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7 WAYS SMART METERS WILL HELP THE ENVIRONMENT & BENEFIT BRITAIN

Reaching net zero by 2050, reducing our carbon footprint, driving electric cars. What do these have in common? Smart meters could help to unlock their potential. Getting a smart meter is a small step for individual households, but it will add up to big things for Great Britain.

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1. ENABLING A SMART FUTURE

What is a smart energy system and why do we need it?

A smart energy system uses modern digital technology to understand when customers across Great Britain use energy, as well as how much they use.

This will allow the system to better manage what energy is needed, where. That means reducing energy waste and also moving away from being reliant on fossil fuel energy, instead investing in renewables.

How do smart meters enable a smart energy system?

Smart meters are integral to Britain benefitting from a truly smart energy system in the future because they:

  • enable a flexible energy system that can use greener sources of energy;
  • help improve the way the system balances supply with demand; and
  • help to ensure the security of our energy supply.

But that isn’t all, smart meters also allow consumers to play an active role in the energy system. With smart meters and the accompanying in-home display, consumers have more understanding of their energy usage, and flexibility to change their behaviours and choose new smart meter enabled tariffs.

2. GETTING TO NET ZERO IN THE UK USING SMART METERS

What is the UK net zero carbon emissions target?

Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases we emit, and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

Back in 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass net zero emissions law. This new target requires the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. And we all need to do our bit to help the UK reach this target. You can find out more about this law here.

Wind turbines with a cloudy orange sky

How will smart meters help us achieve the net zero carbon emissions target in the UK?

To achieve the government’s net zero target, we need to decarbonise electricity by making sure that as much electricity as possible is generated by renewables.

A smart energy system, enabled by smart meters, is helping us make the most of renewable energy, such as solar or wind energy. Read on to find out how.

3. UNLOCK THE BENEFITS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY TO THE ENVIRONMENT

How does using renewable energy help the environment?

Renewable energy comes from sources that are constantly and naturally ‘renewed’, such as wind power or solar energy.

The goal is for renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels, like coal and gas, which will eventually run out, and contribute to climate change.

How will smart meters enable greater use of renewable energy?

A smart energy system needs to manage the supply of energy when usage is higher, for example, in the evening as people cook dinner and watch TV. During these periods, the energy system can’t rely purely on renewables, so power stations are used.

To prevent this, customers could use their smart meter and smart tariffs to reduce their energy usage at peak periods, when electricity is most expensive. This will help the energy system reduce our reliance on additional power stations, because they won’t need to produce as much extra energy at these peak times. Helping us make the most of renewable energy, such as solar or wind energy.

4. REDUCE THE COAL MINING IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Why is coal bad for the environment?

Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel, and is responsible for harmful air pollution:

The burning of coal and other fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, increasing levels of CO2 and other gases, trapping heat, and contributing to global climate change.

Coal burning in fields

How smart meters will impact coal and the environment

As explained in the renewable energy section, a smart energy system, enabled by smart meters, is helping us increase our use of renewable energy sources, such as wind power or solar power. Power stations burning coal will soon be a thing of the past…

Reliance on coal for electricity has dropped from 70% in 1990 to around 3% today. This is great news for the environment!

5. POWERING THE ELECTRIC CAR BENEFITS TO THE ENVIRONMENT

Are electric cars better for the environment?

These clever cars get their energy from electricity, instead of petrol. With more energy coming from renewables, that makes electric vehicles even better for the environment.

An EV being charged

How smart meters could help to unlock potential for electric vehicles

A smart energy system will use a lot of information, including energy usage data from smart meters, to better predict energy demand. As more people get electric vehicles and demand for electricity increases, this will help us supply more reliable, efficient and low-carbon energy to households. And also help us all to manage our valuable resources more efficiently.

But that isn’t all! In the future, consumers will be able to plug in their electric vehicle at home and the smart meter will decide when it’s best to charge up the car. Time-of-use tariffs will encourage charging when cheap, excess renewable energy is available.

6. SMART METER ENERGY SAVINGS

How do smart meters save energy?

Just having a smart meter installed doesn't automatically save your household energy. But the handy in-home display that comes with your smart meter helps you keep on top of your energy usage – it can show you your energy consumption in kWh and pounds and pence, in near-real time. You can use this information to make changes around your home to reduce your energy usage.

They will help to save the nation energy. If the whole nation got a smart meter we could save the same amount of energy as it takes to power every household in Aberdeen, Cardiff and Manchester for a year! 

7. REDUCING YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT WITH A SMART METER

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is a clever way to measure our impact we have on the environment. It works out the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from our everyday activities – like driving, going on holiday or using single use plastics. These gases are dangerous for our environment.


Will a smart meter reduce our carbon footprint?

If we all used a smart meter, the CO2 savings Britain could make would be equivalent to the savings made by around 70 million trees. Now that's a lot of trees...

FAQs

How secure are smart meters?

Security has been at the heart of the whole smart meter rollout programme from its very inception, and the system has been specifically designed to prevent hacking. Smart meters do not use the internet, and they have their own closed, dedicated communications system. Smart meters have been designed with top cyber security experts, including the government and GCHQ, to ensure that security best practice has been incorporated at every stage.

Can I get a smart meter for free?

There is no additional cost for installation of your smart meter. At the point of installation you may be offered an in-home display that shows your spending in near-real time for no additional cost. You won’t have an extra charge on your bill because you choose to have a smart meter. The costs will be spread across everyone’s bills, just like the cost of running and maintaining today’s traditional meters are.