Smart meters

Introduction

The rollout in the UK aims to offer smart electricity and gas meters to every home and small business. The initial goal was to deliver them by the end of 2020, but it got postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now was and electricity suppliers are required to do everything they can to roll out smart meters to all of their domestic customers and small business customers by the end of June 2021. The rollout will help develop and deliver cheap and clean energy. Niccolo Gas wants to help customers understand what smart meters are, what benefits their business can get from the transition, and what the fitting process looks like.

Key information about the rollout

The smart meter rollout will cover around two million businesses. It includes microbusinesses, as well as small and medium-sized companies. Thanks to smart meters businesses will be able to read real-time information on their energy use. That will allow them to manage their energy consumption more effectively and pick the energy tariff that works best for their needs. Through the smart meters, the businesses will also be able to switch energy suppliers.

The government supervises the project but it is the energy suppliers who are responsible for rolling out the smart meters. Energy suppliers can give their customers a choice between advanced meters and smart meters.

Are there any exceptions to the smart meter roll-out duty?

All energy providers have to comply with the New and Replacement Obligation (NRO), which requires them to take all steps they can to provide their customers with smart meters. It is, however, possible to get an exception. Below you can find a few cases that allow that.

  • Existing advanced meters – if a supplier installed an advanced meter before 5 December 2018, it counts as fulfilling the rollout obligation. The meter has to, however, stay at the business’s premises and be fully operational.
  • Existing advanced meter contracts – if before 6 April 2016 a supplier made a contract to install an advanced meter at the business’s premises, it counts as the rollout obligation. Nevertheless, the meter has to be put in place before the end of 2020.
  • Technical exceptions – if businesses have Current Transformer (CT) meters they qualify for the exemption.

If SMEs prefer to get an advanced meter instead of a smart meter, the supplier can install it and it will still count towards the rollout obligation. When suppliers give their customers the choice between the two types of meters, they have to provide them with all the information they need to make the decision.

What are smart meters?

Smart meters are innovative gas and electricity meters that offer many intelligent functions. They display more accurate information than traditional meters so the business will pay exactly for the amount of energy it consumes rather than for an estimated amount. Smart meters also record more information than regular meters. Every 30 minutes they analyse how much energy you have consumed.

With smart meters, readings can be done remotely. You can decide how often you give information to the energy suppliers. You can choose between monthly, daily or half-hourly meter reads. If you do not pick any of the options, the supplier will most likely automatically take daily reads.

Smart meters come with in-home displays that allow you to monitor how much energy you’re using. Below you can see what smart meters and their in-home displays look like.

How do smart meters work?

Smart meters consist of a few elements that you can find in the table below.

componentfunction
actual smart meter (one for gas and another for electricity)takes readings of how much energy you’re using
communications hubsends readings to the supplier
smart meter energy monitorshows real-time energy usage

The meters do not require an Internet connection. They have their own internal communications system, and the data is sent through a secure smart data network. Smart meters take readings and send them to your energy provider without you having to do anything. Each smart meter comes with the energy monitor but they can work differently so it is important to always familiarise yourself with the manual.

Smart meters don’t prevent you from switching to a new energy supplier. They are cross-compatible with many providers so even if you switch and get a new energy deal they will work the same way.

Smart meters are very secure and include technology that prevents hacking attempts. Moreover, all smart meters must comply with the Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specification (SMETS).

Advantages of smart meters

Your business can benefit from the rollout and the switch to smart meters in a few ways.

  1. You won’t have to submit meter readings – all readings can be done remotely and the meter will automatically send data to the energy supplier saving you the trouble of taking the readings yourself.
  2. You will get accurate information on your energy consumption – smart readers come with in-home displays that will show you exactly how much energy you’re using. In addition to that, it will tell you how much this consumption costs.
  3. You will pay accurate bills – if you have a standard meter and you forget to submit a reading, the supplier will estimate how much energy you’ve used. That’s why sometimes you might end up paying more than you should. Thanks to smart meters you will pay exactly for what you use.
  4. You will lower your impact on the environment – smart meters can help you change your energy consumption habits. The in-home displays show how much energy all your appliances use, which can help you buy more energy-efficient equipment. 
  5. You will have a big selection of tariffs – more and more energy suppliers offer smart meter exclusive tariffs. You will not only have many options to choose from, but these tariffs often come with great prices.

How to get a smart meter for your business?

As part of the rollout, your energy supplier should inform you about the possibility of acquiring a smart meter and arrange an installation date convenient for you. You can get the meter for free but be aware of the fact that some extra charges might be applied to everyone’s energy bills to cover the costs of the rollout. There are just three simple steps to get a smart meter.

  1. Tell your energy supplier you would like to have a smart meter installed at your premises.
  2. Schedule an engineer visit.
  3. Wait for the engineer to come to fit the meter. The visit can take up to two hours.

How to tell if you already have a smart meter

On their premises, some businesses have devices that can be confused with smart meters. The table below outlines the differences between smart meters, smart thermostats and energy monitors that people sometimes get mixed up.

functionsmart metersmart thermostatenergy monitor
sends meter readings to the supplier            X  
shows how much energy your business is using            X              X
free installation           X  
monitors heating at the premises              X 
controls heating              X 

Smart meters fitting process

If you want to request a smart meter for your business you will need to contact your energy supplier. Click here to find the relevant contact information more easily. Energy suppliers follow safety procedures to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 during installation. Because of the pandemic, the waiting time for the fitting process might take longer than usual.

The safety procedures during installation might include:

  • Installers maintaining 2m distance from customers
  • Suppliers conducting a COVID-19 risk assessment before deciding whether the installation can take place
  • Wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) throughout the duration of the fitting process

Before the engineer’s visit, you might want to clean the area where your current meter is and make sure nothing is blocking access to the old meters.  The new meter will be installed in the same spot.

To complete the fitting process, the engineer will have to switch off electricity and gas supply. Each supplier can install a different smart meter model but all of them have to meet certain technical standards. Moreover, all smart meters are certified by the Office for Product Safety and Standards.

There are certain procedures that engineers need to follow during the smart meter installation. That includes:

  • showing a photo ID when they enter your business’s premises
  • explaining how the smart meter works
  • checking if the meter works properly
  • explaining where you can get more information about smart meters
  • providing advice on how to manage energy consumption
  • answering your questions

You will need to have separate meters installed for gas and electricity. Normally the supplier will install them both during the same engineer visit. Nevertheless, if your gas and electricity supplies come from different providers you will have to arrange two separate smart meter installations.