back to article Smart meters set to cost Blighty as much as replacing Trident

Smart meters will cost as much as the Trident nuclear deterrent to implement, with the full cost of the scheme rising to £19bn, according to a government report. Total lifetime costs of the programme have now risen by £2bn since 2013, according to a report by the Major Projects Authority. In contrast, the Trident replacement …

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Cost Benefit Analysis?

What's the benefit to the nation of smart meters?

I can see that energy companies might be keen to implement them, but that will only be if they can get the consumer to pay; left to their own finances I suspect they'll only implement them in new installations and where repair or replacement of existing equipment is necessary.

As far as a strategic national interest goes, then there is really only the "belief" that smart meters might encourage consumers to use less energy, thereby reducing CO2 output; but what is the CO2 impact of making a smart meter and installing it? It can't be zero, so the CO2 impact analysis has to take this into account.

From a security and crime perspective, smart meters are only going to add to the nation's attack surface; giving rogue nations and criminals the potential to remotely disrupt the economy using DoS attacks or interfering with energy consumption readings.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

Energy companies don't particularly want them - as on the whole they're more expensive then a meter point reader.

It was all about Government and fanciful environment policy.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

Here's a scenario for you - really sunny windy day with lots of over-generation of electricity. A smart meter made by an engineer with a pic controller in it and an old phone so it only costs about £20 more than the original beast.

The electricity price drops to bugger all. Your home system recognises its gone cheap cost it can blue-tooth/wifi into it and see its nice and cheap. You can heat your hot water for near free and granny can fill up her storage heaters without worrying herself to death.

Your system also learns that it can be nice and cheap at night and can do a bit of thinking for itself and heat your water on cheap electricity rather than gas or whatever.

All perfectly possible now - which may explain why the companies are desperate to fit the old 'smart' meters that they effectively got the government to agree to by 'lobbying' cos they know you will never crawl under the stairs to stare at a shit LCD to see if its worth saving a couple of quid by turning the immersion on.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

We've just fitted solar panels and as part of the install we added one of the 'smart' immersion heater diverters (a Solar iBoost other makes are etc etc.) A simple directional ammeter clamp on the grid cable in the meter cupboard, detects excess solar electric being exported. This sender wirelessly links to the iBoost switch in the airing cupboard which is wired between the fused switch and the immersion heater. The iBoost only allows the xs power into the immersion heater until the normal thermostat kicks in. It can also works as a standard timeswithch to allow for grid power to heat the water overnight.

Only a couple of hundred quid and works a treat..

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Unhappy

Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

"Your home system recognises its gone cheap cost it can blue-tooth/wifi into it... "

Except it doesn't work like that. In my case the power company decided that they would change my electro-mechanical electricity meter for a "smart" one. Result total failure, as we have no reliable mobile phone signal here, so that option was out of the door. I'm certainly not prepared to share my broadband with them so wi-fi is another non-starter. Outcome, a miserable little thing not much bigger than a matchbox that is almost impossible to read and which gives me no indication of how much power I'm using or if the photo-voltaic panels on the roof are running. At least my old meter did show how much electricity I was using.

So, this scheme has in my case already failed and I cannot see me getting a "smart" meter until they improve the connectivity to us here and that's another, expensive story.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

@Tom 7.

You've bought all the hype from the Labour government. In reality, whilst this may be feasible, it isn't going to happen. And heating a few tanks of water in some houses is a really poor way to store energy. Much better to do so on an industrial scale in the grid, such as pumped hydro etc.

In any event, the government has already thought of this eventuality and sorted it out by paying generators to turn off wind turbines when there is an excess.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

@kmac499.

And how much cost is saved by heating your tank in this manner and how many times a year does it happen? Then, divide your couple of hundred quid by that and see what the ROI is. It'll be in years and then some. Storing power (effectively what you're doing) in houses is simply not viable at the moment and getting a few free tanks of hot water will takes years (probably decades) to pay back an outlay of several hundred quid.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

total failure, as we have no reliable mobile phone signal here, so that option was out of the door.

