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British Gas trials smart meters in homes

Smart meter test findings show some energy savings


Gas prices have risen by 33.8% in the last 12 months

Early results from a British Gas trial of smart meters measuring gas and electricity use in peoples’ homes show that 85% of triallists found them easy to use – but only 44% thought they had saved them energy so far.

The results are from the first six to eight weeks of the recently launched British Gas smart meter trial, and from only 320 of the 1,200 homes taking part. Under government plans all homes will be installed with a smart meter, an electronic version of old-style gas and electricity meters, by 2020.

The triallists have been equipped with a smart meter and an energy monitor, which displays the amount and cost of the energy they are using. The energy monitors use a traffic light warning system which show red if energy use is high.

Energy monitors are not currently part of the government’s plans to roll out smart meters. Which? wants to see a roll out of portable wireless energy monitors to give real-time information consumers can use to cut energy use.

Smart meter roll out

Smart meters allow suppliers to record remotely how much gas and electricity householders use, doing away with the need of estimated bills and meter readings. Another British Gas smart meter trial involving 50,000 business customers resulted in a 40% reduction in billing enquiries from those customers over a year.

The government estimates that the introduction of smart meters will save the energy industry £306m each year. But it estimates savings for UK consumers at just £36m each year – or £1.43 per household.

According to Which? energy campaigner Clare Corbett: ‘The roll out of smart meters has the potential to make it easier for all of us to cut our consumption and our costs. But we won’t be able to do this if all we get is an electronic version of our current meter, hidden away in a cupboard under the stairs or outside the house. 

‘What we need is information about our energy use and costs right now, last week, last month, last year and more. That’s why the government must commit to roll out energy monitors to all UK consumers.’

Cut your energy costs now

Switching energy supplier is easy through Which? Switch. Customers switching between January and October 2009 saved an average of £263. 

Read our smart meter and energy monitor review – where we recommend three Best Buy energy monitors. 

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