Smart meters: they’ve been dominating headlines for months (if not years), so you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t at least heard or read about them.
So far, though, the conversation has primarily been centred on how they can benefit owner-occupiers and renters in the residential sector – but is the opportunity for small businesses to keep tabs on their commercial gas and electricity usage being overlooked?
The smart meter revolution
Firstly, let’s put the rise of the smart meter into context. The government has set electricity and mains gas suppliers the target of making the technology available to every home in England, Scotland and Wales by 2020 – that’s 26 million households in total.
The idea behind this? To phase out imprecise estimated readings in favour of up-to-the-minute digital energy usage recordings, taken by smart meters. These measurements are then sent directly to energy suppliers and used to generate fully accurate bills, based on actual usage.
Homes across the country are already being fitted with smart meters as we speak – but crucially, it’s not just homes that are eligible. Run a small business with fewer than 10 employees? Then, chances are, you’re entitled to a smart meter too. If in doubt, simply ask your energy supplier or broker. If your energy bills are included in the rent you pay for your commercial premises, it’s the bill payer who needs to make the request for your smart meter – so ask your landlord.
What’s in it for my business?
We hear you: accurate energy bills are all well and good, but can getting a smart meter offer any real business benefits above and beyond that? The short answer is yes, and these are just some of them:
- No nasty surprises
No more projected bills based on estimated readings means no more nasty surprises, which in turn makes managing your overheads a whole lot easier – a big plus for small businesses.
- Better understanding, smarter usage
Smart meters’ display units are designed to show clearly the correlation between habits and energy usage. Are those 3 o’clock office tea rounds causing a spike in usage as the kettle goes into overdrive? Is your business wasting energy outside of normal working hours because computers are being left on overnight? These are issues a smart meter can help you identify and, more importantly, act on – whether that means investing in a hot water urn or reminding employees to switch off their machines at night. Developing a heightened awareness and understanding of your energy usage also makes you more likely to make smarter money and energy-saving decisions across your business.
- No more meter readings
Manual meter readings can be disruptive to the working day – but having a smart meter in place eliminates the need for these. It does its thing, you do yours. Simple.
- Faster response to power cuts
As Britain’s energy network upgrades in line with the mass rollout of smart meters, energy suppliers will be able to respond quicker to power cuts in turn.
- A 21st-century approach to energy
Smart meters are part of a much bigger picture when it comes to Britain’s future energy supply. Put simply, the long-term plan is to create a fully integrated smart grid linking different hardware, communications and other technologies together in something of an internet for gas and electricity. Smart meters are a crucial step towards this vision, which will eventually serve homes and businesses alike with greener, more efficient, less wasteful and more cost-effective energy.
- Innovative energy tariffs
Smart meters aren’t just there to give customers a better understanding of their usage; they help suppliers to identify usage patterns too – and it’s this kind of information that suppliers need to develop new, innovative and increasingly competitive tariffs.
OK, I’m convinced. How do I get one?
Good news for time-poor business owners: if you want a smart meter, you barely need lift a finger yourself. Once you’ve made the initial move of speaking to your energy supplier or broker (or your landlord, in the case of rented premises), here’s what will happen:
- Agree a time and day
Provided you’re eligible, your energy supplier will contact you to arrange a time to fit your smart meter. They will work with you to ensure this is a time that works for both parties, and causes minimal disruption to the running of your business
- Let your supplier in on installation day
A specially trained installer from your energy supplier will call round at the time you agree to fit your smart meter, so make sure you’re there to let them in
- Plug and play
Once they have completed the fitting, your installer will show you and your staff how your new smart meter works, and will be able to answer any questions you may have.
And that’s it! As soon as your smart meter is in, your business can start reaping the benefits.
Results that speak for themselves
Last but not least, post-installation surveys have shown high levels of satisfaction from customers with smart meters. For example, the Smart Meter Customer Experience Study carried out in August 2017 by the government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy revealed that 80% of those surveyed were satisfied with the technology itself, while 89% were pleased with the installation visit.
Ready to join the smart meter revolution? Talk to your supplier today, or visit www.smartenergygb.org for more information.