No cell coverage here either, but that's not needed for this to work. In our case they decided to use satellite. Apparently it costs a bit more for them to do so, but it's well worth it them. (Their cost benefit analysis is almost 600 pages so I won't link to it.)

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

"In any event, the government has already thought of this eventuality and sorted it out by paying generators to turn off wind turbines when there is an excess."

That happens when there's a network or system constraint. But if you think about it, the only reason we will see nil or negative wholesale prices is because of the way that windpower gets accepted onto the system and then paid. The reality is that windpower was never economic without a subsidy, and therefore it has a high average cost, and it has a true marginal cost to consumers. This idea of "free" energy is bollocks, touted by idiots that can't count.

Moreover, if this "free" energy makes its way to the consumer, how does the whole system get paid for? In addition to the wind subsidies, there's the costs of transmission, distributions, sales & billing, balancing and settlement, the costs of standby and generation backup, the costs of synchronous fossil plant that has to run to keep the grid stable even when all loads could be delivered by renewables.... and of course the fossil fuel used during the 70% of time when wind power is not available, and the 90% of time that solar isn't (those figures are load factors, for anybody not clever enough to work it out).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

You know, most electricity isn't bought at the current wholesale price? It was bought 6 months to 2 years ago based off of forecasts, generally the only energy bought at wholesale price on the day is the energy we buy when we run out of power and have to buy from the French.

Electricity sellers do this so they can lock in a price so your bill doesn't vary wildly between almost nothing to a grand a month. Also just because one hour there's an excess of energy doesn't mean there will be in the next hour.

The only things the meters will probably be used for by the resellers are

More accurate monthly reads

and

Shutting off people who haven't paid when they get a CCJ

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Joke

Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

> What's the benefit to the nation of smart meters?

Smart meters can be read remotely, so those of you with a child-wizard stashed under the stairs no longer need to disturb him every few months.

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Rol

Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

The current system of monitoring your quarterly bills and then going switch off crazy will still be the overriding methodology of many in this country.

Smart meter or not, those who can afford it will not bother, those that can't afford it are either already keeping a concious eye on their usage, or are part of the blithering idiot sect that deserve to be impoverished.

The entire power usage for my one bed flat is less than £6 per week, it was about £10 until I turned the old freezer off and started shopping more regularly.

It isn't monitoring, the people need more of in this country, it is efficient domestic appliances and Scandinavian standard insulation.

I'd wager a national rip it out Economy7 heater drive would raise millions out of power poverty and see the winter fatality figures for hypothermia reduced to almost zero. Economy 7 storage heaters are a killer in the home, they keep the house warm until about three in the afternoon and then costs significantly more than standard tariff to keep the house warm for the rest of the day.

Personally, I'd see those behind Economy 7, behind bars for manslaughter.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?@ Tom 7

All perfectly possible now - which may explain why the companies are desperate to fit the old 'smart' meters

Actually we're not. Three companies are already under investigation and facing multimillion quid fines by the clowns at OFGEM for failure to roll out smart (AMR) meters to business customers fast enough. And in the past twenty four hours OFGEM have issued a note to all energy suppliers telling them that one of the highest "enforcement priorities" for 2015/16 will be smart meter roll out.

So, contrary to your bizarre ideas, this is being driven first by EU/UK government diktat, and then by a regulator bent on forcing this misguided programme forward at any expense. Our part in this is simply doing what we're told under the threat of vast fines, in an arrangement where OFGEM are rule maker, investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.

"that they <energy companies> effectively got the government to agree to by 'lobbying'

Here we go for the millionth time. This is an EU directive, translated by the last Labour government into UK law. We didn't lobby for it, it is nothing but a benefit-free nuisance for us. if you don't like it, see either side of the House of Commons, and take it up with them.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

"Except it doesn't work like that. In my case the power company decided that they would change my electro-mechanical electricity meter for a "smart" one. Result total failure, as we have no reliable mobile phone signal here, so that option was out of the door. I'm certainly not prepared to share my broadband with them so wi-fi is another non-starter. Outcome, a miserable little thing not much bigger than a matchbox that is almost impossible to read and which gives me no indication of how much power I'm using or if the photo-voltaic panels on the roof are running. At least my old meter did show how much electricity I was using."

