25/06/2015 07:21 BST | Updated 24/06/2016 06:59 BST

Why Smart Meters Are Essential for a Competitive Energy Market

In the next few days the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) will publish its provisional findings pushing energy companies back into the public spotlight.

Reports have suggested that a breakup of the big energy companies is looking less likely. Instead the study looks set to focus on flaws in the way we buy energy.

Smart meters are not a panacea for all the issues in the retail market. But they will play a crucial role in helping to address some of the problems experienced by consumers.

Most people are still using meter technology that is decades out of date. But the national roll-out of smart meters to every home and micro-business means that the last analogue experience is finally entering the digital age.

Smart meters will bring an end to the absurdity of estimated billing, and allow customers to take control of their energy use by showing us what we're spending in pounds and pence.

In future, smart meters will be the great enabler of rapid switching. As we move further through the national roll-out, 24 hour switching can finally become a reality. Those with a smart meter will be able to move across to another supplier with minimal fuss and with uninterrupted and accurate billing - and we'll be able to shop around in this market as we do in any other. That means getting the best deal for ourselves, and exercising a competitive force as a group.

Millions of customers are paying too much because they don't have a clear understanding of the costs of different types of energy and are unaware of easy ways to reduce their bills.

Many low income and vulnerable households are finding themselves out of pocket - especially if they're using inconvenient and expensive pre-pay key meters. Smart meters will give millions of people more control.

Our research has found that more than two-thirds (68%) of people with smart meters think they have the information that they need to choose the right energy tariff, compared to barely more than half (51%) of those with traditional meters.

Smart meters will also play a major part in throwing open the market to new and innovative competition.

Companies that offer good deals and great service will compete on a level playing field when customers have a better understanding of their energy usage and the ability to change supplier quickly and accurately.

The market will never be truly competitive until smart meters are the norm for British households.