What is the point of smart meters?

Don’t understand them, am I going to turn my oven off or washer because I see the dial or whatever going round, you have the appliances, you have to pay for their usage, what is the point of the meters, they only help the supplier,

@kathleen2422 the point is more to have accurate bills. Most people dont submit meter readings. and dont really know how much energy costs. You wouldn’t be happy with a phone bill that was “we think is is how much you owe us” so why should your elec and gas bills be different.
The fact is that old meters are just that, old and outdated. and the gas and elec industry need modernising. Smart meters are how that is happening.

They wont only help the supplier, they will ultimately create an energy industry that is more transparent and fairer for the customer.

@kathleen2422 , @hiphopopotamus is right the main advantage of smart meters the removal of estimated bills. Many customers can go months or sometimes without submitting a reading. This means when a meter reading is taken it can lead to unexpectedly high bills that they may not be able to pay.

The greater clarity and accuracy benefits both the customer and supplier. Customers won’t be lulled into a false sense of security by underestimated bills. They’ll also be able to adjust their usage quickly if it seems their bills are getting out of hand.

I think it’s the policy design that needs to ensure there is sufficient price signal accompanied by smart meters that can help shift usage in a more efficient manner. And this be the only way for the public to see real benefit from smart meters. You probably wouldn’t switch off your fridge for 30 min for £2, but what about £30?

Interesting discussion points - assuming there are benefits to be had, I do wonder what the payback period is likely to be. As pointed out above, we will all be paying for the programme ultimately (whether or not you chose to accept a smart meter). Interactive grid services would be interested, particularly for those able to installed solar / powerwall types of systems - although probably not for us as our roof faces the wrong way! I guess that eventually if smart meters do enable suppliers to manage their contracts more efficiently then we may benefit to some degree.

I believe that the roll out to smart meters is a way to switch us all to variable tariffs,

For example you may be charged much more to use electricity during peak times and much cheaper when off peak, I think this is the only way that the grid will be able to cope with increased future demand, The cost will drive behavioral change…

@ellison you have to give permission for you energy company to share your data with others. If you dont want them to do that then you dont have to. Also energy companies aren't in the business of cutting people off. if you have DD then you will never be cut off, you'll run up debt if you dont pay you bill but will never be cut off. If you have a key meter/prepayment style smart meter then when you run out of credit your energy will stop but you're not cut off, you just need to top up.

Cutting people off is very bad for business and very very bad PR so it wont happen.

Actually in certain cases you have to opt out rather than in,not to have your data shared

I have smart meters installed although the display no longer works since Ive switched to Bulb.There are some advantages to having smart meters ,however that doesn’t negate the facts that they can harvest data ,and you can be remotely cut off for whatever reasons.

@ellison your first link has nothing to do with smart meters, its a database of pre-pay customers, not smart meter database. and i cant read the FT article because I’m not s subscriber.

What reasons are you worried about being cut off for?

Behavioural change is precisely what SM’s are designed to achieve…along with making the market for energy more efficient.

The electricity network is increasingly reliant on renewables. We need to be able to shift demand where possible to match supply, rather than the traditional approach of matching supply to demand. I would be happy to time my washing machine, dish washer and EV to coincide with cheaper (and greener) electricity…but that isn’t possible at the moment. SM’s are the technology which will open up a wide range of possibilities…not having to read the meter is just the start!

Behavioural change is precisely what SM's are designed to achieve...along with making the market for energy more efficient.

The electricity network is increasingly reliant on renewables. We need to be able to shift demand where possible to match supply, rather than the traditional approach of matching supply to demand. I would be happy to time my washing machine, dish washer and EV to coincide with cheaper (and greener) electricity…but that isn’t possible at the moment. SM’s are the technology which will open up a wide range of possibilities…not having to read the meter is just the start!

Very eloquently said.

An interesting discussion!

I’ve been mostly cynical here, please add less cynical smart meter comments below :smile:

I think there are a few distinct potential parts of a smart meter which are quite different in terms of what they might offer for the customer, and what they might offer for the supplier.

  • The first that companies try and sell you on is some kind of display that you have elsewhere in your house to tell you how much energy you are using (at that time, and over a time period of an hour/day/week) and how much that might cost you.
    This is not a new technology and does not require a smart meter. Energy monitoring devices are typically a single plug for monitoring individual appliances, but units that connect at your consumer unit have been available for years with the same smart meter functionality.
    Your supplier is going to give it to you for free, but some of the first generation ones really were little more than a gimmick so we’ll have to wait and see what starts being offered in 2018.