Surely you have two possible solutions? One is a current cost meter or similar (with two clamps and the code is easy to write to show usage and generation. Granted it's Linux but Windows is probably possible too) the other is a wifi adaptor in your inverter?

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?@ Rol

Personally, I'd see those behind Economy 7, behind bars for manslaughter.

The main reason for E7 was that the then state owned CEGB had a problem of under-utilised overnight plant, and local authorities weren't willing to pay for communal gas boilers in the large social housing developments being slung up in the 1960s. The local authorities briefly tried fitting individual gas boilers, but combined with the poor construction of the day this caused problems (look up Ronan Point if you're interested), and suddenly there was a match made in somewhere beginning with "h".

In pure economic terms, dry electric heat is actually not too bad. It's safer than gas (even in low rise situations), it requires virtually no servicing, and the capital costs are much less than gas. But against that the controllability is poor and the running costs are higher. The alternative is a wet heating system, but in a high rise or high density development that means a large boiler or CHP, retrofitting risers and laterals for a heat network, adding heat interchange units and heat meters plus radiators, all of which cost around £15k per property. Nobody is in a hurry to do that, even to save £200 a year on the electricity bills.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

What's the benefit to the nation of smart meters?

Not the nation. The benefit is for the privatised energy companies and "market makers", since once there is an actively traded market for electricity - which is what all these "smart meters" will be doing on behalf of subscribers - a new crop of financial parasites can be collecting transaction fees - or just go full ENRON: Buy up electrical futures, then "service" a major power station.

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Happy

Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

Our last couple of meters have all been outside, so the suppliers' can read them themselves, and the wizard can stay in his cupboard!

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

"...during the 70% of time when wind power is not available..."

Hah! you've obviously never lived in a coastal area. Let me tell you, it blows an awful lot of the time, sometimes for weeks on end as it has done recently.

If that's where the wind is, put the wind farms there. Though I think a lot already have been.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

If that's where the wind is, put the wind farms there.

The 30% is a blended figure, and as noted is a load factor. So an on-shore a well sited wind turbine (including coastal sites) would produce a long term average of 25% of the "plate rating", and an offshore wind turbine about 35%.

In case that's not clear, take a 1 MW wind turbine. If it were always able to run at full power for all 8,760 hours a year, you'd get 8,760 MWh. In reality wind output will be reduced if the wind is non-existent, low, or too high (the blades have to be feathered to avoid damage to the unit), and what you actually get is about 2,600 MWh per year. Critically, you don't get much of that power at the coldest times of year, because those are associated with stable high pressure systems. So on the coldest 100 days of the year you'll have a 6-7% load factor from UK wind turbines - my employers are one of the world largest wind farm operators, and we actually looked that data up for DECC. Sadly they didn't take much notice, and the wind power nonsense continued unabated.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

"an actively traded market for electricity - which is what all these "smart meters" will be doing on behalf of subscribers "

Are you sure about that?

I've heard people mention it, but as far as I'm aware, they've all misunderstood. I'm happy to be corrected, based on a definitieve reference, but afaik "smart meters" will not in general be used to support a "spot market" for residential end users of electricity, in the same way as there is no "spot market" for residential end users of gas, broadband, etc.

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The one possible benefit for energy companies...

Energy supply companies like to keep the energy demand reasonably flat and stable. The main reason for that is that winding up and slowing down big (efficient) generators is incredibly wasteful as well as increasing maintenance costs. It is far better to run up a genset and keep it humming for days on end at a steady load.

For that reason, generation companies tend to charge through - ultimately to the customer - a multiplier for the "spikiness" and peak demand.

Smart meters can help by allowing people to turn of discretionary load, but there isn't much of that beyond water eating. That is already covered by using either ripple controllers or special night rates.

Most domestic load is not really discretionary. Are you really going to check the smart meter before turning on the telly? Are you really going to consult the smart meter before deciding to bake a cake?

Nope.

Like IoT, this seems to be mainly driven by the industries that will benefit from the huge installs.

