back to article E.ON fined £7m for smart meter fail

The UK's energy regulator Ofgem has slapped supplier E.ON with a £7m fine for failing "to supply relevant business customers through advanced electricity meters by the April 2014 deadline". In 2009, E.ON was given five years to provide its roughly 20,000 business customers with smart meters. Ofgem reports: "E.ON only …

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What *customer* wants this?

AFAIK no one.

It's about the utility companies failing to plan and invest for the future and wanting the ability to "deliver" blackouts on demand.

As usual the same people who pay for the fines will be the people who pay for the meters.

The customers.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

It has to be said - the one thing that will make me seriously look back at other methods of powering my house is this smart-meter junk.

Sorry, but if you reserve the right to cut me off at any point for your own cost-cutting, I have to assume that's going to happen. So I will go out and buy a large generator, probably one that runs off diesel or similar, or a huge solar setup to cover any gaps in something that I consider an essential that has to keep running (heating, lighting, cooking, etc. are not optional and although there are other ways to do them, I wouldn't want to do doing those for more than one night in a row).

And at that point, I would have to think to myself "Why am I bothering with the grid at all, as I have everything I need to run this thing under my control without any further changes to my house electric". It would be at that point that I'm likely to demand that they remove their equipment from my house.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

Unfortunately it isnt the energy companies pushing for this change its the government (since labour). Simply the energy policy has been so bad in this country we are leaving ourselves short on power.

This started with Blair and his Co2 agreement (to the shock of his advisor's) which shuts down our power stations but then continues with their pursuit of 'green energy' which has turned out less than green and a lot less energy. Of course this pushes up the price of energy and their solution- winter fuel allowance. So after a campaign against the big 6 (no wonder they dont want to play nice) the gov has finally started to reduce the subsidies for tech that isnt viable, only for people to cry out that solar businesses are going out of business (they exist only because they suck on public money that could go to any actual public service!).

Watching the continuing train wreck of this countries energy policy makes me wonder how long until we have brown outs and then black outs. The good news is we can still buy energy (expensive) from the French who at least have a reliable supply.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

The good news is we can still buy energy (expensive) from the French who at least have a reliable supply.

Don't bet on it. The French goverment is trying to reduce it's nuclear park, and invest in renewables, and its plan for meeting a shortfall is ... to buy from the Germans. The Germans probably assume they can buy cheap wind power from the Danes, and so on. We're at real risk of a circular dependency loop where each government underinvests and assumes that they can cover any shortfall by buying surplus from the neighbours. Won't work if those neighbours have no surplus and are also trying to buy from next door. Worst case is we have to buy gas from Putin at huge cost and risk.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

Today is the first time in a while I've seen UK wind generating almost 5GW. Yet even with all of that we're still relying on the French (1.5GW) and the Belgians (1GW) to provide us with power through our Euro interconnects.

UK National Grid Status

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

Although I didn't ask for it (came with the house) I quite like mine. Between that and the Hive I've worked out I can save £2 a day on heating by changing a few things without becoming appreciably less comfortable. For me that's worth while, your mileage may vary.

The Hive is especially good since it caters to people like me who have no routine and often work from home, often travel for work, and often go away at weekends. Previously the heating would stay on if I forgot, now I can switch it off and know the cost difference due to the smart meter. Knowing the cost is the part that motivates me to change and if I can save a beer's worth a day then I get an extra beer a day. No downside!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What *customer* wants this?

5GW is over 1/10 of our total demand though to be fair and a surprisingly small percentage of our countryside and coast are "blighted" with wind turbines. I don't see a problem, given further investment, in meeting our needs with "renewables". The main problem I see is the effect of them on the climate and whether they are in fact renewable at all. Sucking power out of global weather patterns seems a much more direct way to disrupt nature than adding some gas to the atmosphere to me. The effect on the moon is already known (in theory enough tidal power usage would see us lose the moon to space). The effect of removing heat from one location via solar and putting it elsewhere is as yet unknown but would certainly cause thermal currents which would disrupt air flows at altitude potentially changing local weather patterns. Changing wind speed through turbines would have an obvious impact locally but a less well understood impact globally. The jetstream has been behaving weirdly for a few years now with no explanation, and although apparently coincidental it's at least worth entertaining the idea that this is due to massive turbine adoption.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

@lusty - granted I'm single, but I dont even spend £2 a day on electricity except on very rare days. If I saved that much, they;d be paying me to use leccy!