  • Then there is the capability for the meter to inform your supplier of how much energy you have used/are using. This could be considered an invasion of privacy if it’s tracking your use over a short time period (say a reading every 5 minutes), but it could equally just be reporting your usage once a week/month to ensure the supplier has the correct reading without you having to manually read the meter.
    Remember that energy companies have to offer you a smart meter for free, so most of them are likely to want something in return which in most cases will be more data. A reduction in your energy consumption does not help your supplier although as @hiphopopotamus said above, if they can more accurately trade energy based on demand, this could save them money.
    I suspect however that Bulb will be very open about their plans, what data will be submitted to them and what they’ll use it for.

  • The third major thing that I’ve seen discussed is the ability to use cheaper electricity by switching appliances on at different times. Now maybe your in-home display tells you when energy is cheaper but again, a smart meter isn’t necessarily required for that; economy 7/10 on standard meters works just fine and it’s more dependent on the power hungry device knowing what time it is than anything else.
    A smart meter does open up the potential for charging for electricity at all sorts of odd rates based on demand though, so a cynic might suggest that economy 7 and 10 are going to go away and power companies will start charging us on a constantly variable rate based on demand right at that very moment. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing but having people who are already struggling choosing to turn off their heating when it’s the coldest because their smart meter told them it’s surge pricing time (à la Uber) might not be so good.

If you simply want to use the greenest energy (and aren’t concerned about the price), you could vary your usage based on the current production of renewable energy (or see this for a more readable example).
Hmm, that gives me an idea for an internet connected socket…

So after all that, I believe that we should ask questions and try and keep our privacy as intact as possible, but just make the most of what we’re offered and perhaps just accept them as a necessary tool in the sustainable future that we all want.

@ellison, I share your concerns about privacy and there’s nothing to stop energy companies having their terms and conditions state that you agree with all data collection. There are enough players in the market that I suspect there would be nothing legally put in place stopping them from doing so.
I can forsee it being a case of “If you don’t like it, move suppliers”.

@hiphopopotamus, do you think that the pre-pay customers were asked if they wanted to have their information on this database?
Even if your supplier sent you an email informing you of a change to Ts & Cs, would you read it all? Would everyone?

There’s a big reason why I would recommend Bulb to everyone I know and it wouldn’t be because they can get £50 (or indeed I can get £50), or because it’s all renewable electricity (companies have been doing that for years), or because it’s cheap.
I’d recommend Bulb because so far I trust them to not be terrible people.

Great discussion everyone!

Just to pick up on a few points I’ve seen floating around.

  1. Bulb are not into the business of cutting people off. It’s not really our vibe. There’s also a large amount of regulation in place to reign in the baddies of the industry too. You need at least 3 home visits before anyone is allowed to switch off a credit supply so it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight!

  2. Data. We only want to use the data to help you. Both in terms of accurate bills and helping you reduce your consumption. We’ll be as clear as possible with all the ways the data is used :slight_smile:

  3. Demand management. There is some super cool stuff going on in the industry at the moment, but it’s mainly at a business, not residential level. For the energy management that you’re speaking of, all the homes in the UK will need smart meters attached, so it’s still a way off. Rest assured Bulb wants to stick to our motto (simpler, cheaper, greener :wink: ) so we’ll be keeping up with the times in a way that’s easy to follow and beneficial to you.

At the end of the day, as cheesy as it sounds, we just want the best for you lot! We want to be able to send you out the smallest greenest statement we can each month :1:

Hi @“Helen at Bulb”, I think people just need a thread to complain and be cynical about traditional energy companies!

You mentioned the motto “simpler, cheaper, greener”, is that an official motto?
Do you have an official mission statement?

@mowcius Sort of, yes! It encompasses what we want to achieve as a supplier.

On my earlier comment, I obviously hadn’t read through my welcome pack properly:

  • 6.3. If you have a smart meter that we can read without visiting your property, you agree that:
    • ...
    • 6.3.2. We may use it to remotely monitor the energy you use; and
    • 6.3.3. You have the right to opt-out if you do not wish us to access energy data for periods of less than one month. To exercise your right to opt-out you must email us at hello@bulb.co.uk

I presume people can opt-out in advance and that information will be kept on file until they get a smart meter next year?

@mowcius When we get in contact offering the smart meters, the opting out can be completed then by response of email.

@danp, can people not opt-out in advance then?

Especially if the answer is no, perhaps in the spirit of openness, this specific part of the welcome pack can be reiterated when people get their Smart Meters? It’s likely that even those who may want to opt out will have forgotten by the time that happens.

@mowcius Yes, as we let everyone know that smart meters are available, they’ll be given the option to ‘opt out’ of both receiving one and of Bulb accessing their data on a daily or half-hourly basis.

@Sam_Bulb, thanks for the response, that’s good to hear :smile: