Widespread use of advanced meters by small companies could cut carbon dioxide emissions by 2.5 million tonnes (MtCO2) and save SMEs £300 million a year, according to a report published by the Carbon Trust.
It identified the potential savings in trials of advanced meters in 582 SMEs between 2004 and 2006.
On average, the companies discovered possible carbon savings of over 12%, and successfully achieved savings of 5%. This equated to around 8.5tCO2 per site and reduced average energy bills by more than £1,000 a year.
The savings were most marked for multi-site organisations, which could recover their meter costs within two years or less.
The business case for smaller, single site companies was less convincing – many of these would take more than five years to recoup investments.
While advanced meters could reduce metering errors for energy suppliers, the costs of providing and supporting them far outweighed benefits. As a result, the Carbon Trust says that the government will need to step in and force suppliers to install smart meters.
A policy requiring all new and replacement meters to be advanced meters could cut emissions by 0.6MtCO2 by 2012. But setting “accelerated replacement targets” for the highest 20% of energy users could deliver annual cuts of 1.5MtCO2 by 2012, rising to 2.5MtCO2 in 2016 when all businesses would be covered.
“Our trial has shown that advanced meters can help businesses save money and also deliver significant carbon savings for the UK,” said Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay. “There needs to be a structured and sustainable roll-out of this important technology to help the UK meet its commitment to cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050.”