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"Your system also learns that it can be nice and cheap at night"

You don't want the system to "learn" anything because it will "learn" bad habits.

Far better for the energy supply co to tell the customers when the power is cheaper and when to run.

That has been achieved by ripple controllers for at least 60 years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Load_management

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

I find Economy 7 great, my entire house is heated by Economy 7, I pay about 7p/KW night rate, much less than day rate, it works out cheaper than oil or gas per KW of heat, I did the math...

Yes we need more insulation, the problem being old houses, mine is late 1970's and there is zero chance of insulating it anymore than it is without knocking it down, so if the government wants to pay me £550k to rebuild, or £140K for new highly efficient windows then fine, but its not worth it financially for me to do either....

I never got why more storage heating is not used? as a rule there is always excess generation at night.. so I run my washing machine, dishwasher etc as much as possible at night...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

"I never got why more storage heating is not used? as a rule there is always excess generation at night.. so I run my washing machine, dishwasher etc as much as possible at night..."

Because it's generally crap.

And under most if not all E7 tariffs you pay a higher day time rate, so you need to have something over 35% of all your electricity demand during the off peak hours across the year. Industry estimates suggest that possibly as many as 40% of people on E7 tariffs would be better off on non-E7 tariffs because their off peak demand isn't over 35%. It should even be printed on your bill if it is cheaper, but people don't seem to care.

"mine is late 1970's and there is zero chance of insulating it anymore than it is without knocking it down, so if the government wants to pay me £550k to rebuild, or £140K for new highly efficient windows then fine,"

At current market rates a house with a rebuild cost of over half a mill, or a 140k window replacement bill is called "a fucking mansion". Instead of expecting the rest of us to subsidise improving your house, how about you spend your money on it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The one possible benefit for energy companies...

"Smart meters can help by allowing people to turn of discretionary load,"

After you've rewired the premises and reconnected appliances to separate must-have vs optional circuits and loads (unless the turning off is going to be done manually somehow).

"there isn't much [discretionary load] beyond water eating."

And even water heating is becoming irrelevant in this picture, courtesy of the miracle known as the "combi boiler" which ensures that modern premises (or even older premises where the heating has been "modernised") cannot store hot water in any meaningful way, the water has to be heated (using fossil fuel ie gas) at exactly the time you want to use it. Apparently that's "efficient" (but in many cases it probably isn't cost-effective or appropriate *in the bigger picture*).

You forgot to mention the charger for the electric car. The timing of that could be discretionary [Smiley here, or not?]

Marvellous examples of joined up thinking, smartmeters. Or even energy policy in general. Not.

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Re: The one possible benefit for energy companies...

@AC.

The biggest issue with the electric car (other than the usual range etc.etc.), is that it isn't really a discretionary load, as people need it to get to work etc. Also, imagine your wife is pregnant and waiting to give birth. Do you really want to use the car, reduce its charge and potentially not have it ready at the pertinent point? The whole notion of a car you can't recharge/refill in 5 minutes is a nonsense, unless you go to communal pools, which doesn't see likely.

Also, if you look at the average street and assume everyone has at least one electric car. Plug them all in overnight to charge (most likely pattern) and the local infrastructure will melt. It simply isn't built to carry that much load. What works as a one-off, doesn't always work when scaled to societies needs and that's what matters. Local generation could help, but nothing currently available is either available at the right time (solar doesn't work too well overnight), or generates so little it doesn't really matter.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: off peak electricity

I've just moved into a 1960s flat where there is no gas and very little insulation. The walls are mostly double glazing ("picture window" size) and some concrete panels. Fairly typical "system built", probably.

I will be having insulated plasterboard fitted on the larger concrete areas. This can be done in many properties if you don't mind losing an inch or two of room space. The double glazing will be replaced, some with triple, in stages when necessary. Neither upgrade will pay for itself in my lifetime at current energy prices.

The flat is in one of many blocks of that era built with underfloor electric heating. Many in this block have been persuaded to replace it with electric panel heaters (Rointe). Electric-only heating paying peak time prices, with low grade insulation? Nightmare.

