You dream of making your business a success. As an entrepreneur, you want to master your craft, drive net profits and lower your running costs. That’s why installations of smart meters for business are soaring this year. A smart meter lets you monitor and control your gas and electricity consumption in a way that’s tailored to your commercial activities. When it comes to meters, what does smart mean in business? Read on to find out how this small device will grow your net turnover.
What is a Smart Meter?
A smart meter is a gas or electricity meter that accurately reads your business’ usage, every hour, every day of the year. It sends all this data to your business’ energy supplier via a SIM card that’s fitted in the meter (a bit like how mobile phones work!). You are able to see this data on the in-home display (IHD), which shows you how much energy you use in real time.
While you and your staff are busy generating turnover, you won’t be disrupted every month to have your meters read by an engineer. You won’t need to send them meter readings either. Instead, they’ll receive them automatically via a 3G network. Despite your minimal interaction with your energy supplier, you’ll get accurate bills based solely on your company’s actual usage.
Half-Hourly Electric Meters. Are they the Same Thing?
No. A half-hourly electricity meter is not a conventional credit meter, nor is it a smart meter. It's like a hybrid between the two; older and less advanced than the latter Half-hourly electricity, also known as “AMR meters”, use AMR (automatic meter reading) technology to provide a more accurate electricity reading to the electricity supplier every half hour.
Many people think that AMR meters and smart meters are the same thing since they both offer remote, fully-automated readings. They both use GPRS or SMS technology to send your meter readings directly to your supplier, thereby avoiding the need for manual meter readings. This translates into more accurate and up-to-date bills without the need for estimated billing.
But the main difference stops there. AMR and Smart meters are actually very different! Look out for our article on the big differences between AMR and Smart meters so that you know which one is best for your business (coming soon!)
Does the Type of Meter Depend on the Size of My Business?
SMEs can be broken up into Micro, Small and Medium businesses as shown in the Average Business Energy Bills Guide 2019. There you can see how much an average business of your size and operating in your business sector, spend on energy every year. To sum up... size does matter! So what type of meter will you need for a company for your size?
If you're a non-micro business and your company uses more than 100,000 kWh of electricity, or more than 293,000 kWh of gas over a year, you can actually choose* between an AMR meter and a smart meter.
Half-hourly AMR meters are mostly used by large businesses and electricity intensive industries (EIIs). It’s actually compulsory to have a half-hourly AMR meter if your business consumes 100 kW of electricity or more.
If you run a micro, small or medium business that consumes less than 70,000 kWh electricity per year, you may find it more beneficial to have a smart meter installed in your premises. Remember to consider the pros and cons of each before making your decision. (Look out for Selectra’s guide on AMRs coming soon!).
DATES FOR YOUR CALENDARMR meters will continue to be used in large businesses but the option to install either an AMR meter or smart meter at the premises of SME’s will be phased out from 21 May 2018. After this date, only smart meters can be installed.
After May 2018 only SMETS-compliant smart meters can be installed at SMEs, except if there’s a lack of mobile data signal, or the installation of the SMETS is being carried out under a contractual agreement that pre-dates May 2018.
Smart Meters for Business in 2019. Why All the Fuss?
Don’t believe the hype about smart meters disadvantages floating around on the internet. Over thirteen million smart meters have been installed across the UK. Throughout 2019 we’ve been seeing a steady increase in smart meter installations among businesses like yours. This wouldn’t be the case if the false hype about smart meter problems were true.
In fact, the months of May, September and December 2019 are key in the rollout of smart meters for SMEs. The Government wants all UK energy suppliers to install smart meters for all its customers by 2020. Find out more about the Government’s 2020 targets here.
How to Read a Smart Meter for Your Business
To find out how to take a smart meter reading, let’s look at one of the most common SMETS1 smart meters manufactured by EDMI Ltd.
- 1. This is a sealed button. It can only be accessed by your smart meter engineer.
- 2. See the date and time of your current meter reading.
- 3. An optical port accessible by your smart meter engineer.
- 4. Your smart meter serial number. It also appears at the top of your bills.
- 5. Flashing lights which show how much energy your business is using.
- 6. The arrow that appears on your screen displays your business’ current usage rate.
- 7. The make and model of your SEMTS1 smart meter.
Smart Meters UK: What’s in it for My Business?
