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Britain's pay-as-you-go revolution will transform the way we buy gas and electricity

Published: 20 November 2014 - Marianne Evans

New independent research published reveals that almost half (48%) of the Great British population would like to use a smart energy meter in pay-as-you-go mode to buy their gas and electricity, three times the number of people currently using prepayment meters. The findings confirm that Britain’s pay-as-you-go revolution – which has already transformed the way we pay for services such as mobile phones and travelcards – is set to reach the energy industry, and will alter the experience of buying gas and electricity for millions of households.

The research, Attitudes around buying gas and electricity with smart pay-as-you-go, was carried out by Populus for Smart Energy GB, the consumer campaign for smart meters. It shows that even at the beginning of the six year national roll-out of smart meters, almost half of people would like to use a smart meter in pay-as-you-go mode. At the moment only 16 per cent use the existing prepayment system to pay for gas and electricity.

These findings reflect a wider national trend towards quick and easily manageable ways to pay for and manage services such as car hire, travel and telecommunications.

Every household in Great Britain will be offered a smart meter between now and 2020. Pay-as-you-go customers will be able to pay via phone, online, or even via a smart phone app. Smart meters will be able to operate in pay-as-you-go or debit mode, meaning that those wanting to pay-as-you-go don’t need to have a different meter installed.

It is the younger generation driving this trend, with three out of five (59%) of 18-34 year olds interested in using a smart meter operating in pay-as-you-go mode and 68% seeing the benefit of using a smart phone app.

People in the North are the most keen to embrace technology in order to further manage their household costs. The North East (57%), Yorkshire/Humberside (51%) the North West (50%) and are the three regions most interested in smart pay-as-you-go.

The desire for smart pay-as-you-go was also particularly strong among people currently using prepayment meters, with over three quarters (76%) wanting to use smart pay-as-you-go.

Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Smart Energy GB, said: “People want flexibility over the way they pay for gas and electricity. In a world where we are increasingly using pay-as-you-go across all areas of our lives, from phones, to travel and even buying music by the song, consumers are excited by the same level of convenience coming to gas and electricity. This research shows that there is a national appetite for a far more convenient way to pay for energy. In particular, it will transform the experience for prepayment customers. Today’s prepayment system presents real challenges for many people, for example having to go to the shop to top up, or needing to access their meter to check how much credit they have. It is clear that people want greater control and visibility over how they buy and use energy – and smart pay-as-you-go, made possible by the national roll-out of smart meters, is a big step towards this.”

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