The short answer is: No. Homeowners are under no obligation to install new energy meters, although the new technology does offer several worthy benefits.
What is a “smart” meter?
Smart meters are the next generation of energy meters: Small boxes that are installed at the point where the energy company’s system enters your home that record how much energy is being used by your household at any given time. Where they differ from traditional meters, however, is in the fact that this information is then relayed directly to your electric and gas suppliers so they can accurately calculate your energy bill.
Because your energy provider receives an accurate reading of your electricity and gas usage, smart meters have a distinct advantage over conventional systems; no more estimated bills, and no requirement to send a meter reader to your home – so, no more having to take a day off work to let a stranger in.
Furthermore, the meters come with an in-home display, which enables you to see how much you are spending on energy usage, by providing energy use not only in kilowatt hours (kWh), which is a difficult measurement for many lay people — but also providing real-time pounds and pence cost.
When used effectively, smart meters can help educate people on how to be more energy-conscious, turning off TV and mobile phone chargers, for example — which waste energy when left on standby. Not only that, but you can determine how much your monthly energy bills will cost, and budget accordingly.
Improving Britain’s environment
Although smart meters are not compulsory, the government hopes British residents will be on board with the project. The national infrastructure will need to be upgraded, but the aim is that it will allow consumers to make conservative energy consumption choices, and align with EU environmental goals.
By using smart meter technology, homeowners and businesses have the tools and the opportunity to control their energy output — and manage their finances. The direct communication with electric suppliers also allows energy companies to calculate how much fuel they will need to generate sufficient quantities of energy to power towns and cities. Ultimately, less energy goes to waste, and lower carbon emissions pollute the atmosphere.
The current energy infrastructure is out dated and, according to British Gas, £1 in every £4 spent on generating electricity and gas is wasted. Not only is this a waste of energy, but also puts a strain on British households’ budgets. It has been estimated that the smart grid will save Brits £4.3bn by 2030.
Installing a smart meter is not mandatory, but there are significant advantages for the long-term future of the UK. The smart grid can help make us more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, and give homeowners lower energy bills.
For more information about smart meters, check out the Smart Energy GB website. If you have questions about how the rollout will affect you personally, check with your individual energy provider.