Smart meters to cut energy use and bills

The first "smart" remote metering devices, expected to cut energy use and save customers' money while bypassing the meter man, were installed in UK homes on Wednesday.

This is the first major UK trial of “smart” meters, which send information on gas and electricity use directly to the energy provider, resulting in more accurate readings. The devices also have a display in the home showing energy used in money terms, not just kilowatt-hours.

The trial, which started on Wednesday, will see 3000 electricity and gas meters installed over the next two years in a cooperative effort between the fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA), Defra and EDF Energy.

Trial organisers hope that such close monitoring of energy use will give them an insight into how best to cut energy waste. Evidence from other countries also shows that enabling customers to watch the evolution of their bills “live” is effective in motivating them to save gas and electricity.

At the launch of the trial, environment and climate change minister Elliot Morley said: “Around a third of all carbon emissions come from households. Individuals can cut their bills by installing a range of energy efficiency measures and also by becoming more aware of their energy consumption and taking action to conserve its use.

“It’s quite hard for consumers to relate their quarterly bills with individual actions around the house. By installing smart meters, I hope customers will be able to see better the real cost savings that can be made by taking simple actions such as switching off unnecessary appliances.”

Smart meters have helped cut energy use by as much 10-15% in the US and Norway, according to NEA. In the warmer British climate cuts in energy use may not be as high – between 3 and 10%, according to Defra.

But even a 5% reduction in energy use means an average £24 saving on the energy bill, the NEA calculates.

William Gillis, the charity’s chief executive, said: “NEA’s involvement in delivering support within a wider metering trial will ensure that benefits accrue to even more low income households. This confirms for us EDF Energy’s commitment to assisting in the eradication of fuel poverty in all households.”

More details can be found at the National Energy Action website.

Goska Romanowicz

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