back to article Ordinary punters will get squat from smart meters, reckons report

Smart meters will benefit suppliers nearly twice as much as consumers in terms of cost savings, according to an assessment by the late Department for Energy and Climate Change. The government's £11bn smart meter project will require energy suppliers to offer 53 million meters to homes and small businesses by 2020. Smart meters …

No, thank you.

Was there anything else?

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Re: No, thank you.

Avoiding the need for a person to come in and check my meter regularly? YES PLEASE! I don't care about who saves money from this - my life has been improved because the meters can be read remotely and is always up to date with no estimated bills.

Even if it is the gas company saving money on home visits - surely that will eventually trickle into savings for the consumer anyway.

The cost of implementation is covered by the cost of savings so I don't see a downside in this.

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Re: No, thank you.

just log into a web page and enter the details. no remote bollox necessary. how difficult is it?

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Re: No, thank you.

"the meters can be read remotely and is always up to date with no estimated bills."

...and how long until we see a situation where someone's supply is shut off remotely after a numnuts callcentre-monkey cocks up, a supplier thinks you owe them money when you don't (which happened when we moved into this house), when someone in some crappy outsourced IT service on minimal training and a bowl of rice a day cocks up 1,000's of accounts, or when yet another security vuln is discovered in the kit.

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Re: No, thank you.

Cut off supply? I would imagine it will happen on day one.Some people will just bypass the meters just to get electricity and make real savings

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Re: No, thank you.

So I can pay to get someone to drive a van to my house, pick up a parcel, transport it half way across the country where another man in a van drives and delivers it to another house and still get change from 3 quid.

Just how much do you think can be saved by not having a man read the meter once a year?

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Re: No, thank you.

Saving of 3 quid in monetary terms by your delivery van analogy which is not quite correct since a Meter reader requires slightly more training because unlike in your blinkered world some Meter readers will be qualified to do more than just read your meter and therefore costs more to employ but I'll go with 3 quid for now.

Also a saving in terms of reduced CO2 and other crap from his vehicle by not needing to come to my house for such a trivial job. A nominal saving in terms of slightly fewer cars on the road.

A saving in my time in the sense I don't need to be at home to have my Meter read.

A saving in my time in not having to phone or email a correct reading when a home visit hasn't been made in over 2 years. There are probably other minor savings.

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Re: No, thank you.

"just log into a web page and enter the details"

That works for a while, but the supplier still has to do a real check once a year to ensure you aren't lying.

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Re: Meter reader requires slightly more training

Pretty sure parcel delivery drivers can read numbers too. Well, most of them. Maybe not Yodel.

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Re: Meter reader requires slightly more training

Sure but can they install or exchange Meters? Are they certified gas and electricity engineers ? No? Well many meter readers have to be because reading meters is just part of their job.

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Re: No, thank you.

The cost of implementation is covered by the cost of savings so I don't see a downside in this.

Then you are not thinking hard enough.

Smart meters are:

a) an attempt to increase profits by eliminating the cost of meter readers. The cost of this will be passed on to consumers, so that 2-3% a tiny minority of consumers might save by having a smart meter will be more than wiped out.

b) a step toward live tracking of the supply costs and variable pricing. No more certainty about how much your electricity and gas bills will be each month. And you can bet your arse that tracked prices will go up as fast - faster - than the supply cost, but fall much slower, if they fall at all.

c) adding the potential for remote cut off from the comfort of the outsourced, offshored control room. No more pesky engineer costs to actually, physically disconnect someone who hasn't paid.

d) the opportunity to mess up millions of peoples' day with a single bad software patch.

Shit, if the banks don't make sure they get a patch right, power companies sure as hell won't bother. But who cares...? Their CEOs and directors will not be on smart meters.

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Re: Meter reader requires slightly more training

Sure but can they install or exchange Meters? Are they certified gas and electricity engineers ? No? Well many meter readers have to be because reading meters is just part of their job.

Citation needed.

Seems highly unlikely. Why exactly would a trained, qualified sparky slum it reading meters?

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Winner!

