Dr Richard Fitton:
I agree with Sarah, the UK is very strong on smart meters. If you speak to anyone in Europe, a lot of them are envious of the technical standards of the smart meters that are being rolled out. As we have heard from all the sessions, it is a very complicated issue and it is not getting any less complicated, certainly for the consumer.
Our research group’s angle is everything from the consumer side of the meter. We are looking at how to diagnose problems with buildings using the data and systems that are available. We are also developing appliances that will work with smart meters. A big piece of the puzzle that is missing from some of the discussions is the fact that the consumer should be able to engage with the smart meters. As it stands now, they cannot engage with the smart meters. We can log on to the energy supplier’s portal and get a half-hourly reading. But a magic black box called the consumer access device is the gateway to the occupiers having access to their real-time data. This is not a box on the wall that tells them how much energy is costing. It is a consumer access device that streams real-time data to things such as smart appliances and smart heating systems for homes.
That is the whole aim, as far as I can see, of the smart and flexible grid that we constantly talk about. To attach one of these devices is exceptionally difficult and I have never had one successfully connected personally, nor have colleagues or associates. So a big piece of the puzzle is missing in using this data for something that is really smart, rather than just for billing. Billing is clearly important, but the use of the best-value data for the consumer appears to be the missing part of the puzzle. I think that would also push some buttons to help develop the interest in smart meters and get them into people’s homes.