back to article Gov 'smart meter' plans: Sky box in charge of your house

The UK government has unveiled its plans for so-called "smart" energy meters, to be compulsory throughout Blighty in future. The proposed technology appears like excellent news for energy companies, offering them many options to cut costs and perhaps carbon emissions. Chances for consumers to be truly "smart", however, aren't …

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Regarding timed use of appliances

Remember that, in spite of the 30 years' development of appliances since Economy 7 was phased out, the Nanny State would have you believe that if you run your dishwasher at night, you will all die in your sleep.

I'm all for differential charging, so long as it offers opportunities for customers to reduce their bills. Usually, differential charging just means applying a massive price hike at the times you want to use the services. c.f. road tolls, telephone bills, public transport et al.

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Pirate

A bit like Economy 7 then

We're on Economy 7 and apparently we can save £200 a year switching back - which requires them to physically change the meter.

I thought the idea with Economy 7 was to charge less at night, but apparently the main idea is to charge more during the day.

Good luck getting anything more complicated to work in the user's favour.

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Black Helicopters

And once the infrastructure is in place -

the "Big Brother" telescreens will quickly follow.

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Alert

Sky at night, contractors delight

I'm sure Crapita, EDS, and all the usual suspects in government tendering are rubbing their mitts in glee at the prospect of this big expensive government project.

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Not sure about this one.

"....perhaps with the aid of your trusty electric car as a power reservoir...."

If you wanted a battery to store power, why buy one in a lushly appointed metal box with wheels on it? Surely you'd just get a battery pack? For one thing, it'd be far less likely to bugger off to the shops for a loaf of bread when it was most needed.

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Tom

Sounds like a bad idea

Does this mean your electricity meter will be able to crash and effectively cut your power supply off by accident?

Will they be secure enough that only ther energy company can cut you off, rather than some script kiddie on the net?

Do not want.

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Dead Vulture

Misleading title

I was excited to see that my sky box may offer the smart meter service, so that while I’m watching TV I could get a warning to my power usage, or maybe view my remaining units (money prepay). But no, the title is misleading, its simply implying that the smart meter will be like a sky box (an expensive device, which we have to wait for the right deal to buy, and ultimately, be updated remotely whilst reporting what I’m using so much power on!)

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Unhappy

Not sure I like this

I like my current system whereby the energy company persist in sending round meter readers during the day, while I'm at work. This allows me to 'hedge' on my energy costs.

Inevitably I'm out when the meter reader comes round (and my electricity meter is in the hall, and gas meter in the cellar), so no reading is taken. Therefore, my energy company asks me to kindly provide my own readings. Which I do. But the readings I want to give them. So, just when the announce a big price hike, I give them a massive meter reading to take advantage of the cheaper price. Then low readings until (hopefully) the prices come back down again. It's all worked very well (if, probably, a little illegally!) so far.

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Stop

Meter Readings

When is the last time EDF sent an meter reader out to your house? I've not seen one in the 4 years I've been living in the UK. I have to tell them my reading.

And there go my plans for a cannabis grow-op in my shed.

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Dead Vulture

off to a good start

Have just sent an email with suggestions for functionalit to be included in the Smart Meters project to the address published at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/smart_metering/smart_metering.aspx

After 5 minutes I recieved this reply:

"This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.

Delivery to the following recipients failed.

smartmetering@decc.gsi.gov.uk"

Bodes well for the project! Or are they just not interested in participation from the public?

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Flame

For once...

the monopoly power provider in Northern Ireland is ahead of the game. I have a pre-pay "smart box" installed at home. Besides the fact that I get 2.5% discount for using this I can my power consumption at any given time or, historically, over days & weeks. Since some form of technology is there to communicate the "top up" codes & its value between the box & the network it would seem relatively trivial to harvest consumption data from the smart boxes into a database so the consumer could look at pretty graphs on a web page.

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Tim

Presumably this is for taxes

Currently the govt takes a lot of income from fuel taxes. If people move to leccy cars they will lose this income. So we need to have smart meters so that that "transport electricity" can be charged (no pun intended) with it's own special tax band.

Tim#3

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Unhappy

I'm not at all sure....

