Smart Meters: what are the options, the benefits, and will Yorkshire Energy offer them?
What is a smart meter?
Smart meters perform the same main function as a traditional meter; they measure and record your energy usage so that you only pay for what you use. The key difference, however, is that they record your usage in real-time and send this data automatically to your supplier. This means that customers will never have to submit a manual meter reading again or be billed to estimates.
Are automatic meter reads the only benefit of smart meters?
No, there are multiple benefits of smart meters for consumers, suppliers and the industry as a whole. As well as not having to battle dust and cobwebs to take manual reads, they will help benefit customers by better understanding their usage. The inhouse display shows your usage in real-time, so when you flick the kettle on you’ll see the direct impact on your energy bill. The government hopes that this visualisation will encourage energy efficiency – you might be more likely to turn off lights and appliances you’re not using if you can see the direct impact on your finances. Therefore, by encouraging behavioural changes, there will be greater benefits of smart meters by hopefully helping to lower energy bills and reduce national energy usage – benefiting consumers and helping us meet our climate change targets.
From an industry point of view, smart meters will provide much more accurate consumption data. This means suppliers know exactly how much energy they need to purchase at any given time and exactly how much we need to bill our customers. Furthermore, the improved data should improve grid balancing through understanding exactly when energy is required. This will become increasingly important as we continue to move away from a handful of large fossil fuel power stations to hundreds of smaller renewable generators, such as wind and solar farms. Additionally, smart meters will facilitate more flexible tariffs which will give consumers more options to suit their individual needs while benefiting the national grid and environment.
Smart Meters will benefit the national grid and environment
Are there different types of smart meters?
Yes, while there are multiple different providers there are two key types of smart meter, known in the industry as SMETS1 and SMETS2 (which is another way of saying first and second generation). The key difference is that first generation smart meters may lose their smart functionality if you switch supplier, hence why second generation smart meters are being released which will, in the future, work with all suppliers. Similarly, the software in some first-generation meters will be upgraded so that all functions are transferable to all suppliers. Additionally, there’s a common misconception that smart meters connect to the Wi-Fi in your house, however, both first and second generation smart meters use their own secure network to pass data on to suppliers meaning you don’t need an existing internet connection to go smart.
How do second generation smart meters work with all suppliers?
The creation of a Data Communication Company (DCC) is facilitating the communication of smart meters with all suppliers. The DCC is an intermediary between meters and suppliers. Meters send data to the DCC, who compile it into a standardised format and pass it on to suppliers. However, the rollout of the second generation of smart meters hasn’t been without issue. According to the National Audit Office (Nov 2018), just 3,000 have been installed in the North of England and Scotland compared to 106,000 in the rest of Great Britain, due to problems with the communications infrastructure and it’s not completely clear when the issues will be resolved. The industry is getting there with smart meters – although there’s still work to be done.
I’ve already got a smart meter; can I switch to Yorkshire Energy?
Yes, if you’ve already got a first or second generation smart meter you can still switch to Yorkshire Energy – although the meter will become ‘dumb’ until we’re ready to release our own smart meters. This means that you’ll need to provide us with monthly meter reads in the same way as if you had a traditional meter until we’re ready to start receiving the data directly.
When will Yorkshire Energy offer smart meters?
At Yorkshire Energy our goals are simple; we want to offer competitive, fair for all tariffs and engage consumers in the energy market. Unfortunately, the first generation of smart meters didn’t meet these objectives. They may lose functionality if consumers switch (discouraging switching!) and some may need to be replaced with second generation meters in the future – increasing costs which are indirectly added on to consumer bills.
Second generation meters on the other hand help to educate consumers about usage and by operating with all suppliers, they encourage switching. Therefore, Yorkshire Energy are aiming to offer second generation smart meters by the end of summer 2020, once we’re sure they’re operating effectively and efficiently. Waiting to engage with second-generation smart meters has allowed us to keep costs as low as possible, letting us focus on competitive tariffs and outstanding customer service. Likewise, investing in technology that will continue working even if our customers move on helps us engage consumers in the market and encourages switching.