UK energy regulator Ofgem has launched a new initiative aimed at unlocking the potential of smart meters for all gas and electricity customers.

The technology of many energy meters dates from the 1960s, but modern designs can give customers much more information in a way that is easy to understand, Ofgem says.

Modern meters can display energy consumption in pounds and pence so customers can see at-a-glance how much they are using. This can help encourage customers to use energy more efficiently. Billing accuracy can be improved by smart meters as they eliminate meter reading and send accurate readings direct to suppliers, in that way ending the need for estimated bills.

The regulatory body goes on to explain that such newer, more reliable prepayment meters could also lead to cheaper costs for those customers who use them. This would particularly benefit the fuel poor.

Ofgem also believes that smart meters could help support micro-generation by metering the amount of energy a household might sell back to the electricity network. Micro generation and encouraging energy efficiency can thus make a real contribution to reducing greenhouse gases.

Given this potential to revolutionize the way energy is used in the home, Ofgem is seeking, in partnership with the UK energy industry and consumer organizations, to establish a clear picture of the costs and benefits of smart meters and to help develop its strategy over the next six months for increasing their use.

In kicking off the strategy, Ofgem chairman Sir John Mogg said, We recognize that there are benefits to customers from using smart meters, but with the significant investment costs involved to deliver them, we need hard evidence to show how such benefits can be delivered.

This is why Ofgem is powering the smart metering debate so we can separate the myths from the facts. We will be working with the industry and consumers to deliver a smarter future for the household energy meter.