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

It does electric and gas - hence the reference to heating :) Just on electric though, I have an appreciation of how much the cooker uses, the kettle, and I'm sure electric showers would too. The dishwasher also goes briefly bananas and the tumble drier likes its juice. These things are all obvious to anyone with a small understanding of electricity, but when a machine actually points out the specifics it's more likely to change behaviour. This is for the same reason single people have messier houses than married ones. Us single people know our houses are messy and we know why, we just don't have a partner telling us every single day that it's messy.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

As I have said MANY times before, even to the power company themselves: Should a 'smart meter' cut my supply off, being a credit customer, I will assume correctly that there is a fault in the meter, and, as an electrician, bypass it in order to allow the power company to fulfil their contract.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What *customer* wants this?

Sorry John, it is not the utility companies that are behind this.

The last labour government started it with their Climate Change Act and a lot of fake science produced by the Met Office and DECC it was decided the the smart meters as sold by an Al Gore backed company should be installed in all homes and businesses. That way when the wind didn't blow at night various selected parts of the country could be shut down to make it appear that windmills were supplying enough power.

I can only assume the present government hasn't rowed back on this because STMBO in the Cameron household has put her foot down to keep daddies subsidy farming going.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

when a machine actually points out the specifics it's more likely to change behaviour.

How so? I put the dishwasher on when it's full, the washing machine when my clothes are dirty, etc. Knowing precisely, instead of approximately, how much power one of those appliances uses won't make the slightest difference to my usage pattern.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

Renewables are not an alternative to building fossil fuel power stations because the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. However they do mean that when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, you don't have to burn so much fuel, so they are still worth having.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

"or a huge solar setup to cover any gaps in something that I consider an essential that has to keep running (heating, lighting, cooking, etc. are not optional and although there are other ways to do them, I wouldn't want to do doing those for more than one night in a row)."

Just wondering how your huge solar setup is going to replace the grid at night. Since the most likely time for a power cut is in winter at night in light or no winds. If you are thinking batteries, cost this against charging the batteries off the grid during the day.

Diesel generator would work, though, as this is how emergency spare capacity is being supplied.

Nice to see someone posting here who doesn't care about global warming and the possible effect of a load of personal (VW?) diesel generators on the environment. I assume you live well away from other people and thus will not annoy any neighbours by running a generator all night.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

global warming .. makes as much sense as the meters .. you do know that gw go's against the laws of physics it just can't happen .. look into it ..

as for how to power your home .. you have wind ,solar ,ground source ..but the best way to save is to insulate properly .. a new build should be a 3 layer wall insulate on the inside and out ..the cost saving would be very large to the heating cost build in windows direction to the sun ,solar panels

a small turbine to charge battery packs ground source heat for warmth and a couple of back up free standing wood burners ..yeah it will prob cost you and extra 20k to build but will pay for it's self in 8 to 10 yrs leaving you with a bill of £200 ish a yr after that

but hey ho way to think about dragging someone down rather than how to fix things

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What *customer* wants this?

Assuming you're talking about business smart meters? The businesses who want to be charged only for what they've used. The big energy companies almost always "err on the side of caution" when estimating reads, because then they have your money - and they don't like to read meters more than necessary so they can keep it for longer.

A few years ago I caught [Major Energy Company That I Shall Not Name] making recursive increases in estimated costs; that is, not reading a meter for several years then saying "Well, we estimated you used 20% more electricity last year than the year before, so this year we estimate you used 20% more than we estimated last year". They were also caught red handed billing estimated reads as actual reads to cover up that they weren't attending sites biannually as they were legally obliged to do. And when their contract was terminated, a great many of their final reads disagreed with the opening reads taken by the new supplier - all in their favour, oddly - and they deleted all our data from their system so they couldn't reconstruct accurate bills when the evidence was provided. It took well over a year to recover the money.

So yes, given the choice you do want a smart meter on any supply large enough to justify the data collection fees.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

Fancy getting down-voted for not seeing the places no longer worth seeing?

Who are those guys?

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

Except when they are not. They are much more worthy of haveage if mounted high above factory rooftops where the only things detracting from a pretty landscape is the Hem Heath Screwfix warehouse.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

Nice to see someone posting here who doesn't care about global warming and the possible effect of a load of personal (VW?) diesel generators on the environment. I assume you live well away from other people and thus will not annoy any neighbours by running a generator all night.

Wake up and smell the diesel, hippies!