The lecy company cuts off your supply because of some numptie or other. Instead of getting back to them to connect you again, you just do it yourself (with big rubber gloves) or get a friendly electrician.

Your meter won't register any usage -- hey, you've been cut off. No one comes round to check -- they are all on the dole.

Winner! Free electricity. Bring it on!

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Re: No, thank you.

"Just how much do you think can be saved by not having a man read the meter once a year?"

Probably quite a lot if you give that job to a woman… much more efficient

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Re: Meter reader requires slightly more training

"Sure but can they install or exchange Meters?"

No an neither can smart meters So you are arguing that cost savings replacing them with smart meters are higher because they do things which smart meters can't do which means they can't be replaced with smart meters anyway....

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Re: Meter reader requires slightly more training

"Seems highly unlikely. Why exactly would a trained, qualified sparky slum it reading meters?"

Yep. Meter reading is already outsourced. The once per year visit is one guy coming out to read both gas and 'leccy and I have different suppliers. I'd be surprised if his training involved any more than being able to read numbers, copy them down and have a valid driving licence.

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Re: No, thank you.

"That works for a while, but the supplier still has to do a real check once a year to ensure you aren't lying."

thats a fair point, i hadnt thought of that.

are we saying though that they will truest the smart meters to report the truth forever without having a man to check? how long till someone hacks them and releases the details on the web....could be fun

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Re: No, thank you.

I don't expect my tariff or bill to do anything but increase, so smart meters I just shove in my mental "meh" file. I like my privacy and not having the meter maid prowling around my house is a good thing.

Does anybody else find it odd that cars used by the electric companies (not trucks) are ICE? I would expect that their "fuel" cost would be as close to zero as it's possible to get and they can install high output charging points all over the place for employees to use when in company cars. Hmmmmm.

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Re: Meter reader requires slightly more training

FWIW I had a chat with the guy who came to install mine (slightly more complicated than plug and play as it involved replacing the ancient spinning-wheel type old meter completely.) I asked if they were just doing SM installation, were they doing a lot, etc. He said they were full blown* electrical engineers (as in, real capital-E Engineers, not like the vending beverage unit engineer who comes to clean out the chicken soup nozzle on the drinks machine); they were doing SMs for a few weeks or months and then would be rotated back round to doing,er, Other Stuff. (I didn't ask.)

Just an anecdotal data point.

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I'm not in favour of smart meters, but supplier cost savings and consumer cost savings are the same thing in the long run. Competition makes them consumer savings.

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Possibly. If the market is functioning perfectly. Which few do.

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Many sellers, with identical products

> If the market is functioning perfectly. Which few do

They don't have to function perfectly - just well enough.

In the electricity market, the overheads are crucial.

Everyone uses the same electricity, bought on the same market, using the same currency hedges. It's sent down the same wires and comes from the same power stations (although some suppliers own their own power stations, they still buy and sell openly).

So in the end, there's little to differentiate the price from one supplier to another except how well they run their businesses: i.e. the performance of their C-levels and their overheads: offices, IT, call centres and metering (which is generally outsourced anyway).

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Re: Many sellers, with identical products

Market... pah, no its not. **they** know we **need** the power, they also know they can cartel well enough (like the supermarkets) so surprise surprise prices go up in case prices go up, prices stay up because they bought at a higher price, they go up because there might be an issue, they stay up because they had hedged their bets, they run the generator is a different company so the supplier can claim it is making nothing out of over charging youl

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Re: Many sellers, with identical products

"they run the generator is a different company so the supplier can claim it is making nothing out of over charging youl"

THIS

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Paris Hilton

" Competition makes them consumer savings."

Hahaha! Welcome to Earth. You must be new here.

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31 socialists and counting. What happened to this place?

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Anonymous Coward

But us shareholders will be happy!

Woo hoo! Take out the labor costs. Take out the labor costs...

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not really a socialist, but 32.

what happened round here? people got wise to MBA bollocks.

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There are two shops on the same road. They both decrease their costs by having robots stack the shelves. One drops its prices in line with its lower costs in order to win more customers. The other doesn't. The one that doesn't loses sales and either lowers prices too or goes bust.

