I just got a notification from my energy supplier, ScottishPower, that it is shortly going to be rolling out smart meters in my locality and enclosing some useful information about the installation.
I’ve been a domestic customer of ScottishPower for a few years now, changing tariffs a couple of times as well as having experience of being a large corporate customer with them and I can honestly say that I fail to recognise the company which is portrayed in the press as poor for customer service. Personally I’ve not had any problems with them, find their website useful and would hope I’ve got a fairly informed viewpoint.
Anyway, back to the meters, I’ve tried all sorts of widgets which monitor and provide information about my domestic electricity consumption over the last few years. They ultimately provided a dashboard showing what I was using and roughly what it was costing.
What do they do?
Well clearly they save a lot of manual reads and will obviate the need for traditional meter readings by 2020 as well as the dreaded “estimated bill”. They’ll provide lots of real-time information on energy consumption and cost.
Hopefully this will all be available to analytic software packages so householders can make maximum advantage of their energy efficiency efforts.
I also hope the rollout comes with advice on how to analyse consumption trends to the best effect.
Simply showing the additional usage and cost when you turn more things on is not enough to really bite into consumption.
What will I be looking at?
There are a number of areas of domestic efficiency which perhaps need to be highlighted to those who are not used to having this type of data:
- It’ll be important to check what the consumption levels are overnight and at times when the house is unoccupied. Start with the fridges and freezers (and maybe the odd swimming pool) and work from there.
- I’ll focus on the impact of changing things. Whenever a new appliance is introduced – added or changed – it’s important to understand its consumption.
- Similarly it’s worth identifying what everything else in the house uses when on and what happens when, for example, the volume is turned up on the TV or all the lights are on. The “biggie” will be the immersion heater.
- A simple training programme aimed at the co-inhabitants can help cut consumption and costs dramatically, with a dashboard this becomes far easier.
- I’ll certainly check out the impact of reducing the heating thermostat.
- Homes lucky enough to have air conditioning will get particular enjoyment from playing with the controls.
- Outside temperatures will play a part in heating energy consumption so check it out – everything from a hot day when the heating’s off to an extremely cold day. It’s worth the effort.
- A priority will be to check out how much heating is on when the house is unoccupied when no one is in or overnight.
- If I buy an appliance which is supposed to be more efficient I’ll check it does what it says on the label.
The upshot is?
If people don’t use the smart meter information in the way it is intended, it will waste a sizeable chunk of the benefits from the rollout. Clearly there are lots of benefits to the generation and distribution system in having better information but you might as well reap the benefits yourself – you’ll have paid for the metering as part of the charging regime.
Energy will never get cheaper as a long term trend. It has to be conserved in a sensible way.
Having been inspired by the widgetary around energy conservation, I enjoy living in my massively insulated, dark, cold cave in Berkshire but massively undershoot some of the strangely high guide costs for energy consumption in a similar property. How cold and dark does a home need to be to get an “A” rating on its EPC again?
Mervyn Bowden is the MD of Intuitive Energy Solutions.