Power providers throughout Britain are anxiously awaiting broad rollout of new smart metering technology. The Energy Retail Association (ERA) believes the only way to introduce smart meters is to roll them out nationwide in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner. Energy suppliers, and customers, will benefit from smart meter rollout not only with lessened power demands and better power forecasting but also with the technological byproducts that will be a direct result of the smart meter network infrastructure. Smart meter technology takes traditional electric meters to the next level by providing information to the power supplier and to the customer so that both may provide and use energy more efficiently. For the supplier, costs involving meter readers are eliminated, for example, as that information is communicated directly through a two-way communications network. For the customer, live information detailing costs for power during peak and off-peak periods gives them the outline they need to conserve energy consumption.
The communications infrastructure required for Britain’s smart meters is largely in place. The major task at hand now is to install smart technology-enabled meters in every British home – a project expected to last several years. However, starting in 2008, any new meter installed in Britain will have a real-time visual display accompanying that meter and the smart meters will be available to all British households that request them between 2008 and 2010.
Further government plans for the technology rollout stat that gas and electricity suppliers must install smart meters within all “but the smallest” businesses within the next five years and that over the next decade, all gas and electricity customers will have smart meters installed. The effort is a huge one and requires cooperation on many levels between consumer, utility provider, and the government.
Smart meters play an important role in Britain’s effort to cut carbon emissions. In the fight against climate change, cutting carbon emissions are essential in that fight. Carbon emissions are a key aspect of greenhouse gases that are trapped in the atmosphere causing a global warming trend, according to many scientists worldwide. Smart meters put the decision making process regarding the reduction of greenhouse gases in the hands of the customer for the first time in how they choose to power their home.
Implementation of smart meter technology represents a great step forward in this battle. Power production produces a high level of carbon emissions. Currently, 97.2% of Britain’s energy supply comes from non-green energy sources. Reducing this level of non-green sources is another part of Britain’s effort but reducing current power consumption of non-green energy production is a reachable goal and can cut Britain’s current carbon emissions dramatically. A large percentage of carbon emissions in general are produced by energy suppliers meeting the demand of its customers. The installation of smart meters will steer utility customers in the right direction towards energy conservation. A nationwide effort to reduce power consumption will reduce British carbon emissions dramatically.
Power companies have more reasons to readily anticipate the rollout of smart meter technology. The communications infrastructure required for smart metering can also be used as a means to provide broadband connectivity to potential customers. As power grids also become communications grids, the possibility to provide high-speed Internet to utility customers is inherent.
Another possible technological advancement that could be a byproduct of a fully-functional smart meter infrastructure would be the installation of femtocells within customers homes that allow wireless communications to the energy provider. Femtocells essentially function as short-range cellular gateways that increase mobile phone coverage. The ultimate result of having femtocells prevalent in British homes would be lower cost of phone calls and utility companies perhaps entering the cellular phone market also.
The debate is still on whether to install WiFi capability or femtocells within homes to finalize the smart meter communications infrastructure necessary to relay information back to the power company. Cellular technology is much more prevalent in Britain than broadband, so it is thought the femtocells may be more easily adapted by the public.
Current trial runs of smart metering technology now in place across Britain will make this final determination of what the entire infrastructure will look like at its final completion. However it turns out, consumer, supplier and climate look to benefit from the coordinated efforts of the consumer, power supplier, and government.