Smart meters: a guide
- Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
- Part of:
- Household energy, Energy efficiency, and Energy prices and bills
- First published:
- 22 January 2013
- Last updated:
- 24 January 2017, see all updates
Smart meters put consumers in control of their energy use, allowing them to adopt energy efficiency measures that can help save money on their energy bills and offset price increases.
The new meters
Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters and offer a range of intelligent functions.
For example, they can tell you how much energy you are using through an in home display. They communicate directly with your energy supplier meaning there will be no need for your supplier to visit your home to read your meter in future.
Benefits of smart meters
Smart meters bring a wide range of benefits. For example:
- smart meters give you near real time information on energy use - expressed in pounds and pence
- you will be able to better manage your energy use, save money and reduce emissions
- smart meters will bring an end to estimated billing - you will only be billed for the energy you actually use, helping you budget better
- easier switching - smoother and faster to switch suppliers to get the best deals
You will not be charged separately for a smart meter or for the in-home display. Under current arrangements you pay for the cost of your meter and its maintenance through your energy bills, and this will be the same for smart meters.
Benefits for Prepayment customers
Smart meters can work in prepayment or credit mode. Prepayment customers will see some particular benefits from having a smart meter. For example:
- your energy supplier may be able to offer you new and more flexible ways of topping up your meter that don’t require you to visit a shop
- you’ll be able to see your balance on your easy-to-access in home display, so you don’t unknowingly run out of credit
- your smart meter can be set to top up automatically, so that if you do run out of credit at night or when the shops are shut you won’t be left without power
Further information on the benefits of smart meters, what they are and how they work, is available on the Smart Energy GB website
2016 progress update
In 2016, the Department has continued to focus on ensuring all parties are making the necessary preparations for the main installation stage so that energy suppliers are able to complete the rollout by the end of 2020 and deliver the expected benefits of smart metering to consumers. 2016 has seen significant progress across all aspects of the Programme and there are now 4.9 million meters operating across Britain - putting consumers in control, putting an end to estimated bills and helping them to save money and energy. Key areas of activity include:
In March we introduced new licence conditions allowing energy suppliers to apply for time-limited trials of In Home Display (IHD) alternatives in order to develop robust, independent and GB-based evidence on potential alternative approaches to IHDs. Three trials have been approved.
Smart Energy GB has continued to roll out its national awareness campaign, with Gaz & Leccy making their TV debut in June and focusing on how consumers can get their energy bills under control with smart meters. Smart Energy GB has partnered with a range of third party organisations at national, regional and local level to promote smart meter messaging to priority groups of vulnerable consumers. In July Smart Energy GB published ‘A smart route to change’, setting out the role of behavioural science in helping consumers benefit from Smart Meters. In August, Smart Energy GB published Smart Energy Outlook, research by Populus, that showed that nearly eight in ten (79 per cent) of people with a smart meter would recommend one to others and eight in ten (80 per cent) of people with a smart meter have taken at least one step to reduce their energy use.
In July the Alternative Home Area Network governance arrangements were established, providing a way for suppliers to work together to deliver solutions for more challenging properties (such as high rise flats).
By end of September 2016, 4.9 million smart and advanced meters were operating in homes and businesses across Great Britain.
BEIS Published, in November, an updated Cost-Benefit Analysis of the rollout – smart meters are set to deliver significant net present value benefits to consumers, estimated at £5.7 billion over the lifetime of the programme.
In November the Data and Communications Company’s (DCC) national communications infrastructure went live across Great Britain and the DCC launched a consultation on proposals for enrolling the first generation of smart meters (SMETS1) into its systems.
BEIS has put in place and activated Smart Energy Code content necessary to enable the national data and communications system to go live. The Code details the rights and obligations of industry parties who use smart metering systems and the information it provides.
BEIS has facilitated the sharing of good practice for supporting vulnerable and prepayment consumers, focussing on the post-installation period and drawing on expertise from across industry and consumer groups.
Supplier led roll-out
The government requires energy companies to install smart meters for their customers, and has set out rules to ensure that they do this in a way that is in the interests of consumers, including rules around:
- data access and privacy
- technical standards for the smart metering equipment
- meeting the needs of vulnerable consumers
Smart meters will be rolled out as standard across the country by the end of 2020. But there is no legal obligation on individuals to have one.
The government has ensured that appropriate consumer protection provisions have been put in place:
- there will be no sales during the installation visit
- installers must provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit. They will need the consumer’s permission in advance of the visit if they are to talk to them about their own products
These provisions are outlined in the Smart Meter Installation Code of Practice.
You will have a choice about how your energy consumption data is used, apart from where it is required for billing and other regulated purposes.
You will be able to see your real-time energy consumption data on your in-home display. You will also be able to download more detailed historic data from your home network, should you wish to.
Your energy company, and the energy networks, can access appropriate data to enable them to send you accurate bills and carry out other essential tasks.
Suppliers will have to get your consent to access half-hourly data, or to use data for marketing purposes. They can access daily data unless you object.
You will also be able to share data with third parties (such as switching sites) if you want them to give you advice on the best tariff for you.
The Data guide for Smart Meters published by Energy UK outlines the key information customers need to know about their rights and choices when they get a smart meter installed.
Smart meters will ultimately make switching suppliers easier and quicker. It is important that smart metering devices work together (even if from different providers) and also that consumers can still use the meter on change of supplier. However, meters installed during the early roll out may lose some smart functionality depending on which energy supplier you switch to. This will be resolved for the vast majority of meters installed during the main rollout as more energy suppliers begin installing smart meters.
In most cases, if you switch during the early roll out the meter can still be used in ‘traditional’ mode if the new energy supplier cannot support the smart functionality at the stage of switching suppliers. The In Home Display (IHD) issued alongside the smart meter should still continue to operate and show you near real time information about your energy consumption.
Ofgem has introduced rules designed to help domestic consumers understand if the smart services they receive will be maintained when they switch supplier. The rules include a requirement that a supplier installing a smart meter must inform the customer that they may lose meter functionality on change of supplier.
Smart meters are covered by UK and EU product safety legislation, which requires manufacturers to ensure that any product placed on the market is safe. Public Health England (formerly The Health Protection Agency) provides advice and information on the health implications of smart meters, as it does for a range of technologies commonly found in homes and businesses across the UK.
Public Health England has advised that the evidence suggests that exposures to the radio waves produced by smart meters do not pose a risk to health. Further information about smart meters and health.
Timeframes for installation
All homes and small business sites will be offered smart meters by their energy company between now and the end of 2020. A selection of links to some suppliers’ smart meter pages can be found on the Smart Energy GB website.
Contact your energy supplier or see:
Published: 22 January 2013
Updated: 24 January 2017
- 2016 progress update.
- The guide has been updated to provide a link to the new leaflet on the Smart Metering System.
- First published.