Smart meters show your energy use but here’s how you can actually save money

Soaring energy prices are squeezing homes and businesses across the UK and Europe, prompting leaders to implement support measures such as the UK’s Energy Price Guarantee. Yet it is often unclear to a consumer how much they are spending on energy. For those not on prepayment meters, there is no direct fee each time a light is switched on or a cup of tea is made.

Energy bills also tend to be paid in average monthly sums spread across a year. This protects households from winter price rises when energy use increases. But it also means that the amount households pay for energy is not directly linked to their daily or monthly energy consumption. This separates households from their energy use and the bills they pay.

Smart electricity meters could change how households use energy. They track a household’s energy use and express the cost on an in-home display.

There are now 25.6 million smart meters installed in homes and businesses across the UK. Though the number of installations varies, an additional one million smart meters are installed on average each year.

The UK government believe that smart meters could cut household energy bills by 2–3% on average based on trials from their nationwide smart meter roll-out programme. But research cautions against the benefits of smart meters for households.

Not so smart meters

A smart meter can reveal which of a household’s appliances use the most energy. Their proponents argue that they support behavioural change and incite discipline over energy use by raising household energy consciousness. But the effectiveness of a smart meter depends on the decision of an individual not to consume or waste energy.

Research that I co-authored found evidence that there are gaps in UK households’ understanding of their energy usage. In other words, many…

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