By Kerry Maisey, Head of Smart Metering at SSE Energy Solutions (www.sseenergysolutions.co.uk)

As caterers and hospitality providers navigate the continuing impact of the pandemic, many face increasing overheads and tighter budgets. The rise in wholesale gas and electricity prices has also brought the cost of energy into focus. In the catering industry, energy typically accounts for 4-6% of operating costs, according to the Carbon Trust, so any energy savings made can have a big impact on the bottom line.

Take advantage of smart technology

I would encourage any hospitality business to make a smart meter installation their priority, even amid current pressures. Upgrading your meter comes at no additional cost and with minimal disruption to your business. The installation usually takes less than one hour, and your power supply will only need to be switched off for around 15 to 20 minutes.

While many hospitality premises were required to close for periods of time during the pandemic, suppliers relied on estimated readings for billing purposes. Unfortunately, these estimates are not always very accurate under such unprecedented conditions and could lead to you over or underpaying for your energy use. However, with a smart meter, your energy readings are sent directly to your supplier, so you can be confident that you’ll only be charged for the energy you’ve used when you use it.

You can also link your smart meter to free energy management software and analyse your energy usage across various time periods, from every half-hour to across a year. With this insight, you can identify patterns and emerging trends. You will also be able to spot areas to implement energy efficiency measures, such as installing motion sensors for lights, improving insulation and advising staff about turning equipment off when not in use.

Show customers your green credentials

While the pandemic has had many negative economic impacts, it has accelerated consumer behaviour in addressing the climate emergency. As well as helping control costs, a smart meter is a way of future-proofing your business as the UK works towards net zero. The urgent need to cut emissions will see our heating and transport shift away from sources such as gas and towards electricity, which in turn will mean increased demand on our power grids. And with an increasing proportion of power coming from renewables, flexibility will be essential for when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

Smart meters will be a crucial tool in enabling businesses to see when the cheapest and greenest time is to consume power. Increasingly, many companies are looking at generating their own power, for example through solar panels, or storing energy with batteries.With a smart meter, you will have the information to empower your commercial decisions for investing in these technologies.

According to a recent SEC Newgate report, two fifths of UK consumers said they had avoided a company’s products or services because they disagreed with the business’s environmental, social and governance practices. So, any business that can demonstrate green credentials will have a competitive edge over its rivals. A commitment to keep energy use as efficient as possible is a statement to customers and employees that you are serious about the issue.

I appreciate it has been a tough time of late for caterers and the hospitality industry.A lot of uncertainty remains but installing a smart meter is a positive step to helping you manage costs and demonstrate your green credentials. It’s an easy step to take you clear benefits for your business.