According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), a third of small business owners consider the cost of energy an obstacle to growth and success. It might not be the first consideration when setting up or running a business, but accounting for the time and finances required to manage energy is unavoidable for any organisation without energy included in their tenancy agreements. Simply reducing energy use while aiming to achieve the same business outcomes is a challenge; but with the knowledge of what they are using energy for, at what time, and at what level of consumption, businesses can address specific areas of use. Having estimated figures on your bill gives financial uncertainty too, given that this could see you overpaying for energy and then having to wait for a rebate. Ensuring accurate billing and monitoring can take away these doubts.

It’s one of the main reasons why the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS) is currently underway with its initiative to get every energy supplier to offer smart meters to customers - both domestic properties and smaller business premises - by the end of 2020. Smart meters can track your energy usage, update in real time, and digitally send readings to your supplier, while giving the customer access to usage data. With this new technology, estimated energy bills are no longer necessary, nor is having to decipher meter readings personally and provide them to your supplier.
Even in its early stages however, the move towards smart meters has been faced with criticism. The Science and Technology Committee has claimed that the government has not clearly communicated the benefits of the mass smart meter rollout; particularly how it is expected to save customers a significant sum of money. Plus the process hasn’t escaped some mishaps. As smart meters rely on a communication system linking the meters to the energy supplier in order to allow for data access, a universal infrastructure is required to provide the connection nationwide. The installation of this system has been delayed several times over the past two years, and it’s been announced that it will be released in stages, making some commentators uncertain as to whether the smart meter rollout will hit its 2020 deadline.
Given this uncertainty, and that the smart meter drive tends to be more swayed towards domestic users, businesses faced with complex energy needs could consider implementing automatic meter reading (AMR) technology as a more realistic first step in becoming ‘smart’. While AMR devices aren’t installed with an additional In-Home Display (IHD) like smart meters are, energy customers are able to gain access to their consumption data on request from their provider, giving them the ability to analyse usage if they wish.
There is also an aspect of AMR technology that puts it ahead of smart meters – certainly for the time being. Many smart meters now up and running risk becoming invalid and needing to be replaced if they switch suppliers, as their new supplier might be unable to access the data. While there’s a planned cut-off date for AMR installation of February 2018, installations can still take place following that date within the customer’s contracted period, as long as their contract began before then. Not only that, AMR technology can remain in place for its natural lifespan, so businesses can monitor their energy with long term assurance.
One objective of BEIS is to ensure the UK has a secure and resilient energy system. The mass smart meter rollout is part of this; a bid to efficiently provide low-carbon and reliable energy to households and business premises. The business owner itself can benefit too and become more ‘switched on’ with its energy consumption, given that the system can provide a better understanding of its usage and ensure that it’s being billed accurately.
While talk of the smart meter roll out might make businesses opt for the fully-fledged system, industry news has suggested that there’s some way to go before it’s completed. In the run up to smart meters being perfected, businesses that want to be more proactive in monitoring their energy would be wise to consider AMR as an interim measure. Managing energy needn’t be a barrier getting in the way of business success, and using AMR technology as a springboard to smart meters could help you in becoming more efficient with this key overhead.

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