Modern storage heaters such as Dimplex Quantum initially appear to be a much better fit for this building than either older storage heaters or any form of direct electric heating e.g. panel heaters, but I'd be interested in other evidence-backed information.

The off-peak tariff I was looking at was something like 19p/unit daytime, 8p/unit off-peak, vs the standard tariff of 16p/unit (standing charges are equal). Anyone with a calculator work out what proportion I need to use overnight to make it interesting (ignore capital costs of the storage heating, for now)?

Oh and if you've got a crystal ball so you can see where electricity prices will be in three or ten years, and whether there will still be a meaningful off-peak/on-peak difference, that'd be most welcome too.

All input gratefully received.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The one possible benefit for energy companies...

"look at the average street and assume everyone has at least one electric car. "

That clearly doesn't work. Anyone who thinks otherwise, well what can you say.

Now look at the number of homes where the 2nd car is on the drive (or the street) all day except for the school run and shopping trips and occasional daytime social activities. Potential market for electric cars, but are there enough of these users to make (a) a worthwhile market (b) a worthwhile difference to energy usage and pollution patterns.

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Re: The one possible benefit for energy companies...

@AC.

Ah, but you've missed the point. Even with only one car per house, used for commuting (generally at least one is), you simply couldn't charge them all. Now, any 2nd cars would simply be additional load. True, you could possibly charge them during the day to spread the load, but this puts the charging into peak generation times. Part of the supposed reasoning for electric cars is that they charge overnight on essentially (they claim) spare electricity....oversupply. So, start charging during the day and you break the economic model very badly.

Whilst there are undoubtedly some niche cases for electric cars, there simply won't be enough market and trying to charge them in the general community will cause all sorts of structural issues. It simply isn't a starter. We need to accept that cars with batteries (which is different to electric cars) are non-starters and start looking at things like hydrogen cars, which can be refilled quickly.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

There's no 'benefit' to installing them,as for 'evironmentall policy',that's fanciful,the 'real' reason is 'BIG BROTHER's' beady STASI eyes intrusion,that's the 'policy'.

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?@ Tom 7

Interesting to check the rest of the EU... for example Germany where I am now, known as a 'keen green'... no smoke alarm, no smart meter, no insulation, no timer on the heating...

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Re: Cost Benefit Analysis?

550k rebuild would be about 200k to remove the old and 300k for a new... yes still a big place, unless it is near London in which case it is probably a garden shed

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Mad as a hatter, the lot of them !

It is not just security that is the problem but their near uselessness.

We are moving to a more off-grid style supply system where renewable etc will need a more sophisticated system that a very very expensive way of wasting money on reading that meter !

They will likely all have to come out again by 2025 at a cost of yet another 20 billion !

Wait till 2025 when other countries have expensively guinea pigged it successfully then make a move for sane mature technology.

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I just dont get it !!!

Why not with all this building of the new houses order in new tech, all the broken meters should be replaced with smart meters. Why not allow the natural progression, why are they so impatient to force everybody over to new meters now?!

e.g. moved into a new build house on a new estate, why not lay fibre down? nope, good old copper cables (probably not even copper)

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Re: I just dont get it !!!

The number of new build homes is a tiny fraction of the existing housing stock. At the current rate of building, we'd replace all the existing homes in around 160 years. Not only that, but it's the existing (inefficient) homes that most need accurate metering if you accept the argument that accurate metering reduces consumption.

As it is, it's a poorly thought out project, with poor technical specification and even poorer oversight.

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Re: I just dont get it !!!

"it's a poorly thought out project, with poor technical specification and even poorer oversight."

Indeed. One might say that it's a perfect reflection of it's organisation of origin - the EU.

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Re: I just dont get it !!!

I've had one of these for years (http://www.theowl.com/index.php/products/energy-moni/). Shows me with good enough accuracy what I'm using; doesn't really change behaviour much though so I guess the basic premise for 'smart' meters is at best unproven.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I just dont get it !!!

While the EU came up with targets for savings it was the Government at the time that pretended Smart Meters were the answer.

Likely as it was a can that could be kicked rather far down the road.

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Re: I just dont get it !!!

