Feeds

back to article Wow! British Gas bungs a million remote-controlled sales-droids in UK homes

One million UK homes now have a "smart meter" from British Gas. The rollout may save each household £65 a year and feed £14bn into the economy, but most importantly, it will save British Gas money. The energy giant led the way towards the mandated smart-meters, relying on mobile phone networks to communicate with the new power …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Anonymous Coward

Electricity bill

> Such clues are, apparently, too subtle for the great British public

Not too subtle for the bill payer, but certainly too subtle for teenagers that leave Xboxes etc on all the time. Demonstrating that their bedroom alone is using more power than the oven / kettle / washing machine can do wonders. (Well, for about 10 minutes then they have to be nagged again)

7
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Electricity bill

That and a bill tells you what you have used, in fact a meter, hidden away only really tells you what you have used, unless you are pretty good at reading the spinning disk. A smart meter is a large display that you can make your teenagers watch, while you turn off their crap. It's a lot more effective than balling them out one a quarter, or however long it it between bills.

0
4

Re: Electricity bill

I used to leave my gaming pc on all the time, my wake up call was when I had a problem with it, and basically slotted a netbook into its role as a server temporarily. My quarterly electricity bill was over £100 less due to this one change.

A gaming PC with a 1200 watt supply, to a netbook with a 40 watt charger, 24/7 it adds up!

1
0
Silver badge

The smart meters offer a running commentary on how much power a home is consuming.

I have visions of this disembodied voice from the cupboard under the stairs:

"For the millionth time, shut that ^%*ing door"

"Why did you turn the thermostat up? Just put another pullover on"

"How many times have I told you, showers are more economical than baths."

"Do you have any idea how much that is going to cost us?"

8
0
Bronze badge

Re: The smart meters offer a running commentary on how much power a home is consuming.

I have visions of this disembodied voice from the cupboard under the stairs:

Oh, you keep your wife there too?

31
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: The smart meters offer a running commentary on how much power a home is consuming.

Not with the amount of time I take in the shower.

0
0
Silver badge
Black Helicopters

Privacy

Not to mention they will have a dashed handy record of when you are in/out, watching TV, going to bed, getting up in the night, keeping a basement full of slaves... would be funny if the UK weren't already the world's most surveilled society.

5
4
Bronze badge
Holmes

While I'm not sold on the whole smart meter thing, seems all too invasive for my liking it is an interesting exercise to get one of those £20 mains appliance consumption meters off Amazon and check what your appliances are actually consuming. I have a loaded i7 tower loaded with 4 HD's, two CDs and 750W PSU, the draw is only 95W max even when I tried to run a few intensive processes and got the fans running, by comparison the TV was drawing 300W so switch from console to PC gaming might be in order, ha ha! My old man did the same thing as he has a Koi pond and found he was drawing something like 20 units a day on just his pond from all the pumps and such like, made him think and he's slashed it down to 14 units by alternating the pumps and he's already started to see his bills drop.

While I like the idea of something help me to save money ( and save a few polar bears and penguins in the bargain ) I'm just not in favour of all this smart connected appliance stuff, I don't need Scottish Power deciding my fridge is too hungry, pulling the plug and letting it piss it's melting ice-box all over my kitchen floor!

16
1
Anonymous Coward

@Amorous Cowherder

"I don't need Scottish Power deciding my fridge is too hungry, pulling the plug and letting it piss it's melting ice-box all over my kitchen floor!"

Well they've decided that you -do- need it. So you're gonna get it. If you don't like it, get a mop. End of discussion.

6
2
Anonymous Coward

You really do need to invest in a good meter if you're going to bother, since many appliances create false readings to the "power factor", the distortion of the AC wave.

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

3
0
Silver badge

Re: @Amorous Cowherder

Fortunately, the smart meter will not be able to power individual appliances down until either smart sockets are installed, or the appliances start implementing remote control. Both features are in the pipeline, but not generally here yet.

As I understand it, when you do get remote control from the meter, you will be able to assign certain devices (like fridges or freezers) a higher priority, so that other devices will be powered down first.

The savings I would get would be minimal, because I am already using a power consumption monitor on the house as a whole, and a plug in consumption meter to measure the power of individual devices.

0
0
Silver badge

@AC

It's a while since I did any education on the power factor, but it is quite clear from the reading I've been doing over the last few weeks that the whole power factor issue is much more complex now that it used to be.

Back in the days of inductive loads, the power factor was mainly due to a phase shift caused by the load (and in fact, devices that use significant amounts of power nowadays have to have additional components to bring the power factor down to close to zero before they can get a CE mark in Europe).

