In 2015 the Dutch government decided to install a smart gas meter in all the 7 million households by 2020. This measures gas and electric use and sends it to your provider and also makes it possible to look into your own usage. These new meters were expected to lessen the energy use of every household by an average of 3,5%. A quarter of these households now have one of these meters installed and the results are not as hoped. Installing the new meter decreases the energy use on average by less than 1%. Planbureau voor Leefomgeving(PBL) researched why the new meters did not have the impact they had hoped.
Personally when I thought of a smart meter I was expecting the smart thermostat to be a part of the deal, which would tell you in real time how much you are using and possibly what could be saved. But contrary to my assumptions, it was just a meter in a cupboard in your house that you will not open unless you need your vacuum cleaner. So it was assumed that with installing the smart meter the consumer would use this opportunity to look into their usage and change their behavior accordingly. This assumption was true for the “interested, analytically oriented consumer” which accounts for the decrease of energy consumption that was measured. But I would say it is naive to expect the average consumer, that normally checked their meter once a year and now does not have to at all, to put in the extra effort to save energy. Since the average consumer would have no idea where to start or does not have the incentive to spend time on it.
In the Netherlands only 15% of the consumers use a smart thermostat. For example: you would have to take a 4 year contract or pay around 275 euro to install it and an additional 3,50 per month to use Toon from Eneco. So consumers will not be triggered to keep an eye on their energy expenditures, without offering a clear monetary benefit to them. It turns out the installment of the smart meter did not come with a display as they do in the UK. The UK has a decreased consumption of energy of 3% since installing the new meter. It would be a fair assumption to expect it to have the same effect in the Netherlands. I just wonder if they could not have come to this conclusion before installing the first 25% of the smart meters. before spending the 3,3 billion spent so far.
It’s not odd that energy companies are reluctant to give away their smart thermostats for free, as consumers usually have to pay extra fees to have one installed with their energy contract. It is a big money maker for the energy companies, and therefore the thermostats will not be widely and publicly available unless ordered from higher-ups. If the same decrease of energy consumption can be decreased by an additional 2% just by offering a visual aid in the living room, it would be highly beneficial to pursue that avenue. Perhaps, universal smart thermostats can even be developed without the energy suppliers, as a governmental endeavor. In which case society as a whole can benefit from this technology in hopes of a more sustainable planet.