"While the EU came up with targets for savings it was the Government at the time that pretended Smart Meters were the answer."

Directives 2009/72/EC* (leccy) & 2009/73/EC* (gas) and associated literature within the Official Journal of the European Union make mention that regulatory authorities shall strongly recommend smart grids and intelligent metering systems**.

*Proposed 2007

**I'm not being argumentative. I just have a different understanding drawn from EU directives and literature and, as I also note, here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/19/feature_uk_gov_power_meter_plan/

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Re: I just dont get it !!!

Won't work for all, I wanted a smart meter, mainly so I could monitor my power usage closer..

No such luck, guy turned up to install it and couldn't get a signal, my answer was yeah of course not,...

So no mobile phone signal on their 'preferred' networks means no smart meter for me!

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Anonymous Coward

Almost as effective in destroying the country too

All you need is to program enough of them to go on/off in a pre-programmed pattern during peak hour and the grid will collapse. I used to help my dad with the software for simulations in the days when he made a nice chunk of money on top of his professor salary by doing grid models (not in the UK). If memory serves me right it would take flipping a resistive load worth < 30% of the actual consumption on-off at sub-5min intervals to achieve that.

The only difference between it and Trident is that Trident can actually be used to nuke other countries. The smart meter, if someone breaks into the control network and/or manages to upload alternative firmware) is good for nuking yourself. Into the stone age. Considering that it is absolutely impossible to upload new firmware and/or settings to all meters in less than a few weeks via cellular (the presently preferred solution) this also means staying there for a while.

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Boffin

Question for Kat Hall

A few years ago Smart meters were being pushed in the U.S.. Here in Texas there were fights over privacy issues since they monitored your use every minute. Some people were arrested for not allowing the power company to come on their property and change out the meter.

Now I am for a meter that sends data once a month so the meter reader doesn't get into an altercation with my dogs. There is no reason for the power company to invade my privacy and constantly monitor my usage.

You have mentioned how high the cost is in the U.K., but what about the U.S.? Is there any major difference in the meters?

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Re: Question for Kat Hall

"You have mentioned how high the cost is in the U.K., but what about the U.S.? Is there any major difference in the meters?"

Where do you think he UK will buy most of these meters from?

Info sec researches got some 1 off's for penetration tests but that stopped when they found how s88t the data security was on them.

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Noses in troughs

Yet there are still people sleeping in cardboard boxes. What a country.

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Joke

Re: Noses in troughs

Completely agree, those cardboard boxes should be recycled!

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Re: Noses in troughs

"those cardboard boxes should be recycled!"

Keep the tramps in them, and send 'em to a district heating plant. They'd qualify as "renewable" power, and if dried and pelletised they'd work a treat, and you'd be able to claim Renewable Heat Incentive. In a small biomass plant you'd get 8.6p/kWh, with RPI uplift for twenty years. That'd mean an average tramp would give you about 750 MJ, say 200 kWh, and that means a tramp is worth about seventeen quid just from RHI.

To qualify you'd need to make a quarterly declaration of sustainability to OFGEM, and to meet their requirements you might have to establish a captive tramp breeding programme if there's any risk that culling, pelletising and burning them might cause the tramp population to decline. Or you could just use the half a million people that die in the UK each year. In energy terms it wouldn't pay for itself, but that never matters with DECC's idiot subsidy programmes.

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Control the language, control the debate...

If they were being honest, these meters would be called "we screwed up generation capacity by replacing coal power stations with useless environmentally unfriendly turbines so now need to control demand by turning off your power when we feel like it - meters".

Unfortunately the marketing people got there first.

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Thumb Up

Re: Control the language, control the debate...

Sadly, you've nailed it.

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"However, DECC insisted changes in cost were solely driven by the change in accounting methodology, not by underlying cost changes, said the report."

Would this new accounting methodology be accounting for all the actual costs as opposed to throwing a dart at a board 3 times and multiplying the result by the page number the minister happens to be on in playboy then multiplied again by the number of folders on his desk?

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@ Matt 4

You beat me too it. I was going to ask if the new accounting methodology involved actually counting the costs.

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