The government expects that smart meter installations will rise sharply in 2016, when all the final common standards come into force, and that 20 million meters being fitted between 2016 and 2018. So goes the prediction on the official promotional website for the planned gas and electricity monitoring network. A project to scrap all conventional meters for an estimated £11,000 million by 2020. One promoted as a free service but where the costs are being actually added to your gas and electricity charges. See our earlier post ..
Now organisations like British Gas have been promoting the switch to smart meters for three years or more – and have had some takers. However the smaller energy suppliers have not been so active. And a quick check around the UK suppliers shows that most have installed very few. Some saying that they are waiting for some new technology promised for later this year. Which seems to tie in with the Government statement about final common standards. So clearly something is pending in the world of smart metering technology – but none of energy suppliers spell out exactly what that will be. So time for Grandad to do some checking.
As any careful electricity user will know, monitors showing current consumption and even costs have been around for years. One is sitting next to this PC. But what more is possible?
Take just one system – the Loop Energy Saver. This is a subscription service made up of an electricity and gas monitoring kit and access to your personal energy data through your own online account. Now this is not the only product on the market but Loop has been awarded a best in class by Which? Magazine and has got some good feedback from Amazon purchasers.
The system consists of two tiny Loop readers that are easily installed – no tools or batteries are required. The Electricity Monitor simply clips around your meter cable and the Gas Monitor sticks on to your meter. [Grandad’s current electricity monitor needs a total of six batteries that have to swapped out for recharging all too frequently].
Once the readers are in place the system makes use of your existing broadband connection. It can then show the energy you use straight to your PC, tablet and smartphone. It can also show you how much your actual electricity and gas consumption costs since it knows your current supplier’s tariffs. It can also send you details of any better deals from your current supplier or competitors; using your usage stats. So how does all of this cost? Well the dual fuel option costs either £50 one-off or a £3 per month direct debit. With a 45 day free trial as part of a current promotion.
So is the Loop offer worth taking up – when the energy suppliers are planning a big smart meter push in 2016? Yes it probably is. Why? Because Government IT projects rarely come in on time (or on budget) and the official smart meters need a new, untested infrastructure before they can work. And even if this grand plan comes together then its aims are very different. The Government’s objectives include enabling the energy companies to monitor and control your energy usage. This means the smart meters need to be much more than clever meter readers. They need to be permanent, tamper-proof units that the supplier can use to both bill you and, if required, turn off your power remotely – for any reason from national emergency to late payment of a bill.
Clearly the Government scheme is going to be much more expensive – since systems like Loop are self-fitted, make use of your existing Internet connection and your tablet, smartphone or PC. Plus they don’t need expensive replacements for your existing meters. However the information provided by the Loop service is just as helpful as a smart meter for saving energy – and money. In fact you could find that its comparison service enables you to switch suppliers when and if there are savings to be made. An option and a source of savings that meters fitted by suppliers are unlikely to offer ..
So be warned – just doing nothing and letting your energy supplier give you a free smart meter might turn out to be a very costly mistake.