Our Transition Tuesday meeting at the end of April was on Smart Meters and the Smart Grid. Smart Meters will transmit up-to-date readings of the amount of gas or electricity that has been used in each property and will receive information such as current tariff rates from suppliers. Roll out of these meters is planned between 2015 to 2020 but pilots are taking place now. Consumers will be able to see energy usage and costs via an in-home display and benefits are expected through better home energy management from using this information. Smart Meters will see the end of estimated bills and be an enabler for easier switching of suppliers.
With fossil fuel power stations, energy supply could be boosted to meet demand. With a future energy mix involving renewable energy supply is less easy to control. Energy demand must be managed to meet supply and a Smart Grid which includes Smart Meters are seen as a way to manage demand. The first Smart Grid initiatives we can expect are time of day based tariffs which will penalise consumption at times of peak demand.
As a group interested in reducing energy use we can understand the reasons why the Smart grid and Smart meter initiative could help to reduce personal and national demand for energy. However, at our meeting concerns about the implementation were discussed…
For some the concerns were wi-fi and health related, why has the government chosen wi-fi technology when other options would have removed a potential health risk? For others it was that the current monopoly in the supplier market will prevent consumers receiving any of the financial benefits. There was concern that vulnerable people, who do not engage with reducing or changing the time or amount of their energy demand, will end up paying a lot more for their energy. There is already plenty of evidence of people failing to switch to cheaper energy suppliers. Consumers can refuse Smart Meters but this is likely to have a financial cost. There were also concerns around security and privacy, for example Smart Meters may provide a good source of information of who is on holiday. As a consumer we will have the right to say how frequently we want data to be sent, but exercising this right to improve our security might prevent us from accessing the most attractive tariffs. There are clearly lots of issues to be resolved around this implementation.
Some of the benefits listed for Smart Meters can be achieved right now, without any change to our meters. We can send in actual meter readings if we do not like estimated bills. We can also get an energy monitor (I have just borrowed one from the Library at no cost) and work out how to manage our energy demand. Over the past few weeks I have been pulling together material for TTL’s next Home Energy Improvers Meeting on reducing electricity consumption and bills.
An audit of the lightbulbs around my house shows how much change there has been in the last few years in this technology. We have old dimmer switches which will not work with LED bulbs and its probably time now to get these switches updated and the bulbs replaced. A look at what energy each of my appliances uses has proved interesting and I have changed the programme I am using for my washing to one that takes an hour longer but uses less energy.
Most actions I have identified can save £4 to £8 a year, but there is no downsides to making these changes and the money starts to add up. Its looking like we may be able to save £100 a year through a series of actions and my energy audit is not complete yet! Come and join our meeting on 2nd June where we will be sharing information and ideas on reducing our electricity bills, this will include taking a look at energy tariffs.