Smart meters – a cornerstone of future energy policy

By Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive, Smart Energy GB

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Over the coming weeks, ahead of the Paris Climate conference, the best minds in the energy world will be grappling with some huge issues.

How quickly can we reduce emissions? How best do we supply the energy the world needs for the coming decades?

This comes amid sharp debate in the UK on our own energy mix – in particular the future of nuclear power and renewable energy – alongside regular debate of the experiences consumers are having with their gas and electricity, particular when they’re on low budgets.

With so much focus on the supply of future energy needs, it’s vital that we don’t ignore the demand side too.

The amount of energy we must generate depends, of course, on the amount of energy consumers and businesses want and need.

Energy efficiency and demand management have long been a key part of Labour’s energy policy. One vital component is the smart meter programme – initiated under a Labour government in 2008.

Between now and 2020, smart meters will be offered to every home in Britain, at no extra cost. That means 26 million homes and 4 million microbusinesses – it’s a national programme that will touch us all.

In all around 53 million smart meters will be installed. It’s the biggest infrastructure project of recent times and every political party agrees that the transformation it will bring for consumers is essential.
The meters will bring an end to estimated bills, and allow customers to see how much their gas and electricity is actually costing in pounds and pence.  In future, they will make it easier to shop around for energy and open the door to smarter, greener appliances in our homes – all of which will bring down our bills.

This energy revolution is now gathering pace. In 2016 the roll-out will accelerate further as the main installation phase begins.

Our research shows that once customers have a smart meter fitted, they are much more aware of their energy usage.  Nearly eight in ten people with smart meters take steps to use less energy.  For the first time, energy is becoming something we can engage with and take control of. 

The secure national network that is being built to carry smart meter data will support the development of the digital energy infrastructure and smarter grids that we need to meet our future energy needs.
There are many questions, of course, about what Jeremy Corbyn’s election will mean for the direction of Labour’s energy policy. 

During the leadership campaign, he promised to convene an Energy Commission to produce a “route-map” to a new, cleaner more “democratic” energy system.

Whilst Smart Energy GB plays no part in these big debates about party policy, I do believe that customer engagement needs to be at the centre of any plan.  

Households can now connect with their energy use via their smart meters, and changes in the energy retail market will increasingly be driven by customer choice.

Smart meters are also a vital tool in the battle against fuel poverty.

People with pre-pay meters will be able to recharge their accounts without the inconvenience of having to trudge out to the shops to buy top-ups, and without paying the premium prices associated with current pre-pay meters.

As ever in the energy sector, there’s much to discuss!

We’ll be considering all of these issues at the Smart Energy GB fringe event at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton with Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Gary Smith from the GMB, Audrey Gallacher of Citizens Advice and the New Statesman.  I hope we’ll see you there. 

Smart Energy GB fringe event in association with New Statesman

Beyond the price freeze: where next for Labour and energy policy?

Tuesday 29th September 2015, 12.30 – 1.30pm

Tennyson Room, Thistle Hotel, Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 2GS (outside secure zone)

With Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Audrey Gallacher from Citizens Advice, Gary Smith from GMB, Lawrence Slade from Energy UK, Sacha Deshmukh from Smart Energy GB