Feeds

back to article UK gov's smart meter dream unplugged: A 'colossal waste of cash'

On 23 June, the village of Alfriston in the South Downs hosted Get Wired, an event celebrating old-fashioned wired analogue power meters – or, more accurately, opposing their replacement by new wireless "smart" meters. Organiser Stop Smart Meters UK is worried about radiation, privacy, safety, higher bills and people losing …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

The Americans certainly haven't welcomed them and I was told by a meter reader that they have a habit of picking up every spike, especially those from older appliances which generate a voltage spike when turned on which leads to much higher bills.

I was 'surveyed' for one of these meters the other day and I'll be doing what I can to resist having it installed.

12
3
Anonymous Coward

People who read meters are rarely qualified in electrical engineering and power distribution systems and measurement of power, I seriously doubt that the person reading the meter is a credible source for information about "voltage spikes" causing higher bills.

6
0

Well refusing to be surveyed might have been a good place to start ;-)

6
0
Anonymous Coward

I think the effect you are talking about is called Power Factor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_factor

CFC light bulbs, switching power supplies (as used in computers) and induction hobs are causes of this.

But it just means that the smart meter measuring circuit will need to be very well designed. Just merely having a clamp on the meter tails isn't good enough.

0
0
Bronze badge
Megaphone

Money. It's a Gas.

In Blighty the companies that make smart meters have already exchanged promises and contracts with politicians. It's not about energy, it's about political favors. Same in the USA. Then they justify it by telling you what they think you want to hear.

Here in the USA they need permission to come onto your property, so they come to your door and say "I need to install a new electrical meter for you". My cross-examining:

Me: "Why the new meter"?

Him: "It's new"

Me: "What's new about it?"

Him: "I'm not sure"

Me: "Is it a smart meter?"

Him: "I don't know"

Me: "If you don't know, then I don't trust you and I don't want it"

Him: (stammers, mixture of confused and angry)

4
1
Anonymous Coward

Following investigation, the American and Austrailan deployments showed that the issue with customers receiving higher bills was more to do with the inaccuracy of the meters being replaced than anything else. Some of the Austrailian meters had been installed for over 50 years without any kind of accuracy test at any point.

This will be less of an issue in the UK due to the regulatory-imposed recertification process, wherein all meters are required to show an accuracy of within 2% either side.

1
1

Thats ignorant F.U.D.

Dumb electronic meters have a port in the back and and IR port in the front for automated reading. It makes no difference whether you have a "smart" adapter behind it or not as to the meter's fundamental ability to meter.

I worked for a "smart meter" company and designed two different adapters which fit behind conventional meters. One used a cellphone relay, the other used ethernet for FIOS systems.

1
0

Utility companies, Public Service Commissions, and free range lawyers are very sensitive to the accuracy of electric power meters. For this very reason when I worked for a "smart meter" company we declined the opportunity to design our own meter. We connected to "dumb" electronic meters via diagnostic port provided on the back by their manufacturers.

0
0

We had smart meters installed a year ago; as far as I know there wasn't a choice. So far my bills have been the same, maybe slightly lower. The main difference was not having to shovel a path to the meter during the winter, which was kind of nice actually. I'm sorry but I just can't really get worked up about the whole thing.

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Money. It's a Gas.

"Here in the USA they need permission to come onto your property,"

Fortuantely, in the UK too!

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: Money. It's a Gas.

I doubt that any special permission is required. When you enter into the contract to receive power from the local supplier (you do know that you signed a contract, right?) a clause in the contract gives the power company or their designee permission to enter your property to read the meter or conduct upgrades and repairs at any time. The power meter is property of the electric company even as the rest of the installation is property of the building owner. I was lucky I noticed the contractor coming around to install my smart-meter so I was able to have her give me a couple of minutes to shut down the computer before they cut power to make the swap. They were only running 5 weeks behind the schedule that was posted to everybody in my area.

I haven't noticed any difference in my bill at all. It's the same as it's been for the time I have been in this house. I am a bit disappointed that we don't get an IHD. I have to switch things on and go out to the meter to see how much power they drawn. I really wanted an IHD with a USB jack. It would be quite interesting to combine the readings from my weather station with my power use.

1
1
Bronze badge
Facepalm

Re: Money. It's a Gas.

I doubt that any special permission is required. When you enter into the contract to receive power from the local supplier (you do know that you signed a contract, right?) a clause in the contract gives the power company or their designee permission to enter your property to read the meter or conduct upgrades and repairs at any time.

First of all, USA law states that they must knock on the door and notify you if they are going to interrupt your electrical power. This is in case there is an infant in the house, someone elderly, or someone on life support; any of these individuals may be dependent upon electrical power. Replacing a meter interrupts electrical power.

