Energy is an essential service and fundamental to our economy. We all use it and need it to stay warm, light our homes and power our businesses. But there is a quiet revolution happening in the energy sector led by the increasing use of data and coupled with the essential need to decarbonise our economy. And smart meters are critical to delivering both.
Smart meters are just the beginning of data-driven energy
We often focus on the initial benefits of smart meters for consumers: the immediate ability to save both energy and money. However, there are much bigger opportunities to be realised as we deliver this important upgrade to our national infrastructure.
Smart meters are the enabler of our future data-driven energy system and, when combined with electric vehicles (EV) and battery storage, they will completely transform the relationship between customers and their energy.
Imagine a world where the data produced by the everyday appliances in your home can help you easily identify where you can save money, whether this is through changes in behaviour or by identifying where more energy-efficient white goods or insulation are needed.
That data could also keep you in touch with an elderly relative living alone, by seeing they are up and have turned on the lights or boiled the kettle.
This will open a gateway to more engaged customers and a responsive, data-driven energy industry.
New smart appliances already showing potential of data-driven energy
And we are already seeing the beginning of this new world with an increasing range of smart appliances and innovative products giving customers greater control of their energy use. Also, time-of-use tariffs mean people can choose to use energy, for example to charge their EV, at times when power is cheaper.
How we generate electricity has changed remarkably in the last ten years. Now we go days without burning coal and it provides less than 10 per cent of our power needs. Last year, the majority of our power came from low-carbon sources, such as wind, solar and nuclear. This is an increasing trend, with around 400,000 low-carbon jobs, and the sector is growing.
Future changes are going to be even more dramatic. Further decarbonisation is necessary and will be more challenging as we look to balance a system with increasing levels of renewables. Greater challenges are on the horizon when we look at how we use transport, and how we heat our homes and businesses.
Difficult choices will need to be taken when it comes to heating and this will require strong leadership from government. In addition, it is forecast that there are going to be at least ten million EVs on the road by 2030 and many people think this is a conservative estimate.
What we have to do to make data-driven energy a reality
So we must make energy efficiency a national infrastructure programme. We must also harness innovation and smart technology to help consumers further reduce their energy bills and usage, while providing warmth and comfort in their homes, including for customers in vulnerable circumstances, who must be protected and not be left behind.
The energy sector is clear that we have a responsibility and an opportunity to get things right for all our customers, the UK and the environment. But to deliver this future data-driven energy system, we need a sustainable energy sector that is able to invest and innovate, which current developments threaten to undermine.