The government has announced the results of its consultation with the public and other interested parties on plans for "smart" energy meters to be installed in all British homes and businesses. The most controversial aspects of the devices - the fact that they will effectively allow remote control of a home by energy companies …
It's far cheaper & more profitable for the (mainly foreign-owned) to "dick around" with your supply than waste dividend/management-bonus funds on improving & upgrading a creaking infrastructure to the level that rolling or temporary cuts aren't in the picture.
Providing a good service to the end-user just isn't in the equation for this cartel of trough-feeders and their bumboys in the Ministry of Cretins/Morons/Village Idiots/Retards (delete where appropriate).
Hysteria anyone ?
The "load management" idea is that devices which are opted in to be load managed (ie an overnight dishwasher or washing machine run) can be started at an appropriate time. If at the start of the night the elecCo know there are 50,000 dishwashers waiting they can ramp up a nuclear power station and then trigger the washers steadly throughout the night so as to use power steadily, or else wait for a predicted midight wind power srurge and run them all then.
Clearly apart from shutting off the whole house they cannot access devices that have not been designed for this facility.
But a pal of mine in this industry says that meters are simply not accurate enough yet to use for separating "scheduled" night use from ad hoc use, so they won't be able to offer cheaper tariffs for "book ahead" overnight slots (the only possible carrot for consumers).
But the idea of being able to tell who is on holiday / out, or which non license fee payers are watching Corrie, is far more worrying. Especially if the govt approaches them asking fo rthe information. Can I trust someone like NPower (frequently caught lying on the doorstep to get people to switch) to keep that sort of data safe ?
Of course, you might ask whether I can trust my visa card issuer to keep my purchases in the heathrow departure lounge (also an indicator of an unoccupied house) confidential.
They probably cannot mandate this technology in a house but they can make you pay more if you don't install it, and insit it goes into new houses. Trueman show, anyone ?
And anyway, soon the overnight elec won't be off peak at all as we'll all be charguing our prius's up then, won't we ?
Dig out the tinfoil hats
"Clearly apart from shutting off the whole house they cannot access devices that have not been designed for this facility"
Correct - but why let that get in the way of a right good paranoia trip, like the ones we're seeing from 98% of the commentards on this story?
Total over-reaction / lack of brain engagement on the part of the conspiracy theorists (as usual). Black helicopters - obviously
Re: Dig out the tinfoil hats
Of course. This is but a diversion and El Reg is in on – must go. I've said too much.
by 2020 everyone or even many of us will still be using today's appliances?
Besides which, just like you get plug in timers (used to use 'em myself for, let's say, turning things on and off like lights and the telly while I was on holiday). You get circuit breaker plugs/sockets, as I'm sure you know. What is to stop them fitting sockets with the capbility? Ever live on a housing estate when the Council/Housing Association went round fitting double glazing to every property? Oestensibly it would be for the same purpose, too, only supposedly by 2020 rather more urgent.
They just announced a successful trial of a thought controlled prosthetic hand. Do you think we'll still be using steam radios in 2020?
A vote winner
Someone must have put LSD in the tea at Labour Central.
Have you seen those big, funky displays made of windows on big buildings? You know, playing tetris, etc. Think about potential now! We can use whole cities as one big display. So much fun! All hackers rejoice!!!
This will be good for the power/gas supply business, think of the money saved when they sack all those meter readers. No doubt we as consumers will be charged more for the extra "features" this technology brings. A double plus for the gas/electricity suppliers.
I think technology is awesome, I think computers, networks and the possibilities they bring are awesome. However my head is not so far up my arse that I want to rush forward into centralised technological control by third party of what is basically my life and the lives of every other person.
