The government has awarded £8.8 million to fund nine proposals aimed at helping SMEs increase energy efficiency and trim costs through the use of smart meter technologies.
There are currently more than 11 million smart meters installed in homes and small businesses across the UK, usually in the form of electronic household devices and thermostats operated from mobile phones. This latest round of funding follows a competition as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy that seeks to bring these technologies onto the high street and into shopping centres, restaurants, hotels, and schools.
There are currently few smart meter products aimed directly at small and medium-sized businesses. SMEs in the retail and hospitality markets, including restaurants, cafes, and shops, and in the educational sector, currently consume as much energy as 4.3 million homes. The government believes this number can be trimmed by as many as 1 million homes as smart meter technologies help the UK save up to £40 billion in the coming decades.
The nine winning proposals, coming from tech leaders Samsung and Toshiba, several small energy management firms and consultancies, and a hotelier, harness smart meter technology to give businesses in these sectors real-time, personalised insight into their energy use.
For example, Considerate Hoteliers is developing an app for the hospitality market that provides hotels and restaurants with up-to-the-minute statistics and long-term trend analysis of their energy consumption and the associated costs. This should ultimately cut energy expenditure and carbon emissions across the sector. The app will provide alerts showing spikes in energy use, allowing for immediate response; insight into daily and macro energy performance trends, correlated with room nights and food covers; and actionable recommendations on how to conserve energy.
Meanwhile, engineering consultants Hoare Lea will deliver a suite of energy efficiency tools tailored to the education sector. Using data from smart meters, the project will create real-time and historic electricity and gas profiles for 23,000 school sites. A software platform will then help school leaders understand their energy profiles and direct them to energy-saving opportunities. The software is designed to engage everyone from head teachers to buildings and facilities mangers to students in understanding and trimming on-site energy use and will complement school curricula.
Other winning proposals identify faulty equipment and operational inefficiencies in businesses; set energy budgets for individual machines and activities; create mobile and desktop visualisations of energy consumption and costs; and provide restaurant owners and staff with apps to monitor energy use.
“Energy costs for businesses can be one of the hardest things to understand and control, but these projects can change that, as well as help educate the next generation in our schools on the importance of controlling our energy consumption,” said Claire Perry, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth.
“Smart meters are an opportunity for us to rewrite the rules on how we engage with the energy market and these winners will ensure that the benefits can be felt by businesses and schools as well as homes,” she added.