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back to article New smart meter tells Brits exactly what they already know

We're all going to be much richer thanks to British Gas, which will push kit from Cambridge startup AlertMe into 10,000 homes this summer. The rollout will reach the rest of the energy giant's ten million customers in the autumn. Not that AlertMe is guaranteed to be supplying all the kit, which will integrate with smart meters …

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Big Brother

But the government, along with industry, thinks differently.

I not sure the government or industry cares what the customers think. It's being rolled out for their benefit, not ours, and they damn well know.

The rest is just marketing spin to make you think you want it. This prevents the uproar that would otherwise be created by the fact that we've got to pay for something the majority of us really don't need.

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Nonsense...

Most people I know who have installed smart meters are now sitting in the dark...

Joking aside, it does really help to cut consumption. A lot of people don't understand the relative values of a TV v PC v washing machine v kettle v lights, etc. and this will definitely help.

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Re: Nonsense...

@Tom 15.

I really dispair for the future of the human race sometimes. Any idiot that doesn't have some idea of the relative consumption figures of these devices should be put down for the sake of the human race. I can see it being difficult between like devices, but others.....really. If they can't work out that things with heaters in them (e.g. kettles, washing machines etc.) take more than consumer electronics, they really need shooting.

By the way, all the studies show that energy displays don't work at all. They initially reduce consumption by around 10-20%, then after a period of time (3-12 months depending on customer), it reverts to normal for almost everyone. Only the very diehard greens continue with the reduction. The reason is simple. It's initially a novelty and people like the idea of paying less. However, after a while, people simply get fedup with watching a meter all the time and it dictating their lives, so simply stop. Then, consumption goes back up.

It's all a complete waste of time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nonsense...

@Mad Mike - Sorry, I don't buy the "only idiots don't know what energy they're using" line. I've been working in IT for 14 years, specifically in data storage - so energy consumption is a significant issue - before that I had a history in electronics, lighting etc. I couldn't have told you how much energy my washing machine used or what the load profile, during a wash was until I'd made a system which monitored and graphed the use of 'leccy and gas in my house. As it happens rather than "the washing machine uses a lot of juice" I now know which are the most efficient cycles, some of the 60C cycles actually use less energy in total than the 40C cycles, which I doubt anyone would have guessed. I also now know that my partner's Mac G5 sucks an enormous amount of power when on standby, we always switch it off now.

Not a waste of time.

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Re: Nonsense...

@AC.

I'll amend my quote. 'Only idiots and those who can't be bothered to find out through simple means don't know how much energy they're using'. You don't need a smart meter to tell you any of this. You simply need a meter display of your incomer, or a plug in meter between the device and socket.

You certainly don't need to spend £10-12billion to find out.

Some people are idiots and don't know and don't know how to find out. Replay my earlier comment about their fate. If you can't be bothered to use one of the other means to find out, you won't take any notice of what a smart meter tells you, so it's irrelevant. The point is, smart meters won't make any difference.

I have a simple plug in meter, into which I plug the appliance etc. It records both the instantaneous load and usage over time. So, I could find out the energy consumption of my washing machines programmes by simply using that, very easily. However, as I'm sure you're aware, this doesn't actually work as washing machines (and plenty of other things now) use differing amounts depending on various constaints. For instance, my dishwasher determines whether it needs to do another rinse by looking at the last rinse water. If it doesn't, that saves a lot of electricity.

Any which way, smart meters are delivering nothing that a reasonably intelligent person couldn't find out through much lower cost/benefit means.

And, if you're in electricity and can't work out that a washing machines consumption (per minute or whatever) will be more than say a lightbulb or a kettle against a telly etc., there's clearly something wrong with the education system today.

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Headmaster

Re: Nonsense...

So your point is that the majority of people are idiots and need things spelled out to them? No shit, that's why this is being done. If people weren't mostly stupid this wouldn't be necessary. But they are. So it is.

Unfortunately there's no magic cure to stupidity, and no amount of ranting on the internet is going to change that.

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Re: Nonsense...

@Wild Bill.

Interestingly, you've got the wrong end of the stick. The point I'm making is that the vast majority of people can work it out for themselves. Yes, there are a few who can't, but not that many. So, if the issue isn't stupidity, the issue is will. As they don't have the will now using very simple and cheap technology, implementing something costing £10-12billion isn't likely to give them the will either!! So, the whole expenditure is wasted.

Even if you accept some people are too stupid, it would still be cheaper to give these people plug in meters and lessons in how to use them rather than install smart meters. Demand side management is seen as a panacea for the industry and government. Problem is, the customer has no interesting in being demand side managed!!

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Re: Nonsense...

At the end of the day, all the smart meter tells you is that you can save electricity by switching things off. Yes, it can help you work out that switching off your 3kW grow lamp will save you more electricity than switching off your 3W LED Christmas lights, but is it really that important? Switch both off if you don't need them.

