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Sustainability Glossary: Our Sustainability Definitions List

You may have found yourself wondering about the meaning of ‘greenwashing’ or ‘net zero’. These terms can be confusing, so to help you, we've put together this handy glossary of sustainability terminology. If you come across something you don't understand online, you can find the definitions here - and maybe learn how smart meters go hand in hand with what you're looking up!

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A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W X - Y - Z

A

No words just yet!

B

Biodegradable:

When something is biodegradable, it means it can be broken down by insects, fungi and bacteria. This process is not harmful to the environment.

For example, plants (alive or dead) and food scraps are biodegradable.

Biomass energy:

Biomass energy is living (or once living) organisms that are grown and used for fuel.

Wood that is grown to be burnt for fuel is one of the most common examples of biomass energy.

C

Carbon dioxide CO2:

Carbon dioxide is an acidic, colourless gas. It is found in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas that helps trap heat in our atmosphere. Without it, our environment would be very cold! However, too much of it can make the planet overheat.

This gas is also necessary for plants to be able to grow.

CO2 is another way to say carbon dioxide.

Carbon footprint:

Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases given off by the things you do every day.

For example, driving a car to work or heating your home gives off carbon emissions, which becomes part of your carbon footprint.

Lowering your carbon footprint is a great way to help battle climate change. You can lower your carbon footprint by walking to destinations instead of driving. Or avoiding single use plastics like plastic straws.

Click here to find out how smart meters can help reduce your carbon footprint.

Carbon neutral:

Carbon neutral refers to the amount of carbon being removed from the atmosphere being equal to the carbon emitted.

On a personal note, we all individually give off and take in carbon dioxide in our day-to-day lives. So, to become carbon neutral yourself, you will need to reduce the emissions that your actions produce.

Carbon offsetting:

Carbon offsetting is a way for a person or business to make up for any emissions they can't avoid. They do this by paying a company to reduce or remove an equal number of emissions somewhere else.

For example, a business could remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by planting trees. Trees take in carbon dioxide from the air, so planting more trees reduces the amount of this gas in the atmosphere. This will offset some of the emissions produced by the company through their activities.

D

Data Communications Company (DCC):

The Data Communications Company provides the communications infrastructure that handles smart meter data. They process smart meter information, keep it secure and send energy consumption information to energy suppliers.

You can find out more about the DCC here.

Decarbonisation:

Decarbonisation is the process of reducing and removing the amount of carbon dioxide made by society.

The government is currently working on decarbonising transport, to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced when we travel. To achieve this, they are promoting cycling and walking instead of driving. They are also using zero-emission buses and promoting electric vehicles.

E

Energy tariffs:

Energy tariffs are what energy providers use to charge their customers for their gas and electricity use.

The two main types of tariffs are ‘fixed rate’ and ‘variable rate’:

  • Fixed-rate tariffs are when the price per unit of energy (kWh) stays the same each month, even if the real price for gas/electricity goes up.

  • Variable rate tariffs are when the price you pay per unit (kWh) can vary at the discretion of your energy supplier. The price usually follows the current price for wholesale energy.

Electric vehicles (EVs):

Electric vehicles (EVs) are cars that run on a rechargeable battery, so they don’t rely on petrol or diesel.

These cars are better for the environment because they produce fewer greenhouse gases than traditional petrol or diesel cars.

Their battery can be recharged by plugging it into a public charging station or at a charging port at home.

F

Fossil fuels:

Fossil fuels are a material formed underground from the remains of dead plants and animals. The main fossil fuels are coal, petroleum and natural gas. These are burned by humans to use as energy.

The burning of fossil fuels produces pollution that harms the earth’s environment.

G

Global warming:

Over the past 100 years, the Earth’s surface temperature has increased at a rate that is not sustainable. This is global warming. Global warming is causing more intense storms, droughts, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warmer seas. This is destroying habitats across the world, including ours, so it needs to be controlled.

This rise in temperature is being caused by a lot of different things. One is the burning of large amounts of fossil fuels like coal and petrol which is generating too many greenhouse gases.

