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Smart Meters: The gateway to new technology

Over seven million smart meters have been installed to date and the wheels are in motion to move towards the Government’s rollout target to have every home in the UK installed with a meter by 2020. Despite concerns expressed by some in the industry around the target, nearly two-thirds of our customers have expressed to us that the main benefit of having a smart meter is no more meter readings, with 42 per cent stating that the main advantage for them is accurate bills and 29 per cent indicating that they are pleased with having an in home device for monitoring energy usage. In fact, the benefits do not end with accuracy, ease of use and efficiency as smart meters will serve to transform the system by acting as a gateway to new technology, feeding into the smart grid and supporting the shift to renewable energy.

We believe that smart meters are the gateway to a range of products and services that will transform energy systems for the long term. They are the foundation for new smart technology to develop and thrive in homes, and create energy efficient systems. Nearly half of our pay monthly customers currently have a smart meter installed, meaning they are able to actively monitor and view their account online or using the My OVO app. My OVO uses the half-hourly reading data from the meters combined with complex algorithms to determine what appliances and devices are using power in a customer's home, and a breakdown by appliance helps customers be more targeted when looking to reduce their demand. When smart meters are optimised to their full potential we can look at using smart technology to develop a suite of new services, including smart appliances, home energy storage, and electric vehicle charging.

Furthermore smart meters feeding data into smart grids, will allow energy providers to better manage bi-directional power flows into and out of their grids, and give customers the insights needed to understand their own energy infrastructure investments. Here at OVO, VCharge, with the technology platform VNet, has developed a solution for electric heat customers in the UK, which makes use of the function of smart meters. It utilises the smart meter programme and a smart tariff to unlock grid balancing revenues when the energy is not being used by the customer to offer added value to them. Initial pilot results from schemes in Glasgow and Newcastle have demonstrated customer savings, which comprised of reduced overall energy consumption and costs savings through the tariff.

Additionally, as more people start to plug in and charge their electric vehicles at home it will become more apparent how smart meters and the smart grid need to work together. This is where vehicle to grid (V2G) technology can play a key role. V2G technology enables energy stored in electric vehicles to be fed back into the grid to help supply energy at times of peak demand. It plays an important part in helping to ‘balance the grid’ so that more renewable energy can be added to the network. It essentially enables EVs to become mobile batteries, which provide load shifting and frequency response to support the national grid as renewable penetration increases. At an individual level, V2G technology allows EV owners to manage and sell back their energy, eventually becoming energy self-sufficient. At a macro level, V2G technology provides opportunities for energy independence and resilience against blackouts.

As the transition to truly smart energy systems gathers pace, customers will be increasingly demanding trusted access to the technical hardware that will power the shift to a digitised future. Smart meters underpin the move to a digitised, decentralised and decarbonised energy system and OVO is in a fantastic position to shift towards this future vision.

Melissa Gander, Managing Director of In Home Technology

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