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Happy

Re: Nonsense...

'Only idiots and those who can't be bothered to find out through simple means don't know how much energy they're using'

Too right. I had a tenant who dried clothing indoors, with all the ventilation closed and the heating switched off and then complained that there was condensation. Well colour me surprised.

I even supplied a dehumidifier, which she refused to use as it 'costed too much money'.

I finally ended up being taken to the small claims court for being a nasty horrible Landlord. Best bit was when she repeated that it was too costly and I handed over calculations that showed that it would cost about 10p per day.

The Judge actually asked her whether she was serious about not being able to afford 10p per day, and followed it up by dismissing the claim.

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Re: Nonsense...

there are a lot of people in this country today who pretend they can't afford things. It seems to be fashionable to reach for that excuse whenever there is a cost involved. You know a new tax or something goes up by £10 a year and people cry that they can't afford it.

What is it all about? Are so many people really right on an exact fine edge that an extra £10 a year tips them over? Or do they simply mean they are already living beyond their means. You know after the mortgage, holidays and cars, etc another £10 is just too far? Or is it more perverse than that? Do these people actually enjoy playing the victim? Being part of "hard times"? Or are they just using it as an excuse to argue against paying it?

It's so rampant it's making me unable to tell the difference between people who are genuinely unable to afford stuff and ones who are pretending.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nonsense...

Although, after reading your post, if there is one person in the world who could discover one my money's on you...

;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nonsense...

People like you are what got the UK into the state it's in today.

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Pirate

Coal powered fun

Dig and then burn your own coal from the disused coal seam down the road. It'll keep you warm in the winter, heat your water, and make for great summer barbies.

On top of all this, it may well be free! (What no coal seam near you? Just substitute coal with some pine trees - The local country will pay you to take those away.)

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Meh

Are the meter displays AC or battery? I used to have that was battery powered and it went through the buggers at a stupid rate. Not much point saving electricity if the meter burns it up again or requires you to dump dozens of batteries into landfill every year.

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Anonymous Coward

AC or battery?

> dump dozens of batteries into landfill

You should be taking your used batteries to be recycled, most grocery shops have the buckets these days.

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Re: AC or battery?

Correct. There remains the slight problem of the fact that, when I have a dead battery in my hand, there's a bin within a few feet but the grocery shop is some way away.

My inclination to not being arsed about this sort of thing completes the process.

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It'll only work when ...

It'll start to have an effect when phase 2 kicks in. What few supporters of the tech are talking about is what smart metering is really there for - demand management. Not persuading us to switch a few lights off etc, but real demand management where people will think twice before putting the oven on for Sunday lunch, or putting a load of washing on.

When all the windmills stop turning (as they do in those calm, bitterly cold spells), and we've no nuclear left, and the coal stations have been shut down to meet EU legislation, and Russia puts it's foot on the gas hose ... Well we'll be short of lecky - anyone else remember the rolling power cuts of the 70's ?

What will happen is that lecky costs will rise - dramatically enough that few will be able to afford to use it. So magically, wind power will still be seen to be working, but only because people have turned everything off and are sitting in the dark. If that fails, then the smart meters allow a more fine grained remote turn off facility that can plunge individual houses into darkness and cold (yes cold, gas is no use if your boiler is switched off - and those with combi boilers will find themselves with no hot water either).

Government claims smart meters won't be compulsory - but I bet the disincentives (by way of vastly overpriced tariffs) to not having one will be huge.

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Re: It'll only work when ...

@Simon Hobson.

I know this is what the government thinks will happen. But, if they really believe they can implement any form of remote power cut and get the population to accept it, they're dreaming. Yes, it happened in the 70s, but people are vastly different now. Rolling power cuts of any type simply won't be accepted. And, if they really think people will allow them to turn devices on and off in the home, they are equally deluded. People want to use appliances when they want to use them. Yes, it will work for some heating (economy 7 effectively), but there was already a method for that. Doesn't need smart meters. The majority of household consumption is actually non-neogtiable. People don't make a cup of tea when the government or demand says, they make it when they're thirsty. People don't watch telly when the government says, but when there programs are on, or they have time. Maybe some kitchen appliances might be possible, such as washing machines, tumble driers and dishwashers, but that's possible now using a simple timer.

In reality, this is not practical in some cases anyway. If you have a seperate washing machine and tumble drier (more efficient that a combined device), how do you get the washing from one to the other in the middle of the night whilst you're asleep?

The government are absolutely bonkers if they think they will be able to dictate this without widespread public disorder. And, if they think people will believe wind power is working when this is going on, they're even more mad.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It'll only work when ...

TV keeps the masses subdued, turn off the power and they will start coming out of their homes and onto the streets. That is the last thing the banksters want.