Second, they most definitely do not have the right to enter your property...at any time. I do not have to let them into my house, and they do not have the right to demand entry, as you wrote, "at any time", say, at 2 AM. I forget the exact legal phrase but it's called "free and unencumbered use" or something like that (you do READ contracts, don't you?)

0
0

Re: Money. It's a Gas.

@Bill AFAIK you're correct, but you've missed the next step in the exchange. They then ask a court to grant them access under the Electricity Act 1989 (and various others). Magistrate signs off and they turn up with a warrant. At which point you're looking at ~£1000 fine if you still refuse.

So, yeah, they have to ask your permission, but if you say No then they ask someone to over-rule you. They therefore don't need your permission.

Having written all that I've re-read your post and seen "USA law states" - but as my response is applicable to the UK I'll post it anyway!

1
0
Big Brother

and that has been tested when?

My meter has been in for 30 years and as far as I know no one more technical than a meter reader has seen it.

0
1
Anonymous Coward

"As far as I know"

In the UK the safety regulations mandate that the meter is renewed every 10 years.

It's probably in your interest as well. Old gas meters for example have a terrible habit of over-measuring.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

"Organiser Stop Smart Meters UK is worried about radiation, privacy, safety, higher bills and people losing control over their homes."

First on the list "RADIATION" WOOO!!!! The bogeyman! Are these the same people as the "Stop WiFi" people from the Panorama program?

14
11
Bronze badge

I hope they are talking about the radiation interfering with other appliances and not with it affecting people. If it is otherwise it is just scaremongering and they should be given no credence because of it.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Do these people stay indoors when the radiation of the sun is out?

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Do you want to live in Fukushima?

0
18
Silver badge
FAIL

@UndefinedNaN

I'm not sure you know what the word radiation means.

5
0
Anonymous Coward

Do you think that the makers of smart meters are filling them up with radioactive caesium? Or is it possible that you don't know what radiation is, much like my original point. Sounds frightening, we all know that radiation is what nuclear bombs and blowing up powerstations make, therefore that's all there is to know about it.

Wooooo! Bogeyman!

3
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: @UndefinedNaN

From Dictionary.com:

a. the emission or transfer of radiant energy as particles, electromagnetic waves, sound, etc

b. the particles, etc, emitted, esp the particles and gamma rays emitted in nuclear decay

I think that covers just about all of it ...

1
8
Anonymous Coward

Re: @UndefinedNaN

Do you want to live in Devon or Cornwall, where radiation levels are also high (over a lifetime, you'll get about the same dosage.?

A little light reading...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation

Little more technical that yahoo groups I'm afriad though...

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: @UndefinedNaN

Ok, so you've got a definition. That doesn't mean you know anything about the subject and you're proving that you don't with the posts you've made.

The main difference you'll be needing to understand is between ionising and non-ionising radiation.

6
0
Bronze badge

See that great big orange blob in the sky? That's the world's major source of raydeeayshun.

2
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Do these people stay indoors when the radiation of the sun is out?

If they have any sense, yes. If not then suitable precautions need to be taken.

You should see the people that fix the roads around here. They dress like someone cleaning up Fukushima despite 30+ shade temperatures.

1
2
Silver badge

@ undefinedNaN

Leaving aside your ignorance about the difference between ionising and electromagnetic radiation, which has already been pointed out to you, I'll answer the other part of your question.

If I were likely to live in Japan (which I'm not, and have absolutely no plans ever to do), and supposing that Fukushima was on the right island for whatever I planned to do, and then assuming that the Japanese authorities were allowing domestic habitation of the area, then I would have absolutely no fears of living there. In fact, I'd live there today if need be, just as I'd happily live in Pripyat.

2
0
Bronze badge

The system is designed to be secure end to end, with data encryption and no identification of customers in what is sent.

No identification of what has been sent but, we can and will bill you on it. That does not sound like no identification to me!

Personally, I think all this money should be spent on developing better ways to generate energy and in a cleaner way. And no I do not think wind and solar can do what we want. Instead it is all wasted on helping the energy companies make more money and will make little difference to most peoples usage.

If someone wants a cup of tea, the kettle needs to be boiled. They are not going to wait until a time predefined by the energy companies when the cost is less just to do that, or watch their favourite TV program, cook their dinner, do work on their computer and the list goes on and on.

26
2
Bronze badge

@Ragarath

I think what they mean is the data doesn't contain any direct customer identification info (name, address etc). It'll have a unique identifier that can be matched with a customer record at the other end. Someone intercepting the info would also need to have the data table matching identifiers to properties and people.

The eventual plan (you can decide whether you believe it or not) is that you'll have appliances that talk to the smart meter and can (if you want, and have signed up for the right tarrif) wait until the spot price is low (as a proxy for demand being low) before they switch themselves on. Obviously there is a set of demand that can't be time-shifted in this way.