I like the idea of a supplier being able to remotely disconnect me...

They suffer a "blue screen of death" moment - no leccy for me... difficult recovery?

I'm in dispute over my bill, they shut me off. Now they've got my attention! Whether or not it is legal.

They decide to change the tarrif profile and very suddenly I pay more...

In introducing these "Smart" meters were is the incentive for them to be more efficient?

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Joke

Next wave of trojans

"able to switch between suppliers by simply pressing a button - or perhaps under the control of a simple home computer program".

Then the scum start writing trojans that switch you to a premium rate supplier to make themselves loads of money. A bit like the old premium-rate diallers that circulated back in the 90s.

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Black Helicopters

Trust

Connect it to my HomeNetwork? are they kidding. Talk about a security issue inside your own network that you have no control over. If I did have to connect it then i would have to put it outside of my firewall.

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Pirate

Frankly, I love the idea

No one will ever come around to my house to read the meter. I can run a cable from before the meter to the loft where my 2 200watt servers run all the time. Big savings ahoy.

I could become an energy supplier for the street...

Remote cut off...denial of service attack anyone? Jacqui's home addressES?

Did I just say that out loud?

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Anonymous Coward

It has its merits

If the majority of the savings from all their laid off meter readers and billing staff are passed onto the consumer and not just pocketed then I wouldn't mind having one.

On the other hand, how much will all those laid off employees be costing me in dole money?

Swings and roundabouts.

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Anonymous Coward

How will the comms work?

Does this mean everyone will be forced to have a phone line?

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uplink?

What's the intended uplink for these meters to talk back to Big Brother?

Is a BT line going to become a requirement for electric and gas supply? I ditched my phone a decade ago.

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Anonymous Coward

And..

Also an oppertunity to further screw the poor, I wonder if the cut off fee will reduce as it will only cost them oohh approx tuppence ha'penny to cut them off (plus a letter perhaps), so those living on the breadline will not get any advantage? This country is a joke, where can I leave feedback? I could not see a link on the page? Which mp could I contact, any suggestions?

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@A bit like Economy 7 then

You are correct - however things have changed.

One upon a time in the UK, there was a manufacturing sector and a lot of heavy industry which required lots of electricity. The government (energy was run by the Government) had options - upgrade the infrastructure (i.e. power lines that could cope with more current), curtail demand or load balance.

Load balancing was the favoured option. So you (domestic consumers) use energy in the evenings (when industry has ceased) and allow industry to use that capacity during the day. In exchange, you get cheaper electricity in the evening for 7 hours. Hence the invention of storage heaters. It was always the case that the standing charge was slightly higher but because the rate was lower, as long as you did use a high proportion of electricity at night it was cost effective.

The game has changed - reduction in the manufacturing base means load shifting by consumers is not a priority. Also, we're not willing to use such dire things as storage heaters.

I run my dishwasher, washing machine, bread maker etc. at night but I'm also now told the standard tariff will cost me less. I don't have a plasma TV, I have gas heating and cooking so I think this may be the case with many households.

Smart Metering was devised by the energy companies for their benefit. There is very little benefit for the consumer and the energy companies want us to pay for it. They DO NOT want it to be easy to switch, the innovative scenarios in the article would be dire for them.

These meters will be with us for many years. If you care, do provide feedback to the government via the link else it's no point in complaining for the next few decades. The meters should be configured to allow for switching to the best rate. Of course, there are significant implications for the industry, particularly with regard to billing. One area is not a concern - retail has been separated from transmission so you'll be able to get a fault repaired no matter how the retail arrangements work.

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Intelligent devices

To make this work needs intelligence in the electrical appliances - expecting consumers to rush round plugging and unplugging devices as the unit rate changes isn't going to be very practicable. Some of this is going to have to be very dynamic indeed as inherently variable generation like wind & wave comes more and more on strream.

What is needed is something like freezers that can adjust power consumption according to the cost of electricity. It's perfectly possible in the short term to use cheaper electricity to cool the contents of the freezer more than normal and use the "thermal intertia" effect to cut power consumption during expensive periods (as sort of reverse energy store). Similarly, all sorts of other types of devices could have energy stores. Clearly batteries (albeit that's expensive), but the ultimate would surely be when it is integrated into electric transport. It's perfectly feasible to imagine the battery in your electric car "smoothing out" the demand on the grid at peak times (albeit I think this is only acceptable with "plug in" hybrids to avoide being stranded if your battery has been drained because you boiled a kettle at peak rates).

