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Smart meters supporting Britain’s energy security

Anna Moss, Senior Consultant | Cornwall Insight

3 min read Partner content

Households directly consume around a third of all gas and electricity used in Great Britain each year. Smart meters have the potential to play a critical role in our energy security, by providing near real-time information which empowers consumers to change how much energy they use and when they use it.

Cornwall Insight worked with Smart Energy GB to explore how smart meters can help people across Britain take an active role in supporting GB’s energy security.

Energy security and smart meters demonstrates how through reducing energy consumption where possible, or shifting energy use away from peak periods, households may be able to save money, support the transition to decarbonisation and help reduce our reliance on imported gas.

Times of peak electricity demand are often linked to an increase in fossil fuel-generated electricity. Around 40% of our electricity is generated using gas, and more than half of the gas used in Britain is imported. Electricity generated using fossil fuels also increases the cost of wholesale electricity at peak times. 

Smart meters are an enabling tool for helping people to reduce their overall energy consumption, as well as to shift consumption away from times of peak demand. Using the half-hourly energy use data from their smart meter, households can be rewarded for reducing their use of electricity and gas at certain times in a way that would not be possible with a traditional meter.

This can be through a time-of-use tariff, for example, which offers cheaper prices at different times of the day, similar to off-peak train tickets. If consumers have more visibility over the price they are paying for energy, this can help them to take actions to save money on energy. Shifting or reducing electricity demand during peak times will also help to reduce the overall use of fossil fuel generation sources to meet peak demand.

Currently, just under 40% of electricity generated in GB comes from renewable sources. Smart meter data can help incentivise customers to take direct actions to consume energy during times of high wind energy output, for example by scheduling smart connected appliances or charging batteries or electric vehicles during these times.

Smart meter-enabled time-of-use tariffs are expected to unlock a range of technological benefits via solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicles. Those with smart meters can participate in energy flexibility services and charge their EV or home battery during cheaper times (or even be paid to charge) and sell this energy back when demand is high.

There are apps available which can use smart meter data to offer additional insights into electricity consumption. With explicit and informed consent, households could also choose to task a third-party service provider to automatically manage their electricity usage, meeting their energy needs while reducing the involvement required. This could support the wider energy network and reward the customer in the process.

By using the energy usage information from their smart meter and reducing overall consumption of electricity and gas (where possible), consumers can support energy security by reducing the need to operate some of the country’s most carbon-intense generating stations.  Lower demand for gas will reduce our reliance on imported gas and enable us to become more energy independent.

About the Cornwall Insight Group
Cornwall Insight is the preeminent provider of research, analysis, consulting and training to businesses and stakeholders engaged in the Australian, Great British, and Irish energy markets. To support our customers, we leverage a powerful combination of analytical capability, a detailed appreciation of regulation codes and policy frameworks, and a practical understanding of how markets function.

About Smart Energy GB
Smart Energy GB is the not-for-profit campaign supporting consumer awareness and understanding of the benefits of smart meters for Great Britain. To learn more, visit www.smartenergygb.org.

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