Peter Jenkins: Here's a smart way to an exciting era of energy in our homes

Imagine the scene: it's mid July 2020 and at 7:30am Mrs McKenzie is in her kitchen in Edinburgh. She puts the kettle on and the amber light on her smart meter display turns to red as the kettle starts to boil.

At the same time, her smart meter display receives a message from her fridge saying the temperature can safely be turned down to save energy.

It's then time to leave for work in her electric car, which has been charging overnight and at a cheaper rate. She then unplugs her smart phone that has been charging, which turns her display light to green.

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While she's at work, her pre-loaded dishwasher turns itself on and she takes advantage of an off-peak energy rate.

This picture of the future may appear far-fetched, but in fact it is a glimpse of what smart meters will allow us all to do - to save ourselves money by having information on the energy we are using at any time. The benefits to our pockets and to the environment will be noticeable.

The coalition government and energy companies are working together to make sure all of us get fitted with new smart meter in the next decade, so everyone can start taking steps to lower their energy bills. Demand for energy is increasing, but the drive towards reducing our use and helping to save the planet is also gathering pace.

The switch from "dumb" gas and electricity meters to smart metering will be a massive undertaking and will involve the biggest home-visit programme Scotland has ever seen. However, the benefits are such that smart metering will be a revolution in the way we think about gas and electricity in the home.

So what are smart meters? All that will essentially change when your smart meter is installed will be the old technology you currently have on the wall outside the home, or in the cupboard under the stairs. The difference lies in the way the new smart meters will work, in short, they will be able to communicate two ways - directly between the customer and their energy supplier.

This also means there no longer will be any need to stay in for a meter reader to visit, to send your meter reading to your energy provider, or to receive an estimated energy bill.

New research from Energy UK estimates that people across the UK are wasting a staggering three million hours a year reading their gas and electricity meters. By 2020, Mrs McKenzie won't need to do this and will receive a bill reflecting exactly what she uses, because the smart meter is able to "talk" to both her and her energy company, with her display letting her see exactly what she uses and, moreover, how much she spends.

In the future, customers like Mrs McKenzie will be able to receive information about their energy use in a variety of ways. Smart meter displays will be offered to all, but there is nothing to prevent people getting information on the move via their smart phone, in the office via their computer, or even through their TV.

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So what are the next steps to making smart meters a reality for all of us? The Scottish Government firmly supports the introduction of smart meters and the trials that are under way with households across Scotland.

However, the final decision on how the smart-meter programme happens rests with the coalition government, which is set to announce further plans imminently.

Rest assured, energy companies are ready to get on with providing smart meters, so we can all benefit from a brave and exciting new era of energy in the home.

• Peter Jenkins is the head of communications at Energy UK, a trade body for gas and electricity companies