British Gas have committed to providing Smart Meters in all homes by 2019. They are starting this roll out now, with 160,000 homes in the UK already having a Smart Meter, but what does this mean for you?
Traditionally, meters sit under your stairs or in the garage and are only disturbed when the meter reader comes to take a reading and generally that's when you aren't home and then you get one of those pieces of paper to note down your meter reading and you have to remember to send it back to them. Well, at first sight, smart meters don’t look a whole lot different as you can see (the black one is a traditional “dumb” meter, the second one is a Smart electricity meter and the third a Smart gas meter. Like their conventional cousins, they still sit in infrequently visited locations, but now they’re not even disturbed by meter readers.
Home Display Units (such as our Smart Energy Monitors)
These are the devices that you put on your wall or fridge to inform you about your energy consumption.
Communicating wirelessly with the smart meter (either directly or via the Home Area Network) the Smart Energy Monitor displays near-real time information on energy usage, cost and greenhouse gas generation for both gas and electricity. This means customers can keep an eye on their energy in kWh, CO2 and pounds and pence; as well as access historical usage data to check how they’re consumption is changing over time.
The Home Area Network enables devices and appliances to communicate with each other. The obvious example is the smart meter and the Smart Energy Monitor. However, appliance manufacturers are becoming more and more savvy to the idea of home networking. The vision of a ‘smart home’, in which appliances, lighting, heating and security are connected and automatically controlled to save energy and improve occupant wellbeing, isn’t far away.
Wide Area Networks (WANs)
What makes a meter smart is its ability to hold a two-way conversation with a data communication system (like the ‘head-end’ of British Gas).
The medium over which this communication occurs is called the Wide AreaNetwork (WAN).These include the copper and fibre networks of fixed line telephony providers, the cellular networks of the mobile phone operators, and the power lines of the electricity distribution networks. We are already seeing devices that make it possible to transfer data over the internal power lines within the home so why not have these devices integrated from the very beginning.
The Smart Grid – benefits on a national scale
And let’s not forget that smart meters are an essential part of the transition to a low-carbon economy that smart grids are supposed to enable. A smart grid can provide better visibility of the electricity being distributed and can proactively manage both demand and generation connected to the network along with the network itself.
A smart grid helps deliver electricity more efficiently and reliably by:
✓Automatically re-routing power, shifting loads and/or controlling embedded generation to manage constraints and outages on the network.
✓Monitoring the condition of network assets and predicting failures, thus reducing maintenance costs.
✓Intelligently managing the network to maximise the electricity distributed. A smart grid can help ‘sweat the assets’, defer the need for reinforcement and thus, reduce investment costs.
Find out more about the British Gas Smart Meter on their website and see how they are progressing towards their goal of providing a smart meter in every home.