Smart meters are a key component in the transformation from passive electricity grids to ‘smart grids’. Smart grids will enable network operators to accurately predict electricity needs and better match supply with demand, resulting in greater cost-savings and efficiency. But to be totally effective suppliers and network operators need to receive half hourly meter readings from customers. The problem is, despite there being 35 million smart meters in homes across Great Britain, many aren’t sending frequent readings. Let’s explore why, and how we can help energy suppliers gain customer consent for obtaining half-hourly meter readings. 

The smart meter challenge

According to government data published in March 2024, 61% of electricity and gas meters in homes in England, Scotland, and Wales are smart meters. However, a staggering 4 million of these are being used in ‘traditional’ mode, meaning they aren’t sending readings automatically.1 As a result, these customers still need to manually send meter readings to their energy providers.

Another challenge is that customers have some control over how often their smart meter sends meter readings to their energy supplier. They are allowed to opt out of regular meter reads, with suppliers being required to obtain consent for more detailed data than daily reads. 

If a customer’s smart meter was installed before 3 November 2022 and the customer hasn’t switched supplier or changed contract since, then the smart meter will automatically send daily readings. However, the customer can choose to increase this to half hourly or opt-out to monthly. 

If the smart meter was installed after 3 November 2022, or the customer switched supplier or changed contract, then their smart meter will automatically send readings every half hour, but the customer can choose to decrease this to daily (but not monthly).

This policy was designed to give consumers leverage in an area where understanding and trust are typically low. The principle was that suppliers should offer incentives for more detailed data rather than defaulting to receiving it.

Benefits of half hourly data to utilities

Smart meter data is invaluable to energy suppliers and network operators. Half-hourly readings provide a precise understanding of electricity usage, enabling more accurate energy purchasing and less waste. They also help to lower bills, reduce environmental impact, improve supply security, and enhance customer service. In fact, Ofgem estimates net benefits to British consumers of between £1.6bn and £4.5bn from such reforms by 2045.2

Benefits to customers

Half hourly meter readings have benefits for customers too. Granting permission for frequent readings enables better online and app insights. Customers can also allow suppliers and third parties to use their data to offer new products and services, such as tariff advice. 

Benefits to SMEs

For SME’s the situation is slightly different. Businesses with a maximum electricity demand exceeding 100 kW in any 30-minute period are legally required to have a half-hourly meter. However, for those with a demand between 70 kW and 100 kW, opting for a half-hourly meter is optional. There are also additional charges associated with half-hourly meters including Meter Operator (MOP) Charges, Data Collector (DC) and Data Aggregator (DA) Charges, as well as kilo-Volt-amperes (kVa) Charges. 

Whilst these additional charges may increase metering costs, there are plenty of benefits for SMEs that opt for half-hourly meter readings, including more accurate bills and associated cost savings, tailored contracts based on specific electricity demands, as well as a far better understanding of usage trends, enabling energy-saving measures.

How we can help encourage customers to opt in to half hourly meter readings

We can help collate and combine historical and real-time billing and meter data with data collected from our home surveys and audits, as well as relevant third party data. Using data science modelling, we can extract valuable insights related to individual customers, their households, their consumption patterns and behaviours. 

We can then build individual customer profiles with accurate detail relating to their household and their consumption patterns. Subgroups of consumers can be identified, allowing us to proactively target subsets of customers with appropriate messages. For example, we can target customers without a smart meter to educate them on the benefits, using highly visual neighbourhood comparison reports to reveal that similar households in their area that have a smart meter have lower usage and bills.  Find out more about how we can increase your smart meter rollout.

Additionally we can also target customers with smart meters who are only providing daily or monthly meter readings, and use behavioural science techniques to encourage them to opt in to half-hourly readings. Learn more about how we use the ‘nudge’ behavioural science technique to influence and encourage customers to change their behaviours. 

The transition to half-hourly meter readings is a crucial step in optimising the benefits of smart meters for both utilities and customers. By facilitating more accurate energy usage data, we can drive efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance energy management across the board. With tailored strategies and data-driven insights, we can help energy suppliers and consumers alike to embrace this change, leading to a smarter, more sustainable energy future.

Suggested further reading

Blog – How to increase smart meter rollout in the energy sector

BlogHow Advizzo helps utilities generate value from smart meter data

Case studyWellington Water partners with Advizzo on smart meter roll-out programmeBlogHow we can help water companies meet the National Infrastructure Assessment’s smart meter recommendations