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Smart metering will potentially transform householder’s understanding of their energy consumption creating new opportunities for better home energy management and engagement with the energy markets.

Energy efficiency can be the most cost-effective and quickest way to reduce carbon emissions and meet the challenge of increasing energy prices however, the public sector needs to do much more to take advantage of these benefits. Despite considerable effort through government funded schemes, typical homes in GB could still be saving a lot more. It is estimated that a minimum 10% saving on both electricity and gas could be achieved through further simple and cost effective energy saving measures, i.e. measures that save energy and money. That is equivalent to £2.5 billion per year of unnecessary energy consumption. Utilita believes that consumers are not making these savings because they do not have easy access to the right information and do not have the right incentives. Utilita believe that offering solutions to help customers monitor and save on their energy usage is a key way to help reduce this spending.

Utilita Energy is the leading supplier of prepayment gas and electricity in the UK, focusing solely on the needs of the prepayment market. Issuing free smart metering technology to every customer with built-in features such as Emergency and Friendly Credit supported by remote top-up facilities, allows people to monitor and top-up their energy at the touch of a button, ultimately giving them the tools to stay in control of their energy usage.

Despite the rise in energy prices, Utilita recognise the need to keep things affordable, as proven in the service we already deliver to over 140,000 customers. We pride ourselves on being an alternative pre-pay option to the ‘Big Six’. Utilita are passionate and determined to make the pre-payment energy sector fairer and more accessible and feel that further collaboration with the government would be an important step toward achieving this.

A major determiner within the public sector, and potentially responsible for the lack of recognisable savings demonstrated, is a lack of knowledge or understanding around current energy usage and the role smart metering can play, not only in changing energy behaviours, but also in the provision of data which identifies areas where cost savings can be best applied. Through Utilita’s relationships with Housing Associations and Local Authorities, we are helping to change this with the availability of usage data and the application of energy saving support to residents, delivered via workshops and on an individual level.

Smart metering will potentially transform householder’s understanding of their energy consumption creating new opportunities for better home energy management and engagement with the energy markets. Government conservatively estimates that SMETS1 compliant meters which include the ‘In’ Home Display (IHD), will stimulate behaviour change resulting in sustained energy savings of between 2-3% but other estimates are much higher . But smart meters will possibly have their most significant impacts in providing the near real-time and historic feedback that allow the effects of installation of measures and implementation of energy advice to be quantified and visualised. Here smart meters can open up flows of information to householders, scheme designers, installers and others such as energy advisors that can underpin energy efficiency and sustainable energy schemes, thereby encouraging further energy and carbon savings and other social and economic benefits. The results of the national trials of smart meters overseen by Ofgem known as the Energy Demand Research Project (EDRP) clearly describe how this feedback was influential for householders when presented in conjunction with particular measures. Utilita want to further strengthen engagement with public sector companies and work in conjunction with the government to support this.

We’re extremely eager to do our part in raising awareness, though campaigns and marketing launches, and have a proven track record in helping customers on lower incomes; ensuring our energy is obtainable and affordable. Utilita are proud to be the first energy supplier to cater solely for the prepayment market, developing user-friendly ways to enable control for our customers. Taking this unique approach to energy means a tighter control on client expenditure and helps our customers to dictate on their own usage. It’s because of this we recognise the importance of working in partnership with public sector organisations for a multitude of reasons.

The smart meter rollout will see every household in the UK installed with smart metering technology by 2020, but it is important that we do not forget those wanting a prepayment energy service and the positive impact this could have on public sector spending. It is often the case that social housing residents are penalised for using prepayment meters set at a far higher cost than those who have the choice to pay via a monthly or quarterly direct debit plan for their energy usage. Over the last 10 years Utilita have partnered with a number of housing associations and community organisations, installing their residents with advanced smart metering technology set at the most competitive prepayment rate against the ‘Big Six’. This experience sets us apart as one of the most responsive prepayment energy suppliers supporting communities across the UK today.

There are about 4.1million households approximately 16% of the UK population) currently using prepayment meters, which are costing them more than paying via a direct debit service. Although the difference has decreased in recent years, these customers still pay on average around £105 more per year for their electricity and/or gas. A prepayment energy service doesn’t fit most supplier models and it’s these customers who pay the price.

A customer of Utilita’s for just over 7 years recently said: “When you know what you’re going to spend, you can budget. We see what money we have for the week, sort out the gas and electric, few other things, then work out what we have spare…”

Allowing customers, especially those on the breadline, to take control of their energy usage is at the heart of what Utilita offer. We recognise the importance people put on feeling in control and work hard not to forget that. No one likes large energy bills landing on their door mat or feeling that their energy usage is spiralling out of control – suppliers may know the score but deciphering bills a month after energy has been used puts many customers on the back foot. Opting for a prepayment energy service is becoming more acceptable in today’s market, attracting a more energy conscious and savvy customer fed up of receiving regular, overestimated energy bills. The greatest way of reducing energy costs is to encourage people to use their energy efficiently and it’s our job to ensure those wanting a prepayment energy service, are equipped with the right tools to do just that.

SMETS2: the Smart Meter Equipment Technical Specifications:
These are the figures used in the government’s impact assess-ments.

Bill Bullen
Managing Director
Utilita Energy Limited
Tel: 01962 874844