Towards a Smarter Future

Chairman of the NAPIT Trade Association, Frank Bertie, discusses the ongoing smart meter rollout and the impact it will have on households, businesses and tradespeople across the UK.

The smart revolution is well and truly underway, with smart meters at the core of the transition to smart homes and businesses. Based on recent statistics, the Government’s 2011 target to install around 53 million smart meters in homes and businesses across Great Britain by 2020 is on track to be accomplished. The transition to smart meters will benefit the UK in a multitude of ways, which is why NAPIT are supportive of the rollout and are exploring ways to boost its progress. In this blog post, I will discuss smart meters in greater detail and explore their impact.  

To quickly sum smart meters up, their primary benefit is that they provide users with consistent information on their energy usage and costs. Additionally, smart meters are directly installed by the customer’s energy company free of charge, thus making the process of having one installed far more simple and less of a hassle for the customer. Based on these facts alone, smart meters will be very beneficial to households and businesses. In terms of the bigger picture, smart meters will help to enable the creation of a smart grid, which promises to provide a new way of running the UK’s energy networks.

The rollout itself was initially spurred on by the European Union, which asked all member governments to look at smart meters as part of measures to improve energy supply and tackle climate change. Since then, most EU members have been rolling them out to households and businesses in their respective countries. It is worth mentioning that the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are just a few countries which have already benefitted massively from smart meters.

The reason behind the push for smart meter installations is obvious when considering the positive environmental impact that they will have. Given that a smart meter, connected to a smart grid, gives consumers regular information on how much energy they’re using; studies have suggested that European households have already managed to reduce their energy consumption by an average of 10%. Intertwined, smart energy alongside a smart grid has the potential to open many new and exciting doors. For example, it has been suggested that smart grid technologies will provide the infrastructure to use electric vehicles whilst keeping the electricity system stable. Alongside this, there is potential for smart meters to be installed in public charging poles to help ensure that customers are accurately billed when using them.

Indeed, whilst the rollout has been on track, there have been a few recent hiccups which have raised concerns about the standards of smart meter installations. In June, BBC Watchdog included a feature on smart meters and instances of house fires. Responding to this feature, a spokesman from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy stated ‘In the first half of 2017, there have been only 18 reported installation issues in the fitting of more than 3 million meters during the same period’. Nevertheless, these reports did catch our eye at NAPIT and this is an area that we will be investigating further.

In essence, everything that one would need to know about the installation of smart meters is featured in the Smart Meter Installation Code of Practice (SMICoP). The Code of Practice lays out very strict guidelines on the installation process, including the necessity for members to recruit qualified installers and the procedure for fault resolution. At NAPIT we suggest that tradespeople who work in environments where smart meters are installed should look over the Code of Practice and familiarise themselves with the installation process. This will vastly improve your ability to provide advice to customers if required.

Despite the strictness of the Code of Practice, it is clear that faulty installations do still happen. At this point further issues could arise unless additional steps are taken. These steps would ultimately need to be taken by customers, however there is no reason why tradespeople and the industry can’t raise awareness and give advice if asked. The Smart Energy GB website provides a lot of information in this regard, so it is recommended that customers are directed to the website if they have any concerns.

To assist with the issue of faulty installations, NAPIT believes that an assessment and/or inspection programme of smart meter installations would contribute significantly in solving the issue of faulty installations.

To conclude, NAPIT is very excited about the smart meter rollout and how it will revolutionize the way we use energy in the UK. Households and businesses across the country will all benefit from using them, whilst their environmental impact will vastly improve the UK’s carbon footprint. On the reports of faulty installations, NAPIT hopes that industry and tradespeople play a greater role in understanding smart meters and playing their part when necessary. With all things considered, the smart revolution is just over the horizon.

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