The price we pay as consumers for our energy was once again a central policy issue within the general election campaign. It is one of those emotive issues that political parties simply cannot ignore as energy prices continue to rise.
As consumers we also have the power to change the way we use and buy our energy. We have the power to switch suppliers if we find that we are paying too much and a different supplier can do a better deal for us.
But this comes with its own problems. Many consumers simply decide not to because of the complex nature of the task at hand. Hence other solutions being sought in this sector. The beauty of smart meters is that they give consumers control over their own energy consumption and therefore the price that they pay every month.
Some people in Edinburgh and Lothian will already be aware of the positive effects that smart meters can have on their behaviour – seven million meters have already been rolled out across Great Britain. I hosted an event at the Scottish Parliament this week with Smart Energy GB that celebrated this success while raising awareness so that their use can be extended to more households. Between now and 2020 every household in Lothian, indeed across Great Britain, is to be offered one at no additional cost.
Consuming energy is not something we often think about, often to our detriment. It is all too easy to switch on every light in our house, or to have appliances ticking over while being ignored.
Smart meters can change all that. The small portable displays show how much we are spending, in pounds and pence, giving us an idea of what is costing us money and where we can cut down. Eight in ten people who use smart meters are already taking at least one step towards cutting down their energy use.
With a smart meter installed, those who prepay for their energy can keep track of their credit and top up online or over the phone. Smart meters also bring an end to estimated bills, instead sending automatic gas and electricity readings to suppliers.
Smart meters make us smarter consumers, not only reducing pressure on our pockets but reducing pressure on our planet.
At a similar exhibition with Smart Energy GB in the Parliament in December, I brought in an old single bar heater from home that has been in the family for generations, to test how much energy it uses. It’s somewhat of a sentimental piece now which I tend to keep stored away. And after finding out how much energy it does use, I think I’ll continue to keep it in reserve!
Gordon Lindhurst is a Conservative MSP for Lothian region