The other cost saving in the business case is the removal of the current requirement to have a meter read from a visit at least once a year.

2
1

What they very likely mean is no identifying information being transmitted alongside the usage - just a customer ID of some sort that they can match to your account with actual identification in their database at home. At least, that is how such services traditionally work (like with personal medical device monitoring).

And yeah - radiation, really? Do they have a problem with the cellphone in their house, or wifi, or bluetooth, or cordless phone, or... *sigh*

There are good reasons to oppose this, but 'radiation' certainly is not one of them. Security of the data may be, but that's entirely dependent upon the architecture of the implementation.

1
1
WTF?

Read Lewis Page's article on energy costs

Npower's recent report throoughly debunks the oh so convienient myth of power company price gouging and excessive profits. Lewis Page breaks it down in another article today. Smart meters whist pointless are only a small element of the massive costs our elected representatives are heaping on us.

7
2
Silver badge
FAIL

@Ragarath

"Instead it is all wasted on helping the energy companies make more money and will make little difference to most peoples usage."

No it isn't helping us make more money. My employers are not making any money at all on the back of this. It is mandated by your good friends in the EU, and the clowns of Westminster and Whitehall have (as with all other matters) not had the spine nor sense to say "get stuffed" to Brussels. The power companies will be fined draconian amounts if we don't do as we're told.

The real cost savings are marginal, about £6 per meter per year, with an annual cash cost of about £25 per meter given that it is a £265 piece of kit, guessing it'll last an average of ten years before refurb or replacement. Even those cost savings have an offset (nationally) because if we don't have full employment, then there's welfare costs from anything that puts people out of work, and they assume that the capital is free. If you assign a value to the capital of say 5%, then your amortisation and interest take the meter cost to £40 a year, to save that £6 a year operating cost. Spending £40 to save £6 is only sensible if you're a bureaucrat spending other people's money. And better still, the £14bn cost of this government mandated scheme don't appear on the government's books - a tax that is hidden, wahey!

All the other "savings" are wishful thinking by DECC, in a "business case" that includes all manner of spurious and unlikely savings - for example, smart meters will make electricity theft less likely, reduced network losses (yeah!), over half a billion quid of savings from "reduced network investment through introduction of time of use tarrifs", reduced consumption because you have the option of a meter display on the wall, a billion quid of savings from "global CO2 reduction" and so it goes on. The business case probably comes from the same Booker fiction prize winning authors of the HS2 business case. It's worth searching for the highly critical NAO report on DECC's smart metering programme, and looking at the made up numbers (page 27 of the full report).

This is a colossal waste of money, deamt up by the eco loons of the EU. The money spent could useful be spent resolving the looming capacity gap, or even replacing all the coal stations that will run post 2015. And in fact, we could throw out this Chicken Little "climate change" claptrap, and stick with what we've got, rather than spend tens of billions that as a national we don't have, in a manner that will cause the remainder of British manufacturing to relocate elsewhere.

27
1
Bronze badge

Re: Read Lewis Page's article on energy costs @PlacidCasual

Thanks, I did read Lewis' article earlier and agree with it. But the cost of rolling out the smart metres affects every household. They may be small to you but they are unnecessary and the cost of rolling them out to millions of homes is not small and can be better spent elsewhere.

That is what I was trying to get at in my post.

6
1
Anonymous Coward

Do they have a problem with the cellphone in their house, or wifi, or bluetooth, or cordless phone, or... *sigh*

Actually 'they' do. It's also very annoying when you really want use this technology, but are unable to because you spent too many nights sleeping in the same room as the wireless router, and are now paying the consequences. If you stop and think about it, you'll realise that while we can tolerate certain forms of radiation (eg. sunlight - and even that we have to be careful with!), we also have to be extremely careful about other forms (X-rays, Gamma, etc). As far as I'm aware we're not exposed to radiation at current wi-fi, DECT frequencies in nature, so it's not beyond the realms of possibility that we may find there's a problem somewhere along the line. I pretty much used to think like everyone else on this forum: that there's no chance of it physically affecting people, but it can.

1
25
Bronze badge

Re: @Ragarath @Ledswinger

Yes it is helping you make money and you even said in your post it is. You do not have to read metres and the cost of the metres will not be borne by the energy companies, it will be borne by the bill payers.

So if the cost of the metres will be paid for by the bill payer, yes over time maybe but still by the bill payer thus making it cost the energy company nothing.

Yet the metre readers are no longer needed. Without going deep into it, that is a cost saving right there.

