We believe that smart meters can revolutionise people’s interactions with energy by enabling greater understanding and control over energy use. We wanted to get people talking about the difference smart meters can make, so we conducted British Gas’ first ever Smart Meter Challenge*, equipping 14 households with smart meters and asking them to share their experiences with the nation.
The Challenge ran for 10 weeks over summer 2014 and during the time, households conducted a series of experiments to see how energy aware and efficient they could become with the aid of smart meter and smart energy monitor, which shows energy use in real time together with its cost.
Overall, participants used 7% less electricity while gas consumption declined 6% compared to similar homes without smart meters. This was due to the households being more aware of their energy consumption, enabling them to make more informed choices about when to cut back and make savings. If this energy-efficient behaviour continued for a year, an average of £66 (6%) would be saved from their annual energy bill**.
The experiment found that smart meters had redefined energy relationship in three key ways:
- Energy had gone from being invisible, technical and confusing to something that could be easily measured, visualised and understood. The households told us that monthly or quarterly bills made it difficult to keep track of their energy use and as a result, half of the households said they would like to become more aware of their energy use but didn’t have the time to worry about it. At the end of the challenge, this concern had been eradicated because they could see exactly how much energy they were using and how it was being consumed.
- Smart meters put people in control of their energy use and made it far easier to appreciate how small, sustainable changes could make a significant difference to their consumption. Before the experiment, only one in 14 households felt in control of their energy use. By the end of the Challenge however, 12 out of 14 households felt more in control over their consumption with all being pleasantly surprised at how small changes, such as turning down the water temperature a couple of degrees, could make a real, ongoing difference to consumption and costs.
- Smart meters took the stress out of energy management and, like banking apps or online shopping, helped make it more central to modern life.Before the Challenge, participants felt energy hadn’t kept pace with other technological advances, demonstrated by only five out of 14 households feeling it was easy to take gas and electricity meter readings. But with smart meters automatically sending readings to the energy supplier, this had dramatically improved to 13 out of 14 households.
* The Challenge was conducted alongside the independent research agency, The Futures Company.
** The potential dual fuel annual saving includes VAT and is based on Ofgem’s average annual consumption of 13,500 kWh of gas and 3,200 kWh of electricity per customer on the British Gas standard variable tariff, paying by monthly direct debit averaged across UK regions. Excludes discounts and standing charges.