If neither do it, then somebody else sees the opportunity, sets up their own shop and puts the other two out of business.

If there were room for lower prices in the energy market, there would be a new player ( or existing one ) to come in and take everybody's custom. But there isn't, so there isn't.

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If you believe that, set up your own energy company with half the margin of the existing companies. You'll be a billionaire.

But you won't, because you can't. Selling energy is a highly competitive low margin business with a low barrier to entry.

You'll find you pay a lot for energy ( thanks government intervention! ) and sell it for a tiny fraction more.

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Despite ability to switch suppliers there is a lot of inertia in the market, few people change supplier on a yearly basis to make sure they are on a near optimal tariff.

Customer loyalty is not rewarded, it is abused (stay with same supplier and you end up paying their most exorbitant rates, not their attractive rates)

You must have missed all the recent reports about bait & switch from energy companies.

A good offer dangled so consumers switch, then after the offer term (e.g. year) is up, if customer does not switch again they are on the way more expensive standard tariff and huge profits for energy company as a good chance that after a recent switch someone might not be switching again instantly.

So, in the energy market you can have a few nice deals but many people paying over the odds and still thrive.

So your fantasy economics model of only the cheapest suppliers thrives can go straight into the bin, it's real world behavior that counts.

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People choosing to stay with a provider when they've put their bills up is them choosing convenience over price.

People switching to save money is customers choosing price over convenience.

Either way, the consumer gets what they want. I really don't see the problem.

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MBA bollocks is what pays your salary and grows your pension fund (and implements all the other goods and services you get via the private sector.) A bit less living up to "arrogant techie" stereotype, please.

I used to have a case of that, 20 years ago. Marketing, sales, people in ties... tossers and idiots, all of them, and we could do their jobs but they couldn't do ours. Then I got a job where I saw near the sales droids. Holy shit... I could never, ever do that job; I wouldn't last a week.

I suggest you go read a bit about the syllabus for a decent MBA course. Here's Havard , for instance. Pick a topic at random and go research what the actual content is. Still sneering at "MBA bollocks"?

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Coat

Doesn'nt Brexit make this optional?

Brexit.

"Taking back control" (of your stair cupboard)

And no "supper savings" are only the same as "customer savings" if the suppler decides to pass them back to the customer.

BTW Aren't most UK utility suppliers foreign owned, so most of those savings go back to more profit to their (foreign) parent.

And you can bet that won't change post Brexit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Doesn'nt Brexit make this optional?

Yes, isn't this exactly like the ill-informed policy of adding the number of wild weasels, stoats, and badgers, and dividing by the number of semi-domesticated wolves? I mean 700000, WTF?

We're gonna need more guns.

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Re: Doesn'nt Brexit make this optional?

Look, if you want to start up your own electricity retail company that's completely British-owned and controlled, knock yourself out. It's not that hard. Basically, all you need to know is SQL. The rest is just a bunch of specs and regulations that can be looked up as needed.

It's also not that profitable, which is why more people don't do it. The margins are pretty slim.

Disclosure: I work for an electricity retailer (although not in the UK).

There's an astonishing amount of bullshit talked about smart meters on this site.

Insecure? Look, there are over half a billion of the things installed worldwide, in places they've been operating for 10 years or more, and as yet I haven't seen a single verified report of hacking. I don't think they're invulnerable, I just think they're not a very exciting or lucrative target.

No gains for the customer? Are you telling me that UK retailers don't charge their customers when they send a guy in a van out to reconnect their meter? For us, that charge is fully 70% lower when the meter can be reconnected remotely.

No competition? Which? lists 192, that's one-hundred and ninety-two, different tariffs, from more than 30 different companies, to choose from for my old UK address. How much competition do you need, exactly?

Wrongful disconnection? Newsflash, we can do that with an old-fashioned meter too - the big difference with a smart meter is, it's a lot quicker to reconnect - and in either case our liability and your recourse are exactly the same.

It's not all roses, there's some perfectly valid arguments to be made against smart meters. But 99% of what passes for debate on this site, as on most others, is pure FUD - spread, I can only imagine, by electricity retailers whose databases are crap, and meter manufacturers (Landis & Gyr, I'm looking at you) whose meters are crap.

