Britain is in the middle of the biggest upgrade to its energy infrastructure in a generation. Millions of households have already made the move to smart meters — enjoying a better understanding of their energy usage and using that knowledge to change habits, save money and cut their carbon footprint.
While householders enjoy the personal benefits of smart meters, many are unaware that by simply arranging their installation, they have played a role in helping to create a decarbonised energy system fit for our growing demands. This flexible new system will play a significant role in Britain’s commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Smarter and greener
Smart meters are a crucial part of a smarter energy infrastructure. They provide a greener and more efficient energy system that can allow us to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, accelerate the uptake of energy efficiency measures and improve the flexibility of our energy network.
Dr Andrew Turton, principal analyst at Delta-EE, the specialist energy research and consultation company, said: ‘To decarbonise the energy system and meet our climate change targets we need more flexibility to allow for the integration of decentralised low carbon technologies.
‘This system needs customers to use energy at the times when low carbon and low cost supply is available. This in turn requires energy demands to be accurately measured in near real-time.
‘Smart meters are an essential building block in achieving these aims, and will provide the necessary consumption data to sooner reach a low carbon system.’
Our ageing energy system was built at a time when it was assumed that coal-powered stations would keep the country’s lights on indefinitely. While it could cope with increases in demand (by adding more fuel to the generators), it was not designed to cope with the challenges of intermittent supply from renewable sources – you can’t control when the wind blows or the sun shines.
The new, smarter, digital energy system – connected to every household in Britain by smart meters – will have the flexibility to manage supply and demand more efficiently. It will know when supply from renewables is high, allowing for more effective storage and, likewise, will know when demand is high, and reserves need to be released.
One of the biggest challenges our gas-reliant country faces in reaching net zero carbon emissions is decarbonisation of heat. Using heat pumps which rely on electricity will put increased pressure on our system. Without a smarter energy system, which can balance out peaks in demand and dips in supply, we will continue to rely on carbon stations to supply the energy needed when everyone comes home on a cold evening and turns the heating on.
Smart meters are also sparking innovations in the energy industry that will give consumers themselves more power to choose greener (and cheaper) energy with ease.
Innovation and efficiency
Services enabled by smart meters (such as time-of-use tariffs, which incentivise customers to use electricity at times when renewable supply is high, in return for cheaper energy) will play a significant role in decarbonising Britain. Smart switches, which can be set to turn appliances or chargers on when supply is high, rely on smart meters. As adoption of electric vehicles increases, and puts extra pressure on our system, the ability to charge cars when supply is high and demand is low will keep costs down for consumers, and help ensure our energy supply remains stable.
Make it happen
The smart revolution is happening in Britain, bringing reliable, efficient and low-carbon energy and providing the physical and data infrastructure for a new economic era. But realising this vision begins in the home. By upgrading to a smart meter, you’re helping build a smarter Britain — delivering a cleaner, greener and smarter economy better equipped for the future.
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