Smart meters 'may not cut energy use' - tell us something we don't know!

Posted: 16th September 2010

A recent study by an Oxford University scientist suggests installing smart meters may not result in households saving energy.  The research found that the devices alone were unlikely to lead to an overall reduction in the demand for energy.  But did we really need research to tell us that?

Installing a smart meter will not suddenly reduce the amount of energy consumed by a household or enable energy providers to drastically reduce their prices.  So what is the actual benefit to the consumer?  Initially, the benefit will be that the consumer will never again be presented with an estimated bill, because of the accurate information that is transmitted from the smart meter to the utility.  However, what the consumer is surely most interested in is saving money and this, as the study points out, will come from a change in consumer behavior rather than as a result of something the smart meter is doing magically behind the scenes.

So the real money saving potential comes from the energy monitors and Real Time Displays that sit within the home and allow consumers to accurately see how much energy their home is consuming at any one time.  Research suggests that by making real time data available to consumers they can save between 5% and 15% on their energy bills, simply because they are incentivised to change their consumption habits – thanks to access to accurate, real time consumption and cost information.  If consumers can instantly see the effect of boiling a kettle or switching a light on (and the cost associated with it), then they are much more likely to take action, not only in the short term but also the long term as consumption patterns change and a more proactive approach to energy saving is adopted.  A real example of this is highlighted here.

Consumers can be empowered even further by taking information from an energy monitor to the ‘cloud’, where it can be more powerfully processed to show a greater level of information, including: Historical consumption information presented in a number of formats, performance against key indicators or even show comparative information on usage and savings.  By taking this information and presenting it via a smartphone or web GUI the process of monitoring ones energy becomes more interactive and less likely to become a short-term fad: Typically energy monitors are made redundant once the initial excitement of watching the effects of turning the kettle on has worn off!

Visualising energy and educating the consumer will be the key challenges to be overcome if the full benefits of the smart metering rollout are to be realised.

Got a comment about how the smart meter will impact consumer behavior or the best ways to drive consumer change?  Then we’d like to hear your thoughts so please leave your comments below...

 

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