Smart meters are a key part of the clean energy system of the future. But why?

You may have heard about how smart meters can help us to be more efficient in the home by monitoring our energy usage in real time. What’s spoken about less is the benefit to the grid as a whole.

In this blog we talk about the environmental benefits for households, the wider environmental benefits for the UK’s electricity network; and what the future of a truly smart grid might look like.

How do smart meters help households to save energy?

If you know your home is not as energy efficient as it could be, the data your smart meter provides can help you see the impact of making simple changes. Whether that’s swapping bulbs for energy saving LEDs, using the tumble dryer less often or insulating your home, you’ll be able to quickly see if you’re using less energy.

According to Smart Energy GB, 69% of people in the UK want to use their energy in a more flexible and sustainable way, using the data shown on their smart meter to understand how changes they make affects their energy usage.

Knowing how much energy is being used each day can really help people to cut down, and therefore reduce their carbon emissions too.

“I’m now highly aware of how much energy I am using at any one time. I have turned my thermostat down, and I also try to optimise use of my oven, washing machine and other devices.” 

Diane, a Good Energy customer from Richmond

How do smart meters benefit the electricity grid?

Perhaps you’re already super energy efficient and don’t think a smart meter will make a difference to you personally. The good news is, smart meters aren’t just about saving energy at home.

At the moment, energy suppliers and the National Grid don’t have a complete, accurate picture of consumer energy demand. We know how much you are using from the information in your meter readings, and get a good estimate of daily and yearly peaks and troughs; but this hazy picture can lead to energy being wasted.

Electricity pylons stretching into the distance.

Smart meters give us much more timely updates leading to a more accurate view of exactly when energy is being used, and where. This means that our trading team will know in more detail about how much energy to buy and sell; and that energy generation and transmission as a whole will become much more efficient. This will help the grid to incorporate a higher percentage of renewable electricity.

By 2025 the frequency in which smart meters transmit their data to the energy companies will increase to every half an hour to help to paint a larger picture of the country’s energy usage. This will make it easier to detect power demand in real-time, along with any surges and outages across the grid.

It also opens up the benefits of ‘time of use’ tariffs. We know that energy usage peaks in the morning and the early evening and is much lower in the middle of the day and overnight. However, this picture doesn’t always match up with when energy is generated – particularly renewables. Which means we are not always using electricity when it is cleanest.

Time of use tariffs provide an incentive to you to shift your electricity use away from these peaks to better tie in with this energy generation picture, by giving you a better price. It may mean starting your dishwasher just before you go to bed; setting your washing machine to start in the middle of the day when solar generation is at its height; or scheduling your car to charge in the small hours in the morning when electricity is cheaper. This gradual flattening of peaks and troughs can hugely cut the carbon intensity of the grid by reducing the need for fossil fuel power plants that lie idle outside of peak times.

Good Energy is not currently offering time of use tariffs to new customers at the moment, but you can find out when these will be available on our website.

What about a smart grid?

This is where we see the future of renewable technologies, storage, smart meters and other smart technologies all working together. As well as making the grid much more reliable with fewer power cuts, smart technologies will work alongside our changes in behaviour to further flatten any peaks, and to optimise energy usage at times of maximum renewable generation.

Very small impacts on individuals, with big environmental benefits for the planet. Read more about smart grids and flattening the curve, in this article by our founder, Juliet.

In home display showing energy usage.

“I think a smart meter is a necessary part of the grid of the future. It will help generators sell their power back to the grid and therefore make it more attractive to generate.”

Malcolm, a Good Energy customer from Kent

From reducing how much energy is wasted to helping the grid to become truly responsive; smart meters are essential building blocks for the creation of a greener energy network that can maximise use of renewable energy sources. And that’s great news for the planet.