Again this is about control, increasing profits and herding the sheep, not convenience. I guess the next step after the install of these smart meters will be laws ensuring that all white goods, televisions, computers and other consumer electrical goods have an interface that can communicate via the mains supply to these smart meters. Your fridge/freezer by scanning the RFID tags in packaging will know what it contains and so will those monitoring your meter. Your television will be able to report what is being displayed on screen, perhaps even supplying a feed back along the mains. All use of electricity, and gas will be monitored and all products capable of doing so will report as much data as is technologically possible back to a central server. Think of the profits from the sale of that data to marketing companies, think of the social profiling of populace available to government.
The development of society and government of the people may not pan out exactly as in 1984, but we are heading inexorably toward control and monitoring of the populace, by the few in the name of security, convenience and cost savings.
Am I paranoid? Is this a ridiculous suggestion? Wait and see, time will tell.
> This will be good for the power/gas supply business, think of the money saved when they sack all those meter readers.
Good isnt it? Less expenses means cheaper prices. It also means I dont get massivly over\under changed for my useage and have to take half a day off to let a random guy come into my home and read a meter.
>I guess the next step after the install of these smart meters will be laws ensuring that all white goods, televisions, computers and other consumer electrical goods have an interface that can communicate via the mains supply to these smart meters.
Because asking your fridge to delay activating the compressor during peak usage is a bad thing?
>our fridge/freezer by scanning the RFID tags in packaging will know what it contains and so will those monitoring your meter.
This already happens. Got a Tesco club card, or a Nectar card? Wonder how Tesco can 'fill' your online basket from your normal usage on the very first time you log onto their site? Hell, you dont even need their store card as you can be tied with your bank card. Why would you bog down the power system with this meaningless data?
> Your television will be able to report what is being displayed on screen, perhaps even supplying a feed back along the mains.
Sky\Virgin already log everything you watch. As for a live stream back along the mains? Why have millions of houses streaming BBC 1 back to the provider. And on what magic bandwith will this be happening?
>All use of electricity, and gas will be monitored
So like it is now? You know, to charge you for what you use?
>Am I paranoid? Is this a ridiculous suggestion?
Now the cut off feature I'm against. Given a cort order has to be involved in the process, you might as well send a bod round to do the cutting.
If you need to stop power for reasons like lack of generation, then you'd do a rolling brown out well up stream of the end user anyway.
But transmitting what electricty im using back to the grid provider? Nah, thats fine. Smart devices that don't power up at peak times and thus saving me cash? Sure thing.
Also think about what that data can do for you and your household.
Fridges and Freeeeeeeedom
The fridge you talk about already exists (for disabled people). Other fridges are being developed that can tell you things like your milk is going to run out soon, or the cheese you bought is going to go off soon. They can then suggest recipes for stuff you have. All very good! UNLESS it is linked in to some parasetical marketing/ad/control agency. I am all for things to help me run my life better/make things easier, but don't want any of them reporting back to the mothership.
As for these smart meters making meter readers obsolete...what is that about?! I have been submitting my own meter readings online for years (Southern Electric, Southern Gas), and those uselss A-holes at British Gas have only just got round to implementing that. Pathetic. I get accurate bills every month and never, ever, ever have to deal with the company over the phone and especially not in person. Change your energy suppliers if they insist on sending people round to see you.
Good luck gaining access to my house to install this
Good luck to you
Good luck refusing them entry when they have a court order to change your meter (as they can do) and come with bailiffs and a lock smith.
Gas cut off problem solved...
...two sequential valves - both cutting out when the supply is cut off, but after the supply is restored remotely (via the first valve) the second valve has to be reset by hand.
Having said that, the contract for performing this simple feat of engineering will go to the lowest bidder, who will then outsource the contract to a factory in China, building them for a couple of quid a piece.
The Chinese will not miss that trick and will embed a backdoor in the firmware, meaning they will just switch off every power supply to every military computer in the country seconds before launching the biggest fucking attack in history.
Or something like that.
