Technology  

Innovation key to modernising UK's energy industry

Manufacturing Digital takes a look at how smart meters are providing customers with accurate bills and online feedback
 First Utility smart meter
 
 

By Mark Daeche, founder of independent energy supplier First Utility, www.first-utility.com

Businesses and consumers alike, we are all becoming increasingly energy-conscious. A growing environmental agenda combined with rising wholesale energy prices mean that new ways in which we can save energy and save money are high priorities for many people these days.

Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily as easy as it could be to do just this. After all, how can we reduce something which we can’t really see or measure in the first place?

That’s all changing, thanks to smart metering, devices that replace the old-fashioned ‘dumb meters’ that can be found in most people’s houses. Smart meters send half-hourly readings of energy use to the energy supplier’s HQ, enabling the generation of accurate monthly bills.

Using this information collected by the smart meter it is also possible to provide customers with access to our secure online portal.  The online portal allows users to see a display of their energy usage online, with options that allow you to look at usage over various periods of time, from hour-to-hour, day-to-day and week-to-week. This is an area of continued development, and providing customers with simple-to-access visibility of their energy use is an effective way of helping people become more aware of their energy consumption and take steps to cut back where appropriate.

It is through providing this type information to people about their energy use that long-term and sustainable reductions in energy and spend can be made. Pretty revolutionary stuff when you consider most people still get a quarterly estimated bill which they then have to respond to with a correct meter reading, after which a new bill is then issued.

Although smart meters are common place in other countries around the world, the UK has lagged considerably behind, and the roll-out that First Utility initiated in 2008 was pioneering in the UK, a full decade ahead of the Government’s mandatory plans. Trials in countries ranging from Sweden to the US have shown that smart meters can reduce household energy bills by 5-10 per cent according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Now of course, smart meters are at the cornerstone of the future of the energy industry, with the UK government planning a mandatory roll-out of smart meters in all homes by 2019. As demand for energy awareness increases, technology continues to develop to meet this demand and the potential this technology could bring to the energy industry is virtually limitless.  Such innovation within this historically outdated sector is vital if we are to enable long-term changes in behaviour and achieve ambitious environmental targets.

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