The smart meter rollout is well underway, and every home and small business in the country is due to be offered one by 2025.
Here we answer all your frequently asked questions about smart meters, including how much they cost, which businesses are eligible, and whether they’re secure.
Answer: A smart meter is the new generation of energy meters for the supply of gas and electricity, which are being rolled out around the whole of the Great Britain.
Answer: Your smart meter measures how much gas and electricity you use and securely shares this directly with your energy supplier at least once a month. You shouldn’t have to take any meter readings manually — your smart meter will send automatic readings to your energy supplier via the secure smart data network which is solely for smart meters. This works in a similar way as other wireless systems but does not use the internet.
Answer: Knowing exactly how much gas and electricity your business has used allows you to know exactly how much you need to pay to your energy supplier. This means rather than paying for your energy on an estimated basis , you can pay the precise amount.
Answer: Your business either has already, or will, be offered a smart meter as part of the nationwide smart meter rollout.
Answer: While the government requires energy suppliers to offer a smart meter to all eligible small businesses, there’s no legal obligation for you to accept. You’re able to refuse installation and then request a smart meter at any point in the future at no extra cost.
Answer: Yes, both homes and businesses are included in the smart meter rollout. If your business is run from home, your business energy usage will be included and recorded as part of your domestic energy usage. If you have a separate meter in your home to monitor business energy usage, speak to your energy supplier about upgrading it to a smart meter.
Answer: If you rent your office, shop or unit and the landlord pays the energy bills, ask your landlord if they can get a smart meter. That could help ensure energy costs are shared fairly between all the businesses on site, based on how much energy you each use.
Answer: Get in touch with the energy broker that arranged your current energy supplier and they’ll be able to tell you. If the broker doesn’t immediately know, then it will contact the energy supplier on your behalf because this is one of the services that energy brokers offer.
Answer: Once you have confirmation from your energy supplier that your business premises is suitable for a smart meter, the energy supplier will arrange an appointment to fit the meter. The whole installation takes roughly two hours and your gas and/or electricity will be turned off for a short period of time. The supplier will try and arrange a time that creates as little disruption as possible for your business.
Answer: Most energy suppliers can be fairly flexible about installation timings, so you can find a time that will limit disruption to your business, whether that’s in the evening or even on a Saturday. Remember, your electricity and/or gas will have to be turned off while the installation takes place.
Answer: The installers are full trained and experienced in the process of fitting smart energy meters so you can have complete confidence in their work.
Answer: If you your business hasn’t yet been offered a smart meter, there’s nothing stopping you reaching out to your energy supplier directly and asking for one. As the official rollout isn’t due to be wrapped up until 2025, it could just be that you haven’t reached the front of the queue yet.
Answer: Yes, you are able to switch energy suppliers if you have a smart meter for business. If you have a second generation smart meter, your meter will continue to send readings automatically and there shouldn’t be any disruption to your meter billing.
Answer: Your smart meter will take readings either every half hour, once a day, or once a month. Different suppliers have different standard reading frequencies, and you can choose which one you prefer. An every half hour frequency offers you the most detail about your business energy usage.
When the Market-wide Half-Hourly Settlement is introduced, actual energy consumption for all homes and small businesses will be recorded every half hour as standard.
Answer: You shouldn’t have to take a reading from your smart meter, but if you do want to monitor your own energy usage, or you switch suppliers and are required to submit a first reading, it is possible.
The engineer who installs your smart meter should show you how to take a reading from your specific model or you can ask your energy supplier or consult the instruction manual.
Answer: Even if your smart meter stops automatically sending readings to your supplier, it should still be recording your energy usage. You’ll need to provide manual readings until your smart meter can be repaired or replaced. And even if you switch suppliers, your current supplier is responsible for maintaining your meter, so there’s no need to contact the supplier who installed it.
Answer: Smart meters have been designed in conjunction with both the government and GCHQ to ensure your business data is secure. Smart meters do not use the internet, and they have their own closed, dedicated communications system. Smart meters have been designed to ensure that security best practice has been incorporated at every stage.
Answer: You may be offered an in-home display alongside your new smart meter. This portable screen is an easy way to monitor how much energy you’re using and how much it’s costing you in real time.
Answer: Measuring accurately how much energy businesses use helps with the bigger challenge of creating sufficient energy to power the nation’s business needs and helps to implement more energy efficient methods, including wind and solar and reducing the dependence on fossil fuels.
So, while your energy business use is very small, when looked at on a national basis every little bit helps towards the country’s longer term climate targets.
Answer: Smart Energy GB is a government-backed organisation tasked with informing businesses and consumers about the benefits of smart meters. The national campaign is tasked with helping everyone in England, Scotland and Wales understand smart meters, the national rollout and how to use their new meters to be cleaner and greener with their energy use.
For more information about the how to install a smart meter in your workplace, visit the Smart Energy GB website at smartenergyGB.org.
This article is part of a paid-for information campaign for Smart Energy GB.
Henry Williams is a freelance journalist specialising in small business topics, such as Making Tax Digital.
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