There’s a reason why 939,700 companies like yours have installed a smart meter. There has been a whopping 8.61 million smart meters for business installed across the UK according to the latest OFGEM figures. There is clearly no downside of smart meters, only benefits for your company. These are just some of them:
- Near real-time information on your business’ energy use, displayed in pounds and pence.
- No disruption to your staff. There’ll be no need for an engineer to attend your premises to take readings. They’re automatically sent to your supplier remotely, securely and reliably, using the same technology as mobile phones.
- Get accurate bills based only on your business’ consumption. The end of estimated bills allows you to budget more accurately for your company’s future usage.
- Discover which devices consume the most energy. Push their consumption when wholesale prices are cheap or when plunged below zero pounds. (Find out more here).
- Switch business energy without compromising your smart meter. Have you been offered a better deal from another supplier? Even if you already have a smart meter, it can still remain smart, avoiding the cost of getting another one. (Find out more here).
5 Ways to Increase Turnover with Smart Meters
Become commercially savvy with smart meters for business and you can bring your energy running costs down. If you’ll be moving to a new business premises, you’ll know what to look for in a supplier that can match your business’ energy needs. This includes tariffs that use your smart meter to manage your consumption.
Agile Octopus from Octopus Energy is an example of one tariff you’ll want to play with. By connecting your smart meter to the smart devices, you get more control over what each device is doing and how they’re performing. This tariff’s high-tech features allow for better coordination between them, which translates into lower energy bills.
Let’s look at how this smart-meter-loving tariff can grow your net turnover while bringing down your company’s energy costs.
1. Wholesale Price Drops
Shift your business’ energy usage outside of the typical peak hours of 4pm - 7pm and see your bills drop. That’s the premise of the Agile Octopus tariff. This renowned supplier for SMEs has received outstanding reviews from Which? and Trustpilot for the way in which they help entrepreneurs like you.
You’ll be regularly updated via your smartphone of your half-hourly energy prices which are tied to wholesale prices. This means that when wholesale prices drop, your business energy bills do too.
2. Plunge Pricing
Your business loves positive cash flow and the pink Agile Octopus knows it! That’s where its tentacle stretches out and hands you its Price Plunging feature. How does it help your business? Well, there’s more electricity generated than consumed wholesale energy prices will fall. As they fall below zero, your business will be “paid” to take energy off the national grid.
Your work phone will receive an SMS alerts when this happens, at which point you can switch on all the appliances you need to run your business. Your customers will be happy and so will you, knowing that you’re actually winning cash for...doing nothing!
3. Alexa...Your Virtual Voice Assistant
You already know that vampire devices can suck out energy when left on standby mode. But when you’re busy with paperwork or tending to customers as you run your business, when will you get the time to switch all these appliances on and off?
This is where Amazon’s Alexa steps in! She’s your new virtual assistant. Ask her to switch these vampire devices off for you, just with your voice. What’s more, smart meter for business can be linked to Alexa. This allows to you to set up rules and triggers that fire once you give her a particular demand.
“Hey Alexa… shut down the heating or air conditioning system an hour before closing time.
With your new virtual assistant, you can ask her to switch these vampire devices off for you, just with your voice. You can go even further by linking your smart meter to Alexa and set up rules and triggers that fire once you give her a particular demand.
The Amazon Alexa App
The Amazon Alexa app allows you to view and keep statistics for meter readings taken from your SMETS1 or SMETS2 meter. With its user-friendly interface you can view data in the form of graphs and bar charts. You can even export the data to Excel spreadsheets and share it with colleagues. Perfect when analyzing expenditure with your staff and discussing how to bring down the company’s energy costs.
4. Take Control with If This...Then That…
Can your business use any devices outside of the peak hours from 4pm to 7pm? If so, you’ll want to harness the power of “If This, The That” (or IFTT). This is where you make your business devices smart and set up rules and triggers so that they perform a function if a particular event is triggered. Clear as mud? Let’s look at some examples in practice:
|BUSINESS TYPE||RULE||TRIGGER||MORE INFO|
|Restaurant||If...the wholesale price of gas drops below my set price...||Then...switch from gas cooking to induction cooking.||
I run a restaurant. Cook My Bills!
|Salon||IF... the price of electricity in the wholesale market exceeds £65/MHh||THEN...switch off the ring lights and switch on the wifi thermostat.||
I run a hairdressers. Chop My Expenses!
|Retail Shop||IF… the time is after 20:00||THEN...turn the lights down in the customer waiting room and changing areas||
I run a shop.Display Energy Savings!
