According to recent figures from British Gas, nearly 25,000 British businesses are signing up to a smart meter data service, enabling them to see their electricity usage in real time. British Gas is also using feedback from these businesses to develop propositions and services that suit their needs and requirements.

Typically, those businesses using the service are saving up to 20% on their annual electricity bill. One of the first businesses to use the service is Barnstaple Bakery, a high street bakery in Devon who in just four months has seen savings of nearly £900 (12%) on their annual energy bills.

The most effective way for businesses to understand how much electricity they are using and take steps to reduce it to save money, is to be able to see it. It is often the simplest actions that can deliver the fastest financial and energy savings, but many high street businesses have not previously been aware of the data opportunity presented to them. Until recently, the resources and expertise to access energy data insights were only in the gift of big businesses, but with the introduction of smart meters this opportunity is now available on a wider scale.

Now, SMEs are switching on to the opportunity by applying insights from their data to identify how and where their business is using energy and what savings potential this presents. British Gas recently launched Business Energy Insight (BEI), a smart meter based service that provides real time data to customers in a visible and manageable way via an online dashboard. This dashboard shows hourly, daily, weekly and monthly electricity usage which is then presented to businesses in the form of a simple energy report.

This service turns seemingly meaningless data into energy insights which, when applied effectively will enable businesses to bring down their electricity costs and make efficiencies – at a time when there is increased pressure on businesses and their prices.

Robert Purcell, from Barnstaple Bakery in Devon, one of the first businesses to trial the BEI service, said, “Before signing up to BEI we knew how much our electricity bill was but we were at a loss as to how we could find ways to reduce it. We had never really understood the link between understanding our data and how it can help us save money.

“As a business, we want to make sure we can sell our infamous rock cakes at the best possible prices and so we’re always on the lookout for ways to make savings. So we were incredibly surprised to discover that we could save so much on our energy bill in such a short space of time. What’s more surprising is that it is the simple changes that have made the biggest impact on our finances and we’ve shaved nearly £900 (12%) off our annual energy bill as a result. These savings have been made by simple changes such as installing new lighting and turning off ovens when they’re not being used. This may not seem overly surprising but it’s not until we saw the electricity we were using that we understand how to reduce it.

“We know how important it is to keep a firm handle on our bills, not just for the future success of our business but also because we don’t want to have to put up the cost of our cakes for customers. However after seeing how much we’ve already managed to save in just four months, we’re now far more confident about managing our costs in the future.”

Dr Angela Needle, head of Energy Consultancy at British Gas said, “Businesses are really starting to wake up to the value of understanding their energy data in order to help them control their bills. This provides a great opportunity for businesses as by using insight from their smart meters, they can look to take quick, simple steps to reduce their consumption to save money.

“Equally exciting is that our customers are using these data insights to tell us what features they would like to see and what services they would like to receive. So far we know that our customers want to be able to monitor their gas in real time – they also want to be able to benchmark themselves against their competitors, to find out how they rank when it comes to being the most energy efficient. We also know they want to be alerted when things aren’t working and to be able to control how much they’re spending on energy throughout the day. For example if they use more during off-peak hours we can then work with them to find ways of making sure they’re on the right tariff.

“We want to work with our customers to better understand how they want to, and are using their data, in order to help businesses have a stronger grasp on their electricity use and reduce their bills.”