Welcome to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)'s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP)'s blog. The DECC YAP is a group of young people aged between 15 and 25 from all over the UK, with a wide-range of backgrounds, from academia to activism.

Our aim is to inform everyone and anyone about DECC's activities and likewise to help DECC understand and take into account the concerns of young people. We are a medium of consultancy and conversation. Much of our work looks at finding a 'Pathway to 2050', reviewing how energy with be supplied and used in the next four decades, so follow us and join us on the journey!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Smart Meters: what, why, how and when?

This is a digest of the presentation on the roll out of SMART meters by SMART meters team, Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to the DECC YAP (Youth Advisory Panel), London, 5th May 2011.

The Mass roll out of SMART meters begins in 2014 when householders across the UK will be encouraged by energy providers to switch to next generation meters which enable people to monitor and manage their domestic energy consumption. Unlike traditional meters, SMART meters provide insight into how much energy is being used at any given time and by which appliances in the home. Large amounts of data will be collected on energy use to enable providers to refine their pricing structures to offer flexible and innovative tariffs to consumers.

Savvy customers will be able to consume energy Ryan Air-style, in effect, getting energy bargains when purchasing off- peak. So in theory, people who already pay less for running the dishwasher at night will save even more once SMART meters are established. Households with SMART meters will receive more accurate bills as they will be charged for what they have actually used, and not by inaccurate estimates which are based on records of past meter readings.

One of the reasons the SMART meters team is excited about the switch is that it will give consumers greater awareness of how much energy is being used, which could lead people to adopt more energy-conscious and money-saving habits. If you think about it, the present system doesn’t facilitate people to be in touch with the energy they consume. I have no idea it costs to charge my phone or to leave my appliances on standby, and plus, when I pay for such seemingly trivial energy use, it’s in a totally disconnected manner, either up front, in arrears, or inclusive with my rent.

The SMART meters will be installed by energy providers and the cost of installation will be factored into billing and paid off over time. If a householder moves, the cost of paying off the SMART meter will be charged to the bill of the new tenant. By roll out completion in 2019, DECC estimates that 50 million meters will have been installed in 97% of homes. Despite the initial cost of installation those who choose to adopt the new meters will initially save £23 per year on their energy bill (a saving commitment that’s enshrined into the deal with energy companies).

My personal view is that DECC has set an ambitious target for the roll out which may not be achievable in such a short time frame. Many people will be wary of data being collected about the energy they consume in the privacy of their own homes, and may not be tempted to forgo their misgivings for initially inconsequential savings. The SMART meters team gave firm assurances that there would be checks and balances on how the collected data is to be shared, however, if the roll out were handled insensitively a negative press campaign could result in public distrust of the meters and opposition to them.

Generally speaking, the DECC Youth Advisory Panel fully support any innovation that could lead to more effective energy management and less wastage. At a time when energy is becoming more expensive it’s especially good that people will be able to make savings on their energy bills by adopting SMART meters. It will be an added bonus if the meters succeed in building a connection between consumers and the energy they use.

As a member of the DECC Youth Advisory Panel I wish to thank the SMART meters team for explaining the department’s work to create a policy framework for roll out in 2014.

Would you be willing to change your energy consumption habits to save money? Do you think a SMART meter will encourage you to be more involved in the energy you consume at home?

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