Smart meters may not be a novel idea anymore, but the recent surge in the number of new installations looks like it could be driving a wave of innovation for the energy sector.
According to recent government data, or advanced meters accounted for more than half of all gas and electricity meters by the end of 2021. Even though the pandemic slowed installation, 3.8 million meters were installed last year and the rate of installation is only likely to increase.
As smart meters become ubiquitous, they’re likely to have a transformational effect on energy use in the UK. Customers and businesses will have greater access to their data and more insight into their energy use than ever before, reducing waste and driving industry innovation.
The speed of the transition towards smart meters puts the onus on other sections of the industry to adapt. Some sectors, especially those employing large numbers of engineers and call staff, will need to adjust more than rapidly than
Smart Meters: More Important Than Ever
For customers, smart meters promise both to increase their control over energy usage and to lower their energy costs.
The urgency of the climate crisis and the recent painful rises in energy prices are both likely to accelerate the pace of the smart meter roll-out as households try to minimise costs to their bank accounts and the environment.
By giving consumers access to real-time data on their energy use and allowing them to understand how their energy consumption rises and falls, smart meters enable households to make informed decisions about how and when they buy energy, cutting down on waste and helping to reduce bills.
Businesses stand to benefit too. More detailed insights into a business’ energy usage, made available by smart meters, allow suppliers to offer that business bespoke tariffs based on their actual energy requirements. This means businesses will get better deals and prices, but also makes things easier for suppliers by providing greater certainty around their customers’ energy demands.
The Benefits of Smart Meters for The Industry
The sudden access to enormous quantities of data on energy use from consumers and businesses alike is bound to be transformational for the energy industry, changing traditional business models and spurring innovation.
Consumers’ increased awareness of their own energy use is likely to encourage them to switch suppliers more frequently. Although the previous year has seen a savage reduction in the number of energy companies, in the long term the industry will play host to a diverse and competitive landscape of small and independent suppliers reflecting the range of needs and values of their consumers.
The explosion in data also creates an exciting platform for innovation in the energy industry, as established and emerging companies compete to produce knowledge and insights from the new stores of data and create compelling new products and technologies, from apps to peer-to-peer energy trading networks.
New Opportunities on the Horizon
As the industry innovates and becomes more diverse and competitive, there will be a corresponding increase in data and computing-related roles. As younger, more innovative companies find new ways to leverage data, more established and less flexible enterprises will be forced to adapt – which won’t always be as painless as one might hope.
During OVO Energy’s takeover of SSE’s retail division during the pandemic, 2600 gas engineers, electricians, meter readers and call centre staff lost their jobs, with the company citing a customer shift towards online behaviour as the reason for job cuts.
As we’ve seen, smart meters are likely to accelerate this trend. With customers’ energy usage being reported automatically by their smart meters, there will be a reduced requirement for staff to chase customers on the phone or take meter readings.
Established companies will also have to overhaul their billing infrastructure and continue to shift their operations onto digital platforms. Many staff will need to be retrained, and the speed with which companies are able to carry this may well be crucial to their success.
By allowing the UK’s energy resources to be routed and used more efficiently, smart meters are likely to play a crucial role in the UK’s sustainability ambitions. With the industry becoming more digitalised and data-driven as Britain strives towards net-zero, there will be a wealth of opportunities for those able to exploit the opportunities provided by huge new reservoirs of data.
But the same wealth of opportunities for industry innovators should also put established enterprises on notice. Those who fail to pivot towards the industry’s digital future, overhauling infrastructure and retraining staff may find themselves being left behind as consumers look for better deals and talented workers pursue more exciting roles elsewhere.
Although this is a turbulent and unpredictable time for the energy industry, the changes to the spread of smart meters is cause for optimism.
The data generated by smart meters should in turn create a wealth of new careers for data, analytics and computing specialists, and should give other segments of the industry, such as marketers and sales teams, exciting new ways of connecting with customers.
If you’re feeling the effects of the accelerated smart meter roll-out, be it in your data & analytics team, installation team or in leadership, we’d love to the chance to have a chat. Get in touch with our team today on 0121 633 3030.
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