Smart meter tariffs can save you money
Smart meter tariffs are appearing like mushrooms. They are popping up all over the place.
The problem is: no two smart tariffs are the same. And we don’t just mean the rates you pay in pence. The structure and contents of these tariff packages vary enormously.
Let’s get stuck in.
What are Smart Meter Tariffs?
Smart meter tariffs = smart meter + tariffs
You will almost certainly have heard of smart meters by now. There is a government plan to replace your existing home electricity meter (let’s call it a dumb meter) with a smart meter.
A traditional dumb meter can only do one thing: measure how much electricity flows into your home. The meter reading goes up by 1 for every unit, or kWh, of electricity you consume.
A smart meter, by contrast, can do the following:
- Measure how much electricity flows into your home
- Measure how much electricity flows out of your home, e.g. if you have solar panels
- Automatically take meter readings and send them to your electricity supplier – no more estimated readings
- Show you how much electricity you are using at this very instant
- Show you how much the electricity you are using at this very instant actually costs
- Give you clear data on past electricity usage
- Allow ‘time of use’ tariffs
Time of Use Tariffs
This last bullet point is key. Smart meter tariffs are basically ‘time of use’ tariffs.
Time of use is all about paying different rates at different times of the day. You may remember the Economy 7 scheme. You would pay half your normal rate for 7 hours during the night.
Time of use tariffs, or smart meter tariffs, often break the 24 hour day into several periods, all charged at different rates.
For example, the Octopus Agile tariff divides the day up into 48 separate half-hour periods. Combined with the innovative Ohme charging cable, you can charge your car at really low rates at night, often from 100% green wind power.
To benefit from this new type of tariff, the electricity supplier will install a smart meter for free. The meter can then monitor your actual usage during the different time periods of the day and charge you accordingly.
Why would you want a Smart Meter Tariff?
There’s no point in having a smart meter and smart meter tariff if there is no benefit to you.
Electric Cars + Smart Meter Tariffs
Electric cars have big batteries. For example, the Tesla Model X, Tesla Model S, Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace, Mercedes EQC and Tesla Model 3 Long Range and Performance models all have batteries between 75-100 kWh. If you plan on charging your electric car at home, then clearly your electricity bill will go up.
But, the degree to which your bill goes up, depends on the electricity tariff applied when you are charging your EV.
With a smart tariff, you can time when you charge your electric car to match the cheapest tariff.
All EVs now have programmable chargers and you can set them up to charge when rates are at their lowest.
Or you can use the Octopus Agile / Ohme combination mentioned above which dynamically finds the cheapest, or the greenest, time to charge.
Battery Storage + Smart Meter Tariffs
We explain all about battery storage here, but to summarise: a home battery allows you to store electricity when it is cheap – or even free if you have solar panels – and then use it when electricity is more expensive.
For example, you could charge your battery at night on a cheap 5p rate, and then discharge that stored energy during the day when rates are much higher say at 14p.
Solar Panels + Smart Meter Tariffs
Solar panels generate electricity when the sun is shining.
So, their effect on the whole smart tariff / electric car / battery storage mix depends if the sun is out or not, and whether the days are long or short (summer v. winter).
For example, if it’s a sunny day in June, your solar panels will generate electricity from sunrise to sunset. This solar electricity can:
- Power devices in your home
- Charge your electric car
- Charge your home battery
But does this free solar electricity do all of the above at the same time, some of the above, and what’s the order of priority?
You need to engage your brain at this point to work it out, but here are some observations:
- If you are on a smart meter tariff and have an EV, you will probably be charging your car mainly after midnight at a cheap rate.
- So, at the instant your solar electricity is being generated by the panels, it should be sent to power devices in your home – this will happen automatically.
- If then you have more solar electricity than your home devices require, this excess will be stored in your home battery – this will also happen automatically.
- If, however, your solar panels are generating more electricity than your house needs and your battery storage is full, then you want to charge your electric car with this free, surplus solar energy.
However, if your priority is to drive your car in the greenest possible way, then better to divert your solar electricity directly into the car at the moment the electricity is generated, rather than store it in a battery.
This can be achieved via smart EV charging technology like the Zappi chargepoint. The Zappi can be set only to charge your electric car with solar electricity.
With an electric car, solar panels, battery storage and a smart meter tariff, the permutations are almost endless. There is no substitute for working the best plan out yourself in order meet your own priorities, such as:
- Understand what’s going on and be in control of your energy
- Save the most money
- Live a life that’s best for the environment
- Be as independent of the grid as possible
What is Included in the Smart Meter Tariff Bundle?
Smart meter tariffs range from incredibly simple to amazingly complex.
Here are the kinds of features and benefits you will find:
- Two or more different charging periods and rates
- Free or subsidised electric car charging around the country
- Electricity sourced from 100% renewable energy generation
- Detailed energy consumption data, even down to an individual device
- 48 rates a day, tied to wholesale prices (this is radical stuff)
- Discounts on home EV charging points
- Free tickets to the Fully Charged Live show
- Fixed prices for set periods of time
Choosing a smart tariff
None of the tariffs we list below have all of these 8 points covered.
The best way to get a feel for them is to right click on each of the links below, opening each web page in a new tab. The links take you to the smart tariff page – no need to trawl through the entire site.
Then click on each tab in turn and skim read the contents. You will gradually start to work out which tariffs appeal to you and your own situation, and which sound wrong. Close the tabs of the tariffs you reject. Try to boil it down to just three tabs.
Then get in touch with each of the three remaining suppliers, describe your energy situation in as much detail as possible (current usage, electric car or not, solar panels or not, battery storage or not, current rates, standing charge, etc.), and ask them to work out how much your bill would be if you switched to them.
Ideally, they should send you a clear breakdown of all the charges, allowing you to compare and contrast with other suppliers.
Smart Meter Tariff Suppliers
The companies and tariffs below represent the main smart meter tariffs available on the UK market today.
This is a fast moving space. If you find a new tariff not mentioned here, please let us know.
Bear in mind also that suppliers don’t always list the actual tariff rates and times on their public webpages. You normally have to phone up to get the data.
The Agile Octopus tariff from Octopus Energy is currently unique. It sets you up with ‘half hourly metering’, normally the preserve of commercial energy users only.
This scheme gives a different electricity rate for each half hour period during the day (48 slots per 24 hours). You need to have your Einstein hat on to work out if it’s the right option for you.