With the development of the smart energy grid comes the rollout of smart meters – a device which monitors your energy usage, giving you real time data and helping you optimize the energy you use.
Smart Electricity Meters
Smart meters will replace your existing meter. You can’t install them yourself – this has to be done by your energy company – but once installed it will send back all the information about the energy you use to your supplier. This has a number of advantages for you and the energy company.
Estimated bills will be a thing of the past. Your supplier will know exactly how much energy you’ve used, so no more quibbling over estimates.
Smart meters will do much more than just tell you and your supplier how much energy you use. Alongside the meter you’ll get a handheld display (like a tablet PC). This will be able to advise you of cheaper tariffs (for example at night) and recommend which appliances to run to take advantage of this cheaper fuel. You’ll be able to set target consumption figures in either monetary or energy terms, and the meter will be able to advise you on how you’re doing.
If you generate your own electricity through solar panels or a wind turbine and sell some energy back to the grid, smart meters will be able to calculate exactly how much you’re selling – again, no more estimates.
Smart meters will mean more accurate bills, but they won’t save you money just by dint of being there. But they can help you save money by giving you the information to make informed decisions. So for example, if the meter advises you that running the dishwasher at peak rate is costly, and that it’s cheaper to run at a night tariff, it’s up to you whether you act on that information.
Similarly, energy companies hope that by making consumers aware of exactly how much energy they’re using at any given time, this will encourage them to think about how and when they use their appliances (making them think twice about leaving appliances on standby for example).
Smart meters are part of a wholesale upgrade to the energy grid which is making it a two-way, intelligent machine, analogous to the internet. It’s hoped that this technology will make the entire grid more resilient, more effective, and in the long run save us (and energy companies) money.