Smart meters are expected to give people more control over their energy use and help them save money by changing how and when they use energy.
Currently being rolled out across Britain, these digital devices collect energy usage data at short intervals, such as every 15 minutes — potentially revealing not just how much electricity is being used but also when, and by what appliances.
But how secure is this data and who has access to it?
In the United States, a landmark court ruling has determined that data collected by smart meters is protected by the Fourth Amendment — part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.
According to digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the appeal court recognised that household energy data from smart meters reveals details about what’s going on inside a home that would otherwise be unavailable to the government without a physical search.
The court held that residents have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and government access of this data effectively constitutes a search. It added that the “ever-accelerating pace of technological development carries serious privacy implications” and that smart meters “are no exception”.
In Britain, smart meter body Smart Energy GB says that there are strict regulations and codes of practice to keep smart meter data private, secure and safe, and no one can have access to the data without the user’s permission.
On average, a household with a smart meter saves 2% on their energy bills a year. And if everyone in the country got a smart meter, we could save the same amount of energy as it takes to power every household in Aberdeen, Cardiff and Manchester for a year.