But since such simple times, the increased use of switched-mode power supplies, used because they are much smaller and more efficient, has lead to the waveform of the neutral being not only phase-shifted, but corrupted so that it is no longer anything resembling a sine wave. I still cannot get my head around what is needed to work out the real power use in this case. I'm sure it is all factored in, but without further research, it's beyond me.

All I know is that the two clamp-on power meters I have rarely agree on how much power is being used in the house, but they still are a good indicator of when the consumption goes up and down.

2
0
Gold badge
Unhappy

@Peter Gathercote

"As I understand it, when you do get remote control from the meter, you will be able to assign certain devices (like fridges or freezers) a higher priority, so that other devices will be powered down first."

Oh joy.

So you get to choose which appliance you can't have power for?

I wonder what happened to the cretinous peer who got a bung to include this clause in the bill?

7
0
Silver badge
Coat

@Amorous Cowherder

Isn't a fridge a bit redundant in Scotland ?

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC

"devices that use significant amounts of power nowadays have to have additional components to bring the power factor down to close to zero before they can get a CE mark in Europe" (did you mean close to 1?)

"... no longer anything resembling a sine wave"

The CE people are still on the case. In recent years, CE marking done properly (which is a topic in itself) requires that equipment does not make any significant contribution to harmonic currents in the mains.

So in principle, recent appliances with CE marks should have power factor close to 1, regardless of whether PF means current and voltage phase relationship, or whether PF relates to non-sinusoidal current waveform.

YMMV (your meters may vary).

If you have time to spare, some enlightenment is available (including limits on what level of non-sinusoidal current is classed as "significant"), e.g.

http://www.epsma.org/pdf/PFC%20Guide_November%202010.pdf

0
0
Silver badge
Joke

Re: @Peter Gathercote

just run a 10 way from the fridge socket.

"MY GOD THAT FRIDGE IS USING 3KW"

4
0
Silver badge

"get one of those £20 mains appliance consumption meters"

When I switched to Scottish Power a while back, they gave me one of those meters for free.

I checked the consumption, then went round and switched off everything that was unnecessary.

At which point the reading had hardly changed because I was *already* switching off unnecessary appliances, lights, chargers etc.

So a smart meter will probably save me absolutely nothing.

9
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: @Peter Gathercote

"I wonder what happened to the cretinous peer who got a bung to include this clause in the bill?"

He got a directorship on the board of a green energy company and is currently raking in so much cash that his descendants will revere and bless him, down to the seventh generation. They will live in luxury and you will live in Soviet England.

Anything else you need to know?

9
1

This post has been deleted by its author

Pint

@Khaptain 13:24

We keep the beer in them, we like it cold up here...

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Or, looking at it another way...

"The technology is already making a difference for customers, with those with smart meters less likely to have to phone with a bill query, and more likely to recommend British Gas to a friend than those with a standard meters.

Which perhaps shows more accurately what the whole thing is all about.

"

...less likely to phone with a bill query because, without bill, you aren't going to know the number to call to raise a query...?

8
0
Bronze badge

Re: Or, looking at it another way...

Also, the customers with a meter are obviously those that wanted one more, thus it correlates that they would like it more hence the results.

PR PR and Marketing, or should I say distorted truths?

4
0
Bronze badge

Costs hidden...

"Such clues are, apparently, too subtle for the great British public who need real-time displays of their spending before they'll drag themselves off the sofa to turn off the unused shower."

The trouble is that the utility companies do all they can to hide these clues by averaging bills over long time periods, etc. ie. Over the last ten years or so, my electricity and gas bills have been the same each month for a year at a time or maybe two or three years. They just don't show the diffrerences in using the clothes dryer less for a couple of weeks or making an effort not to leave any lights on. It's all smoothed out and hidden away.

5
1
Silver badge

Re: Costs hidden...

I don't think it's deliberate, it's just the way the meters ran before now. Technically it would have been neat if the meter had a tachograph-like disc which drew consumption over time and which the reader stuck back through the door after taking a reading. That way you could see your consumption over time.

Anyway most of the opposition to smart metering sounds like paranoid guff. So the company you're buying electric from knows how much electric you're using... so what? Providing the wireless tech is suitably secure to prevent eavesdropping I have no issue with it.

4
10
Silver badge

Re: Costs hidden...

"The trouble is that the utility companies do all they can to hide these clues by averaging bills over long time periods, etc"

There's no desire to "hide" what you're using, and in fact the information from at best two manual meter readings a year wouldn't tell you much even if it formed the basis of a non-averaged bill. The reason that we offer fixed monthly direct debits is because most people don't want the alternative: If you want to pay your bill quarterly (or even monthly) in full then there are options to do so, although you may have to search hard for them. Due to the variations in seasonal demand your winter energy bills will typically be three or four times higher than summer (or rather, you monthly 'leccy bill would be twice as high in winter as summer, and your gas bill about five times). And there's extra - in aggregate people who pay quarterly and monthly in full suffer more bad debt when the big bills roll in, so the tariffs are about 10% higher than the normal monthly direct debit.

