Smart meters for energy will shape our consumption of energy. Indeed, it has been estimated that consumers will use between 2-5 percent less energy through smart meters – enabling energy companies and government to meet the 2020 package set by the EU which sets three separate targets: a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas emission from 1990 levels; renewables must provide 20 percent of EU energy; and energy efficiency must be improved by 20 percent.
From June 2015, the Department of Energy and Climate Change estimated that 1,327,000 smart meters had been installed in domestic properties by the larger energy suppliers – made up of 799,300 electricity smart meters and 528,100 gas smart meters. That’s out of a total of 21.7 million gas meters and 26.2 million electricity meters - only 2.5 percent of the population.
But a team of researchers from Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at Southampton and the University of Zurich conducted an experiment to see how people are actually using smart meters and smart systems such as Nest.
In a study involving 30 households for a month they tested user responses to three different systems: one in which users specify the amount of electricity used according to how much money they are prepared to spend, and two other thermostats run according to AI algorithms which learn the preferences of householders and then set temperatures accordingly.
The headline-hogging revelation suggests that people will prefer a lower price to a higher temperature, and on average would be ready to accept a reduction of four degrees celsius to save money. But interviews with the participants suggested there were also other environmental factors driving householders' sense of how they would want smart energy technology to work – it takes into account the temperature outside, and the kinds of activities they are doing such as taking a shower (keeping the house warm) or cooking (turning it down).
The researchers are developing a smart thermostat, based on the prototypes, that will enable users to set temperature according to the price they want to pay.