The recent news that smart meters are to be rolled out for electricity and gas between 2015 and 2019 is welcome. This will enable consumers and small businesses manage their energy consumption better. Not everyone will be motivated or bothered, but at least the right tools will be in place. As Lord Kelvin once said, “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.”
The advantage with smart metering is that you can review your energy consumption during different times of the day. For a household this may result in the realisation, for example, how much the un-lagged water cylinder is costing if that is the only item running at 3 o’clock in the morning. For a small business it may inform it about the cost of leaving shop lights on all night.
However, this brings me to water meters which we know are to be installed in domestic properties in the near future. It seems that these will be the traditional dumb meters and just record litres used since the last reading. How much more useful it would be if these were smart meters. Pubs and restaurants, for example, would be able to see how much water is wasted in the early hours of the morning.
The figure often mentioned is that installing water meters will reduce consumption by around 10%. How much more will smart meters save? Our own work has found savings of up to 80% at some site, most of these by fixing leaks, fixing faulty equipment and controls. Most of these faults can be identified by proper monitoring. I can recall undertaking a water minimisation audit in the late 1990s. We visited the site to take weather meter readings at random times over the Christmas shut down when everything was supposed to be turned off. We identified leaks of 8 tonnes of water an hour. The point is that smart metering can identify such wastage without the effort of getting up ain the middle of the night to take a reading.
The conclusion is fairly obvious, if water meters are to be a tool to seriously reduce water usage, then they should be smart meters. If, on the other hand, they are just a revenue raising tool, then carry on and fit dumb meters.