Smart meters are set to become a common part of the British home, helping us better manage energy usage and understand its cost. But will getting ‘smart’ also make us ‘green?’

Mark Krull, Director at Logic4training, looks at the smart meter roll out and discusses how this clever tech could work to boost renewable power supply.

Power and its cost is under the spotlight, with smart meters giving all of us an insight into just how much boiling a kettle could hit our bank balances. And, with different price points at different times of the day, it won’t just be a case of deciding whether turning on a light is totally necessary, when we use energy will also be a consideration – avoiding peak times will save money too.

While smart meters won’t force changes in habit, by presenting people with the facts, they may be more inclined to cut energy wastage, which, apart from benefiting them, will also contribute to country-wide reduction in carbon.

Smart grid

The biggest effect of smart meters may be on the energy grid, rather than in our homes, however.

By better understanding how we use power, improved networks can more readily meet supply and demand. As mentioned above, electricity will be cheaper at different times of day; when there is excess capacity within the network, for example. Green Energy UK has recently announced their TIDE tariff, which allows customers to take advantage of lowered unit prices at certain times, between 11pm and 6am, for example.

Plus, by having a more thorough handle on power usage, green alternatives to fossil fuels can be better utilised through intelligent integration. Information on weather forecasts, for example, combined with real-time knowledge regarding energy demand will allow operators to plan renewable contributions more effectively.

Business opportunities

By 2020 it is intended that everyone across England, Scotland and Wales will be offered a smart meter by their energy supplier at no extra cost. More than 4 million smart meters have already been installed, but there are still many more to fit.

The roll out itself is being managed by the UK’s energy companies and large contractors, like Lowri Beck. These companies are the route to work in this field. There will be no ‘freelance’ smart meter installers so, if you’re interested in getting involved, you need to check for jobs advertised on energy company and contractor websites or through specialist recruitment agencies.

As smart meters cover electricity and gas, there are plenty of opportunities for all factions of our sector, as well as complete new entrants. One of the most important parts of the job is the customer facing element, explaining how to use the smart meter, ensuring end users are left fully briefed on their new piece of kit – customer service forms part of related qualifications.

Smart meter training

If you’re offered a position through a smart meter provider, they will put you through a training programme. At the moment there are two options for gas - a Level 2 Diploma in Smart Metering (dual fuel or gas or power) or the Approved Prior Learning (APL) programme leading to the ACS assessment for Core Meter Installation and Exchange (CMA1). Later this year it is proposed that a new route is introduced, CMA3, which will just cover domestic smart meters.

Successful candidates will be certified by their employer as competent through the Smart Meter Installation Code of Practice (SMICoP) and Meter Operation Code of Practice Agreement (MOCOPA).

The installers’ role

Whether you’re a smart meter installer or not, building services engineers have a role to play in encouraging smart meters’ take-up. Explaining the benefits to your customers could win you brownie points as they experience the benefits of reduced fuel bills and a less wasteful approach to power. With the promise of a greener energy network offering future environmental benefits too, individual savings in the here and now that should not be the only focus.