In principle, this technology should offer amazing benefits to the consumer (on a price comparison site? click 'switch' and it's done - in real time, or an 'Economy7' like scenario - setup a schedule to switch suppliers if they have different tariffs for peak / off peak)
In practice, there will be abso-fucking-lutely no two way benefits - this will strictly benefit the supplier, and only the supplier. They are not seriously going to spend money in order to give US more control over our utilities.
The spec on the Dept of Energy and Climate Change suggest that a GMS GPRS WAN is planned. So, all I need to do is put a nicely earthed faraday cage around the meters and they stuffed.
And its probably people like me they want on their network. I refuse to let wandering meter readers in to the house unless they have pre-booked an appointment 2 weeks in advance, with full proof of ID that identifies them from the company I get my power from. As all our readers come from some service company, they get sent away with a flea in their ear when I tell them that I do not have a contract with Accuread and that their having my details breachs data protection law (I always right that they may not share any of my details with anyone, ever, unless for each case they have a written approval).
I fill in my readings on line.
The who? The what?
'The machines will be run like Sky or TiVo boxes, under remote control from outside the home - users will have no control over them.'
Can't speak for Sky boxes, but TiVo is completely under user control. The only connection to other computers is the daily phone call and you can switch that off if you want.
This is typical arse faced politicing. The real problem is that generating capacity is decreasing because we don't dig our own coal out the ground any more and it is otherwise too dirty to burn, we haven't committed to clean gas burning power stations and we've no fucking gas anyway and our nuclear reactors are about to fall apart and the closest we've got to replacing them is to sell the industry to a bunch of frogs who don't give a stuff about a bunch of unwashed swampies. So the govvy response is to tax the fuck out of it or ban it and now we have direct load management.
Anyone vote for this dickhead Mandleson in the first place?
I cna see the future
"Right, the Smith's power use just dipped, they've gone out. I'll just switch off their alarm...done...OK Fred, it's safe to go. I get 10%, right?"
And other things of that nature.
So not content with forcing us of have ID cards, Labour want to watch us in our homes now? What a bunch of twunts.
I think the correct term is custards
Its a single word that describes a cross between cunts & bastards
I can only assume
That the Reg is a government agency designed to smoke out the People Who Know The Truth by luring them from their tinfoil bunkers with tempting tales of totalitarian tentacles of terror.
Black helicopters / white vans it's all much of a muchness.
and it will save an average of £28 / year..
That is of course after one has:
* paid for the meter (because big Electro ain't going to) cost: £340 + installation (say £200)
* paid for an interface brick (say £50) for every movable appliance
* or just replaced them all (who knows how much, other than £1000s)
* paid for an electrician + interface hardware for the hard wired stuff like immersion heaters, gas boilers etc (say £200 a pop + callout charge)(or replaced it q.v. :-)
* signed a form indemnifying big Electro for any consequences of them switching off stuff and it hurting you or yours.
Maybe this the Government's way of "subsidising" solar panels or other micro generation?
In the meantime, big Electro shareholders will rub their hands in glee as the divis roll in after sacking all the existing metering personnel and the charges have gone up by another 100% to cover this and "other investment".
And we will have yet another government supported monopoly private company that will need to charge huge sums per annum to cover their <del>empire building</del>investment with complete impunity.
"average saving", my a*se!
Keep Big Brother out - ferrites work wonders!
My 'friendly' power supplier decided the sub-division I reside in was to be one of the 'lucky' beta test sites in our province.
There was not much information forthcoming as to what these wonderful boxes would/could do so I thought tit-for-tat and installed a couple of large ferrites (similar to those found on computer power cords) and Hey! Presto! I am opted out of their monitoring although the house-side data feed works fine.
The techs came around and probed with their test equipment and they were dumbfounded. They even changed the meter, with no effect.
Before they departed they left a pile of mail-in cards as a substitute.
Score one for the Luddites (and people wanting privacy).
I for one...
Welcome my BSkyB, utility-controlling overlords!