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Mushroom

Re: Doesn'nt Brexit make this optional?

the hacking one should be concerned about is of a nation state coming along, bricking the meters in London SW, then making a polite request for readjustments to UK foreign policy on pain of the rest of the meters getting it.

smart meters are a virtual neutron bomb. --->

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Re: Doesn'nt Brexit make this optional?

@cantankerous swineherd: If you wanted to screw with the UK's electricity supply, it'd be far easier and more effective to hack the National Grid, rather than trying to hack 100,000 separate meters made, installed and administered by 30 different companies.

Or you could just take down some of the baseload generation. Which is why it's such a dumb idea to rely on the Chinese, or the French for that matter, for that. Either of those countries could do more damage for way less effort than you're suggesting.

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Re: Doesn'nt Brexit make this optional?

> ... 100,000 separate meters made, installed and administered by 30 different companies

But all built to a common standard for comms and security, and linked up by one network, to one database.

And like the data is going to be ours (as per the article). Presumably that will mean it's ours in the same way as our health data - only as long as we are vigilant and kick up a sh*tstorm every time the government spots an opportunity to flog it if we don't realise and opt out. Or, of course, until it's leaked or the database is hacked, or ...

As has been said many times, almost all the benefits of "smart" meters can be done without any of the security problems or privacy intrusions. Remote meter reading doesn't need a detailed analysis by 1/2 hour of our consumption - it just needs a reading of each register.

But this is a "we can collect it, we don't bother with whether we should collect it".

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Mushroom

Re: Doesn'nt Brexit make this optional?

Oh noes!!! You mean they'll bring the country to it's knees because the electricity supply companies will have to fall back on estimating readings and a man in a van, again?!?? PANIC! HEAD FOR THE HILLS!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Doesn'nt Brexit make this optional?

You could shut down London for a couple of weeks with five guys with cars, a map, and a very small amount of explosive. (You wouldn't actually need explosive, you could do it with any tool capable of breaking steel: blowtorch, arc welder, possibly just an angle grinder.) I never understood why the IRA never tried it. It's super easy, very hard or impossible to defend against, and would cause -- well, imagine Greater London without electricity for ten days. It wouldn't be pretty.

Not going into details for obvious reasons.

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Once more nice to see the government subsidising big business. Thats a lot of cash to give to essentially, foreign businesses. If I was state owned (oops, I sound like a right leftie there!) I'd accept it, but it isn't.

Smart meters should allow INSTANT changing of tariffs and companies and you should be able to buy your electricity and gas the same way you buy your petrol. If BP looks a bit expensive on a given day just go down the road to Tesco etc etc. I don't understand why I can't just buy power in the same way, by the Kwh. I want 100 kwh at the agreed price or even just I'll use company X until I switch to company Y. Pay my bill, switch and so on. I'm telling you now, we'd get a very competitive market, low prices and stop getting ripped off.

The two blockers to this are

a) the energy companies, they make far too much money the way it stands. Why would they want to make less money. (I remember working for one that pretty much admitted that's why fuel bills/tariffs are so unreadable, stops you comparing to others easily!)

b) the government, they make VAT from fuel. So higher bills mean more money for them.

Weirdly I suspect if consumers actually had to pay attention to how much you are paying on a more regular basis (like when you fill up your car) you'd probably use less fuel so you'd achieve the fuel reduction they are looking for while saving money.

Still, logic, when has that ever got in the way of headlines and cash/tax grabbing from our overlords?

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WTF?

@ HollyHopDrive No Evidence To Date

I am not sure that most people do not know that turning something on will increase their bill and I thought that under the Dumb Meter scheme you can have a drawer filler, oops sorry a monitoring device to watch as you turn things on and off.

I do not want to disagree with what you said because I think you are broadly right but we turn things on and use them because we want them to do something and turn them off when we are done. Watching drivers act like they are on a drag strip or tyre testing course suggests that many are not aware of the relationship between heavy right foot and fuel bills.

Large utility bills do have some impact but who wants cold water baths, weeks old unwashed clothing etc.? I am guessing not too many.

