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Smart meters: The key to the smart grid

Author : Alan Birks, commercial and marketing manager for Eaton

The government has announced that Smart Meters will be rolled out to all domestic and small business energy users by 2020 and to all larger businesses within the next five years. But what are Smart Meters?

Smart meters: The key to the smart grid

In their most basic form, they are energy meters that can be read remotely by the energy supplier to ensure accurate billing. In practice, however, they are likely to offer many more functions, such as provision for some form of convenient display so that the energy user can monitor consumption in real time.

The meters may also act as a communication interface to allow utility companies to control loads for the purposes of shifting energy demand away from the peaks, a function that is very important for the implementation of the Smart Grid.

If, however, the utility companies are going to install Smart Meters for everyone, how does this create opportunities for contractors? The answer is that businesses and homeowners with an eye to saving energy and protecting the environment won’t want to wait until their official-issue Smart Meter arrives. Nor do they need to.

For installation in homes, battery powered energy monitors which simply clip around the meter tails, have now been joined by consumer units with built-in mains powered energy monitoring facilities. These units typically work in conjunction with a wireless display that can be installed where it is readily visible or even carried around so that the effect of turning off various appliances can be seen instantly. This arrangement doesn’t provide the full benefits of the “official” Smart Meters, of course, but they are an invaluable aid to cutting energy costs.

Businesses are catered for by convenient sub-metering packs that are available from leading distribution equipment suppliers. The best of these are easy to fit, and provide the end user with detailed information that will not only help them to save energy, but also to satisfy the requirements of Part L2 of the Building Regulations.

Sub-metering packs and energy-monitoring consumer units are available already, so there is a great opportunity for contractors to explain to their customers that, by fitting these products now, they can start cutting their energy bills and protecting the environment long before their Smart Meter arrives

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