Making smart meters even smarter

Sam Ibbott

Sam Ibbott reports on Environmental Industries Commission work to encourage businesses to seize the opportunities of energy efficiency.

We hear a lot about ‘smart meters’ these days, but in practice the devices currently being rolled out to millions of homes and businesses might more accurately be described as ‘slightly intelligent’ meters, in that they are clearly a step forward from the traditional ‘dumb’ meter but are far from a technological silver bullet for our energy management challenge.

"But what smart meters won’t achieve, at least without further interventions, is a saving in energy – they only provide the data which can enable this to happen."

As smart meter rollout begins to take hold and supporting advertising campaigns are developed and deployed, it is a sensible time to take stock of what they can achieve, what they can’t achieve, and what their potential could be with a little extra thought.

What they can achieve is a more accurate and streamlined metering and billing system, doing away with estimated bills and the need for a person to physically read the meter – the ‘slightly more intelligent’ bit. It is also intended that they will transform the way businesses monitor their energy usage, and their relationship with the companies which supply it. But what smart meters won’t achieve, at least without further interventions, is a saving in energy – they only provide the data which can enable this to happen.

It is from this starting point that the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), in collaboration with sustainability consultants Acclaro Advisory and with the support of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), undertook an industry-led research project to understand what further actions are needed by Government and businesses themselves to ensure that the smart meter rollout is a catalyst for a transformation in energy efficiency.

The resulting report – “Working Smarter: realising the potential of smart meters in business” – focuses on how we can embed this transformation in the non-domestic sector where smart meters will be rolled out by 2020, and where there is the greatest potential for energy efficiency gains. 

Following an industry-wide survey, three targeted workshops, and more in-depth one-to-one interviews, a series of recommendations have been put forward to both Government and businesses focused on enabling smart meter data to be used in driving long-term, embedded, behaviour change programmes. In other words, being smart with smart meter data.

To encourage this, some of the key recommendations from the report include:

·       Facilitating the benchmarking of energy use across sectors by developing an agreed taxonomy of buildings; publishing anonymised aggregated energy use data; and encouraging the provision of secondary level data (i.e. building context).

·       ‘Future-proofing’ smart meters by requiring the in-built capability to enable finer quality data to be captured.

·       Government facilitating the development of a standardised methodology to measure and verify the energy use benefits of behaviour change.

·       Businesses recognising that energy efficiency can be an investment opportunity, and including energy management in business planning.  

·       Appointing ‘energy champions’ to operate with the full support of senior management, and exploring the potential for long-term behaviour change programmes.

Both a summary and a full version of the report can be downloaded from EIC’s website, here.

Sam Ibbott, Deputy Public Affairs Director, EIC

EIC is the lead voice representing the UK’s environmental technologies and services sector – an industry worth £122bn to the domestic economy, and employing one million people. www.eic-uk.co.uk