As everybody realises, the real problem is that nobody has cracked the problem of storing large amounts of electric power in a cheap and efficient manner. The person that cracks that will deserve riches which even Bill Gates couldn't dream of.

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They're not listening

I've just tried the link at the end. It timed out. This bunch of self-serving cretinous control-freaks will do whatever they want anyway, so I'm not surprised they don't care to hear our views.

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Anonymous Coward

Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act

Currently suppliers have to obtain a warrant from a magistrate in order to enter the property and disconnect the supply. This will presumably still be the case with these meters - hopefully it won't all be done automatically by some system linked in with their crappy SAP billing engines?

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waste of money and time

so we are in a recession, and lets cut the meter reading jobs, great idea.

Spend the money on supplying me with a couple of solar panels, and a water heatexchanger on my roof, i'll let the energy comapny fit the unit to send extra power back into the national grid if they want.

then i can save money and save energy.

got to be cheaper then building and running a nucleur power station that nobody wants next to them

remote cut off, just like when BT decided to put me on paperless billing, without asking me, then we get a call, from a foreigner asking for our card payment details or we will be cut off.

Guess what, we didn't give it, and yes, got cut off.

3 days arguing and we got put back on, and charged for reconnection. eventually refunded!

that wil be fun mid winter with gas and electric !

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Stop

In years to come - Power rationing!

Yes its a new round of taxation and monitoring. 'Carbon Limits' will be set for houses and if you go over certain limits you'll be charged a carbon tax etc.etc. Thats a given.

And then when we dont have enough power for the country as a whole, it will then allow monitoring of power rationing to homes and penalties for those that break them.

Oh joy.

As for Economy 7, my parents swapped to that a couple of years ago. Why I have no idea as they knew full well the hassles my Nan had with it in the 80's. So yes they now have to 'live' at night rather then during the day to actually make any savings. Its a barmy system. I did tell them.

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As usual the government are not interested

Well I tried to email my observations on the smart meter proposal but sending my email to smartmetering@decc.gsi.gov.uk (the email address given on their website) I got an undeliverable email bounce back. Obviously they're all too busy working out how to screw us for more money now we've rumbled their expenses rip offs to be bothered with reading emails on this subject.

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Coat

secret technology

But, if they get rid of the meter reader, they'll have to write off the investment in "showering consumer detection" technology. That's why they always call when you're in the shower - my meter reader told me.

Is there more information on the "exported" electricity option... like how is it priced? Does the credit for that vary in-line with the tarrif changes for peak/non-peak? That would offer an good incentive for consumers to become producers, perhaps installing solar or wind generators, or getting the kids onto exercise bikes with alternators when East Enders comes on... A greener, fitter Britain?

Mine's the wet towel.

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Boffin

What's needed

is a cheap box with the unit-o-meter output split between a secure, non-company-touchable output (like an RS232 serial port- ultra-simple and able to connect to anything) and the "proper" company interface. That way we can't be screwed over by falsified measurements as we can record exactly what's being read. A monthlong datalogger wouldn't go amiss either given the minimal increase in cost and complexity (recording the previous hours total once a month with a 32-bit register for each reading means about 24kbit (3kByte) of storage required) as it'd mean even non-techie people can defend themselves in court.

Also, no power company should own the box- it should be owned if not by the householder then by a government funded independant body that has no links to the energy market.

No disconnections should happen without evidence- and ideally the involvement of the police; if these companys believe you're stealing electricity or gas from them, surely that's a matter for the cops? And with the new Smart Meters it'll be even easier to make a case against the alleged thief and easier for the innocent to defend themselves.

It should be possible to connect to your smart meter and change immediately (with a sensible limit, say once a week or once a month) who supplies your electricity / gas. Ideally this would be possible using an ATM-style multi-button option screen (cuts costs compared to a touchscreen on the device) or using a computer hooked up to the device.

