EU, UK Mandate 'Smart Meters,' Home Energy Ratings

Some hybrid car drivers tell us that they get a real kick out of watching the display of their current gas mileage that comes with many of these cars, and trying to beat it by changing their driving habits. The European Union seems to believe that this kind of motivation may work with homeowners, too, and has mandated that "smart meters" be used as replacements when existing home energy meters have served out their useful life. British blogger David Slocombe notes that this EU mandate coincides with a new UK law requiring all British homes to have an energy rating at the time of their sale. Between the two, Slocombe believes that not only individual competitiveness, but old fashioned market forces, will compel Brits to conserve energy at home:

...these energy usage ‘touchpoints’ could provide a few ways that home owners or renters are ‘influenced’ to save energy, firstly house prices will react to the energy rating If we consider that its a buyers market then buyers will use lower energy ratings to haggle property prices down. ...

Secondly the home efficiency rating will provide a quantifiable means for home owners to increase the market value of a property by, for example, installing energy efficient appliances and insulating loft cavities thus improving their efficiency rating. A warning sign here though is that renovation methods are likely to favour energy saving methods that are ‘portable’ such as saving energy through new appliances that can be taken away when leaving a property and installed to save energy at the next. In general this trend will lead to the market levelling off and growing again leaving the impact of the UK energy efficiency drive as a price ‘dip’ not a crash. Of course, energy efficient product sales will rise and should be supported by labelling schemes such as product energy labelling (which is unfortunately not flawless) and the 1 watt initiative.

David's not just theorizing here: a designer of eco-friendly products, he's built his own smart meter (pictured above), and reports that it has increased his awareness of the energy consumed by common activities ("microwaving a cold coffee uses shockingly high amount of energy but only briefly"), and inspired him to make changes to more efficient products around his home.

We like both of these ideas, as they directly tie monetary value, both in terms of utility bills and home value, to the range of activities we engage in daily that use power. Homeowners not only gain greater control over energy use with the knowledge they receive, but also recognize that exercising that control impacts their wallets. For most of us, that's all the motivation we need... ::phicons.com

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