What, you didn't actually mean "Sky box" in the headline? Shame on you.
What are these mysterious 'meter readers' of which you all speak? When the job was farmed out to some external business I think the quarterly reading happened about once a year - and this was after I'd gone to the trouble of putting the meter outside to cut down on the hassle of 'we called but you were out' cards. Most of the time I was just getting an estimated bill. Now I just read it myself and phone the reading in (or go via their website).
This is another case of government interference and overkill. The argument for saving costs on meter reading doesn't work because they don't read the meters anyway. The argument for giving people minute-by-minute readings of their consumption doesn't work either - well, it does, but one can buy a box that does that for less than £50 - and they are very effective - I'm really conscious of how much electricity I'm using now, and go round and switch things off. We don't need mega boxes at £250 each when we can do it for £50. The only extra is the remote control of our houses - which I have no particular need of - but the control freaks obviously love - and it means that they can just avoid providing new clean electricity generation capacity. So much easier to just ration what we have.
The expensive solution of course is to buy a lot of batteries and plug them into the mains and then run your house off that - they can stop them charging at peak times but I'll decide when I switch things on and off!
Or of course just get a load of PV cells and say goodbye to the grid for ever.
How it will work
The "quango" will turn out to be a private company subcontracted under a confidential PFI contract that will involve vast payments over 20 years, after which period all of the meters and controlling infrastructure will belong to the private company (whose directors will include the relevant senior civil servants).
The remote cut off will prove remarkably useful as the country runs short of power generation facilities due to lack of investment caused by spending so much extra on PFI contracts.
Shocking. Or not, as the case may be.
Huge waste of money
The first generation of 'smart' meters will be shit and being hugely expensive to install won't get updated in decades. Early adoption of something expensive with vague capabilities and aims is really stupid.
The real reason this is happening is FuLab find the idea of forcing us to buy household guilt meters irresistible.
Consultation? What consultation?
After El Reg covered this consultation when it was being launched, I was sufficiently motivated to download all the relevant documentation and have a wee think. I sent my thoughts back to the government, and posted a copy here:
To date, I have had absolutely no sign of any response or acknowledgement to my input, despite repeated follow-up emails. I'm not suggesting that the consultation was a complete sham, but... oh, wait, yes I am. None of the points raised by myself (or The Register's earlier coverage) appear to have been addressed in the final proposal.
They have load management already!
Its seems rather odd that "load management" is a selling point of these devices. Reasonably sophisticated load shedding capabilities are already built into the distribution network.
At times when demand exceeds supply capability, parts of the 11kv network are equipped with smart transformers that can be remotely instructed to reduce the voltage of the network supplying an area in steps of 200V or so. This manifests as a small voltage drop on the low voltage part of the network feeding end users, and hence a corresponding reduction in load (most domestic load being resistive in nature, ohms law applies!). Unlike remotely switching things off, a slight overall voltage reduction generally goes unnoticed.
The basic ...
load shedding device is a fuse.
I do not like this at all.
Just think if electrical companies start to act like internet companies and call you to
say you have been using too much electricy and that your power will be cut off because of the demanding load you have been putting on the system.
I could imagine a time when it comes down to that and soon each and every wire in the house willbe monitored and if you abuse the system then they will only offer electricy to your fridge and AC unit and stove and anything else will be at a higher electrical tax rate as it is considered non essential.
This would raise bloody hell if someone wanted to run their business in their own house which needs to run 24/7. Lets say Bob runs a server farm(A tiny one at that.) for what ever hosting reasons and needs electricy and these monitoring devices can be used to snoop on his business practices? And to think the devices that let you use your house wiring as a lan could essentially and quite possibly be used to hack those metering devices.
This is future fail waiting to happen.
Electricity, Gas and Water (in most cases) are metered so there would be no incentive to cut off a hog. Identifying unusually heavy users could highlight problems, ilicit activity or just plain stupidity. I am guessing that campaigns against waste could be far better targetted.
