Last week the government revealed new proposals aimed at promoting smart meter technology for small businesses across the UK.
At the cost of £11bn the government intends to offer every UK home and business a smart meter by 2020.
Smart meters help customers gain awareness of and control over their energy use which in turn helps them to reduce emissions and save money through presenting real-time data.
However, in order to achieve the 2020 target, 39 million smart meters need to be installed on top of the 12 million currently active. While the government’s website states that the ambitious nationwide rollout of smart energy systems could lead to total savings of £40 billion between now and 2050, The National Audit Office has raised serious doubts about the plausibility of the project’s on-time completion.
Only around 25% of businesses have agreed to have a smart meter installed, which leaves over 2 million without them. According to the government, lack of awareness is a key barrier to further installations.
“We are of the view that without intervention, this low awareness is unlikely to improve before the end of the rollout, which would be detrimental to take-up and thus the realisation of benefits,” a government spokesperson said.
70% of non-domestic microbusinesses – companies with 10 or fewer employees – do not realise that smart meters can be installed for business use, according to a 2018 survey by Smart Energy GB.
This means that they could be missing a share of the potential £1.4 billion in savings, according to statistics from the government’s department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Now, BEIS aims to develop better engagement through a consultation, which will run until 21st February 2019. It will propose two policy changes that will target smaller businesses, as they are not covered by protective measures offered to domestic clients, and nor are they large enough to benefit from deals and brokerage services that larger and more energy-intensive businesses are able to use.
Smart Energy GB, which is responsible for the national smart meter campaign, is being urged to engage with microbusinesses.
In the meantime, BEIS is looking at whether the charge that many energy suppliers request to provide energy use data to companies should be banned. Currently, licence conditions mean that suppliers are obliged only to make energy consumption data available on request and can charge a fee for access.
The way that data is provided and presented to non-domestic customers is also under scrutiny. The expansion of the campaign will give Smart Energy GB more flexibility to make their communications more targeted.