5. Protection Price Caps
Wholesale Price Drops and Plunge Pricing are two features that savvy energy suppliers offer through smart meters. However, what if the opposite happens? The dreaded “Price Spikes” occur when more electricity is being used than is being generated by the National Grid. In other words, it’s when demand outstrips supply. In this event, wholesale prices rise, which could make your bills more expensive!
Your protection from price spikes comes in the form of a Price Cap. How does this work? Once smart meters for business register a price spike, the energy supplier will charge no more than a set rate, for example 35p / kWh, for any energy used throughout the duration of that spike. The benefit? You get the price stability your business needs, even when you have lots of appliances operating during business hours.
Types of Smart Meter UK
There’s lots of confusing and inaccurate information on the internet about smart meter types. Selectra has already set out the types of conventional credit meters (i.e. non-smart meters). However, there are big differences between the two main types of smart meter. These differences are important to know what they can do now and in the future when you switch supplier. Selectra’s energy experts have filtered down the most important information for your business.
SMETS1 vs SMETS2
Smart meters for business are often referred to as SMETS (Smart Meter Equipment Technical Specifications). The two main types are:
- SMETS1 - The older model and the one most prevalent in households and businesses around the UK. They’ll typically communicate with your energy supplier through the 3G mobile phone network. This model can be further broken down into “dormant” and “active” SMETS1 meters. (More info here.)
- SMETS2 - The newer, advanced model rolled out in 2018. These meters transfer data use a purpose build communication network managed by the new Data Communications Company (DCC). All SMETS2 meters are “active” and will never become “dormant”. (More info here).
Which SMETS is Best for Me?
SMETS1 meters are managed through a number of different 3G mobile phone networks which are not linked up together. Why is that bad? If you find a better deal for your company from another supplier, although you can still switch supplier, your smart meter could stop doing its job.
Your now “active” SMETS1 meters may lose its smart functionality, namely communicating the data to your new supplier. It’ll become a “dumb” meter, meaning that you’ll have to submit meter readings every month to your energy supplier, just like you did before getting it. To top it off, your In-Home Display might not work! So after paying your company’s hard earned cash on a smart meter, you’ll realise that it has gone to waste!
If you already had a SMETS2 meter, it remains smart no matter how many times you switch supplier. You can carry on switching to get the best energy deal for your company without any change or disruption to your meter. That’s why Ofgem wants as many people as possible to get SMETS2 meters. By the end of 2020, all energy suppliers will be required to ensure that all their customers have a smart meter that always remains smart (otherwise known as the “end-2020 backstop obligation”).
- GOOD TO KNOW
- SMETS1 installations have decreased, while SMETS2 installations have increased in 2019.
- SMETS1 installations (at 100k) far outstrip SMETS2 installations (86k).
ONE MILLION SMETS2 meters have now been connected to the Smart DCC network!
Dumb vs Smart: Does it Matter?
If you’ve already invested time and resources into getting a smart meter installed in your premises, you’ll be frustrated to learn that it has now turned “dumb”. You can’t afford to make bad investments if you want to reduce your running expenses and increase net turnover. Instead, you’ll want to save money and inject it where it matters to grow your business.
Trapped and Unable To Switch Supplier
You will be trapped in the clutches of your expensive energy supplier, without any escape! Even if you get a wonderful quote from another supplier offering lower gas and electricity rates for your business, you’ll be swamped in a lose-lose situation.
- If you stick with your expensive supplier, you won’t be able to lower your running costs; vital to your commercial bottom line.
- If you switch to a cheaper supplier, you’ll lose all the benefits of having a smart meter. Don’t forget what will happen if you fail to submit a monthly meter read to your supplier. They’ll take an “estimated” reading, which can cost higher than your actual consumption.
Less Competitive Energy Suppliers
What happens if entrepreneurs like you lose their meter’s smart functionality upon switching? They won’t switch supplier! Instead, they’ll stay with the same one and the energy market will stagnate. If instead business owners are empowered to switch as they please, energy suppliers will start to improve their services to entice more customers. This improves competition in the energy market, with benefits that trickle down to customers like you.