Replacing the use of fossil fuels with renewable energy is one of the many ways we can help to overcome global warming.

Click here to find out how smart meters help the environment and benefit Britain.

Greenhouse effect:

The greenhouse effect is when the Earth is heated up by the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. This is a natural process.

However, since the early 1900s, human beings have been burning more and more gas and coal at a much faster rate. The pollution caused by burning these has increased the number of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. This, along with other things, is heating up our atmosphere to levels that are harmful to our planet.

Greenhouse gases:

A greenhouse gas is a gas in our atmosphere that heats up in the sunlight. This heat gathers in our atmosphere and makes it warmer. So while these greenhouse gases are vital for our environment, we don’t want too much of this in our atmosphere. Otherwise, it’ll continue to warm up.

The main greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere are Water vapours, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone.

Greenwashing:

Greenwashing is when a person or business exaggerates how they help the environment or their eco-friendly practices.

For example, a business could state that their plastic packaging is made from 100% recycled material. But, if this claim is untrue and only part of the plastic used was from recycled materials, then this would be misleading – and greenwashing!

H

HAN:

HAN stands for Home Area Network. This is the network that communicates your smart meter readings to your in-home display in your home, in near-real time. This is a secure network.

This network doesn’t use Wi-Fi.

I

In-home display:

If you get a smart meter installed in your home, you’ll be offered an in-home display.

This is a portable, handheld device which displays your energy consumption in kWh and pounds and pence, in near-real time. You can use this information to understand your energy usage in your home, and try to reduce it.

Click here to find out how you could use your in-home display to save money

J

No words just yet!

K

No words just yet!

L

No words just yet!

M

Microplastics:

Most plastics don’t decompose. Instead, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics.

These microplastics are hard to remove from our environment. A lot of the time, they end up in our oceans and get eaten by fish and birds.

Because of this, microplastics are being detected in our foods and in our drinking water!

Migration (smart meter):

Migration is the process of upgrading all first-generation smart meters from the individual supplier’s network onto a centralised network. This is done to ensure that all smart meters are able to switch seamlessly between suppliers without losing their smart functions. The centralised network is owned and operated by a communications company (DCC).

N

Net zero:

Being net zero is like being carbon neutral, but it's a little more complicated. To reach net zero, you have to cancel out all the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. You can do this by removing the same amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

O

No words just yet!

P

Plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs):

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are cars that run on both a rechargeable battery, and a traditional petrol/diesel engine.

They are friendlier to the environment than traditional petrol/diesel cars because they emit less greenhouse gases.

Q

No words just yet!

R

Renewable energy:

Energy is renewable when it can be produced by natural sources, without any concern that the resource is going to eventually run out. A great benefit to renewable energy is that it creates a lot less pollution than fossil fuels.

Some examples of renewable energy are:

  • Solar energy
  • Wind energy
  • Tidal energy
  • Geothermal energy

S

Smart energy system:

A smart energy system is an energy system that uses digital technology to actively monitor what energy the country needs and when. This is an upgrade to our traditional energy system to make it more efficient.

Smart meters are helping us to develop a smart energy system. They allow our homes to communicate with energy suppliers to let them know how much energy is needed in the UK and when. Smart meters are a crucial part of the smart energy system.

Click here to find out more on how smart meters are helping to upgrade our nation’s energy system.

Smart meter:

Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meter. They’re being installed across England, Scotland and Wales to replace traditional energy meters.

The smart meter shows a digital meter reading and uses a secure smart data network (managed by the DCC) to automatically and wirelessly send the readings to your energy supplier so you receive accurate, not estimated bills.

Click here to find out more about smart meters and their benefits.

SMETS:

SMETS stands for Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications.

It is a document that contains the minimum technical specification for all smart meters in Great Britain. All energy suppliers have to follow these specifications. The document covers everything from physical requirements to functional requirements needed for all smart meters.

SMETS1:

SMETS1 is the name given to the first generation of smart meter that was introduced at the beginning of the rollout.

