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The Smart Meter Rollout Explained

You may have heard that our existing gas and electricity meters are being replaced. New smart meters are expected to replace all existing meters in homes across England, Scotland and Wales.

What are smart meters?

Smart meters have built-in mobile phone-like technologies which allow them to send meter readings to your supplier without you having to do anything.

As well as automatically sending readings, the meter will wirelessly send energy usage information to a display in your house. With this real-time information, it’s hoped that you’ll be able to improve your consumption and as a result save money.

Are they compulsory?

No. Smart meters aren’t compulsory and people can choose not to have one but they’re a great way to track your energy usage and try to reduce your consumption.

Though the energy companies have been mandated to change to the new meters, the ultimate decision rests with the consumer.

the smart meter roll out explained

Why are they being rolled out?

You have to go back quite a long way to trace why smart meters are being rolled out. The policy to roll out smart meters in the UK originated in the EU as they wanted to reduce European energy consumption. EU members are required to ensure the implementation of smart metering to over 80% of homes by 2020.

Then energy secretary Ed Miliband adopted the policy in 2008 and the rollout officially began in 2012, and is scheduled to run until 2020.

For consumers the logic is that if you have a display in the home which tells you how much energy you’re using, you will pay more attention to your consumption. This could then help you to use less energy and therefore save money.

For the suppliers, there are significant savings to be made no longer having to read meters.

What is the roll out plan?

The initiative is huge. It’s estimated that there are 53 million meters across 30 million homes and small businesses – and they all need to have a smart meter by 2020. In early 2016, around 2 million had so far been installed. Read more in our guide about how energy providers are progressing with their roll out.

what is the smart meter roll out

How are they installed?

You can either wait for your energy company to contact you, or contact them to find out about their plans as this varies by supplier. Once a suitable date is arranged the installation is relatively straightforward and carried out by a trained installer from the energy company. You'll need to be at home during the installation appointment but that’s all they’ll need from you.

As an example, British Gas estimates that a typical smart meter installation will take around an hour per meter; so up to two hours in total if you’re dual fuel. However, it’s likely to differ from property to property depending on where your current meters are actually located.

As part of the installation, your energy company may offer to carry out an energy-efficiency inspection of your home and give you energy-efficiency advice but they’re not allowed to carry out a hard sell during the set up.

Should I rush to get one or wait?

Good question.

If you believe that you’re likely to monitor your energy usage once you’ve got a smart meter and in-house display, you may be keen to get on, switch and see if you could save. If not, it might be worth waiting for your supplier to contact you.

You’ll also need to live in an area with decent mobile reception given the meter relies on this to transmit the results. Bear in mind the meters rely on mobile reception to transmit the results, so if you struggle for signal your meter may too. But your supplier should be able to advise if this will be an issue.

So if you’re on the lookout for a better deal with smart meters, you might also fancy shopping around to see if you can save money on your tariff. Just enter in a few details or use your current bill and see if you can save.