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Wow! British Gas bungs a million remote-controlled sales-droids in UK homes

Smart meters: What will you do with your '£65' a year saving?

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One million UK homes now have a "smart meter" from British Gas. The rollout may save each household £65 a year and feed £14bn into the economy, but most importantly, it will save British Gas money.

The energy giant led the way towards the mandated smart-meters, relying on mobile phone networks to communicate with the new power meters rather than waiting for White Space or a 900MHz radio mesh network. The wireless communications are needed so that the meters can send over customers' power usage and receive instructions from the utility, such as cutting off the juice if necessary.

While the savings for ordinary Brits and the GDP contribution of smart metering are debatable, the technology is already saving the corporation money: after all, those newly fitted devices won't need clipboard-waving meter readers visiting them.

The smart meters offer a running commentary on how much power a home is consuming. The £65 annual saving is based on the oft-repeated mantra that once we can see the electricity clocking up we'll rush around turning off lights and appliances that would otherwise be burning power to no end.

This has become an article of faith in the industry, and perhaps we're too cynical, but from Vulture Towers it seems the electricity bill has been fulfilling that role some years. An unusually high bill means more use of the clothes line is in order, for example; turning off the computers at night may not show an instant reward but within weeks the reduction in cost will be obvious.

Such clues are, apparently, too subtle for the great British public who need real-time displays of their spending before they'll drag themselves off the sofa to turn off the unused shower.

But that's small potatoes to what businesses will save through the same process - if you think your building manager is a pain today you wait until he's equipped with an iPhone app showing how your server room drains power, and how many of those LEDs do you actually need?

British Gas reckons small businesses are going to save £230 a year each, and once they've used the smart meter data to streamline (shall we say) their operations that saving will rise to £800. Let's not forget the £31m they'll save in not having to open the door for the chap who comes to read the meter.

Clearly, we'd be branded insane to suggest these meters are anything but a heaven-sent opportunity to save our economy and keep the planet human-friendly for a few more years.

That's in the long term, of course; the savings won't add up to £14bn until 2030, but in the meantime we're told by British Gas:

The technology is already making a difference for customers, with those with smart meters less likely to have to phone with a bill query, and more likely to recommend British Gas to a friend than those with a standard meters

Which perhaps shows more accurately what the whole thing is all about. ®

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