Smart meters are the future in an energy market full of frustrated customers, and using them to switch providers regularly is key to making savings.
That is according to Jane Lucy, founder and CEO at energy tech start-up Labrador.
The company, which Lucy founded in her 40s following a successful career in law and media, uses smart technology to automatically switch users onto the best tariff throughout the year.
Lucy believes technology is the future for the industry, specifically when it comes to saving energy through switching providers.
“There are savings and environmental benefits through being efficient with energy, but a lot of people don’t have the flexibility to shift to different times or areas or to go without heating,” she told BusinessCloud.
“To be honest, the effort of being energy efficient is unlikely to save significantly – not that it isn’t something people should consider – but you’re going to save 100 times more by switching, and then you’ve got the time and comfort to get on with something better.”
Labrador asks people their preferences when they create an account – for example, if they only want a green tariff, large suppliers, or to avoid exit fees.
The company then automatically checks the market on a regular basis to move them to the best tariff based on those preferences.
“That’s not to say we switch people every other day, the industry couldn’d cope – it’s usually between one and three times a year,” said Lucy.
“That clearly suggests a lot of people can save money by switching even through fixed term contracts because we automatically take exit fees into account.”
The key to unlocking all of this is smart meters, says Lucy – although customers don’t have to have one to benefit from Labrador’s services.
“Everyone will benefit from smart meters,” she said. “I can’t tell you how often energy suppliers are deliberately overcharging people so they can have extra cash to earn interest on, it happens all the time.
“The only way to get fair and accurate pricing is from smart meters – and who wants to crawl under stairs and take meter readings every month anyway?”
Lucy has already seen cheaper tariffs coming into the market just for smart meter customers, and believes if users don’t make the switch they are going to end up paying more for energy in the long term.
“However, there are different types of smart meters in the market and there are some I’d definitely avoid and some I’d definitely go for,” she said.
“This is part of the problem – how on earth do you expect a consumer to navigate that, because most people think the ones to avoid are called SMETs1 and the ones to go after are SMETs2 but I don’t agree with that.
“We give customers advice about which ones we recommend and which to avoid. It depends on suppliers and some tariffs come with a smart meter and are generally cheapest.”
Labrado’s goal is to demystify the market and make it better for the consumer. Lucy says she struggles to meet anyone who doesn’t have an energy nightmare story – either around billing or a switch that went wrong or both – and even in the last month has been hounded herself about old bills.
“That’s actually illegal but I know that because I understand energy regulation but most people out there don’t, so there are lots of opportunities to do things better,” she said.