What Smart Meters will mean for small business energy users
What smart meters will mean for small business energy users is not 100% clear but in December 2011 Ofgem released a report examining the potential impact of smart meters being installed for small business energy users within the near future. Smart meters provide "real time" data for gas and electricity usage remotely and are at the moment due to be rolled out to all domestic and small business users by 2019. Larger business energy users will have a more "advanced" version of the smart meter installed by April 2014. The report by Ofgem explains both the positive and negative features that this new wave of technology will bring with it to the energy market. Of course some domestic customers already have smart meters installed at their homes.
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The most significant advantage these smart meters could bring to small business energy users is the possibility of being able to switch suppliers within 24 hrs. For the businesses who are on "out of contract" or "deemed" rates as they also know, this would be a significant improvement on the current process of having to wait up to 3-6 weeks to switch suppliers. Being able to switch suppliers in effect the next day could prove to make a significant saving for businesses, meaning that the usually high out of contract rates are kept to a minimum. Ofgem also hope that the introduction of smart meters will reduce some of the problems encountered when switching suppliers, which can sometimes prolong the switching period, cranking up costs for businesses due to these delays in changing supplier. The other significant advantage to smart meters is of course accurate billing by the suppliers, businesses will no longer be faced with estimated bills, ensuring that budgets and cash flow predictions can be more accurately forecast, an important factor in the economic climate of today.
A potential disadvantage to smart metering may restrict the ability for business energy users to switch to "any" supplier. Depending on the type of smart meter installed it may be that the new supplier may have a different system and all the smart meter functions may not all work with the new suppliers system. Business energy users will need to check with the potential new supplier before initiating the switch that the functions required will be compatible and meet the requirements of the business.
Critics have suggested though that the introduction of smart meters may lead to abuse by business energy companies in that although businesses will not be charged for the installation of smart meters the cost will be passed onto the consumers via their business energy bills and that the reduced costs to the energy companies once the meter is installed not being passed onto the consumers.
The main objections from smart metering for consumers will be the savings made due to the reduction in energy consumption, the theory being that consumers being able to see their consumption will encourage them to be more aware of trying not to be wasteful.
For the suppliers the main objectives will be the significant savings in not having to make site visits to read meters etc, along with the reduction in customer enquiries and the querying of bills.
What smart meters will mean for small business energy users as you can see from above is not yet 100% clear but hopefully this will be the way forward in making the process of switching suppliers for business energy users a lot easy and help to save small businesses money in the future.