The short answer to the title question is a resounding no: smart meters cannot directly save customers money. In fact, the installation of smart meters in households that have previously spread out the costs of their energy usage through monthly direct debits may see their bills rise initially; smart meters, first and foremost, provide accurate billing, so certain months of the year are likely to be subject to higher than usual costs – especially where previous payments were based on estimated consumption.
In consideration of the UK Government’s objective to install smart meters in all homes across the country by 2012, the meters will become an integral part of calculating energy costs, which, until recently, had been anything but efficient.
At present, First Utility is the only private company offering smart meters to UK households; although, major energy suppliers such as British Gas EnergySmart and Npower are expected to roll out their own smart meters in the near future. Until availability increases, First Utility will continue to struggle to meet the demands of its rapidly growing business. Nevertheless, the company is still considered to be so far ahead of its rivals it would take a catastrophe of one kind or another to derail its market dominance any time soon. In response to accusations that First Utility is failing on the customer service front, the company’s Chief Executive, Mark Daeche, said: “We have been a victim of our own success. However, we are expanding staff numbers and I expect to sign the new lease for new offices in the next few weeks”.
Although some people appear to believe fuel bills will drop significantly as soon as smart meters are installed, the truth could not be any more different. In order to enjoy savings on fuel costs, households must learn to read and adapt to the information provided by smart meters on domestic energy consumption. A spokesperson for Npower commented: “If I gave you a smart meter now you wouldn’t save a penny. It’s about encouraging you to interact with it and that’s what energy companies need to be doing. The benefits will only come when you start paying attention to it”.