The device should be designed so that it's absolutely impossible to be taken over by a script-kiddie or other non-utterly-world-class malcontent. And yes, it can be done- and yes, it could be done pretty cheaply.

Anything over about £20 worth of cost to the consumer for a "smart" meter is utterly unjustified (if it's rolled out country-wide).

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RE: jason

"Yes its a new round of taxation and monitoring. 'Carbon Limits' will be set for houses and if you go over certain limits you'll be charged a carbon tax etc.etc."

They could always learn from the ISP's and offer an 'unlimited' service.

The fine print shall read thus: "Boil a kettle before 2am and you will be throttled to a single dily glowing blub. If you turn on said bulb you will be cut off completely"

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Stop

is this really safe?

i think not. consider:

connectivity: 'they' intend equipment fully under their control to use your comms, at your expense (and probably designed to connect to your home network also, to monitor you closely. for your own safety of course. i mean, think of the children. ffs).

hackers: will have a field day with systems like these. fire sale anyone? hehe.

disputes: as said previously, any minor dispute or misunderstanding (read human error) will result in immediate disconnection. we will more and more be at the mercy of corporate/politicals.

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I do feer

that there will be alot of people cut off. Working in credit control I know that you do get people (mostly little old ladys) that will send a cheque for there bill to the company.

It will be In an envolope to the head office, marked "To Paul" or whoever the talked to last.

It will have no infomation on it about who its from or what its for, just "Mrs Smith" as the payer name.

These people will be hit hard if the changes to meter disconection go through, as the companys will just cut them off without looking for there payment. Yes these people are a pain (They think that everyone in a company with 200,000 cusotmers should know who they are when they phone up saying "Hello. Its Mrs Smith." and get anoyed when you don't) but they are cusotmers, and you should try and help them.

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Anonymous Coward

Time We Switched to Microgeneration

If everyone installed solar panels, wind turbines, ground heat systems, etc. then we could i) ignore the electricity companies or ii) sell power to them! Working for a contractor who works for a power company I know that they are rolling in cash. They query many bills we put into them and to the consumer bill them a huge uplift on top of the work we've done. My mother also recently found we were in credit to our electric supplier by £400, though they suggested we up our payments to £200 a month. Power companies are just ripping everyone off.

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Boffin

@ Steve Bennett

All the main mobile telecoms companies have been doing work on smartmeters with embedded SIMS, so these are the most likely route for the connection.

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ESP comms perhaps?

Surely a lot of premises don't have phone lines and a lot of meters are in situations where wireless won't work (e.g. cellars).

In my modest home I have a phone line, but it's not in the garage where the meters are and I don't exactly relish my energy company making the necessary "modifications" to my property. In any case, I might well dispense with a landline in favour of a mobile on the timescales involved here.

As for wanting to graph my energy usage on my PC. You're kidding surely? I've got better things to do with my time, like comment on El Reg... err, OK, forget that.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 10:05

"I wonder if the cut off fee will reduce as it will only cost them oohh approx tuppence ha'penny to cut them off (plus a letter perhaps)"

If they're anything like TIcketMaster, they'll impose a $15 (sorry, I'm american) 'electronic disconnect convenience fee'.

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Anonymous Coward

Business as usual

Why bother responding? The government will make sure that the bumper profits continue to roll in for those all important party donors. Instant switching of suppliers? Not short of a 'heads on poles at the tower' revolution, I think.

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Unhappy

Remote shutdown !

There's no way I'm letting someone into my house to install a remote controlled cut off switch for some spotty oik to hack into. No way.

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Black Helicopters

could it be...

this article has spookily reminded of a recent article about the military seeking 'local building scanning tech'. perhaps like imaging technology using the power wires routed all around your house... could this 'smart meter' be related to that by any chance at all?.. oh, of course not. pure random speculation.

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Alert

Useful...

Say your car could recharge in 2 hrs at 60amps or over 8 hours 15 amps now you plug in your car 10 hours before you need to go to work... an intelligent meter could know that its better for the grid/cheaper not to charge until 4am then whack 60Amps for 2 hours the problem is that it MUST charge your car no matter what. but how does it know when is best for the grid? likewise they cant all wait till the same moment or the grid would collapse..

its all well and good using an instant electricity price and cost trigger but can it work cooperativly and get you the best price AND make sure your car is fully charged???

