26 November 2018
The IET fully supports the replacement of the existing gas and electricity meters with smart devices that are capable of giving consumers more choices in the way they buy and use energy. These smart meters must also exploit opportunities to make Great Britain’s power system more efficient and responsive to consumers’ needs so that environmental targets can be met and at reasonable cost.
However, the UK will be unable to fully capitalise on the significant opportunities available if it is not delivered as part of a wider programme to redefine the way the power system operates. This disconnect between the physical rollout of smart meters and the market changes necessary to exploit them, is a wider concern of the IET.
For consumers, an effective smart system gives them greater control and understanding of their energy consumption, with the ultimate aim of using energy in a more efficient way and saving money.
The first step is to give domestic consumers access to time-of-use tariffs which record energy consumption on a half hourly basis in line with the electricity market. This will give consumers a better idea of when energy is in peak demand and when it is more cost-effective. However, the changes necessary to allow half-hourly tariffs to be offered to consumers are not yet in place. Ofgem is in the process of making this happen and we hope that these changes will be in place as soon as possible.
Smarter management of the power system and the devices connected to it is critical to delivering much of the innovation that the energy system desperately requires. For example, an efficient and effective smart system is needed to facilitate the rollout of electric vehicles. It will enable users to use the benefits arising from the flexibility of electric vehicles by charging them at times of low price electricity or when renewable power is abundant.
The realisation of a smarter power system requires that its development is not constrained by the ownership boundaries that exist in the electricity supply chain today. We therefore consider that a wider programme of work is required to ensure that the full benefits of smart meters are realised. BEIS and Ofgem do recognise this argument and are taking actions to address it but we believe there is much more to be done. We recommend that the NAO fully explores these wider issues.