They communicate with the energy supplier through the supplier’s own networks. This has caused some smart meters to lose smart functionality when people switched energy suppliers. SMETS1 meters are being upgraded so that they operate like a SMETS2 meter, which doesn’t have the same switching issue.

Citizens Advice’s webpage has a handy tool that allows you to check what type of smart meter you have in your home (SMETS1 or SMETS2) and if it’s working in smart mode.

Click here to access the tool.

SMETS2:

SMETS2 is the name given to the second generation of smart meter. They operate on a centralised network managed by the DCC. Citizens Advice webpage has a handy tool that allows you to check what type of smart meter you have in your home (SMETS1 or SMETS2) and if it’s working in smart mode.

Click here to access the tool.

Sustainability:

In terms of the environment, sustainability is the goal of being able to grow as a society without damaging the environment for the future.

T

Time-of-use tariff:

With a time-of-use tariff, the price of the energy you use can vary throughout the day.

These tariffs have been designed to help you save money on your bills, as you will be rewarded with cheaper energy for doing things at certain times.

Using the washing machine when there is a lot of renewable energy being generated (on a sunny or windy day) could save you money. You could also charge your phone at night if energy is cheaper while less people are awake and not using it.

Click here to find out the benefits of time-of-use tariffs

U

No words just yet!

V

No words just yet!

W

WAN:

WAN stands for Wide Area Network. This is the network that smart meters use to communicate your meter readings to energy suppliers. This network does not require or use Wi-Fi. 

The Data Communications Company (DCC) are responsible for managing this network.

X

No words just yet!

Y

No words just yet!

Z

No words just yet!

REQUEST YOUR SMART METER

If you’re interested in getting a smart meter, simply type your energy supplier in the box below and we'll redirect you to their website:

We believe that Octopus Energy is now responsible for Affect Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Octopus Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Yu Energy are responsible for Ampower UK customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Yu Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Angelic Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that SSE is now responsible for Atlantic Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with SSE who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Nabuh Energy is now responsible for Avid Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Nabuh Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Octopus Energy are responsible for Avro Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Octopus Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Beam Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas are responsible for Better Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We are connecting you to your supplier's website. They will take your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Breeze customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that SSE is now responsible for Brilliant Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with SSE who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas are responsible for Bristol Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

You can continue your smart meter journey at your supplier's website. They will take your request forward.

We believe that British Gas are responsible for British Gas Evolve customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

You can continue your smart meter journey at your supplier's website. They will take your request forward.

We believe that SSE are responsible for Cardiff Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with SSE who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for CitizEn Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Shell Energy are responsible for Colorado Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Shell Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

You can continue your smart meter journey at your supplier's website. They will take your request forward.

We believe that Scottish Power is now responsible for Daisy Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Scottish Power who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

You can continue your smart meter journey at your supplier's website. They will take your request forward.

We are redirecting you to the E.ON Next smart meter webpage. You can continue your smart meter journey at their website. They will take your request forward.

We believe that OVO Energy are responsible for Economy Energy credit customers. Therefore we are connecting you with OVO Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward. If you are a prepay customer you will need to visit Boost Energy at www.boostpower.co.uk/smart-meters. They will be responsible for taking you request forward.

We believe that Octopus Energy is now responsible for Engie customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Octopus Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that E.ON Next is now responsible for Enstroga customers. Therefore we will connect you with E.ON Next who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that So Energy is now responsible for ESB customers. Therefore we are connecting you with So Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Utilita is now responsible for Eversmart customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Utilita who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Scottish Power is now responsible for Extra Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with Scottish Power who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Shell Energy Retail is now responsible for First Utility customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Shell Energy Retail who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Fosse Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Green Star Energy is now responsible for Future Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Green Star Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Octopus Energy is now responsible for Gen4U customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Octopus Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We don't currently have information from your energy supplier regarding their bookings for smart meters, but we will connect you to their website so you can contact them directly.

We believe that Bulb Energy is now responsible for GnErgy customers. Therefore we will connect you with Bulb who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We don't currently have information from your energy supplier regarding their bookings for smart meters, but we will connect you to their website so you can contact them directly.

