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Digitalization is transforming the way we do everything. Today, we think nothing of carrying a smartphone, that includes our musical back-catalogue, all our photo albums, our banking, shopping, a high-resolution camera, and an A-Z of any place we visit in our pockets. We can find out the answer to any question and buy any product at the touch of a button.
Yet, the way we deal with our energy is still in the dark ages. It is the only critical infrastructure which still runs on analogue, rather than a digital system.
Smart meters effectively reduce energy consumption
Smart meters have the opportunity to change this. They provide real-time information directly to the service provider, so the goal is to no longer need to clear out the cupboard under the stairs every time you need to take a meter reading, less time waiting in for a meter reader, no more estimated bills and a visibility about the energy you and your family are using, and maybe wasting.
In a world where we need to reduce energy consumption, smart meters put homeowners and businesses in control of their own energy usage. However, it has been well documented the process of introducing smart meters into the UK hasn’t run as smoothly as it should.
Creating a smart meter infrastructure
Much of this is for positive reasons – challenger energy retailers to the established ‘Big 6’ have launched into the UK energy market giving the customer more choice, and the digital revolution has brought a host of new apps and smart appliances also giving the customer control.
But, installing smart meters into 27 million UK homes is a mega project. Giving the responsibility for that to energy retailers means it is done on a piecemeal basis. It is done house-by-house, rather than street-by-street which would have been the case had the local network operator been responsible. Teething issues with the national data infrastructure that will support smart meters have also slowed the progress, meaning perhaps the 2020 deadline for full implementation should be extended.
The transition from first to second-generation meters
The process has also been slowed as households understand more about the difference between first and second generation metering technology (SMETS1 to SMETS2)
It has been well documented that first-generation smart meters don’t always work between different energy suppliers. With more energy suppliers entered the UK market, and savvy customers switching more regularly, this has caused problems.
First generation meters will go into ‘dumb’ mode if a customer switches meaning a return to providing the supplier with meter readings. This will change with the launch of the second generation meter and first-generation meters will receive a digital update, or a homeowner can choose to have a new meter installed.
Installing second-generation meters
Several delays in launching the second-generation meters mean more households are choosing to wait until then to get a meter. Today, testing the integration of second-generation meters into the national infrastructure is underway with many energy retailers, and we hope that this is the green light for the mass roll-out of smart meters to households.
Some have suggested the programme should be scrapped. At Siemens, we don’t agree with that. The UK will benefit hugely by the rollout. Many of the costs associated with the programme are already paid for and the benefits yet to come.
The digital revolution is here to stay and we need to bring energy into the 21st century.