The government has been working hard over the last few years to rollout smart meters to all homes in a bid to allow us all to monitor our energy usage and hopefully save money in the process. However, the rollout has taken many years and in the meantime, the technology has moved on. There is now a new generation of smart meters available that are considered better than the first generation options – unfortunately leaving the first adopters slightly behind in the technology stakes.
According to government data, there are currently around 7.7 million smart gas and electricity meters installed in UK homes, with a further 53 million still to be installed before 2020. Many of these are the first generation meters which could well be superseded by the next generation that appear to offer a better option for the energy companies and consumers alike.
British Gas has trialled a new generation smart meter for their customers that allows customers to track their energy use (just like the older ones) but also to take advantage of a raft of other energy saving options. These include time-of-use tariffs, energy trading, solar energy and they are completely transportable between energy companies – allowing easy switching.
One of the main issues with the first generation meters is that customers discover that their meter stops working when they switch energy companies, forcing them to start taking meter readings again, while they wait for their new supplier to issue them with a new meter. The issue is related to the meters being unable to communicate externally via the wide area network.
The largest manufacturer of these new generation smart meters, known as SMETS2 (Smart meter Equipment Technical Specification) meters is Landis+Gyr who say that their product is able to read fluctuations in the energy supply of an entire home – especially where there are solar panels installed and storage batteries are used. This means that the National Grid can balance energy use more effectively.
The government has recognised that these new meters are an important step in their program of meter rollout and have placed an end date on the installation of these first-generation meters of July 2018. After that, all new meters will be SMET2 and therefore capable of dealing with the way that we use energy in our homes both now and into the future.