If your business hasn’t already been swept up in the smart meter rollout, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the technology that’s aiming to make business energy easier, fairer, and more transparent.
It’s not yet compulsory to have a smart meter installed, and some small business owners might still have unanswered questions about how exactly a smart meter works.
If you do have questions, this is the page for you. We’re going to explain what a smart meter is, why it’s important, and how you can get one.
What is a smart meter?
Put simply, your business’ smart meter automatically sends gas and electricity readings to your business energy supplier. By reducing the need for manual readings, your life is easier and your bills are more accurate, as you’re only charged for the energy you use.
How does a smart meter for your business work?
In order to submit your readings, a smart meter for business uses similar technology to a mobile phone (though you don’t need a mobile phone signal to get one) with energy data transmitted to your supplier through a wireless network.
With the help of top cyber security experts, including the government and GCHQ, smart meters have been designed specifically to prevent hacking, and operate on their own dedicated communications system.
By default, readings will probably be collected once a month, though you can request to have more regular readings if you’d prefer. However, later this year, new microbusiness customers won’t be able to opt out of sharing their electricity meter readings on a half-hourly basis, though existing microbusiness customers will continue to be able to opt out until they change supplier or contract.
And although the process is entirely automatic, if you are with a supplier that provides them, the in-home display enables you to monitor your energy usage. This could help you to reduce costs and improve your business energy efficiency.
Smart meter benefits
Smart meters for commercial premises have a number of key benefits over your traditional energy meter.
As accurate, up to date information is delivered direct to your supplier straight from your meter with no need for a manual reading, this reduces human error and ensures that your bills are completely fair and correct.
If you receive an In-Home Display (IHD), smart meters make it easy to monitor your business energy usage by day, week, and month. You can then identify periods of increased usage and look for ways to cut down and save money.
Save the environment
One of the main drivers behind the smart meter rollout is their superior green credentials. By installing a smart meter in your business, you can help the UK reach its net zero targets in several ways.
Firstly, with an IHD, the ability to monitor your energy encourages you to cut down on unnecessary usage, such as turning off unneeded appliances and limiting temperature control measures, which reduces emissions.
Secondly, by providing accurate information about how much energy people are using throughout the day and the year, suppliers can manage supply and demand more efficiently, which should help reduce reliance on fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy sources.
How to get a smart meter for your business
Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees, or their full time equivalent may be eligible for a smart meter, and your business energy supplier is legally obliged to offer you one if you are.
However, if the signal at their premises is not yet strong enough or they have limited space, some businesses may not be quite ready to have a smart meter installed.
If you think you are eligible for a smart meter, and you haven’t already been contacted by your energy supplier, you should reach out to ask them when one is likely to be installed.
Also, be aware that you have no obligation to remain with your current supplier in order to get a smart meter, or even if they’ve already installed one. The second generation of smart meters, SMETS 2, allow you to switch supplier without any disruption to your meter readings.
If you have a first-generation smart meter (SMETS1) and you switch supplier and get a new smart meter installed, you may have to provide readings manually until you get your new meter. However, you don’t need a new smart meter if you switch supplier as the SMETS1 will be enrolled into the Digital Communications Company (DCC).
Costs and installation
You can have a smart meter installed at no extra cost to your business. Once you’ve agreed to have a smart meter, you just need to arrange a suitable time for an engineer to visit your premises and install it. Your new meter should be installed in the same place as your old one. Some suppliers will do so at no extra cost to your business, though it’s not a guarantee.
In total, the whole process should take between one and two hours, during which time your electricity and/or gas will need to be switched off.
While you have the engineer on site, don’t hesitate to ask them any questions. They should show you how to read the display if you get one with your supplier, give you a copy of the instructions, and ensure you know who to contact in the event that something goes wrong with the smart meter for your business.
For more information about the benefits of installing a smart meter in your workplace, visit the Smart Energy GB at smartenergygb.org
This article is part of a paid-for information campaign for Smart Energy GB.