In this brief article brought to you by we bring to you a use for SIM cards that may not have been particularly obvious.

Many people use post paid Gas and / or Electricity meters in our home or business premises.

Perhaps a bill arrives through the post every quarter (every three months) - typically two bills each year are calculated by the energy company estimating your gas and electricity usage and two bills are calculated after a meter reader comes around and reads the meter.

A newer system of meter reading is expected to be rolled out by 2020 whereby new meters, referred to as SmartMeters, are installed in properties.

The technology used automatically measures energy consumption, perhaps by the hour, day, week, or month. This energy consumption can be displayed to the consumer on a screen on the meter.

The SmartMeter includes a SIM card and the necessary technology to send this data to the energy supplier.

A smart meter could potentially be programmed to control your energy usage - devices such as fridges could be programmed to turn off during periods of high electricity usage and to switch back on when electricity usage has fallen - this can be referred to as Demand Side Management.

The cost of a smart meter installation is typically expected to be around £100.00 per meter.

The cost of which is meant to be borne by the energy supplier - in reality the consumer is likely to pay this either as a full one off payment, or perhaps through a small addition to your energy unit price.

Perhaps this cost will be offset slightly by the energy supplier passing on cost savings to them (the supplier).

So this will mean that the days of a friendly human arriving at your home, or business, may be numbered as well as the days of receiving estimated bills.

Here at SIMsurprise we do not like the demise of peoples jobs, but also understand the needs of businesses to reduce costs - and in this light can understand that automated meter reading, and the sending of this information to energy suppliers, via for example a text message, is perhaps cheaper than paying for the man-hours, or should that be person-hours, in a meter reader pounding the streets.

Will the cost savings to the energy suppliers be passed onto consumers?

Watch this space - or keep an eye on your energy costs to see if savings are passed on either by reducing energy unit costs or maintaining existing unit costs for a longer period of time before implementing increases. hopes that this article increases awareness of further uses of the humble SIM card which keeps your mobile phone in contact.

Update: 30 June 2011.

Since publication of this article, the author has become aware that there may be issues regarding the SmartMeter and the interaction with Solar Panels - while the author is investigating further for greater clarity, it might be possible that the SmartMeter is unable to differentiate between electricity used from the National Grid, and the electricity used from Solar Panels.

What this means is that the SmartMeter may be unable to produce a "Net" electricity consumption figure of electricity usage from the National Grid. The Net electricity usage figure would typically be obtained by subtracting the Solar Panel electricity usage from the electricity total calculated by the SmartMeter.

The worst case scenario is that it is quite conceivable that the combined Solar Panel produced electricity, plus the electricity used from the national grid, would be combined in your SmartMeter electricity units reading and you would be charged by your electricity supplier for all electricity used - this includes the electricity you use from your solar panels - this will defeat the objectives of having your own Solar Panel generated electricity supply.

Also, excess electricity, that is electricity that is produced by the Solar Panels but is more than you currently need to use, would typically be bought by your energy supplier - the smart meter issue might be that it cannot "go backwards".

This could ultimately lead to the creation of a "SmartGrid" where such calculations are achieved at the National Grid "end" of the system - sometimes referred to the "back-office".

The author of this article is very interested in obtaining clarification on this issue and is in the process of contacting Electricity Suppliers to determine exactly how the issue can be clarified - or indeed if there is an issue.

When we have more up-to-date information we shall up date this article and endeavour to get back to site visitors who have contacted us to ask about this very potential issue - to the people who have contacted the author, a big "Thank you" and respectfully ask that you bear with us as we endeavour to clarify the issue.

Update 07 July 2011

In response to an enquiry to nPower, SIMsurprise has the following brief reply:

* *

Unfortunately Smart meters are still on trial at the moment therefore we are unsure how they will support the solar panels.

Once they have been released we will have further information."

* *

While this does not give a definitive answer, we shall endeavour to keep you up-to-date on the possible issues between Smart meters and Solar Panels.