Smart Energy Meters - A boon or a bane to consumers?

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With utility costs skyrocketing and energy bills being a substantial expense, many homeowners have realised the need to upgrade to the latest "Smart electric meters". These are electronic digital devices that help to keep track of and record the usage of electricity in a home. The government plans to equip every British home with a smart meter by the end of this decade i.e. 2020. In fact certain utility companies like British Gas and First Utility have already begun to offer these to customers and these will help to replace traditional analog meters that need to be manually read, as they automatically record information and send it across to the utility provider. Like everything else smart meters have advantages and disadvantages, such as:

Benefits for consumers and the environment:

  • Helps to reduce power outages and tripping of electrical systems
  • Helps a consumer to economize to receive lower energy bills
  • Gives a homeowner detailed information about their power consumption
  • Since there is no manual meter reading required, it saves emissions from use of vehicles to visit a home
  • Helps to cut greenhouse emissions from an electricity plant
  • Is beneficial in maximising utility of existing power resources and obviates the need for new plants

Benefits for the power service provider:

  • Removes the need to have the meter read manually
  • Helps in increasing efficient use of power
  • Monitoring is easier and faster
  • Helps in determining price as per demand
  • Removes the need for building additional power units
  • Helps in determining power supply and reducing blackouts or outages
  • Improves profitability for the power company

However, some people believe there are drawbacks to these energy meters which may be taken into consideration when purchasing one. Some of the challenges for utility companies, the environment and consumers are:

To the environment and consumers:

  • Disposing of the old analogue meters
  • Consumers need to curtail power consumption or environmental benefits will be lost
  • The extra costs for the new smart meter
  • Verification of the accuracy of the device
  • Safety of personal data

Drawbacks for utility companies:

  • Having to ensure that customer personal data is secured
  • An increase in the budget outlay for related R&D and software
  • Storage of vast quantities of consumer data
  • Upgrading from old to new technology and systems
  • Convincing the general public and winning them over to shift to the new smart meter
  • There are certainly both benefits and drawbacks to smart energy meters; this post has outlined some of the main points and there is plenty of discussion going about this topic so let us know your thoughts too and whether you?re happy about this change.

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