However, I agree that the present system is about as broken as it can be, while still being able to minimally function.

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that would require

The companies to have some flat price per kwh and you to have continual access to all prices, and if that were possible we could devise software that kept switching all the time which would give them all a big headache

Far better to join you in the leftie revolution and take the whole lot into public ownership. Frankly I don't really care if that means employing too many people as that would mean paying less dole, and I dont mind if the company makes too much money as it would go back to the exchequer and mean less of an overdraft on the countries finances.

Unfortunately no political party is run by mere plebs who have to work to pay the bills, they are all run by the rich who have shares in all these companies and dont give a rats about the UK or the UK economy as long as they are richer by the week.

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Once more nice to see the government subsidising big business. Thats a lot of cash to give to essentially, foreign businesses.

Actually, over the medium term the only people making money in the energy markets have been people operating regulated assets (distribution networks) or following the money trail on subsidised renewable toys. Wholesale generation and supply businesses have been net losers.

If I was state owned (oops, I sound like a right leftie there!) I'd accept it, but it isn't.

No, but it is fully state controlled. The whole system is a series of jerry rigged markets created by the state, just using private capital. The whole networks operation is state directed and the spend and return dictated by the state. The state dictate what volume of renewables suppliers have to buy in the wholesale market. The state dictates the content and format of bills. The state approves the network codes that all participants have to abide by. The state says who has a licence to participate. The state sets the terms and effectively the cost of power by picking winners like wind turbines, solar PV, and nuclear. The state says when it wants to force existing fully functional coal plants out of the system. The state decides on daft rules like stopping offshore windfarms building their own connection to shore (adding vast costs to offshore wind's already high price). The state dictates that suppliers have to install millions of low-functionality smart meters. The state dictates what suppliers have to do to address fuel poverty (because heaven knows, high energy costs are all the fault of suppliers and not anything to do with this full state controlled system.

Now, in all of that, do you see the hand of private enterprise or competition? Or any customer-centric innovation? I'm as right wing as sane people come, but markets don't work in utility energy markets. Sadly, governments don't understand and it looks like the water market is going the same way. Before you castigate the current shower of piss over that, note that this has its roots in a process kicked off by the government in the Blair years.

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Re: @ HollyHopDrive No Evidence To Date

we turn things on and use them because we want them to do something and turn them off when we are done.

YOU might do, but WE, the "great" British public do not. We leave lights on (round my way, idiots floodlight the outside of their houses, ALL NIGHT, on the spurious grounds of security.) We leave TVs, radios, computers,.. etc etc plugged in, powered up, pulling current and doing nothing but keeping a red LED illuminated and watching for the "on" button to be pressed. We leave chargers and transformers attached to wall sockets. We waste a lot of electricity. If you don't believe me, put the price up x10 and see how demand goes down.

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Supplier savings = jobs lost

Just another victim of the rise of the machines.

https://despair.com/products/motivation

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Happy

Re: Supplier savings = jobs lost

Not round here.

The mobile signal is about as poor as you can get and still see any life in your phone. So "smart meters" don't work.

Now unless the government either wants to level the hills casting the radio shadow or prod the networks to actually provide a service I can't see anything changing. So denizens in this neck of the woods are safe, for now, from our machine overlords.

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Facepalm

Hmm...

"We were assured that consumers will own their data and be able to decide who can access it."

If that assured you then I have a bridge you may be interested in buying.

"Wider questions about processes for anonymisation and the ethics of data usage and consent will need to be considered carefully by the Data Services Ethics Council being set up by the Government following our big data dilemma report."

Government ethics have been unfavourably compared with those of an incontinent dog on a croquet lawn.

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FAIL

Re: "We were assured that consumers will own their data and be able to decide who can access it."

I must be into my fourth year with smart meters. During that time, they've been read once by the energy supplier that had it fitted (as I was leaving them), and subsequent suppliers have been reliant on me taking the readings from the display on the meters (the portable display that came with the meters can't do even this simple task, so I've long since disconnected it).

If nefarious third parties are pilfering my data, perhaps they'd like to offer their services to the energy companies?

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