UK Businesses to benefit from smart meters

UK Businesses to benefit from smart meters

But high cost means national domestic rollout is uncertain

UK Electricity supplier Opus Energy is rolling out £5m-worth of smart meters to its business customers.

Installation of real-time, networked meters could save small and medium-sized firms £300m per year, according to figures from The Carbon Trust. It could also cut 5.1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, equivalent to the entire annual carbon footprint of Bristol.

But utilities are being slow to roll out the technology to domestic users, because of the risks associated with high infrastructure costs.

Opus’s business model relies on the improved customer loyalty generated by smart meters, according to managing director Charlie Crossley Cooke.

“If a customer is receiving accurate bills at a decent price, there should be no reason for them to change supplier,” said Crossley Cooke.

“We have taken the longer-term view that it will help our customers and build up loyalty. That is the risk that we have taken ­ at the end of their contracts, we think they are more likely to renew.”

Opus’s largest customers implemented the technology first and trials are now under way with smaller organisations.

The firm expects to recover its investment because accurate billing will save time and resources.

“We will spend less time answering billing queries and that will feed through in terms of staff numbers and with regard to bad debt,” said Crossley Cooke.

Smart meters appeal to the different priorities of customers, whether their focus is on the environment or potential financial savings.

“Most people will just want an accurate bill, some will change their consumption, and there will be others who will decide to change their tariff so that it matches their consumption,” said Crossley Cooke.

The first installations took place in March this year, and about 1,000 of Opus’s 35,000 customers now have smart meters in place. The programme is expected to have covered 10,000 installations by the end of the year.