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Smart meters: the verdict

With more than 3.5 million devices now fitted in homes across the UK, Britain’s smart meter rollout is well underway.

By 2020 all UK households will have been offered a smart meter by their energy supplier.

Unprecedented in its scale, the rollout is an essential technology upgrade to the UK’s energy infrastructure that will give consumers greater control over their energy consumption by providing them with accurate bills and showing them exactly how much they’re spending in near real time. Furthermore, smart meters provide accurate meter readings directly to suppliers, ensuring that customers only ever pay for what they use.

Smart Energy GB, the national campaign for the smart meter rollout works with Populus to carry out Smart Energy Outlook; the largest piece of insight into peoples’ attitudes towards energy and smart meters.

The survey speaks to approximately 10,000 people across England, Wales and Scotland twice yearly. Our findings point to a promising future for smart meters as the rollout continues.

Smart meter satisfaction consistently high

As the number of installations increases, those who already have a smart meter are reaping the benefits of this new technology. In fact, eight out of ten (79%) of people with a smart meter would recommend one. People with low incomes are the most likely (86%) to recommend a smart meter, followed closely by people with young children. This suggests that smart meters are already having a positive impact by helping people to keep track of their spending.

Chart 1

The results also show that the positive effects of smart meters increase over time. This is evidenced by the fact that people who have been using a smart meter for over a year are more likely to feel that they understand their energy bills and think that their bill is accurate, versus those who have had one for less than a year.

Chart 2

Helping the consumer stay in control

A separate piece of Populus research, which looked at consumer behaviour in the energy sector, found that there is widespread disengagement. In fact, we would class two-thirds (67%) of energy customers as “Inert”. They don’t shop around for the best energy price and just over a quarter of them don’t even know how much they are paying each month for their gas and electricity. In all likelihood they are paying far more than they need to.

The smart meter roll out looks set to change this.

The latest research for Smart Energy GB reveals that 69% of people with smart meters feel more in control of their energy use. A substantial 84% of smart meter users also say that the new technology has given them a better idea of what they’re spending on energy.

The results suggest that new smart meter technology is disrupting the status quo of the energy market by equipping customers with a better understanding of their energy use and what they’re spending.

Chart 3

Knowledge is power

The information provided by smart meters is giving those that use them more control over buying and using energy. Without it, customers may not have the best deal or could be paying more than they need to.

The findings show that people with smart meters on the other hand have a better understanding of their bills, which they believe to be accurate. This knowledge empowers them to shop around for the right supplier and the best tariff for them.

Smart technology also offers an opportunity for suppliers; they can tap into the benefits of smart meters to improve customer perceptions. This is supported by the fact that those who currently have a smart meter are more likely to trust their supplier.

Chart 4

Doing their bit for the environment

By showing energy customers exactly how much energy they are consuming and spending, smart meters have encouraged people to reduce the amount of energy they are using at home. A considerable 80% have taken at least one step to use less energy, with turning the heating down/off and turning off lights being the most popular measures.

The future of the energy sector

Our findings indicate that smart meters are already beginning to have a big impact on the energy sector. Certainly, the attitudes uncovered by the survey are an encouraging sign. By the end of the rollout, we might see a more open, transparent market in which consumers feel empowered to make more decisions over their energy supply.

Read the full Smart Energy Outlook report for more key findings.

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