Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters. They are part of our plan for upgrading the UK’s energy system.
We aim for all homes and small businesses to have smart meters by 2020. Energy suppliers will be required to install smart meters and take all reasonable steps to install them for everybody.
Consumers with smart meters will be offered an in-home display (IHD) that lets them see how much energy they are using and what it will cost. This will let them have more control over their energy use and help them save energy and money.
Between now and 2020 energy suppliers will be responsible for replacing over 53 million gas and electricity meters. This will involve visits to 30 million homes and small businesses.
Most householders will have smart meters installed by their energy supplier between 2016 and 2020, although some energy companies are starting to install smart meters now.
Smart meters will give consumers:
- near real-time information on energy use, expressed in pounds and pence
- the ability to manage their energy use, save money and reduce emissions
- an end to estimated billing – people will only be billed for the energy they actually use, helping them to budget better
- easier switching – it will be smoother and faster to switch suppliers to get the best deals
Smart meters also give suppliers access to accurate data for billing, removing the need to manually read meters.
We are making sure consumers will be protected when smart meters are installed in properties. Our provisions to ensure this mean:
- there will be no sales during the installation visit
- installers must provide energy efficiency advice as part of their visit and they will need permission before the visit if they will want to discuss their own products
- consumers’ privacy will be protected and they will have control over their smart meter data
- we have put in place a consumer engagement strategy, to ensure that consumers can get the most out of their smart meter. Smart Energy GB has been set up to reach out to consumers across Great Britain in order to improve consumers’ understanding of how smart meters work.
A smart meter can work in pre-payment or credit mode. Pre-payment customers will see some particular benefits from having a smart meter. For example:
- energy suppliers will offer new and more flexible ways of topping up their meter, including the ability to top up over the phone or online
- for those who continue to top up at shops, the smart meter can be set so that consumers do not run out of credit at night and won’t be left without power when the shops shut.
Find out more by visiting Smart meters: a guide.
Roll-out of smart meters
The roll-out of smart meters will take place in 3 stages.
Policy design stage
The policy design stage ran between July 2010 and March 2011 and was managed by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) on behalf of DECC.
The foundation stage began in March 2011. We are working with the energy industry, consumer groups and other interested parties to ensure that all of the necessary groundwork is completed before energy suppliers start the process of providing smart meters to most of their customers. The foundation stage is crucial to the successful roll-out of smart meters across Great Britain and will let industry:
- build and test systems
- learn what works best for consumers
- learn how to help people get the best from their meters
An important milestone for this stage was the setting up of the Data and Communications Company(DCC), which will link 53 million smart electricity and gas meters in homes and small businesses with the business systems of energy suppliers, network operators and energy service companies. The Smart Meters Communications License was granted to the DCC in September 2013.
Main installation stage
The main installation stage, when most consumers will have smart meters installed, will start in 2016. Suppliers are obliged to complete the roll-out by the end of 2020 and they will decide how they deploy smart meters to their customers.
Costs and funding
Over the period to 2030, the installation of smart meters will provide £6.2 billion net benefits to the UK: the programme will cost £10.9 billion and provide £17.1 billion in benefits. The cost-benefits analysis can be found in our latest Impact Assessment.
The Smart Metering Implementation Programme requests (on a quarterly basis) data relating to the number of smart and traditional meters installed from the larger energy suppliers. The latest quarterly statistical release is available.
Stakeholders we work with
The smart metering programme works with a wide range of organisations, including large and small energy suppliers, networks, consumers groups and regulators. More information about their work is contained in the links of some of the organisations we work with, below:
- Smart Energy GB
- Data and Communications Company
- Citizens Advice Bureau
- British Gas
- EDF Energy
- Energy Networks Association
- Scottish Power
- Scottish and Southern Energy
- First Utility
- Energy UK
- Public Health England
- Energy Networks Association
- Energy & Utilities Alliance
- Association of Meter Operators
- SECAS (Smart Energy Code Administration & Secretariat)
How we work with stakeholders
We have set up working groups for representatives from industry, consumer organisations and other bodies and they are as follows:
- Smart Metering Steering Group (SMSG)
- Smart Metering Delivery Group (SMDG)
- Implementation Managers Forum (IMF)
- Technical & Business Design Group (TBDG)
- Regulatory Group (RG)
- Operational Delivery Group (ODG)
- Transition Security Experts Group (TSEG)
- Transition SMKI PMA Group (TPMAG)
- Benefits Monitoring & Review Group (BMRG)
You can find further details on how we work with stakeholders on the Information for Industry webpage.
- Smart metering: a guide for local authorities and third sector organisations - published on 29 January 2014
- Read the second annual progress report on the roll-out of smart meters - published on 18 December 2013
- Read the Smart Metering System information leaflet - published on 24 July 2014
- Read the Smart Metering non domestic leaflet - latest version published 12 July 2013
- Read the Smart metering implementation programme: information leaflet - latest version published 12 July 2013
DECC has published a number of public consultations regarding the Smart Meters Programme.
The Smart Meter programme carries out regular impact assessments, which we will update as the programme develops. The latest Impact Assessment is available here:
Smart meter roll-out for the domestic and small and medium non-domestic sectors (GB) (published 30 January 2014)
Evidence and research
The evidence supporting the roll-out of smart energy meters in Great Britain is based on international and national research. Energy suppliers that are rolling out smart meters and consumer groups with an interest in the programme have also carried out related research.
DECC monitoring, evaluation and consumer research
Our approach to tracking the progress of the Programme and its costs and benefits is underpinned by our Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy.
DECC has already produced the following research for the Smart Meter programme:
- Early Learning Project and Small-scale Behaviour Trials. Published 2 March 2015
- Quantitative research into public awareness, attitudes and experience of Smart Meters: Wave 4. Published 13 March 2014
- Attitudes towards and experiences of smart meters in the non-domestic SME market. Published 22 October 2013
- Study on Access to Smart Meter Benefits for Blind and Partially Sighted Consumers. Published 25 March 2013
- Role of Community Groups in Smart Metering-Related Energy Efficiency Activities. Published 25 March 2013
- Quantitative research into public awareness, attitudes, and experience of Smart Meters: Wave 3. Published 9 September 2013
- Quantitative research into public awareness, attitudes, and experience of Smart Meters: Wave 2 of 3. Published 21 February 2013
- Quantitative research into public awareness, attitudes and experience of smart meters. Published 21 August 2012
- Smart meters: research into public attitudes. Published 30 May 2012
- Smart meter evaluation: consumer benefits workshop report. Published September 2011
- Smart meter evaluation: lessons from EDRP. Published August 2011
More UK evidence
Ofgem has produced the following research on smart meters:
- Ofgem: Energy Demand Research Project
- Ofgem: Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF)
- Ofgem: smart metering consumer report
- Consumer Futures: customer attitudes on energy data privacy and access
Research on smart meters from across the world includes: