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23 WINTER 2016 SUPPORTED FEATURE Most of us have by now read or heard something about smart meters. But with the million and one things the average small business owner has to do every day, how many of us can honestly say they’ve taken the time to understand all the ins and outs and the pros and cons of getting a smart meter? So we’ve teamed up with Smart Energy GB – the voice of the smart meter rollout – to give you all the key info on what they are, how you get one, and how you can use them to make life easier and keep costs down. What is the smart meter rollout? By 2020, every household and many small businesses will be offered a smart meter by their energy supplier. The smart meter rollout is an essential technology upgrade unprecedented in scale. It will improve Great Britain’s energy infrastructure and bring the same benefits already enjoyed by over 4 million homes to small businesses across England, Scotland and Wales. How does it benefit me and my business? The key attribute of a smart meter is that it communicates information about your energy use in near real time. This gives you as a small business owner two key benefits that you may well not be getting already. 1. No more estimated bills and you’ll only pay for the gas and electricity actually used As a small business, cashflow management is perhaps the most important juggling act, and anything that causes uncertainty is a problem. Imagine if you had to arrange for someone to come and check the number of text messages you’d sent every quarter? Or if your web hosting service sent you estimated invoices every month, only to land you with a big bill at the end of the year? Because smart meters send energy readings directly to suppliers, estimated bills and inconvenient meter readings will become a thing of the past, as is the looming threat of being hit with an unexpectedly large bill in the future due to incorrect estimates. So you’ll only ever pay for the energy you’ve used. According to Citizens Advice, the cost of mains electricity is currently the main concern of nearly 50% of all small businesses and estimated billing can make it very difficult to budget for energy bills, especially over the winter months that can incur a considerable amount of debt. Accurate information on energy use can help small businesses make sure they’re on the best tariff for them. 2. Help you identify where savings can be made As it shows near real time information about your energy use in pounds and pence, your smart meter can help you identify what’s costing you the most (and it may well be something unexpected). According to The Carbon Trust, existing smart meter data has already revealed that businesses use around 46% of their energy outside normal working hours (6pm-8am) and smart meters can help identify appliances that are big culprits. You probably don’t give a moment’s thought to the energy consumed by the tatty old fridge/freezer in the back room, but it may be using a lot more than you think. Your smart meter can help you work out if you could save significant sums by upgrading to a more efficient one. How do I get one? Your smart meter is installed by your energy supplier. Many small businesses will be able to get a smart meter at no additional cost but some might be charged for part of the upgrade such as installation and access to information about energy use. This will depend on your energy supplier and tariff but if there are any charges the supplier is obligated to tell you about them up front. Depending on your supplier and tariff you will be offered a variety of ways of monitoring your energy consumption quickly and easily. These include from hand-held digital displays, to websites and apps. If you operate from rented premises and you have a contract for the supply of gas and electricity, you can still claim your smart meter (though it’s probably best to inform your landlord of your plans). If you don’t have a contract for the supply of gas and electricity you should still check with your landlord to see if it’s possible to get a smart meter for the building. Installation work will only take around 2 hours depending on the type of property and energy suppliers will try to work with you to find a time that’s convenient for you to minimise disruption to the business. To find out more about how to get a smart meter from your energy supplier, or anything else about the smart meter rollout, visit www.smartenergyGB.org/ small-businesses


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