UK consumers keen on smart metering

Some 70 per cent of energy customers believed new smart metering technology would help them reduce their energy consumption, a YouGov poll carried out for the Energy Retail Association (ERA) has found .

The survey of nearly 2,000 UK adults follows backing for the technology from the government at the end of last month just before the third reading of the Energy Bill at parliament. It also decided to consult on the impact of a national roll out of smart meters rather than the compromise of electricity display devices.

The advantage over display devices is the facility for two-way communication between electricity and gas meters and energy suppliers in real time. Smart meters will also allow people who generate their own electricity at home from such sustainable sources as wind and solar energy or 'micro-generation' to sell it back to the national grid. Three out of four (75 per cent) of the people surveyed found the concept of micro-generation appealing.

Duncan Sedgwick, ERA chief executive, said: "It is clear that the public want to save energy and be more energy efficient but they don't yet have the tools to do this."

Nearly four out of five (79 per cent) believed the introduction of smart meter technology would eliminate many of the costs of providing a pre-pay meter and more tariff options will be available to these customers.

Moreover, 73 per cent would be interested in these new energy tariffs. Customers are expected to be able to choose a tariff with varying prices for energy depending on what time of day the energy is use - allowing cheaper energy during off-peak periods.

Older people were most enthusiastic about the benefits the new technology will bring, particularly on the issue of new tariffs. And 35 44 year-olds were also in favour of variable tariffs, with 77 per cent expressing an interest in them.

A clear majority (70 per cent) of consumers believed it was important to be able to switch instantly between pay monthly and pay as you go tariffs for buying electricity and gas, just as they can with mobile phones. This was most appealing to 25 to 34 year olds, with 75 per cent seeing the importance of this flexibility, compared with 68 per cent of over 55s.

But the metering technology has been around a long time, according to Alex Kwiatkowski, lead analyst in the energy and utilities technology unit for researcher Datamonitor.

"While the government has given backing to smart metering, it is far from clear as to who will carry the cost of implementation," he said. "Utility companies are resistant to the idea of funding this massive, multi-billion pound expenditure out of their own coffers and will be looking to pass the charge onto the consumer."

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.