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Why consult, the decision has been made

The system will be implemented to maximise the profits of the companies (as that is where MPs will get the cushy directorships etc) and there will be no regard for the public.

Just like every other decision ever taken by any British government in recent history.

"Fuck the public, show me the money!"

Bastards, the lot of them.

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Comms

Communication with the smart meter would probably be over the power lines supplying the premises, not using the customers' phone line.

No, I don't want a smart meter with a remote cut off switch, I could do without a power cut due to the thing suffering a BSOD or at the whim of a script kiddie!

I had my meter moved to a box outside the house so readers can get access when I'm not at home but in fact I still get estimated bills, the meter is only read once a year.

Alan

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Anonymous Coward

Comms

There are as I understand two main proposed methods of comms for energy companies to be able to remotely read your meter and cut you off if you haven't paid them, ADSL & GPRS.

ADSL would be easy for the end user to disconnect, but turning off the GPRS modem would mean physically breaking into the meter, which would probably be illegal if not against the terms & conditions of the electricity supplier's contract with you.

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@Owen Williams

Better still, swap the in and out wires, so that the meter always runs in reverse. This used not to be possible, but with the advent of Micro-generation, you should be able to earn a healthy profit just by watching the telly!

Might be a good idea to stick some fake solar panels on the roof though, just in case you ever get a visit.

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Ok

So someone wants to put a meter into my house that could be controlled externally and remotely without my knowledge.

That leaves them completely open to any accusations of fraud - I would want a second physical meter, outside their control, monitoring my use as well. Any disagreement, it would be up to them to prove that I'd tampered with the meter, not up to me to prove they were messing around on their end.

Seeing as they're money-grubbing liars on the fiddle at the moment (I won the case, I can say that), we need some safeguards in place before any such scheme is implemented.

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Joke

Good idea

Anything which allows me to connect to the lamppost ouside and sell their electricity back to them has got to be a good idea.

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Flame

What happened to Internet over Power Lines?

Warning: There is no need to have any significant technology investment.

The Utilities and Government are trying to rape the Public promoting the lie that this is complicated and will take billions in development costs.

The technology is already here, the "smart" themostats for HVAC systems already exist and only cost a couple of hundred US dollars.

We have had "drive by" water and electricity metering via radio here in my community (just outside of Niagara Falls NY USA) for a couple of years and all that is required to eliminate the driver is for our electric utility (National Grid, seemingly we all suffer together world wide) to institute digital communications over the power lines.

If they had any brains or Ethics, the utlities would just recognize they could make huge money on the internet communications and offset the cost of both the technology and the cost of electricity.

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Flame

Perhaps contrary to my usual position

Speaking as someone who never lets anyone in to read the meter I actually welcome this - particularly the part about remotely accessible meter readings. Suits me fine.

I forsee a future in microgeneration anyway.

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Easy Switching?

Didn't read too hard but that seems to be one of the 'touted' benefits. Chances are it will go full rail and the middle men will get cut out. If energy, in particular electricity, is bought from a central pool then the next (i)logical step will be the customers will become a similar pool. You won't be with a 'named' entity as your supplier. Someone will sit at a trading desk bidding for customers from the customer pool, on the basis of lowest offered price, to be supplied with energy sold into the supply pool. Market economics at its leanest and best/worst. Naturally 'poor' customers are still open to penalisation it just becomes more finely grained.

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they won't be that smart...

Surely these 'smart' meters will be no different from existing half-hour meters that are mandatory for large supplies to commercial/industrial buildings?

They're no different from normal ones other than they phone up the energy provider and inform them of how many KWH's you've used. They have no visibility of how you used the power only how much.

In order to gain visibility of what appliances you've been using and for how long would require substantial rewiring to folk's homes which would cost a fortune. Therefore all that could happen is the meter is changed to a half-hour type of unit (they look largely the same bar the phone cable).

The only savings the energy suppliers will have is that they won't need to employ meter-readers and it will eliminate usage estimates that may be too low.

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