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Reframing the Conversation

It is an inescapable fact that if the UK is to reach its goal of Net Zero by 2050, the domestic energy sector will have to be part of the solution. For organizations in the energy supply chain it will be vital to get the domestic customer to be an active and engaged consumer.

Active energy management, demand shifting and time of use tariffs will all be parts of the puzzle for residential customers who want to run electric vehicles, heat their homes and still be able to balance the family budget. However, for many consumers the legacy of Smart Meters looms large and is negatively impacting their perceptions of what energy management can do.

For energy innovators, like us at Neutral Home, it is important to be aware of the poor perceptions that exist amongst the general public. In a survey in 2019 OnePoll [1]found that 58% of people said that they had no intention of getting a Smart Meter. Reasons included, they didn’t see how it could save money,(25.24%) they didn’t like being pressured by

energy companies, (24.23%) and that the Smart Meters don’t work very well.(21.79%)

A dive into the comments section after a recent story in The Guardian[2] revealed further insight into the perception of smart metering. A common theme was that knowing what you are spending cannot in itself help you save money unless you are prepared to turn the lights off and sit in the dark. This is a fair point, and reflects the fact that knowledge is only power if you can actually do something with it. The challenge for intelligent energy systems developers such as Neutral Home, will be to make the case for cost saving with a minimal change in consumer behaviour. Also revealed were a number of Trojan horse worries about smart meters allowing energy companies to disconnect at will, or even the dystopian vision of energy being rationed to consumers in time of shortage through the smart meter system. It is clear to see that a reimagined future of engaged consumers working in partnership with the grid to provide mutual benefit with storage capacity and demand shifting will require a rebuilding of trust.

It is important that the new energy pioneers understand the worries of domestic consumers and work to develop a value proposition which addresses these worries. We have to acknowledge that the roll out of SMETs 1 was poorly conceived and executed and there is work to be done to restore confidence. The new generation of intelligent energy management will need to put clear water between old style smart metering and the active, interconnected energy efficient home.

[1] OnePoll Nov2019 [2] ‘Smart Meter wrecked our boiler’Nov 23 2020 The Guardian

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