SMETS1 Migration to SMETS2
To recap...you now know that having a smart meter that actually stays smart, even after you change supplier, is the way to go. You also know that your SMETS1 meter could potentially turn “dumb”. So you naturally conclude that it’s best to get a SMETS2 meter...right?
Think again! Although both SMETS1 and SMETS2 are being rolled together, there’s a greater likelihood that you’ll be given a SMETS1 instead. Here's why:
- Short Supply of SMETS2 -There’s currently an abundant supply of SMETS1 meters and a scarce supply of SMETS2 meters. Even if energy suppliers wanted to replace all of the older models with the new ones, they wouldn’t have the resources to do so.
- Increased Costs for Your Business - If your supplier has to acquire the newer model, they’ll have to send an engineer around to your business premises to uninstall the older one and replace it with the newer one. Who pays for this? You do! This means yet more expenditure that you’ll have to budget for. It could even risk cash flow flow problems for your business. Suppliers may still fail to recoup this expenditure, which itself carries risk to their own bottom line.
So you’ve requested a smart meter and you've received a SMETS1. No need to panic! Plans are underway to make new or “active” SMETS1 meters function and behave like SMETS2 ones. This is what is now known as the “SMETS1 Migration programme”.
The aim is to migrate SMETS1 smart meters from the Smart Metering System Operators (SMSOs) under whom they were installed and operated, to the Data Communications Company (DCC).
Even if you had a SMETS1 meter that turned “dumb” after switching supplier, it will revive its smart functionality. This will avoid the need to have it replaced with a SMETS2 meter. The process of moving meters across the system is called the enrolment and adoption plan.
WAKE UP DORMANT METERSThe ability to revive a dormant meter to make it smart again is dependant upon there being a contractual relationship between the new supplier and the relevant Smart Meter System Operator (SMSO) that was responsible for installing and operating the network. If there’s no contractual relationship, it’ll stay dumb. To have a smart meter you’ll need to do one of the following:
1. Get a SMETS1 meter that is compliant with an SMSO to allow migration to the DCC; or
2. Get a SMETS2 meter which will always retain its smart functionality, no matter how many times you switch supplier.
Secure™ SMETS1 that Stay Smart Forever!
Smart meters manufactured by Secure™ have a contractual relationship with an SMSO. In addition to supplying customers of Octopus Energy, Secure™ also supply meters to suppliers such as Utilita, First Utility, E.ON and Bristol Energy. That means that if you want to switch from any of these expensive suppliers to a more economical one that can harness the power of your smart meter, your meter will stay smart!
Timeline of SMETS1 Migration Programme
Migration of SMETS1 Installations is set to be implemented in 3 main Operating Capacities: Initial (IOC), Middle (MOC) and Final (FOC).
Note: The dates are based on the Smart Meter Communication Licence (LC13) revised plan published on the 8th of February 2019. (Download it here)
|Operating Capacity||Initial Operating Capacity (IOC)||Middle Operating Capacity (MOC)||Final Operating Capacity (FOC)|
|Date||End of May 2019||End of September 2019||Mid December 2019|
|Meters||Elster, Aclara (GE) and Itron||Secure and Elster||Landis & Gyr and EDMI|
|Active Meters||3.0 million||4.2 million||5.5 million|
|Dormant Meters||0.5 million||0.8 million||0.9 mllion|
|Total Meters||3.5 million||5.0 million||6.4 million|
- Each Operating Capability will be running in parallel and will each last a minimum of 12 months.
- By the end of 2020, all energy suppliers will be required to provide customers with a SMETS1 meter that’s enrolled in the DCC. As for those meters which are not enrolled in the DCC, they must be replaced with SMETS2 meters. This is commonly known as the end-2020 backstop obligation.
Recap on Key Dates
Let’s recap on the three milestones of the enrolment and adoption migration plan (source):
|Phase||Operating Capacity||Outcome||Start Date||End Date|
|1||Initial Operating Capacity (ICO)||DCC will be mobilising the first migration window.||29 May 2019||28 May 2020|
|2||Middle Operative Capacity (MOC)||More than 4m of the “ineligible SMETS1 meters” will be migrated to the “eligible SMETS1 meters”||31 September 2019||30 September 2020|
|3||Final Operating Capability (FOC)||Everyone will have an “eligible SMETS1 meter”.||12 December 2019||11 December 2020|
Smart Meter FAQs
There are lots of unanswered questions floating around the internet about smart meters for business. Let's answer them here once and for all.
