Research suggests smart meters are more limited than expected
Another day, another element in the smart meter controversy.
There’s been a recent push to get smart meters installed in as many homes as possible, with the promise that it could help with a reduction in energy usage by up to 15%. It was intended to give users immediate feedback on where they waste energy and recommendations on how to cut back, empowering residents to save money and combat climate change. In reality, it only affected about a 2% reduction in energy, according to a new study released by the UK’s University of Keele.
Recently, this and other studies have come out regarding the efficacy of smart meters in reducing people’s energy consumption. However, that shouldn’t be cause for you to discount getting one just yet, as there are still benefits to reap from having one installed. First, we have to look at why smart meters didn’t live up to the hype.
READ MORE: What is a Smart Meter and How Does it Work?
First, the success of this initiative was premised on two things:
1) that people wasted energy because they are uninformed of how much they consume, and therefore informing them would incentivize them to reduce consumption;
2) that people would be motivated to reduce their consumption in the interests of climate change.
To the first point, there’s already a financial incentive for people to cut their energy costs. Generally, most people who have to pay their utility bills and do know better use for their money, don’t maliciously waste their energy because they’re the ones who will have to pay for it. So, if they were already doing everything in their power to reduce their energy consumption, and they can’t (for example) upgrade the stove to a more efficient model, then the information received isn’t useful to them.
For similar reasons, people may not see reducing consumption in the home as the most effective way to fight climate change. If we all act together to reduce our consumption, then we could actually mitigate consumption going forward. But individually, it might be counterproductive.
So, what exactly is the benefit of having a smart meter?
Why get a smart meter
The benefit of smart meters is that they allow information to transmitted immediately. This can protect you from price shocks and power outages by giving your consumption details over immediately.
Rural consumers and others that rely on manual readings are more susceptible to price shocks to compensate for the consumption adjustments. If the amount billed for is found to be a lower amount than that the customer should have paid when the meter is read, the customer may have to pay a high adjustment rate on their next bill.
Because you get real-time accurate readings on your consumption use, you can also closely track your budget for the month. Any sudden changes in your consumption and prices can highlight an issue that you can address, before they bleed your bank account. An unanticipated spike in consumption can signal a faulty appliance, so you can deal with it quickly. Or, sudden raises in prices despite consumption remaining the same can be a signal that your energy plan is no longer working for you. Either way, you can still personally benefit from having one installed, and your retailer might be able to offer you rebates for making the switch.