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The joule in the crown

Imprecise estimates of energy usage could be a thing of the past as the
government charges ahead with the implementation of the cleverly titled “smart
meters”. They are expected to be rolled out in the next few years and, according
to energy experts, are set to radically change the industry.

Smart meters can provide customers and energy suppliers with accurate
information on the amount of electricity and gas consumed. They can even
identify, for example, which floors are consuming the most energy and at what
times of the day. They can also help energy use analysis by compiling charts and
diagrams.

Richard Hampshire, principal consultant at Logica says, “There are wider
business benefits from using a smart meter, better control and better
understanding of your energy requirements.”

The meters, which are currently being rolled out by the biggest six suppliers
in the UK, have substantial technology advancements such as:
Remotely read: They send information directly to the supplier
­ either via the power cables or a short-range radio link ­ scrapping the need
for estimated bills.
Meaningful displays: The meters can display energy
consumption in monetary terms, rather than kilowatts and allow a company to
closely monitor where energy is being consumed and where it is being wasted ­
for example, devices left on standby.
Internet meters: The data can be accessed over the internet.

Pays in the long run
Although the initial energy meters can be costly ­ an estimated £150 to £200 per
meter for high energy users ­ according to Hampshire, “using the information
properly will make a return on investment of one to three years easily
achievable.”

The benefits of the meters rack up as companies can also use the information
gathered to assist in the breakdown of carbon emissions, which all listed
companies must now disclose as part of the business review. Hampshire believes
that, “the meters enable a much higher revolution of information to make
informed decisions using real-time information.”

Other benefits of the smart meter include:
• Flexible tariffs that charge different rates at different times;
• Capability of selling energy back to the supplier ­ for example, via solar
panels or wind turbines;
• For consumers, there will be one meter for gas and electricity, whether they
are pre-payment or credit, regardless of supplier; and
• Suppliers will be able to differentiate tariffs and services through offering
alternative means of displaying energy consumption ­ for example, through
mobiles, the internet or via digital television.
Hampshire believes the beauty of the smart meter is that “you are able to make
savings that you are currently not able to.”

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