Smart Meters – What Are They?
Smart meters are able to read the precise amount of energy that you consume. Once a smart meter is installed, it records the current electricity flow at regular intervals. That usage is then sent to your energy supplier and an accurate bill can then automatically be raised based on your energy consumption. Once a smart meter is installed there is no need for estimated bills.
In addition, smart meters are accompanied by ‘In Home Display’ – a portable device that displays the gas and electricity consumption in pounds. The In Home Display also provides various methods that consumers can implement to reduce their energy consumption and, consequently, their energy bills. It forms part of a government initiative to cut down the country’s carbon footprint.
Are Smart Meters Mandatory?
Smart Meters are currently not mandatory – and If a consumer refuses to have a smart meter fitted now, they will still be eligible to get one for free later on. However, not having a smart meter can result in some of the tariffs on the market being unavailable.
Government wording on smart meters is that: “You will not be charged separately for a smart meter or for the In-Home Display. Under current arrangements, you pay for the cost of your meter and its maintenance through your energy bills, and this will be the same for smart meters.”
Smart Meter Implementation – First & Second Generation Meters
The first-generation smart meters were used during the first installation wave. However, these smart meters have been linked to several problems. One of the most common was that the meter would abruptly stop recording every time a user changed their supplier.
Almost every first-generation smart meter made use of a 3G cellular network. Since there was no uniform network for managing the smart meters, they would often go ‘dumb’ whenever a supplier was switched. As a result, the new supplier would not receive automatic readings from the smart meter, which would require the electricity provider to switch back to manual readings.
Additionally, some smart meters were not compatible with solar panels.
For this reason, the government extended the smart meter rollout deadline, and allowed companies to come up with improvements in the smart meter. These upgraded smart meters are called the second generation smart meters.
These issues have now been ironed out; a special Wide Area Network (WAN) was built so that all suppliers can manage them and the current generation of smart meters are compatible with all solar panels.
If you already have a smart meter first-generation model (the SMETS1) installed, you should be entitled to a free upgrade from a SMETS1 to a SMETS2.
Do Smart Meters Work Well With Solar Panels?
Yes, smart meters will work well with solar panels and you can have both solar panels and smart meters installed in your house. The consumer is able to see the energy coming from their solar installations and how much is being imported from or exported to the grid.
However, it is important to note that some energy providers have not yet set up their systems to read the energy generated and exported by solar panels and other renewable installations. You need to carry out some research and consider changing your supplier if required.
That said, an increasing number of energy providers that do have smart meters compatible with solar panels, which include the following: EDF Energy, British Gas, First Utility, Ovo Energy, Utilita, Bulb, and Octopus (source Grenmatch: How Smart Meters and Solar Panels Work Together)
Smart Export Guarantee
The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) was implemented on 1 January 2020. It applies to all electricity generator applicants with at least a 5MW capacity to receive payments for the extra energy they export back to the grid. To qualify, you need to own a solar panel system and have a smart meter so the exports can be measured. Solar storage is also included in this scheme.
Is a Smart Meter Worth It?
Smart meters deliver a number of benefits, the main ones of which are shown below:
- By opting for a smart meter, you will not have to provide manual readings any longer – all energy usage data will be accessed automatically.
- Another advantage is that there will be no estimation in billing calculations, which means that consumers can benefit from more accurate energy bills.
- Additionally, you are able to understand your usage in more detail, enabling you to make decisions to manage your energy better.
- Some energy tariffs are also only exclusively available to users that have a smart meter installed.
- Smart meters are required to enable income to be earned via the Smart Export Guarantee scheme.
Even consumers who use prepayment meters can shift to smart meters. A smart version of the prepay meter will allow you to keep track of the leftover meter credit and top it up through your computer or smartphone. Moreover, you can also switch over to credit tariff, as long as you meet the eligibility requirements. You can remotely switch between credit and prepay mode, which means that your supplier will not have to fit a new meter every time you wish to make the switch.
Two significant disadvantages impact on some potential smart meter users, which are:
- Several areas of the country have less effective mobile signals, which impact on the effectiveness of a smart meters
- Certain suppliers might not offer or support smart meters.
It’s important to clarify whether either of these issues affect your particular circumstances.
Smart meters are excellent choices for consumers looking to monitor their energy consumption and cost, make smarter energy choices, and receive more accurate bills. As for the concerns regarding the incompatibility between solar panels and smart meters, all you need to do is make sure that you find a supplier that offers smart meters compatible with solar panels.
Meanwhile, solar panels are the most affordable they’ve ever been – they’re 25% cheaper than they were in 2014. If you would like to learn more about smart meters and how they work with solar panels or obtain a quote for solar panel installation, please feel free to contact us.