What smart meters are and why they’re being installed

What smart meters are and why they’re being installed

1. What is a smart meter?

A smart meter is the latest generation of energy meter that will replace traditional ones. Smart meters record regular meter readings which are automatically sent to us, creating more accurate invoices so you'll only pay for what you use.

2. Is a smart meter the same as Nest or Hive?

No. Devices such as Nest or Hive are called smart thermostats and they allow you to control your heating remotely using an application on your mobile phone. A smart meter simply records your energy use and it cannot be used to change settings or control heating, air conditioning or other appliances.

3. Is a smart meter a device which shows you usage in pounds and pence?

No. A smart meter is a device which measures your consumption in kWh and sends it automatically to your supplier. It does not display tariff information. However, you can access data on your consumption and your tariffs in your online account or through your bills.

4. How does a smart meter work?

A smart meter constantly monitors your energy use and records it usually every 30 minutes or more frequently. It is paired with a communications hub to send your half-hourly meter reads remotely to a central independent organisation called the DCC (Data Communications Company). All suppliers connect to the DCC to retrieve the meter reads as frequently as you allow them to. It could be every 30 minutes, daily or monthly. Having a central location where this information is stored should make the process of switching suppliers much easier, without your information being lost. It could be every 30 minutes, daily or monthly. Having a central location where this information is stored should make the process of switching suppliers much easier, without your information being lost.

5. Why does the Government want suppliers to roll out smart meters?

Smart meters are the first step towards establishing a smart grid, which is necessary because the way the grid is setup now can no longer cope with the modern world. The Government has asked all suppliers to install smart meters for all domestic and small business customers by 2020.

At a large scale, instead of a one-way system of sending energy and coping with the rising demands on-the-fly, the new smart grid is based on two-way interactions. Energy is sent and data is received back to suppliers and network providers to increase the National Grid's ability to manage supply and demand. So, for example if you experience an outage, rather than waiting for your local network to be connected back, energy could be re-routed via a different path to you. It also allows for renewable energy to be better integrated in the system.

At a personal level, having more data about consumption will also help businesses and consumers understand when they consume more energy and take steps to be more efficient.

6. Can any business have a smart meter?

We are only able to offer smart meters to businesses that fulfil certain criteria. For example, those within a certain consumption level and where the necessary phone signal exists to power the wireless communications.

7. Do I have to have a smart meter?

No, smart meters are optional for customers. However, they bring benefits such as automatic reads, accurate bills and give you a better way to manage your energy use. Smart meters will form the basis of the new smart grid so we would recommend having one installed.

8. Are smart meters available for both gas and electricity?

Yes, they can be installed for both energy types.

9. Can I still switch supplier if I have a smart meter?

A smart meter will not restrict your ability to switch suppliers. However, the first generation of smart meters called SMETS1 currently loses some of the benefits (such as automatic reads) when you switch to a different supplier. It will still measure your consumption accurately, but it will function like a traditional meter.

The energy industry is working to find a solution to this issue and it is expected that a software upgrade at the end of 2018 will reinstate the smart metering capabilities. So those customers with a SMETS1 meter will still enjoy the benefits of a smart meter when they switch supplier.

10. What are my rights as a business owner when it comes to smart meters?

We adhere to the Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice (SMICoP). This shows our commitment to providing you with a great service, including: our commitment to providing you with a great service, including:

11. Does a smart meter connect to my Wi-Fi network?

No, it doesn’t. The smart meter will be installed with a communications hub which works on an independent network to communicate with your supplier.

12. How detailed will the consumption data be?

Your smart meter records your consumption every 30 minutes and send us half-hourly, daily or monthly reads. The level of detail for your consumption data will reflect the level of access you have given us. So if we get half-hourly reads, we will show you half-hourly consumption.

13. Will I need a separate app to view my detailed consumption data?

No, you don’t need to download any additional apps to access your data. You can contact our Smart Operations team on 0800 6681337 or send them an email to request your smart meter reads at any point and you will soon be able to access them from your online account from any device.

14. Can you connect smart meters to other smart devices?

Yes. If you’d like to, you can connect it to an In-Home Display or an Energy Assistant service like Verv to get more granular usage data. In time, smart meters will be able to connect to more smart devices in your business like smart appliances that turn on when energy it’s cheaper and help you save money.