Internet is another thing entirely. Cutting off, throttling and generally abusing heavy internet users is fair dos. You get for what you pay for. If you want 24/7 massive bandwidth to do whatever you are doing, get yourself an ISP that will provide that.
I'd be extremely worried if bandwidth became so scarce that ISPs decided it would be politically acceptable to charge by the megabyte.
"This would raise bloody hell if someone wanted to run their business in their own house which needs to run 24/7."
If you're running an energy dependant business from home, such as a tiny server farm, would you not have some form of UPS? You could also ask your supplier to put you on their priority service list, but they may expect you to pay VAT at full rate rather than domestic rate.
"Just think if electrical companies start to act like internet companies and call you to say you have been using too much electricy and that your power will be cut off because of the demanding load you have been putting on the system."
Only if they start offering fixed price, "unlimited" energy contracts. As we still pay per unit, there's less incentive to stop people using energy.
Spin, spin and spin again
Climate Change Minister, Lord Hunt, said, “Smart meters will put the power in people’s hands, enabling us all to control how much energy we use, cut emissions and cut bills".
Huh ? We can already control how much energy we use - They're called switches, and we'll still have to use them. At best we will get to be more aware of what we're using though I personally don't think anyone who wastes now is any less likely to waste then.
No, Lord Hunt; smart meters will take power out of people's hands, it's just another nanny-state means of social control and forced compliance. More control-freakery.
Now what would be worthwhile looking at is why it costs far more to use X units of leccy and a lot less to use more units after that. Getting one's usage down to X units doesn't actually save much so there's little incentive and low power users are subsidising the high power users.
Forgot to mention about the cut off details.
Just think of the lawsuit when they cut off supply to a house who has a person hooked up to some lifeline and is getting IN HOME medical care and the cut off kills the person.
They need to build in a safety switch or logical numerator that is checked off as meeting a logical condition of if person is in coma then keep home electrified.
Or just build the house or room area that is not subjected to the rules of the non emotional remote kill switch.
The above sample will happen. It will just be a matter of time as it has already happened here in the USA.
who gets to see the data?
In the US we already have smart metering in some states which seems fine if it had any benefit to the consumer... but I don't hear many success stories there.
It doesn't allow me any more control over my home (despite Google and Microsoft having apps for that - eg http://microsoft-hohm.com) but it's certainly one more data point about me that someone could be seling either "scrubbed of personal information" or real-time so the crooks know when to hit my house.
I would love to see data being made public on the consumption patterns of Govt offices (including the Houses) so the citizens can be assured their taxes are not being spent by people who leave the lights on long after they've left the office ;)
@AC 13.44 Nasty intrusive, unwanted etc,etc,etc yawn
Thanks for ripping the comment apart line for line, what a boring life you must have. I really feel that I must apologise to you for my innoccuos opinion raising so much hatred in you. Still I'm sure that you'll be allowed out of the house on your own one day, many of the inhabitants of your hamlet must be quaking in fear, dreading the day your ASBO expires.
It's not designed to control your life, or to make you switch off unnecessary electrical equipment, IF your usuage stays in normal parameters, ( I hope you understand the word NORMAL), it's for excessive usuage, ie eg if your normal usuage is say £100 month and your variance from that is minimal to slight, why worry. If otherwise say variance by a factor of 10 to 20, then yes,it will.
In your particular case, I would reccommend any Life Support, as being non esential appliances.
Good Luck with your rehabilitation into society.
Load shedding vs switched mode and thermostats
I wondered a long time ago whether the load shedding (remote on/off) would be used to preserve supply at times of shortage for critical customers such as emergency services, the critically ill, MPs, accountants, lawyers, etc.
I also wondered whether the classical wide area load shedding mechanism (voltage reductions) actually does anything useful in the era of thermostats, switched mode power supplies, and the like, which are widespread now at home and in commercial premises.