The money spent could useful be spent resolving the looming capacity gap, or even replacing all the coal stations that will run post 2015. And in fact, we could throw out this Chicken Little "climate change" claptrap, and stick with what we've got, rather than spend tens of billions that as a national we don't have, in a manner that will cause the remainder of British manufacturing to relocate elsewhere.

I totally agree with you we are on the same page, except it seems about the energy companies saving money (no matter how small you think it is / will be.)

2
2
Bronze badge

Re: @Ragarath

Reply to myself for not realising I have been using the wrong meter *sigh* sorry pedants.

3
0
Silver badge
Joke

Re: @Ragarath

Oh. I just thought the meter on your house was readable from the street.

0
1
Silver badge

Re: @Ragarath

"It'll have a unique identifier that can be matched with a customer record at the other end. Someone intercepting the info would also need to have the data table matching identifiers to properties and people."

Available for 1p per record from some Indian call centre manager.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: @Ragarath part 2

"Yes it is helping you make money and you even said in your post it is. You do not have to read metres and the cost of the metres will not be borne by the energy companies, it will be borne by the bill payers."

The cost savings are presumed by DECC to be passed through to customers. And the evidence is that they always have been - at the supply business level, your energy suppliers barely cover their cost of capital (and in many years haven't). If you look across the whole energy supply chain, then things only improve marginally - take SSE, who are present across almost all of the electricity value chain of generation, trading, distribution & supply: Return on assets, 2.06 miserable percent. I can do better than that with a high street savings account (with some shopping around).

Ultimately the cost of ANYTHING has to be paid for by customers (or taxpayers) and that's why it matters that there isn't a genuine business case. If it made the energy companies more profitable, but was neutral for customers that wouldn't matter because the higher margins would attracts more investment into the industry, the profits would bolster your pension, makes your insurance cheaper (up front premiums are invested), help life savings rates.

Profit isn't a bad thing. What's a bad thing is that there's too little of it in this country.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: @Ragarath

@IHateWearingATie the smart meter and can ... wait until the spot price is low

The hell with spot. I want a smart meter that can do futures and swaps!

0
0
Thumb Up

Re: @Ragarath Smart meter discussion good, then sudden turn into...

Your post was very good up until midway through the last paragraph, then someone appears to have grabbed the steering wheel of your argument and given it a sharp twist.

However, the first part was really good, so you're still getting a +1. :-)

0
0
Silver badge
Happy

Re: @Ragarath Smart meter discussion good, then sudden turn into...

"Your post was very good up until midway through the last paragraph"

That could apply to several of us...but let me leap in and take a bow anyway!

0
0
WTF?

Re: @Ragarath part 2

Companies make no profits, you say? Well, let's use this handy magic wand here....

Zap! Customers pay double what they usually pay ( finding the money from somewhere)

Hurrah! The company is suddenly making lots and lots of profit!

But, what is this? Oh noes! The people running the company have just voted each other huge pay increases, bigger expenses and have pissed away the rest on conferences in posh hotels in Monaco!

Now the company makes no profit again!

What a terrible and utterly unforseen outcome.

5
0
Gold badge
Unhappy

@Ragarath

"Personally, I think all this money should be spent on developing better ways to generate energy and in a cleaner way. And no I do not think wind and solar can do what we want. "

You'd be right.

But you didn't bung the relevant peer the necessary wonga to get an amendment in the relevant legislation (climate change bill IIRC).

4
0
Bronze badge

Re: @Ragarath

If I had that much wonga I may have tried, regrettably I don't and would rather feed my family.

1
0

"a £265 piece of kit"

How exactly does a smart meter cost £265? The BoM can't be much more that £30 or £40, can it? Any design costs are amortised over 10's of millions of units, so should be fairly negligible pr unit.

I know it has to be built to last for 20+ years in outdoor locations, but given the volumes being produced, what is the real cost per unit?

0
0
Angel

Re: "a £265 piece of kit"

Its an industrial grade product and has to last 10 years. It is not a consumer-grade item, therefore you won't get a consumer-grade price. Besides, the government has "mandated" them, and that means that the company that makes them will suck as much blood out of that government mandate as they can possibly get away with. It's a bit like anything "military spec" - build it for market price, then move the decimal point to the right.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: "a £265 piece of kit"

"How exactly does a smart meter cost £265? "

Total programme costs divided by number of installations.

I would guess that at least half the total costs arise because of the inefficient install programme that is inevitable.

0
0
Stop

Lets do maths

Each meter costs £265. There are 53 million households according to the article which need to be fitted. so the total is £265 x 53,000,000 = £14 Billion.

How much electricity is this going to save?

2
0
Thumb Down

@Ledswinger

I was starting to think you were talking sense, and then you went and did the energy supplier thing of calling climate change "claptrap", thus proving you're full of shit.

2
3

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.