Is Greener Living at Home Just Around the Corner Thanks to Smart Meters?
As the cost of energy rises and our demand for it increases, the UK government is aiming to change this with the roll out of smart meters. In December 2009 the government's Department of Energy and Climate Change announced its target to install smart meters in all households in Great Britain by 2020.
A smart meter can track your gas and electricity consumption on an hourly basis by recording your usage and sending the information back to the supplier. Smart meters aim to reduce energy costs and consumption in line with EU targets, as they can enable households to reduce energy use by three per cent, according to an EU Commission report.
At present there are peak times of the day when energy demands are high, so during these times energy has to be bought from higher priced sources to meet consumer needs.
According to a recent report, energy use within UK households has risen 18% over the last 40 years. If this continues it could have severe consequences environmentally, with a huge rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
However, a smart meter helps consumers to manage their consumption by showing when their usage is high so they can do more to save energy and cut down on costs. In the future, this could also pave the way for variable tariffs and other schemes to help consumers make responsible energy choices.
Studies on Smart Meters
Studies on whether smart meters really do help to reduce energy consumption have already been carried out. A survey by uSwitch showed that almost half of smart meter users found their energy consumption had been reduced.
Andrea Sella, a chemistry professor at the University College London, who was part of a smart meter pilot study for RWE npower, said that: "We could see at any given moment what was going on, and we could adjust, by saying let's not turn the dishwasher on but do that later."
A research project in the North East and Yorkshire called the Customer-led Network Revolution is investing millions into researching how smart meters can help us to be even more environmentally savvy from the comfort of our own homes.
Social scientists are working with engineers on ways to get smart meters to work with smart appliances so that certain devices that consume large amounts of electric power, such as clothes dryers, can be adjusted to do much of their work during off-peak times and also help to spread our use of power over the day and night.
The next generation of gas and electricity meters is on its way; putting the power of controlling energy consumption into the hands of customers, who in turn can do their bit for the environment on a daily basis.