Without reducing the energy consumption of our homes we won’t achieve our CO2 emission reduction targets. The energy consumption of our buildings is dominated by space heating, yet the main demand reduction initiative in the UK is the Smart Meter rollout.
The government aims to install a smart meter in every UK home by 2020. This includes a smart meter, which has the ability to communicate data to the energy supplier, and an in-home display for consumer feedback.
Despite this a recent survey found 51% of the population had never heard of smart meters. If the UK smart meter rollout is to achieve the energy savings possible then the issues of privacy and public awareness must be addressed.
Currently the majority of attention has been focused on technical development and not engaging the public. This may be one reason that the survey mentioned earlier reported that 20% of the UK population opposed the rollout.
By making it clear to consumers that smart meters will be provided free of charge by energy companies and highlighting they will bring an end to estimated billing, the public resistance experienced in parts of the USA and the Netherlands may be avoided.
Providing residents with feedback regarding their energy consumption, energy savings of between 4-15% can be achieved. This can help us reduce our emissions and our energy bills simultaneously. However, sustaining the energy savings over time can be particularly difficult.
Initial energy savings of 7.8% were reported by van Dam, Bakker and van Hal (2010). However these energy savings were not maintained, despite users developing habits to check their energy monitors regularly. There is still a lack of data available from long-term studies; therefore establishing the persistency of possible energy savings requires further research.
With the mass rollout out due to begin in 2014 the need to address the issues of public engagement and awareness is becoming more urgent. It is imperative that the issues of privacy and public awareness are addressed promptly to realise the benefits to both consumers and the energy supply industry.