Britain’s smart meter trials show consistent energy saving


London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — June 24, 2011 – The use of smart meters coupled with real time displays consistently led to energy savings around 3 percent, but with some higher and lower savings, depending on fuel, customer group and period, smart meter trials in Great Britain have found.

However, with a smart meter only the savings were generally 2 to 4 percent less, indicating that the provision of a real time display is the more important factor.

These are among the findings of the final analysis of the Energy Demand Research Project – a major project conducted across the country between 2007 and 2010 to test consumers’ responses to different forms of information about their energy use.

The trials were conducted by four energy suppliers – EDF Energy Customers, E.ON UK, Scottish Power Energy Retail Ltd, and SSE Energy Supply Ltd – and involved more than 61,300 households, of which 18,370 had smart meters.

Other findings were that generic advice and historic feedback, as in other trials, was not always seen, but when it was, the reduction in consumption was up to 5 percent, and there was no reliable or persistent effect of either financial incentives to reduce energy consumption or general statements of commitment to reduce consumption. Further, web-based services to provide advice, billing information and historic feedback (delayed by only a day but not real-time feedback), had no effect on consumption.

While the savings were sometimes small in percentage terms, the absolute savings scaled up to national level would be substantial, the report notes.

The report comments that the primary purpose of the project was to investigate consumer behavior and it was not set up as a technology or roll-out trial. Nevertheless the experiences of the installation and use of the equipment provide valuable practical lessons for mass rollout of smart metering. Among these are that a significant issue going forward will be the customer interaction with the smart metering equipment, including the real time displays. Care will be needed in how the displays are “sold” and explained to the wide cross-section of population such that they know how to access and use the data that the display provides, and take an interest in doing so.

The study also has shown that one size does not fit all with regard to smart metering technology. Different geographical locations experience different signal strengths, which can affect the ability of the meter to send or receive information. The location of a smart meter within the property is also important, and communications can be affected if the meter is in a metal box or in a basement.