We believe that Shell Energy is now responsible for Goto Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with Shell energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Great North Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Shell Energy is now responsible for Green Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with Shell energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that EDF Energy is now responsible for Green Network Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with EDF Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We don't currently have information from your energy supplier regarding their bookings for smart meters, but we will connect you to their website so you can contact them directly.

We believe that E.ON Next is now responsible for Hub Energy customers (formerly Gulf Gas and Power). Therefore we will connect you with E.ON Next who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We don't currently have information from your energy supplier regarding their bookings for smart meters, but we will connect you to their website so you can contact them directly.

We believe that E.ON Next is now responsible for Hub Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with E.ON Next who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that E.ON Next is now responsible for Igloo Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with E.ON Next who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Octopus Energy is now responsible for Iresa customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Octopus Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that EDF Energy is now responsible for iSupply Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with EDF Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We don't currently have information from your energy supplier regarding their bookings for smart meters, but we will connect you to their website so you can contact them directly.

We don't currently have information from your energy supplier regarding their bookings for smart meters, but we will connect you to their website so you can contact them directly.

We believe that OVO Energy is now responsible for Lumo customers. Therefore we are connecting you with OVO Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We don't currently have information from your energy supplier regarding their bookings for smart meters, but we will connect you to their website so you can contact them directly.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for MoneyPlus Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Neon Reef Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that E.ON is now responsible for Npower Select customers. Therefore we will connect you with E.ON who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that E.ON Next is now responsible for Npower Select customers. Therefore we will connect you with E.ON Next who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Utilita are responsible for Omni Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you to Utilita who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We beleive that Scottish Power is now responsible for Orbit Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with Scottish Power who will be responsible with taking your request forward.

We believe that Utilita is now responsible for Our Power customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Utilita who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for People's Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for PFP Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that E.ON Next is now responsible for Powershop customers. Therefore we will connect you with E.ON Next who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Shell Energy is now responsible for Pure Planet customers. Therefore we will connect you with Shell Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Octopus Energy is now responsible for Qwest Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Octopus Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Ram Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Robin Hood Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

You can continue your smart meter journey at your supplier's website. They will take your request forward.

Scottish Gas have told us that British Gas is responsible for providing smart meters on their behalf. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

Scottish Hydro have told us that SSE is responsible for providing smart meters on their behalf. Therefore we are connecting you with SSE who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Simplicity Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that SSE is now responsible for Spark Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with SSE who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Southend Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Nabuh Energy is now responsible for Snowdrop Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Nabuh Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Social Energy customers. Therefore we will connect you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We don't currently have information from your energy supplier regarding their bookings for smart meters, but we will connect you to their website so you can contact them directly.

We believe that EDF are responsible for Solarplicity customers. Therefore we are connecting you with EDF who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

Swalec have told us that SSE is responsible for providing smart meters on their behalf. Therefore we are connecting you with SSE who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

Symbio Energy have told us that E.ON NEXT is responsible for providing smart meters on their behalf. Therefore we will connect you with E.ON NEXT who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for The Leccy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas are responsible for Together Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Scottish Power is now responsible for Tonik Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Scottish Power who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that EDF Energy are responsible for Toto Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with EDF Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that Shell Energy Retail is now responsible for Usio Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Shell Energy Retail who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that EDF Energy is now responsible for Utility Point customers. Therefore we will connect you with EDF Energy who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that E.ON are responsible for Wasp Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with E.ON who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for White Rose Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that E.ON are responsible for Wigan Warriors Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with E.ON who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We beleive that Scottish Power is now responsible for Yorkshire Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with Scottish Power who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Your Energy Sussex customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that British Gas is now responsible for Zebra Power customers. Therefore we are connecting you with British Gas who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

We believe that EDF is now responsible for Zog Energy customers. Therefore we are connecting you with EDF who will be responsible for taking your request forward.

You may also be interested in...

  • About Us - find out more about Smart Energy GB and our role.
  • Benefits for Britain – find out how smart meters are helping the environment and Britain as a nation.
  • FAQs - we at Smart Energy GB are here to make sure all consumers have the facts about smart meters. Here's what you need to know.
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