Government policy is not merely pushing expensive renewables (with a side order of unfeasibly expensive French nuclear), but it is increasingly looking to "decentralised generation" to fill the frequent gaps in renewable output. That means using small scale local plant, including industrial and commercial standby plant a whole lot more to produce of the order of 10GW nationally by 2030. Not only will this cost an arm and a leg, but it means that smaller, less efficient plant will be belching NOx and other shite out in urban environments.

This is the central problem with renewables - that to fill in the gaps, and to meet peaks in demand you need to have plant that operates less efficiently than a mid merit plant would do. So no nice efficient CCGT, instead a load of dirty old diesels, or even if you can use a gas turbine, you can't do peaking and fast response with CCGT (the maintenance and operating costs preclude this), so peaking and fast response gas turbines only operate as open cycle, and thus have thermal efficiency of a large coal fired station.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

> ...single people know our houses are messy and we know why...

It's not a mess, it's object storage, rather than block storage (which is utterly passe, accpording to another Reg article).

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

> ...they are still worth having.

"worth" depends on the cost as well as the benefit, and sadly the renewables are rarely properly costed (at least in these conversations).

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

"The good news is we can still buy energy (expensive) from the French who at least have a reliable supply."

No, we can't - and not for the reason another poster has already put forth (the french are ramping down their nukes a little), but a more practical reason that anyone who's looked at gridwatch should have been able to figure out

The french could have a massive energy surplus and it still wouldn't help the UK much: the _total_ electricity load able to be supplied between mainland europe and the UK is 3GW.

Underwater power interconnectors are not cheap, nor are they of massively high capacity. The 2GW french one is about as large as they go. Perhaps feeding the lines down the chunnel is a better idea than running trains in it.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

"a surprisingly small percentage of our countryside and coast are "blighted" with wind turbines."

Given the small factor of blades being known to go more than a mile when one breaks, it will remain a small percentage or a lot of people are going to have to be forcibly evicted from housing located in the safety exclusion zones..

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

"Renewables are not an alternative to building fossil fuel power stations"

Nuclear stations are though - and they're cheaper than "renewables" could ever be even at today's vastly inflated figures for the new ones, plus use a lot less space.

Molten salt nuclear plants can load-follow too. The ability is an inherent part of the design.

What renewables _really_ are, is a way of transferring a lot of money from the hands of consumers into the pockets of certain landowners. Forget "doubling" your power bill under Hinkley Point, if the UK was 100% powered by renewables the figure would be more like 6-10 times higher.

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Re: What *customer* wants this?

@lusty - I'm all electric. Even adding in laundrette bills doesn't bring it much over £2 a day. True, I haven't a dishwasher either (don't see the point) but surely they're not THAT expensive to run? What makes me even more surprised is that I'm still (just about) on coin-in-the meter charging for my leccy, which I gather is supposed to be more expensive. They're changing it to a more normal meter soon, which should theoretically drop my leccy costs further.

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smart technology isn't here yet as the mobile phone coverage is very poor in large parts of the country

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There are plenty of other ways for the smart meters to connect - not least ethernet-over-powerline technologies.

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Anonymous Coward

Successful government IT projects

Name one.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Successful government IT projects

Estonian e-Residency - happy "customer" here ...

In the UK? Oh ... err .. I'll get back to you on that ...

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Re: Successful government IT projects

The Congestion Charge and Oyster Card systems worked without too many problems. However Manchester's equivalent of the Oyster Card has been a complete disaster.

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Re: Successful government IT projects

There are a set of systems running in a certain doughnut that seem to make many people in gubbimint happy - do these count?

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This explains why I have just received several letters from EON asking if they can replace our business electricity meters.

The business might be a bit more enthusiastic if they would offer something more precise than a 6 hour window for when they want to take our office down.

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Anonymous Coward

give them a very precise six hour window then - December 25, from midnight until six am ... but they will be expected to arrive on reindeer, bringing gifts ...

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and of course if the power's off there'll be a nice fire roaring up the chimney...

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When they changed the meter on the three phase supply in our office last year the power didn't go off. I presume they have some way of seamlessly bypassing it during the few minutes it takes to swap them.

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> I presume they have some way of seamlessly bypassing it ...

No they don't. Don't know how you kept going (perhaps you have a good backup genny or UPS ?), but replacing the meter most definitely is a power off job - they have to have the DNO fuse(s) pulled.

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"The business might be a bit more enthusiastic if they would offer something more precise than a 6 hour window for when they want to take our office down."

