Consumer engagement with smart meters pivotal to their success, says expert

Out-Law News | 18 Mar 2016 | 4:42 pm | 1 min. read

The "active engagement" of home owners will be required if smart meters are to deliver reductions in energy consumption and bills, an expert has said.

Specialist in commercial energy contracts Lindsay Edwards of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that smart meters have the potential to be "a key enabler in the UK’s smart energy future".

Edwards was commenting after the Science and Technology Committee at the UK parliament asked for stakeholders to submit evidence relevant to the government's smart metering policy.

"The large-scale roll out of smart meters will be vital if we are to achieve any meaningful progress in reducing energy demand, through demand side response, for example," Edwards said. "Reductions in energy demand are forecast to be critical if the UK is to meet its carbon reductions targets and transition to a lower carbon future."

"That said simply installing smart meters across the country is likely to be of relatively limited benefit: in order to realise their full potential and for initiatives such as Time of Use tariffs to work, consumers will need to engage actively with smart meters and understand how they can be used to save them money and reduce energy use," she said.

"There is much yet to be done on this aspect of the smart meter roll out, and so the Science and Technology Committee’s focus on the consumer in its latest ‘evidence check’ is to be welcomed. However, equally important is the need to maintain momentum and give investors and other commercial stakeholders confidence around the timing and scope of the roll out. This will enable them to plan and allocate the significant resources that will be needed to complete a national roll out of smart meters on time and on budget," Edwards said.

The Science and Technology Committee said it is particularly interested in receiving evidence that indicates how smart meters could impact on consumer behaviour. This could include in relation the extent the technology encourages reduced energy consumption and purchases of energy efficient products as well as "how levels of engagement with in-home displays change over time", it said.

Further evidence on the impact Time of Use tariffs could have on energy usage patterns during the day has also been requested by the Committee, as well as on what "the expected net savings for the consumer over time" will be from smart metering.

The Committee said it is also seeking evidence of how data generated by smart meters could be "used to optimise national energy generation and storage" and on how secure smart meters are now and are likely to be in future.

Written submissions can be made to the Committee up to midday on Wednesday 20 April.