The U.K.’s goal is to have gas and electricity smart meters installed in every home and small business by 2019.
The country’s rollout is on a path to success because it is supplier-led. Among U.K. energy suppliers, British Gas is a leader in new meter deployment with some 600,000 meters installed. According to a survey by the Energy and Utilities Alliance, 73 percent of customers said smart meters changed the way they thought about energy. Customer satisfaction also increased, and 56 percent of customers said they were very likely to recommend a smart meter to a friend or relative*.
Here are the key takeaways from the U.K. smart meter rollouts, which have been by and large positive –
Across much of the world, utilities are treating smart metering as a network issue mandated by public utility commissions. It’s about peak demand reduction, encouraging consumers to change their consumption habits, so on and so forth. On the contrary, Britain has a very consumer-focused approach to smart metering. It’s one of the very few supplier-led, rather than network-led, rollouts. In addition to this, the regulators work with the suppliers to define a code of practice which clearly lays out how the suppliers would engage the consumers for metering rollouts.
Consumer Engagement & Education
Some early mandated smart meter deployments in the US and Australia were not received well by the customers. California witnessed public backlash and complaints regarding meter accuracy when customers saw dramatic increases in their bills. The new time-of-use tariffs introduced alongside smart meters in Victoria, Australia were criticized for disproportionately penalizing the elderly and disabled. The common theme was the lack of consumer education and engagement.
Granting customers the right to opt in, opt out and access data usage shapes customer sentiment about smart metering. Consumers dislike being forced to do something. Consequently, customer tariffs have been unpopular in some countries, particularly when tariffs seek to modify behavior by penalizing peak usage. Suppliers that take a customer-focused approach to metering data can use the data to change customer engagement. With granular usage data, customer service centers can resolve customer billing queries quickly, accurately and actively and market tariffs to each customer’s consumption pattern.