British Gas has today published the results of its revolutionary smart meter experiment in which 14 homes across Britain took part. The experiment was carried out by independent research agency The Futures Company and the key findings are summarised in a full report available here.
The British Gas National Smart Meter Challenge ran for over 10 weeks, in which the households conducted a series of experiments to see how energy efficient they could be with the aid of smart meters and a smart energy monitor (the in-home display that shows energy use in near-real time, and its cost).
During the experiment, it was found that participants used 6% less gas and 7% less electricity than similar homes without smart meters, simply by being more aware of their energy use*. If this energy-efficient behavior continued for a year, they will save an average of £66 off their annual energy bill (6%)**.
The Challenge is the first of its kind in Britain and the most detailed study ever undertaken by British Gas into the way smart meters, and the smart energy monitor can revolutionise home energy use.
At the beginning of the 10 week study, energy was an abstract object over which the participants in the study felt they had little control. By the end, their relationship with it had been redefined in three ways:
1. Energy had gone from something invisible, technical and confusing to something that could more easily be measured, visualised and understood.
2. The smart meters put those taking part in control and made it far easier to appreciate how small, sustainable changes could make a significant difference to energy use.
3. Smart meters took the stress out of energy and, like banking apps or online shopping, helped make energy management a more central aspect of modern life.
Jorge Pikunic, Managing Director Smart Metering at British Gas, said: “We launched this Challenge to explore just how energy efficient people could be. Our families were clearly surprised about how small changes to everyday habits can make a big difference to how much energy you use. But to know what changes to make, people need real time information and smart meters provide just that.
For the first time, smart meters put people genuinely in control of their energy use. They will truly transform the way we interact with and manage energy consumption.”
The participants’ perception of energy as invisible and confusing came from only seeing their bills monthly or quarterly, making it hard to keep track of how they were using energy. At the start of the 10 weeks, seven out of 14 households agreed they would like to be more aware of their energy use, but didn’t have the time to worry about it. At the end of the challenge, none of the households had this concern as they felt educated and able to see exactly what they were using.
The second main finding was how little control the households felt they had over their energy consumption before the challenge, with just one out of 14 feeling in control of their gas and electricity use. All households were pleasantly surprised when they realised they only needed to make small changes to make a real difference to their consumption and cost. Participants found one-off actions, like turning off radiators in rooms they didn’t use, or turning down the water temperature a couple of degrees, were simple, quick actions that helped them be more energy-efficient.
Finally, before the Challenge, households felt energy hadn’t kept pace with other things in their lives: for example, using apps to monitor how many calories they ate, or the number of steps they took in a day. This significantly changed by the end. At the start, only five out of 14 households felt it was very easy to take gas and electricity readings but by the end of the Challenge this had risen to 13 out of 14 households.
Katie from Bradford who took part in the Challenge said: “My bills change all the time and the cost is always more than I expect.” But after having smart meters and the smart energy monitor installed in her home she knew exactly how much she was spending every day. And she was seeing things very differently as a result: “Electricity only costs me about £1.36 a day, and you can’t get much else for that, can you?”
- If you would like to interview one of the households please contact Sarah Skinner or Andy Rogerson on +44 20 7260 2700 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the National Smart Meter Challenge
- 14 homes challenged themselves to be more energy efficient using new British Gas smart meter technology
- Five weeks of challenges investigated attitudes and behaviours around their energy use, the impact of a ‘digital detox’, and delved into their real relationship with energy around their home
- The Futures Company analysed the results each week to report on the impact smart meters have on people’s behaviour and their awareness and control of their household energy use
About Smart Meters
- Smart meters replace existing standard gas and electricity meters and will be introduced to homes and businesses as standard by 2020.
- They come with a smart energy monitor that displays how much gas and electricity is being used, and its cost in pound and pence in near-real-time. That information is shared with energy suppliers automatically, putting an end to estimated bills and meter readings.
- Having this sort of insight will mean people have greater understanding of how they’re spending their energy.
*We looked at how much gas and electricity our study households used over the period of the Challenge and compared that with like-for-like households (who had exactly the same pre-Challenge energy consumption) without smart meters over the same period.
**The potential dual fuel annual saving of £66 including VAT is based on Ofgem 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.