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Mushroom

Re: It'll only work when ...

"The government are absolutely bonkers if they think they will be able to dictate this without widespread public disorder. And, if they think people will believe wind power is working when this is going on, they're even more mad."

yep , the government (labour or tory) is mad, they've been listenning to the eco-I-hate-nuclear-and-coal-mentalists for so long they're starting to believe the drivel that comes out of their mouths.

I feel like starting the "free nuclear leccy if you don't mind living within 10 miles of a nuke power station party" . Anyone want to help me ? :-D

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It'll only work when ...

I think you'll be surprised what the general public is willing to put up with. In many parts of the U.S. people had similar smart meters installed last year and the power companies went ahead cut power during "non-peak" times (non-peak usually meaning mid-afternoon on the hottest summer days. There were lots of angry phone calls and lots of public apologies/statements by the electric companies but no rioting and no changes in policy. After a few harsh news stories, most people decided the incentives of a smart meter were not worth the costs but the government still tries to push them.

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Stop

Re: It'll only work when ...

So because people objected to something, got an apology, and are not forced to use the meters, you say that they aren't ready to riot over this, because they didn't then.

If they had been told "tough shit" and then the companies had proceeded with it on an ever increasing scale, and then nobody rioted, then you'd maybe have a point...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It'll only work when ...

But once you have them, you are forced to use them. That is the point.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It'll only work when ...

Also, when I say apology, it was more like, "We are sorry you didn't understand what you signed up for but we retain the rights to turn off your power." Essentially to the people who already had them installed the companies did say "tough shit."

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I used to have one of those usage displays (not sure if it constitutes a smart meter) that had a loop that hooked over the main cable and a wireless display. After the initial "ooh that uses a lot of power", we never looked at it and did not change our habits in the slightest as a result of having the display as all the things that used lots of leccy were things we couldn't do with out.

Once again, the gov takes action "for our own good" because we just can't be trusted to look after ourselves these days...

Where's the nanny state icon?

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Megaphone

Once again, the gov takes action "for our own good"

I am firmly of the opinion that whenever politicians are legislating or spending money to protect people from themselves, they have fucked up most egregiously.

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Anonymous Coward

"only thing preventing us from switching off lights, or hanging the washing out on a line, is the lack of a Web 2.0 front-end to tell us how much juice we're burning."

Complete and utter British (Shite!)

If I need clean clothes, i put the washing machine on. I need extra light, I put the lights on.

An energy meter will not stop the need for clean clothes, lights, heating, entertainment, etc...

So the whole smart meter helps reduce enegery consumption is a complete huge steaming pile of British!

If you don't turn off/unplug unused appliances AND you don't relaise that there is a cost involved in leaving said items energised, you deserve to pay more for your electric. But to claim a smart meter is the answer, NA! No it is not.

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Anonymous Coward

You can refuse a smartmeter!

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Alert

Hmm,really

You might be able to refuse to have one put in on your current property.

Whats the odds of them letting you change it to a "dumb" meter if you move house to one that already has a smart meter?

"Sorry Guv, we dont have those old fangled meters no more, just the smart ones"

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Unhappy

Re: Hmm,really

Unlikely, if the water industry is anything to go by:

The water industry regulater, Ofwat, says: 'Customers moving into properties with water meters cannot have the meter removed and must pay for their water on a metered basis. (The Water Industry Act 1991, section 144B, amended by the Water Industry Act 1999).'

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hmm,really

That Act needs to be reviewed as I believe it was bribed by the water industry to go in their favour.

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FAIL

woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

So how is the data getting from my house with no phone line back to there data..

this could be interesting,.

as for my 98 year old next door neighbour is still struggling with the concept of the tv remote.. internet lost totally lost.. what are they going to do to these people force them to get ADSL £20 (cheapest in my area due to distance/lack of BT support) per month on top of this meter. i doubt they will go for it.

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Boffin

Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

"how is the data getting from my house" - try telegraphic communication through the ether (radio). Currently they just drive past. Simples.

Expect future signals via the power lines themselves.

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Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

They could stick a SIM in it and it probably and the very most basic level will send an encrypted SMS if it can't open a data session to a server. Other methods include short range radio to "drive-by readers" as I believe they do in the US - changing from a "person inspects dial on physical meter locked in a box somewhere around the property that may or may not be inside it" to a "drive past at the legal speed limit and all your meters are belong to us" will save a lot of money. Sure there will still be houses that can't be read this way, but all they'd need to do is get reasonably close, rather than disturb the householder, and it's still a durn sight quicker

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Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

@Roger Greenwood.

Interesting, but wrong. None of the current proposals actually use powerline carrier. The utilities aren't interesting in fitting kit in every substation as powerline doesn't really cross transformers. Not in sensible levels anyway. Radio requires them to buy frequencies. Strangely, they're not interested in that either, especially after previous frequency sales. So, what's left. A load are using mobile phone technology, but that tends to be very expensive and not all pervasive. Nobody has ever talked in any meaningful way at driving round areas either, especially as they want to collect the data daily.