Push back. Offer them an exact appointment time and a window to execute with penalties for no-show or overrun and make them wait 6 months for a new appointment if they show up late.

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A regulator issues a fine! To a company?

I suppose the difference between this regulator and the ICO is that the Home office actually wants this objective met. Fail to protect customers data? No problem mate, everyone makes mistakes.

Fail to install those nice spy boxes? You idiot, pay up and get it done.

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heheh

I just spent 2 years arguing that I was actually getting electricity and couldn't pay for it.

they finally agreed that I was being supplied electricity, dropped 2k off the bill !!!!!

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I've got a smart meter installed

It's absolute rubbish. It gives you barely any more information that my old 10 quid clamp meter from B&Q did. They still don't understand generation so all values are positive and the only way you can tell if you are generating versus somebody in the house has left a heater on is to switch the kettle on ( a known power drain) and see what values the meter comes up with.

Oh you can get the gas and electricity readings on one box, whoopsie do!

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And for customers who say "sod off"?

I have stuff running on mains - you can switch my meter live if you must switch it at all...

I don't need a new meter to tell me that I am using electricity - or how much.

The current one already does that. No supplier has read it in years because I supply readings periodically.

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Re: And for customers who say "sod off"?

But can you see both meters from the kitchen and do they give readings using your current tariff in pounds and pence? Normally they are in a cupboard which would require making an effort to read, and to most the numbers are meaningless because most don't know the cost of 1 unit, or even what units the number on the meter are in.

The difference with smart meters is not that you can read it, but that you're aware of usage. We all know we're using electric, but being directly aware tends to drive behaviour which is what they are trying to achieve.

In a business setting I'm often told by IT people that they don't care how much power the data centre is using because the business just pays the bill. A power meter connected to the finance people will certainly change this behaviour in a lot of businesses and we'll probably start to see more efficient data centre designs appearing. Ambient cooling for instance makes a huge difference to the bill.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And for customers who say "sod off"?

WTF would I want to be able to see a meter from my kitchen (or any other room) ?

There are good reasons why they're hidden away in cupboards and garages, not the least of which is the collateral damage that might be done when they're replaced (especially the gas meter).

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Re: And for customers who say "sod off"?

Not the actual meter just the reading from the remote wireless screen. I'll be honest it bothers me that you read the same tech site I do if you don't get that.

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Re: And for customers who say "sod off"?

"But can you see both meters from the kitchen and do they give readings using your current tariff in pounds and pence?"

No - but that doesn't stop me turning off the lights, and leaving various items on standby - because I'm happy to burn a few watts continuously in the name of convenience.

A few watts will take hundreds of hours to become a kWH, at which point it costs me somewhere in the region of 10p, depending on the time of day. I don't need to consult a screen constantly, because I've done the sums and am happy with them....

I'll guarantee one thing - the new meters will take more power than the old ones did.

Whilst *I* might not care too much about 1Watt over a few million installations that adds up and that's several MW the grid now has to find.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And for customers who say "sod off"?

WTF would I want such a digital readout on the wall of any room in my house ?

I gave up being bothered by poorly phrased writing a long time ago.

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Re: would I want such a digital readout on the wall

Yep, it's been repeatedly reported that most of them get shoved in a draw and forgotten.

When I'm boiling water I know how many mugs of coffee I'm making and fill appropriately. My PVR's are left in standby because I'd prefer them to record things and so on. We're good at killing lights. I can't think of a single device in my home a meter would help put in a lower power state while still being worth using. Completely pointless.

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Re: And for customers who say "sod off"?

And for customers who say "sod off"?

Not a problem, my son.

This article isn't a high point or Reg journalistic standards, because AMR meters that businesses are supposed to have are not the same as the domestic smart meters, and because the fine is not really about the failure to fit meters, it is about the failure to provide evidence that they tried hard enough. A little bird tells me that the poor quality of the background data was known about some years back within E.ON, I can offer no explanation as to why it wasn't acted on.

Ofgem's investigation summary is actually a much better explanation of what this fine was for than the Reg article.

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Re: And for customers who say "sod off"?

I'll guarantee one thing - the new meters will take more power than the old ones did. Whilst *I* might not care too much about 1Watt over a few million installations that adds up and that's several MW the grid now has to find.

I think its about 10W all in, including the two smart meters, an in home display and a home hub. I did the calculations in a previous post, and I think it was around 230 MW nationally, which is small compared to a typical full scale 2 GW power station, but would still require a mid sized CCGT operating 24/7.

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