Smart vs Advanced metering: what does it mean for UK non-domestic energy customers?

5th December 2018 was a significant milestone for non-domestic customers in relation to the long-standing smart metering programme as new licence rules were introduced binding suppliers to smart meter implementation.  

Total Gas & Power currently offers AMR (advanced meter reading) devices as opposed to smart meters. Smart meters provide a two-way, secure communication between suppliers and the physical meters via a central data collector. They are the next generation of technology for domestic and microbusiness meters that offer a range of intelligent functions and more accurate energy consumption information. For both consumers and suppliers, this provides greater insight into energy usage and massively reduces estimated and incorrect billing. Compared to a smart meter, an AMR meter is a much less complex arrangement, but still includes the remote communication of consumption data between meter and supplier and billing benefits.

So what does it mean for different segments of the energy market?

It is mandatory for larger gas and electricity meters to be fitted with AMR. These installations happened between 2009 and 2014 and supplier licence conditions have included this agreement for some time. Between 2014 and December 2018 AMR meters have been fitted for any customer, including microbusinesses. However, from 5th December 2018 all microbusiness meters that are not yet AMR capable are to be included in the smart meter rollout, therefore meaning they are bound by the 2020 deadline. Total Gas & Power lobbied hard (with other non-domestic suppliers) for the big multi-site businesses and larger SME customers to have a choice between the two technologies. It was a major success for Total Gas & Power, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Ofgem were persuaded that offering the choice of solutions was in the customers’ best interests. This will be especially beneficial for our customers who have AMR installed and are starting the transfer to smart meters, but do not wish to manage two technologies

Smart and AMR meters do more than bill accurately. Customers are now introduced to consumption information right down to the half-hour and with this new insight into energy usage, efficiency measures will be better implemented and measured. These meters are also part of a wider strategic goal driven by Ofgem for a smarter energy market. The potential for smart grids, faster switching, more accurate settlement and product innovation is unlocked, allowing possibilities like such as time of use tariffs, electric vehicle charging and demand side response for many more customers. In fact, there is even an industry programme underway to move towards universal half-hourly electricity settlement from 2021/2022. Smart and AMR metering is the critical piece of infrastructure in this endeavour, modernising the energy industry and leading towards a smarter market over the next decade.

Total Gas & Power have more guidance and FAQs on this page.

There is also a customer guide produced by the I&C trade association (ICoSS), which can be found here.

Andrew Green is Head of Regulation at Total Gas & Power and a Director of ICoSS, the non-domestic energy trade association. The ICoSS paper explains the smart metering programme in more detail and how this impacts AMR rollout by non-domestic suppliers.