In reality, nobody has yet suggested, let alone agreed, a means by which every property can communicate back in a suitable manner at a suitable cost. It's still up for discussion, but nobody is looking at powerline carrier at the moment, or driving past or radio. (Except possibly the 2.4GHz frequency as it's free!!

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Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

@mad mike You may be right, but many businesses are already on drive by download, although I don't know what the current size threshold is. I do know when you change suppliers they change the meter as they like their own kit (I saw one changed yesterday). Gas supplies are the same.

I also know many (larger) substations already have radio telemetry, usually as a backup to the landline. Easy then to plug in directly to the 400V system, not via the transformers or HV network. I agree that powerline tech is not there yet, but I am sure they are still trying to sort it as people knocking on doors are very expensive. Time will tell.

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FAIL

Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

How long until the system is hacked?

Cos we all know how secure SCADA systems are...

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Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

@Roger Greenwood.

Ah. Now, businesses are somewhat different and run to a different set of rules to domestic. I work for a utility and as far as I know, no electricity or gas company does drive by on a large scale. Yes, some small scale, but the various consultations (principally in London) are not proposing doing this for smart metering as they want to get the readings every day and drive by is impractical for this. Business meters may not be read at this frequency.

Substations do have some telemetry, but that is for management of the network upstream, not downstream. The issue with using powerline from the home to the substation is that powerline receivers have to be attached everywhere as transformers stop most of the signal. Again, it isn't really being looked at, although I would have thought it the obvious choice. A variety of ZigBee is one option, but they have looked at all sorts. As I said, at the moment, it's mostly mobile phones networks, but these are extremely expensive on a large scale unless the mobile phone operators change charges. Also, mobile phones don't get everywhere.

There are two reasons why no decision on the method has been made yet. The utilities will never agree with each other on anything and no method has yet proved to be both practical and reliable for a majority.

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Smart meter

My meter already tells me how much energy I'm using, the clue is in the word meter.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Smart meter

No, it tells you how much energy you have used, not how much you are using at a given point in time.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Smart meter

Is the little spinny thing going around slowly or quickly?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Smart meter

Ah, the spinny thing, hardly easy to read though, is it? Twenty graduations have gone past in the last thirty seconds, that means, hang on, err...

vs

LCD display with a number on it.

In any case the spinny thing, still only tells you what you were using, not what you are using, albeit be bit more up to date than the tumbers.

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Unhappy

Also...

The way power is priced now, the marginal cost of each extra kWh used tends to fall. If one has a standing charge of 20p per day and is charged 10p per unit, one unit for that day costs 30p, but two units costs 40p. An increase in usage of 100%, but only a 33% rise in cost. So, cutting one's power usage by a given percentage will reduce one's costs by a lower percentage.

It's just another problem for those wanting us all to be green.

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Joke

Re: Also...

You have a standing charge? Wow. I think the 1980s called - they want their billing systems back :)

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Re: Also...

I was speaking hypothetically. In any case, most tariffs these days charge a higher rate for a given number of kWhs, and a lower rate after that. And yes, a number still have standing charges.

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Re: Also...

@Anonymous Coward 101.

I'm almost afraid to write this, but here goes:-

Some tarrifs openly show a standing charge as xx pence per day. Those tarrifs that charge two different rates, for above and below a certain number (note not for time of day....economy 7) are effectively implementing a standing charge. The difference in the two rates is the standing charge. This only works in your benefit if you use less than the cutoff point. If you use over, whether you pay by this method or using a tarrif with an overt standing charge is irrelevant.

Effectively, all tarrifs have a standing charge, it's just that most now hide this by showing two uinit rates.

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Paris Hilton

Better budgetting method?

Just a thought (perhaps a crap one), but howabout supply consumer units to households with a fixed capacity of power draw, and a meter that shows how much you are currently drawing. Try and go over it and you risk "in house brown-out" on low-priority circuits (eg lighting, or whatever you configure). Consumers can also buy multiple units if they wish to up their capacity (at increased cost) but it might make you more likely to switch things off when you're not using them.

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Re: Better budgetting method?

I rather doubt that would work if only because there is a rather large risk of someone having to pay to replace equipment damaged by said 'brown-out'. Your insurance company are going to be reluctant to pick up the bill and will be trying to pass the cost to your power company. Don't see that ending at all well....at least not for the consumer.

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Re: Better budgetting method?

Yep, been there, done that. Most incoming circuit are 100A, so that's your limit. Just try and draw more than 23kW and see what happens.

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Re: Better budgetting method?

"Just try and draw more than 23kW and see what happens"

Your weed hot-house gets raided?...

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