How smart meters are upgrading energy for all

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Nearly 60% of households have smart meters — there are now 33 million installed across the UK and practically as many reasons to love them. They don’t just make your energy billing easier and more accurate; smart meters are a fundamental building block for a green energy revolution, unlocking a whole new world of green tech with the potential to save each and every consumer hundreds of pounds. For all these reasons and more, we’ve been installing these high tech gadgets up and down the country as fast as we can — and doing everything we can to fix them when issues do occasionally crop up.

From smart tariffs to smart trials, smart meters unlock the very cheapest, greenest energy…

Smart meters are making it possible for…

  • EV drivers to charge their cars overnight for a 75% discount on Intelligent Octopus
  • Heat pump customers to warm their homes for a fraction of the cost in the morning
  • Smart tariff customers to get paid to use energy with tariffs like Agile Octopus
  • Communities to unlock cheaper energy when their local wind turbines are turning
  • 1.2 million customers to earn rewards for using a little less when the grid is in a pinch, thanks to Saving Sessions — our groundbreaking smart-trial now rolling out across many other energy suppliers

None of this would be possible without smart meters!

(And that’s on top of all the ‘standard’ benefits: from convenient automatic meter readings to cutting costs and energy use by giving you insight into guzzling appliances and healthier energy-related habits!)

Overcoming challenges to today’s burgeoning smart grid

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As with any high tech bit of kit, there’s a level of complexity. As your energy supplier, we rent your meter from a meter manufacturer, and it’s part of a vast and complex national network operated by lots of different businesses. That means occasionally, things do go wrong and as suppliers, we don’t always have control over that.

Most of the time these issues are just minor blips, and we’ve got a team of experts who are good at finding working solutions.

Here’s some of the most issues we see and what we do to fix them:

Solving In-Home-Display related issues

The majority of smart meter related issues we come across are to do with the In-Home-Display (IHD). This is the little screen that comes with your smart meter, and is different to the smart meter itself. Issues arise when:

A) your smart meter struggles to connect to the display screen,
B) the display screen fails to update with changes to your account (for example a tariff change)
C) there’s a technical fault within the screen itself.

We work hard to solve these specific issues case-by-case, though at times, we’re limited with what we can do because they’re not our tech.

It’s worth remembering that in the vast majority of cases that an in-home display stops working, your smart meter itself will still function exactly as it should (ie, it’ll send us readings as normal).

When helping us solve IHD related issues, first, check out our handy IHD self help guide.

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It’s also really easy to check your energy usage in our Octopus app and online account. So you get the same information as an IHD, but rather than having to track down the screen, anyone can find out about their energy usage on their phone in a few taps.

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What’s more, we’ve also developed our own alternative. Our Octopus Home Mini is the very first device to allow you to monitor your energy usage in real time – and recently won ‘Domestic Energy Saving Product of the year’

Missing readings

For your energy data to be sent to us extra securely, we have to use third party data infrastructure set up by the government. It’s there to keep your data safe, but has its drawbacks: when things go wrong (like brief outages when it comes to transferring the data) suppliers like us have minimal control.

When these things happen, our experts scramble to work with the different parties involved to find out what has happened, doing whatever we can to ensure that we can reduce these kinds of outages in the future and backfill the missing data.

For the majority of customers across the country, a few gaps in your readings won’t make a massive difference. If you’re on a flat price and we don’t receive a reading from 1.30-2am, it’s not a problem, because we’ll get a reading later in the day and all the energy you used in between can be charged at the same rate.

Many of our customers are on smart tariffs, however, where prices change multiple times a day. That means that little gaps in your readings can make more of a difference. If we don’t know how much you used in each half hour, it takes a lot longer to work out how much energy to charge you, and what the price was at any given moment.

That’s why little outages can sometimes hold up bills for smart tariff customers.

Signal and connection issues

Smart meters run on a Wide Area Network. There’s generally great coverage across the UK, but just like with your mobile phone, there are spots where it’s patchy. The government is upgrading the network to bring better signal to as many people as possible, but we don’t have any control over this work.

Your smart meter might also struggle to connect because of where it sits in your home. Some buildings have every apartments’ meters in a single room, floors away from yours. Some homes have their meters in a garden shed, or in a below-ground meter cupboard. Sometimes meters might be in the basement, separated from your dwelling by a thick wall. All these things may (or may not) disrupt your meter’s ability to connect to us.

Meter manufacturers have been developing tech solutions to this – range extenders that allow smart meters to connect over a longer distance. Or more powerful communication hubs that sometimes have better luck connecting through obstacles like thick walls. These aren’t a blanket solution – they don’t work with every type of meter and can’t solve some problems.

In either case, we’ll do whatever we can to solve those issues, doing our best to work with government and local authorities to help them identify or boost networks as fast as they can, or speed up the roll out of in-home signal boosters, for example.

Smart meters: easily worth the occasional hiccup

an image of a smart meter

Millions of us up and down the country are now pushing for a green energy revolution, but the bigger picture is that we simply can’t have the very cheapest, greenest energy without smart meters.

Green heating, green transport, huge smart trials that empower people to save masses of money and carbon emissions — all of it relies on these nifty devices.

Right now, we’ll do everything we can to fix issues as they crop up. We know it can be frustrating, but with the right support, we’re confident that the occasional teething problem is worth it for a greener, cheaper, fairer energy transformation.

Interested in finding out more about the wonderful world of smart meters?

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Published on 6th December 2023 by:

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John Szymik

CEO of Octopus Energy Services

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!