U.K. environmental group calls for smart meters, smart homes

London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — November 22, 2007 – The U.K. environmental think tank Green Alliance has added its voice to the call for smart meters, calling on the government to provide a mandate with clear milestones from May 2008 requiring all homes to have a smart meter within ten years.

As part of the rollout suppliers must also be required to offer consumers a range of real time display options, free of charge, in addition to the smart meter.

These are among a number of recommendations made by the Green Alliance in a new report, “Teaching homes to be green – smart homes and the environment”,  aimed at raising the profile of “smart” features in homes.

“Smart homes crop up far more in conversations about the latest gadgets than they do when talking about energy saving or environmental benefits,” says the report, which goes on to point out that while it is important to improve the sustainability of new homes in meeting 2050 carbon dioxide reduction targets, some three-quarters of the 2050 housing stock is already standing and addressing its environmental impact is as important, if not more so.

“With energy efficiency becoming an increasing preoccupation, smart technology’s potential to help to lower the environmental impact of homes will be just as welcome as its ability to make our lives easier.”

The report states that smart meters will be the test-bed for other smart applications and provide a gateway into the home for other uses. Thus they are a critical first step in enabling the spread of other smart features.

The four key aspects of a smart home, according to the report, are an internal network through which devices talk to each other, intelligent controls for managing the system, sensors that collect information, and smart features, such as intelligent heating systems, which respond to information from sensors or user instructions.

Some companies are already promoting the environmental benefits of smart features but the area is still relatively unexplored and many claims vary greatly or are hard to verify. Thus it is clear that there are questions to be answered before smart features can be meaningfully incorporated into policy mechanisms that aim to improve the environmental impact of homes. But it is equally clear that smart features do have a role to play in improving the performance of homes and there are already grounds for seeing them as a useful addition to the range of options on offer.

In its recommendations the Green Alliance urges government to recognize the environmental potential of smart features and to commission or support research to establish a robust evidence base for them. Government should be innovative and flexible with policy mechanisms to recognize and incorporate the environmental benefits of smart features, and use both existing policy mechanisms (such as home information packs and the code for sustainable homes) and new mechanisms (such as an intelligent building rating) to support these smart features.

The Green Alliance’s report is supported by the insurer MORE TH>N, which in a research survey found that almost half of the British believe the government needs to make people more aware of the options available to them to make their homes more energy efficient.

There was also little awareness among consumers about the existence or benefit of smart meters. When asked whether they knew what a smart meter was, 81 percent of the people surveyed said they had never heard of them. However, after they were told more about them, 43 percent said they would be interested in having one installed if it helped their home be more energy efficient. Only a quarter, however, was willing to pay for this themselves, the majority feeling that it was the job of energy companies and the government to foot the bill.