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Energy Bills, Smart Meters and Working From Home

Energy Bills, Smart Meters and Working From Home
09 July 2020 | Updated 12 August 2020
 

Those familiar with working from home will be aware that, if your employer requires this, you can claim for your subsequent increased energy costs.

HMRC will also consider claims from employees working at home due to COVID-19 measures, if their usual workplace is closed. This small tax relief is calculated based on energy and other consumables that employees wouldn’t have otherwise used.

Whether employees will feel that they want to make such claims remains to be seen. We spoke to Darren Jones, Operations Director at UK Energy Management and Scott Newland, a senior FM consultant about energy costs whilst home working, the smart meter rollout, and employee incentives.

“The smart meter rollout has always been prohibited by lack of awareness or education around their use and effectiveness. If working from home means you want to look more closely at your energy and other costs, a smart meter is the way to go. Suppliers need to step up the rollout, but this needs to be customer-driven.”

– Darren Jones

Operations Director, UK Energy Management

 

Might Home Energy Contributions Become a Regular Employee Benefit?

 

As our working culture changes, with less of an emphasis on a physical office presence, this begs the question as to whether employers will start using home bill contributions as part of their benefits packages.

Many companies already contribute towards other home working allowances, such as the cost of home office equipment, or payment towards internet bills. Might this extend to energy bills, beyond the existing tax relief system?

Darren Jones feels that other home working incentives already provide enough remuneration, and doesn’t see anything additional for energy bills as necessary.

He commented: “I honestly think that as working from home becomes more commonplace, employers will not offer this additional incentive, as the cost of commuting is one of the largest barriers to working in an office.”

Scott Newland notes that it’s been it has been refreshing to see that almost all office working environments continued through remote home working, and sees home energy contributions as part of the “new normal.”

He said: “I think it is essential that employees should receive support from their employers for the additional energy which they are consuming whilst working from home, as of course their office space will be consuming less. 

“I do think that the companies can be smart in this instance and try to procure their office energy in the same shopping basket as their employees home energy and leverage the combined volume.”

 

The Smart Meter Rollout

 

“For me, the longer-term challenge is whether or not the technology of the smart meters is fit for purpose. Is it able to monitor and report on the actual energy consumption whilst employees are active, versus when they are working from an office building?"

–Scott Newland

Managing Director, D-I-S-Ce FM

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the progress of the smart meter rollout uncertain, and not having a smart meter in the home make it more difficult for employers to track their employees’ energy usage.

Suppliers of smart meters have targets for installations, aiming to enable every household and most businesses to use smart meter technology. This rollout has a current deadline of 2024.

Jones sees the success of the rollout as an essential part of our new home working culture:

“Smart metering is a massive part of how we will look to better understand our energy usage. Clearly, if you have a smart meter that pre-dates the COVID outbreak, you can identify just how much your energy usage has increased since working from home. 

“The smart meter rollout has always been prohibited by lack of awareness or education around their use and effectiveness. If working from home means you want to look more closely at your energy and other costs, a smart meter is the way to go. Suppliers need to step up the rollout, but this needs to be customer-driven.”

Newland predicts that there will need to be wider conversations around actual energy usage for work purposes:

“Personally I have seen evidence that the rollout has now ‘woken’ up again in light of the current situation, but the short term challenge will be the social distancing whilst fitting them in employees homes.

“For me, the longer-term challenge is whether or not the technology of the smart meters is fit for purpose. Is it able to monitor and report on the actual energy consumption whilst employees are active, versus when they are working from an office building? 

“I feel that in the early days there will no doubt have to be some kind of workaround. Perhaps whereby the amount of time that the employee is logged on and working is registered as their ‘operational hours’. This is then multiplied by some kind of pre-agreed fixed hourly amount to be received as a contribution towards their work-related energy consumption costs.”

 

Re-Prioritising Energy Management Post-COVID

 

Energy management initiatives are key in achieving long-term carbon reduction goals but, in the current economic climate, companies may struggle to find the capital investment required to implement them. 

Utility Team have created the Revolving Green Fund, which provides businesses with interest-free funding to deliver energy-efficient projects and technologies. 

You can read more about the funding here

Picture: A photograph of a smart meter in-home display. Image Credit: Gov.UK

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 09 July 2020

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