Better performance, cost and energy efficiency are the advantages that installing a smart meter gives the consumer. The smart meter can do that by functioning as an automatic measuring system operating through a smart grid that analyses energy use and allows an effective energy management. This intelligent electronic counter shows the real time consumption data allowing the user to regulate and schedule the power usage in order to reduce energy waste.
The introduction of this arrangement of devices implies the application of new policies that regulate energy production, distribution and usage. For a greater transparency and consumption assessment it would be necessary that management guidelines were associated with promotion strategies encouraging virtuous users practices: positive consequences reinforce positive behaviour forming consumer awareness.
Pushing in this direction is the special rate dedicated to 'smart consumers', introduced in July 2016 by British Gas, Britain's largest energy supplier. The first company in the world offering, to those clients that installed a smart electronic meter in their homes: 8 hours of free electricity for one day over the weekend. Two and half of the eleven million homes served by British Gas are involved in the 'Free Time Tariff' for both gas and electrical power supply. A shift of 11% has been registered towards free supply days do date, saving around € 70 for each household.
The European smart meter trend is developing fast, involving so far 282 million electricity users and 118 million gas users: in 10 years time the installation of smart electronic counters will become a common European wide practice. Italy, along with the United Kingdom, is one of the leading countries in the use of this technology that is in fact widespread. A smart meter is owned by 100% of electricity consumers (first-generation type), 80% of the 450,000 industrial and 10% of the 21.5 million residential gas users.
To amplify the potential of the introduction of this innovative technology it is necessary to let the consumers choose among a variety of offers, the one best suited to their personal energy consumption. The commercial sectors of the energy companies should start to be more similar to the those of the mobile phone companies, offering differentiated rates, digital billing and interaction with other digital appliances. In this way the user has access to consumption data in real time, optimising savings, all from their smartphone.