If every household in the UK got a smart meter right now, 11% of the government's net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050 would be satisfied in one fell swoop. So, have you got yours yet?
The #MissingPiece campaign – brainchild of Smart Energy GB, the University of Salford and the Energy Saving Trust and fronted by Chris Packham – wants to promote smart meters as the missing piece in the climate fight jigsaw puzzle. Not only do they help us save money on our energy bills (up to £200 a year, if used properly), they are an easy way individuals can make a genuine difference to climate change.
"The UK government has done quite a good job of addressing some of its carbon reduction targets," Chris Packham tells Country Living. "However, we know that we are aiming towards their target of net-zero by 2050 and the demands of Extinction Rebellion say 2025. They are both really tall orders and, if we are going to get anywhere near meeting those, we can't put the responsibility entirely on the government and the protestors – we've all got to do things. The #MissingPiece campaign focuses on something we can all do in the relative dry and warm comfort of our own homes – smart meters."
What are the benefits of having a smart metre?
"With smart metres, it's not just about saving money, it's about being part of a smart energy network. The minute you have one – even if you just put it in the drawer, never touch it and keep on running your washing machine at 12 midday and putting your dishwasher on at one in the afternoon – you'll still be contributing to the development of the smart energy network," says Chris.
"The feedback will allow us to better understand where and when power needs to be generated, better use the renewable energies we have access to and reduce loss of energy through transmission to homes when they don't need it."
What is the most energy efficient time of day to run appliances?
"There are certain times of day when it's more or less energy efficient to run these things," Chris tell Country Living, concluding that we should try to spread out the use of our appliances, avoid having more than one running at once and choose times when the demand for energy is lower.
"I've been operating a smart metre in my house in France for the last 12 years. If I, in the middle of the day, were to cook lunch and so have the oven on and the hob on, then put the washing machine on and take a load out and put it in the dryer, then after lunch put the dishwasher on – my smart metre would go from the yellow, through the green, get to the red and then start bleeping. At that point, I'm given the option to think about how I'm using the energy.
"We know that it's better to use some of those high energy impacts during the evening and the night when demand is less. Spreading the demand throughout the day is one way we can iron out the peaks and troughs which are really challenging for the energy managers. That allows them to distribute the renewable energies more evenly, rather than it being half time of the World Cup final and everyone goes to put their kettle on – someone, somewhere has to try and cope with that demand."
7 questions to ask yourself about your winter energy efficiency
1. Do you have to heat the whole house?
2. Do you have to leave the heating on so it's warm when you get back?
"You don't have to," answers Chris. "Depending on where you live, you can have an app on your phone that allows you to turn it on just 20 minutes before you get there."
3. Do you have to leave the heating on to keep pets warm?
"Just find one pet-friendly, easy-to-heat room if you doubt that their fur isn't capable of keeping them warm in the sheltered environment of your home," says Chris.
4. Do you close windows and doors when the heating is on?
5. Are your light bulbs low energy?
6. Do you turn off lights when you can?
7. Do you use more than one appliance at a time?
What happens if we don't meet 2050 carbon zero target?
"If we don't meet carbon zero or anything close to it, we face, as a species, a very uncomfortable time over the next 50 to 60 years," explains Chris. "The point is, Extinction Rebellion are out there, they are blocking the streets of London. People may say that that's an inconvenience to them – well it's not as much as an inconvenience as your house burning down in California this year and not as much as an inconvenience as being flooded in the southern states of America.
"Climate change is hurting a lot of people, hard, all around the world. If we as a species are as adaptable, intelligent and resourceful as we think we are, we should be dealing with prevention not cure."
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