Commercial smart meters succeed where domestic have failed

Smart meters will be installed in every UK home and business by 2020. Or at least, that was the plan. Progress on the national smart meter roll-out has been slow and the timeline for delivery has been punctuated with various setbacks and delays. Problems with the technology have resulted in criticism from utility companies, consumer groups and even some MPs, who labelled the project a “costly failure” back in March. Faith in the scheme has gradually eroded and is now at an all-time low. Most end-users are asking whether the meagre potential savings are worth all the extra effort while some privacy groups believe smart meters are just another 'big brother' tool installed by the overbearing state. It is important though, that we don’t lose sight of the long list of benefits associated with smart meters. This is especially true for business customers, who stand to gain a lot more from the smart meter project than domestic users.

Concern about domestic smart meters

In September of last year, MPs warned that, after factoring in the cost of installing a smart energy meter, consumers would save only about £26 per year. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also warned that the technology could be out of date by the time the roll-out is completed. Margaret Hodge, who chaired the committee said: “Despite consumers footing the bill, they can on average make a saving of only 2% on the average annual bill of £1,328 by the time the roll out is complete." The cost of installing a smart energy meter, which will indirectly be passed onto consumers in the form of higher monthly bills, is concerning for users - especially if they are hesitant about changing their consumption habits. These concerns though, are only relevant to domestic energy users. The situation for non-domestic consumers is more favourable.

Advantages for commercial smart metering

While there is a long list of potential problems for homeowners and landlords, those running businesses, even small businesses, stand to gain a lot more from the smart metering project than homeowners. Why? Well there are a number of key reasons.
  1. More to lose
Business customers use more energy than domestic consumers. It can be argued, therefore, that the potential savings are greater for business users than domestic users. One resource from the Carbon Trust reported that the average SME could save over £1,000 per year on its energy bills. There’s also more ‘low hanging fruit’ savings of the type which energy managers love. A photocopier left on overnight, for example, wastes enough energy to make 30 cups of tea.
  1. Businesses can afford more advanced metering systems
Smart meters give a broad picture of overall consumption in real time. This is probably enough for most homeowners, but for businesses who want to bring down their bills more significantly, this basic functionality is not always enough. Additional systems like online reporting platforms which track your consumption across time, and ‘sub-metering’ systems which can track consumption more accurately, will yield far richer data sets. This kind of information can be used by internal energy managers or external data collectors to make more complex energy saving recommendations. Supermarkets like Asda and Tesco have used this type of advanced energy management software and hardware to reduce their energy consumption by as much as 30%.
  1. Go green to be seen
For businesses, cutting energy bills is not the only motivator. Businesses can also profit from having an environmentally friendly reputation which can feedback and reinforce a company’s brand. Unlike domestic energy-users who stand to save 2% on their annual energy bill, business-users can actually use these green credentials to attract more customers and sell more products. It’s a win-win situation.  

Published by Utility Helpline on