Switch2 Blog

Smart metering and the resident

Posted by Ian Allan on 18-Nov-2016 10:11:50

The UK Government have commissioned a full scale roll out of smart metering for gas and electricity by the end of the decade. But will this leave residents on heat networks behind? It does not need to!

G6 flat with consumption graph - small.jpg

Many residents on community heating systems are already benefiting from smart metering. In fact you could go as far as saying that the technology used on some heat network schemes, provides consumers a better experience than gas and electricity smart meters.

Switch2 started to install smart meters for community heating back in 2012, by using the G6 pay-as-you-go meter. This at the time, and still is in some cases, is ahead of the game for providing residents with real knowledge and insight into their energy usage. This also gives control back to the resident on how much heat they use per hour but also holds many benefits for the scheme operator too.

But first, what is smart metering?

Smart meters are meters that:

  1. Can be read automatically by the scheme operator/billing provider to provide reliable and accurate bills
  2. Have an in home display so residents can easily check when and how they are using their heating - they stay in control
  3. Have a PAYG system built in to allow residents to make convenient top-up, online, by apps or over the phone - no unexpected bills, again, staying in control

The benefits

In our experience, the benefits of smart metering should never be underestimated. It supplies both the resident and the scheme operator with the information they need to make thoughtful decisions about their heating systems. 

Getting the billing right

The fact that bills are accurate means that the frustrations of estimated billing is removed. This in turn means that the resident is only paying for what they have used, and not an estimated amount- which can cause the resident to be either in debt or owed money once an accurate reading has been taken.

Daily metering isn’t just for billing

With meters being read on a daily basis, it allows the scheme operator the ability to detect when a resident may be having issues with their heating system.

For example: If the resident is a high energy user, it may be that they need guidance on setting their heating times and temperatures, to get the most out of their system - or perhaps they may need help with setting a budget friendly heating programme, that will not only keep them warm and toasty through winter, but also within their means.

Daily meter reads can assist the scheme operator to help the resident and keep them safe. by checking their daily reads for vulnerable and/or older residents,  the scheme operator can ensure that they are staying warm over winter and keep an eye out for erratic behaviour with their heating consumption and in turn offer the support or advice wherever needed.

Prepay and smart metering

Over the years, we have found the stigma of prepay or pay-as-you-go devices for energy has lifted. Infact, a recent study found that 59% of 18-34 yr olds are interested in prepaying for their utilities.  This increase in preference has strengthened due to the conveniences that are now available for topping-up (online, on an app of over the phone).

Of course the case for PAYG has not been helped by the electricity and gas industry who have charged a higher tariff for customers on PAYG. At Switch2 we believe that this is not justified.

Key takeaways

  • Smart metering is the next generation of metering, and by 2020 it will be an obligation for utility providers to offer this - and we cannot allow heat network residents to be left behind
  • There are already many smart meters installed on communal heating schemes across the UK (20,000 of which are the G6 pay-as-you-go meter)
  • The benefits outweigh the negatives for smart meters with AMR, it protects the resident but also helps the scheme operator manage the scheme

Joined up thinking: Putting residents at the centre of your community heating scheme

Topics:

Ian Allan

Head of R&D at Switch2