Do ‘smart’ meters really change energy use?
The Government’s £11bn plans to have energy smart meters installed in every home by 2020 to reduce consumption may not have much effect, as people tend to ignore them after a while, according to new research presented today to the international conference in London of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).
By showing information on in-home visual displays, smart meters allow households to see how much electricity and gas they are using in real time, with the aim of helping them to save energy and money.
But the results of a 12-month study by Dr Tom Hargreaves, of the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, in homes where monitors displaying electricity use have already been installed, has shown that the effects quickly wear off - after an initial burst of energy saving when the monitors are brand new.
In some homes, their use was abandoned; in others there were rows over energy consumption between parents and teenagers or between partners.
Commenting Dr Hargreaves said: “Rather than feeling motivated to save more energy and money householders were left feeling frustrated and despondent that the changes they could make were very small and they were receiving little or no meaningful support from anywhere else, such as government and local authorities.
“However, the roll-out of smart meters isn't solely about reducing energy consumption - it's also about developing a so-called 'smart grid' that can support higher levels of low-carbon generating capacity (i.e. intermittent renewables and micro-generation and so on) and other cost savings to consumers from the ease of switching between suppliers, greater billing accuracy, and the reduced need for an army of meter readers.”
Dr Hargreaves says the current decision to roll-out meters has been hastily arrived at, without sufficient evidence on their likely impact, and that key opportunities may be being missed by the process being rushed.