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How we can deliver a smart future for small businesses

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Dr Jeffrey Hardy, Senior Research Fellow from the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London

Dr Jeffrey Hardy, Senior Research Fellow from the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London | Smart Energy GB

3 min read Partner content

Smart meters can give our small businesses the support they need on their decarbonisation journey.

Small businesses form the backbone of the UK’s economy. They make up around three fifths of total employment, representing over 99% of all businesses in the UK.

Many businesses don’t have the time or resources to shop around for the best suppliers and deals on the energy market. The Future of Energy for Smaller Businesses, highlights how this situation could be resolved.

The report looks at challenges smaller businesses face when engaging with the energy market, and provides proposals on how smaller businesses could be better served in the future, get cheaper deals and save energy.

Smart meters are central to this future. People often think of smart meters as a device for measuring the energy usage of individuals, as well as showing how much energy is costing in near-real time. It’s true – smart meters are an incredibly useful tool, helping homes and businesses to budget better, reduce energy waste, and save time. But they have the potential to support a lot more than that…

With consent, data could be automatically shared with energy-efficiency specialists. They could provide bespoke advice for your business based on your energy usage patterns. This could include simple ways to reduce energy consumption, such as replacing fluorescent bulbs with LEDs, or providing information on installing solar panels and batteries. 

EVs are going to become a lot more widespread in the future, providing opportunities for small businesses. Smart meters will enable business owners and staff to select time-of-use tariffs, allowing them to charge their vehicles when the price of electricity is at its lowest. For those using their EVs for both business and personal use and charging at home, it’ll be possible to automatically separate out the mileage and cost of each journey for their clients, making things easier for billing and tax purposes.

Smart meters could enable customised tariffs. Business owners could specify their energy preferences, such as having steady bills, maximising savings, or consuming energy from renewable sources. Those preferences, coupled with data on how the business uses energy, could be transmitted to an online platform - a one-stop-shop for energy.

If smaller businesses were grouped together, say in a shopping centre, smart meters could facilitate an integrated energy service. The energy habits and consumption needs of each business in the network could be determined by smart meter data, and on-site batteries coupled with solar panels could optimise how energy is shared and distributed by businesses according to their particular needs. This flexibility and automation would lead to cheaper bills and reduce the time smaller businesses spend shopping around for tariffs.

Thanks to smart meters, small business consumers will be able to reduce the amount of time, effort and expertise needed to engage with the energy market. Smart management could deliver cost savings, energy reductions, price stability, and the ability to tailor tariffs without adding to their lists of chores.

Independent expert opinion on future energy systems provided by Dr Hardy, through Imperial Consultants.

For more information about the benefits of smart meters, please visit

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