Guidance

Smart meters: a guide

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 they can offer a range of intelligent functions.

For example they can tell you how much energy you are using through a display in your home. They can also communicate directly with your energy supplier meaning that no one will need to come and 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 a smart meter.

How they work

Most of the smart meters that are being installed today use mobile phone-type signals to send meter readings to your energy company, and other wireless technologies to send information to the in-home display. However, there are a number of other technologies available.

Supplier led roll-out

The Government is requiring energy companies to install smart meters for their customers, and is setting out rules to ensure that they do this in a way that is in the interests of consumers, including rules around:

  • data access

  • security

  • 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 2020. But there will not be a legal obligation on individuals to have one.

Energy companies will be required to install smart meters and take all reasonable steps to reach everyone. However, we do not expect energy companies to take legal action to fit a smart meter if they cannot get the householder’s co-operation.

Consumer protections

The government is ensuring that appropriate consumer protection provisions are put in place:

  • there will be no sales during the installation visit

  • installers must provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit and they will need the consumer’s permission in advance of the visit if they are to talk to them about their own products

  • protecting the privacy of individuals and putting them in control of smart meter data

Consumer privacy

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, will be able to see enough of the data to allow them to send you accurate bills and carry out other essential tasks.

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, should you wish to.

Switching suppliers

Consumers should not have any problems in switching energy company if they have a smart type meter.

Ofgem have published new regulations to deal with smart type meters. These include obligations on energy companies to make sure the smart functions of the meter are still available, and to make clear to customers where they will not be, on change of supplier.

In most cases the meter can still be used in “dumb” mode if the new energy company cannot support the smart functionality at this stage.

Prepayment customers

Smart meters can work in prepayment or credit mode. You can agree with your energy supplier to pay the way that best suits you.

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

  • smart meters can work with remote credit top-up facilities so that, for example, you won’t need to go out after dark to buy more credit

  • your smart meter can be set so that if you do run out of credit at night or when the shops are shut you won’t be left without power - your energy supplier can tell you more about what they are going to do

Safety

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. Further information about smart meters and health can be found on the Public Health England: smart meters web page.

Timeframes for installation

Most households will have smart meters installed by their energy company between 2015 and 2020, although some energy companies are starting to install smart meters now. If you are interested in getting a smart meter now, shop around and contact different energy companies to see what their plans are. A selection of links to suppliers’ smart meter pages are below:

Further information?

Contact your energy supplier or read:

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