Thermostats and switched mode power supplies both result in the energy input rate of a device remaining mostly the same regardless of slight variations in mains voltage. For a thermostatically controlled device (space heating, hot water, oven, maybe fridge/freezer) the device just stays powered up for longer to achieve the same desired temperature. For a switched mode power supply, if the mains volts go down the input current goes up to maintain the same output power.
In other words, just as much output is needed from the power station as before the voltage reduction.
Hence remote control for load shedding starts to be even more important than you might imagine?
Comments welcome from those in the know. Anonymously, obviously. Wouldn't want to scare the public would we.
Alright, guys, don't make me throw a bucket of water over you.
There is a lot of talk about how it is only this bit of trivial data or that bit of trivial data. How could it possibly be used to your detriment?
Well, what a lot of people are missing is allowing for technological developments and laziness. Already, the data that people like google use, which was supposed to be completely anonimised, can be cross referenced with other, apparently unconnected data and with a bit of computing power, records can be reconciled and conclusions drawn until all that data can be used to de-anonimise the source data.
So what seems like a little bit of irrelevant data over here, when joined up with some more "irrelevant" data over there at some point in the future can be used to work out things that we can't even guess at at the moment.
If ever there was a meaning for the word synergy it applies to all this dispersed and "unimportant" data that at some point in the future will be brought together and used for some nefarious purpose we can't even dream of today.
Client side choice perhaps ?
If the smart meter delivers information about spot electricity prices to the smart meter, it will be the equipment programmed by the consumer that decides when to switch on and off based on electricity spot price changes.
Very happy to program my dishwasher, heatpump and washing machine to buy wind leccy when the price falls below points I set in advance. This isn't remote control, it's how an efficient market operates.
So the big Uninterruptable Power Supply and Generator I just installed at my house will really screw their plans to control when I use my stuff up then? Cool... :-)
Liking the idea of the large Ferrites on the incoming power cable too, JaitcH :-)
@"Client side choice perhaps ?"
And what exactly gives you the idea that this has *anything* to do with efficient markets for the consumer?
There's a UK spot market in electricity similar to the one you talk about, there has been since electricity was piratised, but Joe Public isn't allowed near it, it's for the generators and the distributors (regional electricity companies, as they once were) and the retailers, or whatever the various "value added" intermediaries call themselves this week. If you're a very big industrial or commercial customer you just might get a look in, especially if you know the secret handshakes.
EdF have just reintroduced Economy 7 by another name  but we need something a bit smarter than that. And we don't need it to save money, we need it to stop the lights going out in five or ten years time.
The IT angle.
Is still the security aspects of this
Wireless protocols. let's see to save money they'll buy the same system merkins use.
Which has already been cracked according to El Reg coverage of one of the security conferences. Score 0 for the usual security through obscurity nonsense.
People will have their supplies cut off due to malice and utility companies will claim (like the banks with ATMs) "It'sa glitch. Our systems are secure etc etc."
Security is *never* an accident, it's a process.
But yes your usage pattern is no doubt a saleable commoditiy whose details this government will do *nothing* to safeguard.
UK "Statutory right of entry"
In the UK several organisations have this. No court order necessary. Gas and electricity companies have it for safety reasons.
A better idea
Some home owners in USA are building their own solar equipment and some of them sell the electricity back to the city for profit.
Green homes would make the electrical company go broke!
Lets do it!
Won't do "what it says on the tin" :(
But by law the power companies have to check your meters every couple of years anyway (to make sure that they are still safe/haven't been tampered with) so these "smart" meters are not going to do away with the meter readers!
And how long do they last before they need replacing/re-calibrating? More visits - probably before the initial roll-out has even finished?
Obviously there are no higher priority issues going on at the moment, er?
Smug mode one
As someone not on the grid and getting power from a small wind turbine, I'm worrying about how they're going to monitor me and my house.
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