Britain’s smart meter trials start wrapping up


London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — December 21, 2010 – Britain’s smart meter trial program, which was started in 2007, is beginning to wrap up, with data collection having finished in September and final analysis of the data now under way.

According to the latest progress report on the project, the final database contains over 800 million meter readings as well as a “huge amount” of other information that was collected.

The Energy Demand Research Project (EDRP), which is being overseen by the regulator Ofgem, has involved four energy suppliers – E.ON, EDF Energy, Scottish Power, and Scottish and Southern Energy, and was aimed to better understand how consumers react to improved information about their energy consumption over the long term.  

Approximately 47,000 households took part in the trials, which involved a range of interventions, including smart meters, enhanced energy consumption information on bills, energy efficiency information, visual display units, incentives to reduce or shift consumption, and community engagement. Around 17,000 of the households had smart meters installed, many with both gas and electricity smart meters, and some consumers received one intervention while others received a combination of different interventions. A range of different meters also were trialled.

Interim analysis of the first 18 months of data collected has found that the presence of a smart meter in combination with other interventions was often associated with a reduction in consumption, but interventions without smart meters were not. However, there was not a consistent energy saving impact across the many interventions involving different forms of real-time feedback. Further, information presented in pounds and pence was more meaningful than information presented in kWh or tonnes of carbon.

These findings suggest that smart meters can be a vehicle for effective action to reduce domestic energy demand, but a focus on technology alone is unlikely to have a major effect on consumption and that other action to engage and motivate consumers will be required. In addition, most consumers are motivated to understand the cost of energy consumption rather than being motivated to understand energy or carbon consumption per se.

Lessons from the trials also have fed into the development of the national smart metering implementation program. Among these the location and set-up of a smart meter within a property was found to be important in ensuring sufficient signal strength to send or receive information and utilize a home area network. Data management was another issue with the need to manage and track the installation, commissioning and collection of data from the smart meters.

Participants in the data analysis process have included the University of Reading and University College London. The final data analysis is being conducted by AECOM and BRE, and the final report is expected to be completed by the end of March 2011.

The EDRP is being funded with £9.75 million from government and matching funding from the four energy suppliers.