Residential monthly billing is particularly rare because of the need to send round a meter reader (or the onus is on the customer to accurately and regularly provide a customer read). Smart meters could solve that, but that's hardly justification for spending £14bn, mind you.

5
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Costs hidden...

The word you are, or at least should be, searching for is ELECTRICITY. 'Electric' is an adjective, although misused frequently by the illiterate.

4
0
Go

Re: Costs hidden...

Truth is, it is perfectly possible to see which appliances cost you the most money - a simple device of a couple of euro's will tell you exactly how much your dryer has cost you the past few days/weeks. And of course, you can write down daily or weekly your meter readings. No smart meter needed, and no need to wait for the bill. More important - your smart meter will NOT help you identify which appliance cost you. It may -will- tell you your daily consumption, but it doesn't tell you why you consumed 2 kWh more yesterday than the day before. Correlating that consumption to particular devices boils down to guesswork, nothing more.

2
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

'Electric' is an adjective...

Another personal peeve is the overwhelming use of the term 'electronic' to describe even the humblest of electrical devices, in catalogues and on the packaging.

2
0
JDX
Gold badge

Not cynical, just blind

This has become an article of faith in the industry, and perhaps we're too cynical, but from Vulture Towers it seems the electricity bill has been fulfilling that role some years

There are already devices you can buy which you attach to your main power line, and have a little display unit in your living room which tells you of your usage. These DO get people interested in seeing how much energy is used, and tracking down what is using power, because the immediate feedback of seeing the numbers spike when you run the kettle makes it more 'real'

However, these are given out for free by some companies and they seem to work just as well as replacing the whole meter at a fraction of the cost. So while I totally reject El Reg's rejection of the suggestion a smart meter will save you money, I still agree with you that the whole scheme seems a bit daft.

3
1
JDX
Gold badge

Re: Not cynical, just blind

Although not having to let some guy inspect my meter reading every now and then is a blessing. And not having to keep track of my own meter readings so I can figure out exactly who would be the best provider based on real usage would be nice - sheer laziness but if someone else will record this so I don't have to, that's kind of the point of computers!

0
0
Bronze badge

Or

We could make a useful energy policy which generates electricity instead of green votes. Not saying we should go out of our way to pollute but by just producing plentiful cheap energy this exercise is moot. Yes there are people who waste energy. But there are also the rest of us who already turn everything off when we aint using it so we wont see any savings. All we see is a rising bill to pay for another turbine/statue which doesnt produce any usable energy.

Lets reintroduce market forces and fix the problems of this country

21
4
Anonymous Coward

Re: Or

And occasionally tell some hippies to eat a dick. Exempt major infrastructure from objection unless your household is directly adversely affected by it.

4
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: Or

"Lets reintroduce market forces and fix the problems of this country"

You cannot be serious.

It's letting market forces dictate energy supply policy and implementation that has led the UK to be in a situation where energy demand is likely to exceed energy supply in five to ten years.

The CEGB had a legal obligation on security and continuity of electricity supply. There seems to be no such legal obligation on the privatised electricity companies, and as far as I can see, there is no particular financial incentive either (otherwise we wouldn't be in the rolling blackouts in 5-10 years situation).

See also Enron/California electricity gaming.

6
7
Bronze badge

Re: Or

@AC

"It's letting market forces dictate energy supply policy and implementation that has led the UK to be in a situation where energy demand is likely to exceed energy supply in five to ten years."

Either you are kidding or you have been asleep for some time. The amount of market manipulation in place to harm energy production is nuts. We are being charged because of the gov decision to enforce green energy at any cost and then to demand wind/solar farms which barely produce any at extreme cost. Our bills are going up to pay for energy policy, not market forces.

You can look to California all you want but this is the UK. It makes a big difference. What market forces are pushing this meter? Its gov policy.

15
1
Bronze badge
Happy

Re: Or

No financial incentive.

That would be why some are investing in large diesel-powered generating plant....as in several megawatts a time.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2362762/The-dirty-secret-Britains-power-madness-Polluting-diesel-generators-built-secret-foreign-companies-kick-theres-wind-turbines--insane-true-eco-scandals.html

There's no secret about the wind generator subsidies, but maybe nobody mentions that downgrading them to lower capacity can earn them greater subsides.

2
1
Silver badge

Re: Or

"The CEGB had a legal obligation on security and continuity of electricity supply."

Did it, now? Last time I remember three day weeks and reading by candlelight was when the combined incompetence of state owned infrastructure failed to deliver power because the ingrates were on strike. Every aspect was owned and operated by the state, and still the bunglers couldn't do it right.