Are smart meters compulsory?
No. It’s not a legal requirement to have a smart meter installed either in your home or business premises. It will only be a government-imposed requirement that smart meters be “offered” by energy suppliers to all small businesses and homes.
I don’t have internet. Can I still get a smart meter?
You don’t need an internet connection to have a smart meter. Your smart meter will have its own SIM card and uses a 3G or 4G mobile GSM network to communicate data to your energy supplier. So if you don’t want to install broadband internet at your business premises, you won’t have to.
There are lots of great broadband packages for businesses. Ensure you check out Selectra's Best Business Broadband Guide 2019
How long will it take to install a smart meter at my business?
A smart meter engineer will arrive at your business premises and take no more than an hour to install your new smart meter. Note that you’ll need to turn off your company’s electricity supply for around 40 minutes while it’s being installed. The smart meter engineer will do his best to keep disruption to your business down to a minimum.
I’m renting the business premises. Can I still install a smart meter?
If the business premises belongs to the landlord, the “property” extends to all meters, wires and boilers within it. We’ve covered landlord’s obligations for domestic premises regarding boiler cover. However, it’s not the landlord’s obligation to get a smart meter installed in either domestic or commercial premises. That means that if you don’t have one installed and you want one, you’ll need to take the necessary steps.
Don’t rush into getting a smart meter installed in your rented business premises. Check the terms of your commercial lease for any conditions that may need to be satisfied before you can do so.
The terms may require you to get the permission of the landlord in the manner stipulated. If oral permission will suffice, you’ve got it easy! However, if they require permission in writing, send them a letter in the format they’ve required. If there’s no such specific format required, just send the landlord a standard letter requiring their consent to have a smart meter installed on the business premises.
Are there any other conditions attached to getting a smart meter? For example, reinstalling the old meter? Don’t risk getting a nasty surprise. Check the terms with a fine tooth-comb!
Do I need a strong mobile phone signal?
Yes. The smart meter engineer will carry out a test during installation. If you have a weak phone signal, the smart meter will be unable to transmit meter readings to your supplier. If that happens, the smart meter engineer will talk you through the options available.
Any smart meters disadvantages for security?
Security of your business’ energy usage is at the top of OFGEM’s priority list. In compliance with SMICOP and the ISO 27001 standard, the highest encryption protocols are followed. This means that your company’s energy consumption data is held and transmitted securely and safely.
- Your Data and High Security
- Robert Cheesewright of Smart Energy GB has assured that’s data only considered as strictly “energy-related” will be encrypted and stored on your smart meter. That means that your name, business address and company bank details will NOT even be stored on your smart meter.
- You can decide how much data your energy supplier can collect from your smart meter and whether your energy supplier can share that data with third parties. Contact your energy supplier to check or modify your preferences.
- Only your energy supplier can look at the data (not the DCC) and even then, the supplier is subjected to a rigorous security assessment and regular security audits.
Are smart meters safe?Yes. The same health and safety regulations and testing procedures followed for any technological devices, including mobile phones and baby monitors, were followed and adhered to with smart meters.
I have a SMETS1 meter. Do I need to replace it with a SMETS2 model?
If your SMETS1 meter is still “active” (or “smart”), then there’s no need to replace it. If you recently switched energy supplier and it has now turned “dumb” (i.e doesn’t send meter readings automatically to your supplier), you may need to replace it.
Call your new supplier and ask if they can install a SMETS1 meter that is compliant with an SMSO that will allow migration to the DCC. This is important because if you choose to switch supplier again, you won’t want to go back to square one, where your new smart meter reverts to being “dumb”.
If they have an SMSO-compliant SMETS1 meter, even if you lose smart functionality, once it’s enrolled into the new DCC’s enrolment and adoption system, then the smart functionality will come back. If your new supplier does not offer this, you may want to wait until they can or just ask for a SMETS2 model when it’s available.
Smart Meter Reviews: What’s the latest?
Take a look at any smart meter review from an entrepreneur and you’ll likely see positive it has been in bringing down running costs. Are smart meters good for every type of business? As we’ve already seen, they can be very useful if you run a salon, restaurant, shop, or any other business that uses multiple devices and equipment.
If you think that you can learn how to be more business smart, then you’ll certainly see positive gains in installing a smart meter.