Making your energy meter smart

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third-party contributors to submit analysis on a key topic affecting the telco industry. In this article technology author Dean Anthony Gratton looks at the growing phenomenon of smart energy meters and wonders if they’re all they claim to be.

I mentioned in last month’s post that I was all IoT’d out, yet I find myself looking at ‘smart meters’ this month and, alas, the technology seems to sit under the Internet of Things (IoT) umbrella. Nonetheless, despite the ‘big data’ implications, there’s a lesser known factoid, which I may touch upon in next month’s column – but more about that later.

I’ll be back!

The British government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is responsible for overseeing its energy policy throughout the United Kingdom and, in its white paper, the focus is on the reform of the electricity market. In particular, the rollout of ‘smart meters’ and the improvement of energy efficiency for existing UK housing, commercial and industry buildings should empower consumers and businesses to ultimately benefit from energy efficient improvements to both new and existing buildings, which is all sweetly dubbed ‘The Green Deal’.

Eesh, that’s enough of the preamble, so let’s get back to the smart metering thingamajig. The old meters, you know, those things in our cobwebbed cupboards, or perhaps in our equally cobwebbed basements, merely show energy consumption by numbers and it’s not until either we provide an honest remit of our consumption or the dreary representative from our energy supplier knocks on our door for an exact reading that we learn of how much we are using and indeed spending; in short, the utility companies want your money! “I’ll be back” says the dreary representative – little does he know…

Save the planet, please!

What makes a meter ‘smart’? Well, some ‘smart arse’ decided to put a ‘chip’ into them, along with some other gubbins that could make the dreary energy supplier representative redundant. Mmmm, perhaps the same innovator who decided to put a chip into the meter had it in for the dreary chap! To be honest, I’ve never seen a happy “I’ve come to read your meter” guy. In short, with the rollout of smart meters he’s emphatically out of a job and, alas, hasn’t made it through to the next digital round.

Hey-ho. So now hitherto, the chip and gubbins collate your data, theoretically empowering you with information that is gleaned from your energy consumption, whether it’s in your home or business. Essentially, this raw, real-time data not only informs, but educates you as to how you use energy within your dwelling. I’m not sure this ability will make the ‘Big Six’ entirely happy since, ultimately, you’ll become ‘wiser’ and more energy-savvy. This is a positive step by the DECC as they want to empower consumers by allowing them to understand how to reduce energy bills in a bid to save the planet.

Making the ‘Big Six’ poorer…

According to DECC, by 2020 all homes and businesses will be upgraded to use ‘smart meters’ ensuring consumers are aware of their energy footprint, in turn, empowering them to become more aware of their energy consumption, perhaps to the dismay of the supplier.

I’m sure it’s great in ‘theory’ but, I’m also sure that ultimately the ‘Big Six’ want you to consume as much as possible since it’s how they make money – duh! Now I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but these chaps are oh-so ‘power’ hungry (please forgive my pun) so why empower consumers with an ability to be mindful of their consumption? It makes me think that there must be another agenda lurking. Being an eternal cynic, I can’t help but think that the suppliers aren’t going to suffer a hindered revenue stream lightly. So how will they allow smart meters to continue to feed their pockets? I’ll be researching their side of things in the coming months but in the meantime I’m not convinced by their seemingly altruistic move.

Until next time…

I know this smart metering thing may save the planet, but there is a lesser known factoid that may save the planet further, but I want to touch upon that, as I intimated in this column, in next month’s post.

So, this is where a ‘greener’ Dr G signs off this month.


grattonboy-with-fedora(social-media)Dr Dean Anthony Gratton is a bestselling author and columnist, and has worked extensively within the wireless communications R&D industry. His wireless research work has been patented. You can contact Dean via his website, and follow him on Twitter (@grattonboy) to enjoy his risqué humour, witty shenanigans, social media and technology-related tweets. You can also read more about his work at deangratton.com.

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