Given your daft opinions I understand why you're posting AC.

9
6
Anonymous Coward

Re: Or

And in ten years time, historians will be able to write:

"Every aspect was owned and operated by the private sector, and still the bunglers couldn't do it right."

Train travellers already know that putting some things into the private sector makes no sense at all.

8
3
Silver badge
Paris Hilton

Re: Or

> Train travellers already know that putting some things into the private sector makes no sense at all.

I don't think that state-run train infrastructure is ANYTHING to be proud of, except in the sense of tremendous destruction of wealth.

3
3
FAIL

Re: Or

@Ledswinger

"failed to deliver power because the ingrates were on strike."

I think you'll find they were working to rule. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work-to-rule - what that link doesn't say is that working to rule causes slow-downs because corners have to be cut before the workers can meet quotas)

My dad, who worked in a generating plant in the 70s, always said that their plant never dropped energy production, and that the power reductions were artificially imposed by management to discredit the workforce.

I could also point out that these "ingrates" were campaigning for a living wage, but that'll cut no ice with someone like you.

4
0
Silver badge
Paris Hilton

Re: Or

> and that the power reductions were artificially imposed by management to discredit the workforce

Reading too much satanic mills exploitation literature? If management did that, why should it reflect on the workforce? Why wouldn't the papers (and not only the red-colored ones) be full of very large headlines? Wouldn't management be fired in a jiffy?

As to campaigning for a living wage - everyone is campaigning for a living wage. But what happened to make the wage a non-living one? Why were people staying in that kind of industry in the first place? Did muscle need to be brought in to keep out scabs (basically, the proof of the pudding of a strike)? Context is important.

0
2

Re: Or

I think you are conflating two issues - market manipulation to increase low/zero carbon power and privatisation.

On the first it is no secret that it is happening and ultimately costs the consumer money.

On the second there is no legal obligation for the generators to re-invest in new conventional (or nuclear) generating capacity which is a massive issue if you have lots of coal and nuclear plants coming to end of life. So you end up with a power generation gap and shortage of supply.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

While the savings for ordinary Brits and the GDP contribution of smart metering are debatable, the technology is already saving the corporation money: after all, those newly fitted devices won't need clipboard-waving meter readers visiting them.

My understanding from reading postings on other forums is that gas supplies have a legal obligation to inspect the meter at least every 2 years on safety grounds. If they switch to smart meters then the result will be that the meter reader/inspector will only call every 2 years .... and if you're not in it may well immediately escalate to the letter that says "we will be coming thursday to inspect your meter - if we are unable to gain access then we will be required to apply to the courts for permission to break into your house to perform the necessary inspection"

0
0
Silver badge

the gas man doesn't need a court paper to break in. They are one of the few people who can legally break in.

1
0
Big Brother

More Big Brother

Next the Government will make it mandatory to have an oxygen meter, with kill switch if you don't pay the bill or use too much.

7
0
Bronze badge
Black Helicopters

NSA

I suppose this will all be streamed to the NSA so they can estimate how many people are in the house. Always useful when "the Cousins" (as they are referred to in the John le Carre novels) drop in

2
1
Silver badge

Meter Readers

The power companies are delighted that they are going to save money (and energy) on meter readers because of smart meters. Up until a couple of years ago, they sent around sales teams to mis-sell energy tariffs to old women. I wonder how much money and energy that wasted?

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Meter Readers

"The power companies are delighted that they are going to save money (and energy) on meter readers because of smart meters"

Oh no we aren't. You call installing a £260 device to save about £7 a year "saving money"? In forty years you'd recover the costs, but only if the capital is free. As it isn't, smart meters increase the costs by about £11 a year per meter.

And what's more, the clowns of DECC have required the supply company (not the network operator) to install the things, so your average big power company with say 5m customers has to find around £2.5 billion quid to install new gas and electricity meters, then when you change supplier the new company will probably be leasing the old supplier's meter, cue much faffing around, complexity, cost and confusion behind the scenes.

6
0
Silver badge

Pay off in 2030?

I have seen old gas and electricity meters that are still working fine decades after installation. Perhaps, with some effort you could get an embedded phone to last a decade. Expecting a communications protocol to last over a decade is optimistic. It might work in parts of the country that only get upgraded with second hand kit, but parts of the country will get shiny new kit without 17-year old legacy protocol support. The realistic budget has to include upgrading the electronics every five years or so.

Perhaps if the new meters are really super accurate you will be able to measure the increase in you central heating costs caused by unplugging mobile phone chargers.

3
0

Quick question...

Who pays for the electricity that the smart meter itself consumes? I'm sure they're quite efficient blah blah blah, but just wondering...

3
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.