed information on their energy consumption.

Who does the rollout affect?

The programme only affects domestic and smaller non-domestic customers – that’s most small, medium and micro-businesses. Smaller sites of large private and public sector organisations may also fit into this category.

Affected sites have an annual gas consumption of less than 732 MWh (information on specific gas consumption can be found on gas bills). Electricity sites will be in profile classes 3 and 4 (details which can also be found on electricity bills).

If a site uses larger volumes of electricity or gas then it will already have an advanced meter installed. Advanced meters are similar to smart meters but do not integrate with smart appliances or provide information to the customer directly through the meter.

Businesses can opt for an advanced meter rather than a smart meter if the contract for doing so is in place before April 2016.

How to get one

Energy suppliers are required to ensure that, by 2020, non-domestic customers receive supply through a smart meter (or, in certain cases, an advanced meter). However, the meters can be owned and installed by a customer themselves or by a company acting on their behalf.

The deadline for installing an advanced meter passed in 2014.

What’s the cost of implementing a smart meter?

Cost will depend on who provides the meter. Suppliers will recover the costs of the roll-out from customers, as they do when installing meters now by adding the cost of the meter into the supply price. The Government estimates that the average cost of smart electricity and gas meters will be £43 and £53 respectively, with installation costs of £29 and £49 (the combined installation cost falls to £68 if both meters are installed together). However, it’s worth noting that a meter may be provided free as part of your supply service.

In the non-domestic market, meters are often provided by energy service companies, as well as suppliers, in which case costs will of course vary.

Will it cost to access the data?

This will also vary according to contractual arrangements. Smart and advanced meters can provide detailed information, but it will not all be relevant to every energy user. Customers may be charged for more detailed data or it may be provided as part of a wider customer offering. Business customers are expected to get data via the web, perhaps supported by written reports, or via smart-phone applications.

Find out more about smart meters…

DECC has released a variety of material covering the wider smart meter rollout which can be found here, but this leaflet specifically relates to non-domestic customers.

Smart metering at Sustainability Live 2015

The three-day Sustainability Live event in April will cover measurement systems and smart metering in one of four ‘topic trails’. The ‘Smarter Systems’ trail will focus on the software or product used for measurement, monitoring or analysis of energy use and/or environmental impact, or any software that controls, automates and reduces that usage/impact.

Meanwhile, the Energy Efficiency Theatre will feature a number of sessions that will focus on measuring and monitoring energy consumption, monitoring technology and how to make the best use of the energy consumption data.

Register to attend Sustainability Live 2015 for FREE here.

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