Friday, 3 July 2009

Smart meter opportunities - or not?

British Gas, one of the largest energy suppliers in the UK, has announced that it is creating 2,600 new jobs by 2012 to support the roll-out of smart meters across the country. It includes 2,100 smart energy experts trained to help customers become more energy efficient, cutting their carbon emissions and their fuel bills. As well as installing meters, they will be able to advise customers on tariffs, conduct energy efficiency audits and give advice on insulation and generating your own energy.

It's another demonstration of the impact that smart meters will have, both through the process of installation and the expected reduction in energy use. Suppliers are looking for other green business opportunities alongside smart meter installation, hence the experts. It's also a great time to be generating jobs.

However, to get the benefit of smart meters it's essential to make sure the right devices are being installed. A recent report from New Zealand's Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, entitled 'Smart electricity meters: How households and the environment can benefit' questioned the suitability of the some of the meters planned to be installed in New Zealand by 2012.

The report pointed out that home area network (HAN) communication capability with real-time in-home displays enable a number of functions that show promise in delivering sustained demand reduction. But 800,000 meters without HAN capability are planned for roll-out by 2012. Without HAN capability, the benefits from smart meters almost entirely accrue to the retailer. Consumers will end up paying for meters that provide them with minimal benefits. The report concludes that "This requires urgent intervention".

I suspect we will hear more of these sorts of issues, with countries and companies installing cheap 'smart' meters that are of little benefit, except to the vested interests that installed them. There is urgent need for minimum specifications around these devices and standards for communications between units from different companies.

© The Green IT Review

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