The smart meter rollout is bringing digitally-enabled, next-generation gas and electricity meters not just to homes, but to small businesses across the UK.
Businesses with under ten employees will be eligible to receive smart gas and electricity meters from their energy suppliers free of cost.
Smart meters automatically send readings about your energy use to your supplier—and display this information to you too, in real-time via digital displays and smartphone apps.
But you won’t just see the string of numbers your ‘dumb’ meter displays. You’ll get data about your business’ energy consumption in kilowatt hours (kWh) and pounds and pence and graphed and compared over time.
So should you take the plunge and get smart with your meters when your supplier next comes knocking?
There are some financial, practical, and environmental benefits to smart meters for business energy consumers.
Because they send readings about your energy use to your supplier, they eliminate the need for estimated bills, ensuring you’re only paying for as much energy as you use.
Estimated bills, based on your past and projected consumption, can disrupt a business’ finances, either by overcharging you for energy or undercharging you and then seeking a correction month down the line.
Additionally, with a smart meter, you also won’t have to manually read the meter yourself and submit the figures or welcome a visit from a meter reader.
Furthermore, a digital display within your premises or on your smartphone gives you insight into your energy use from your meter, both immediately and over time, allowing you to be better informed about where your pounds are going.
Businesses, in general, have higher energy needs than households, meaning the savings they can make through being informed can be more significant.
Additionally, businesses are becoming more aware of their environmental impact and, with half of a typical business’ carbon footprint coming from energy use, being informed about your energy use is the first step to becoming more sustainable.
As a business, your energy use is subject to taxation via the Climate Change Levy (CCL) and as the price of energy increases, partly due to new taxes, and as charges are imposed on carbon emissions, there will be more financial pressure on going green.
An energy-efficient business will be more resilient to changing environmental, political, and economic realities in the coming decade and beyond.
Finally, smart meters are just the first stage in the development and rollout of a more advanced, 21st-century British energy system—and you won’t want your business to be left behind with an analog meter.
Ultimately smart meters can cut costs, trim your energy consumption, and reduce hassle. You’re not required to accept a smart meter, but they will soon become the norm for energy measurement across the UK.
The Federation of Small Businesses has been enthusiastic about smart meters, saying they “believe the roll-out of smart meters will enable small businesses to take control of their energy use and in turn lower bills.”
How Much Does A Smart Meter For My Business Cost?
If you’re a small business, with under ten employees, you should be offered a smart meter by your supplier for no extra charge.
You may incur a charge to install a new smart meter when you switch premises, however. But as moving locations allows you to exit your commercial energy tariff-free of penalty, when switching you might want to seek out a supplier who will install one for free.
In effect, everyone paying energy bills in the UK is paying for the cost of the smart meter rollout, estimated at £11bn. You’ll see the cost included in higher energy prices—so you might as well reap the rewards.
How Long Will It Take To Install A Smart Meter?
The installation process typically takes 40 minutes to an hour, during which time the gas and electricity supply to your business will be turned off. You can generally schedule a time when disruption to your business will be minimized.
Can I Switch Supplier With A Smart Meter?
With the first generation smart meters, many customers found that when switched energy suppliers—as you should always consider when your contract is up after you compare gas and electricity tariffs—their smart meters ‘went dumb,’ losing some functionality.
The meters generally still displayed real-time information to customers, but their connection to the supplier was disrupted, and consumers had to start supplying manual readings.
Use a dedicated business energy comparison service to find a supplier who your smart meter will work with the second generation of smart meters, being rolled out currently, removes this fault and enables more seamless switching.