back to article Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew how much your gas and electricity were costing you minute by minute by looking at a smartphone app, visiting a website or glancing at a wall display? You’d be in a much stronger position to reduce your energy bills and switch suppliers if you could. Thankfully, this data will soon be accessible …

  1. jzlondon

    MP editorials? Does this mean that the Register has now hit the proper mainstream? Congratulations.

    It's about time technology publications were treated seriously outside technology circles.

    1. xyz

      WTF.... I thought this was a joke until I got half way down the article....and this is the sort of twat that is running the country? I kept waiting for phrases like and "soon our boffins expect to come up with marvellous new devices called horseless carriages...spiffing." Jesus...unfuckingbelievable. How old are these people?

      Then I realised it was a joke...PHEW!!!

      Please tell me this is a joke..please

  2. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    I'm still not convinced smart meters will really help. I take energy usage seriously but I wouldn't gain much from such an app. By being interested in energy saving(*) I already know how to determine which appliances are the worst offenders(**). Those not interested will probably ignore the display anyway.

    And when all's said and done what is anyone supposed to do with the knowledge that their fridge is the biggest consumer? Go into the kitchen and give it a good talking to? Spend several hundred pounds replacing it with a newer model in order to save a quid a month?

    Does anyone really leave energy hogging appliances running excessively long without realising it? Would such people pay any attention anyway?

    I suppose that if the HID glows bright red and flashes with a 'whoop, whoop' siren when household consumption goes above some chosen limit that might trigger a response. But I suspect the likely response will be to throw the HID in the bin or a soundproof drawer rather than to turn off the appliances causing the problem.

    (*)More a hobby as a result of a lifetime of being a resource concious programmer.

    (**)Hint - the warmer it gets, the more power it consumes.

    1. jzlondon

      It's not all about cost. I'm just about to replace an old inherited freezer with a new model purely on efficiency grounds, but not because of the cost. Because of the CO2 emissions.

      Why is it so unpalatable to talk about CO2 savings these days? Why must everything be framed in terms of financial benefits alone?

      1. Infury8r

        EVERYTHING translates back to monetary value.

        1. Why save CO2? Atmospheric CO2 has been rising steadily these past 17 years, but global temperature has remained static. We've been misled that there is a definitive link.

        2. The £billions in cost of all the renewables foisted upon us is simply the cost some have calculated as being the 'lesser' cost of the hypothetical 'cost' of doing 'something', when in fact doing 'nothing' is the least cost solution.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: EVERYTHING translates back to monetary value.

          > Atmospheric CO2 has been rising steadily these past 17 years, but global temperature has remained static. We've been misled that there is a definitive link.

          Atmospheric CO2 has been rising since the 1800s (that's the industrial revolution - entirely coincidentally, I'm sure). How's the global temperature trending on that scale, do you think?

          > in fact doing 'nothing' is the least cost solution.

          If you only care about costs over the next 17 years, perhaps. Me, I'd like to try and avoid the possibility of dramatic climate shifts; in my lifetime or my descendants'. Not preparing for large changes tends to be very costly - individually, and to society/civilisation as a whole.

          1. JohnMurray

            Re: EVERYTHING translates back to monetary value.

            How's the temp trending over a century and a half?

            It's risen by nearly 0.9 degrees centigrade.

            If you graph it in whole degrees rather than the more impressive 1/10, it produces a nice flat line. As if mercury thermos' are that accurate anyway.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: EVERYTHING translates back to monetary value.

            " Me, I'd like to try and avoid the possibility of dramatic climate shifts; in my lifetime or my descendants'"

            Why?

            How do you know these climate shifts will

            a. happen at all

            b. be dramatic

            c. be a 'bad thing'

            Just asking because I can find no convincing answer to any of these questions.

          3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: EVERYTHING translates back to monetary value.

            I'd like to try and avoid the possibility of dramatic climate shifts; in my lifetime or my descendants

            Why? They've happened many times in the past, for a variety of reasons, and it's directly because of some of them that we're here at all. By preventing them you could be condemning your descendants to a life of stagnation and failure.

            That's only half tongue-in-cheek, we really have no idea of whether they'll happen, or what they'll do. I'm all in favour of not wasting finite natural resources like fossil fuels, which have other valuable uses than simply burning them, but we need some perspective here, looking at the whole picture and not relying on knee-jerk reactions to only one of many related issues.

        2. strum Silver badge

          Re: EVERYTHING translates back to monetary value.

          >We've been misled that there is a definitive link.

          You have been misled that your short-term thinking is worth a damn, in the face of mountains of contrary data.

          >when in fact doing 'nothing' is the least cost solution

          Go ahead. Do nothing. Don't drive, don't heat your home, don't eat. That is certainly the least cost solution.

        3. Stuart Castle

          Re: EVERYTHING translates back to monetary value.

          " Why save CO2? Atmospheric CO2 has been rising steadily these past 17 years, but global temperature has remained static. We've been misled that there is a definitive link."

          A friend of mine is doing climate research for Imperial College. He said a few years ago that the way the media has presented the concepts behind Climate Change is wrong and has simplified the problem too much. CO2 is apparently far from the only cause of Climate Change. Our weather system, along with many others in Nature, is incredibly complex. As such, IMO, it's entirely possible that the CO2 is too high, but that the system is compensating in some way.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hope you're going to freecycle that

        Because if your old freezer is still functional, by consuming a new one you are burdening the environment with the costs of: manufacturing a new one, disposing of the old one (depending how old, any chloroflurocarbons therein, working fluid or in the insulation, needs to be contained), and transportation to and from your house.

        Just sayin'...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "But I suspect the likely response will be to throw the HID in the bin or a soundproof drawer rather than to turn off the appliances causing the problem."

      Too true of human nature with something inconvenient. In the past early steam engines often had a brick on their safety valve. Then there were the people who solved the problem of a wire fuse regularly blowing - by replacing it with a nail. The list is endless - and the Darwin prize regularly adds new examples.

    3. John Bailey

      "I'm still not convinced smart meters will really help. I take energy usage seriously but I wouldn't gain much from such an app. By being interested in energy saving(*) I already know how to determine which appliances are the worst offenders(**). Those not interested will probably ignore the display anyway."

      And which ones have you used?

      Determining which appliance is a heavy user of electricity is not the same as seeing a real time energy use figure.

      (*)Then you should be delighted to see the introduction of a meter for both gas and electricity. You can track it all. Run experiments on different lighting, verify that the fridge door is closed, or that the light is not left on in the bathroom.

      (**) Like when you don't close it properly, or it is mostly cooling air, and you briefly open it, or when you turn it up too high, and it stops refrigerating, and starts freezing?

      Those not interested will not be interested, and hey.. water is wet.. SURPRISE..

      "And when all's said and done what is anyone supposed to do with the knowledge that their fridge is the biggest consumer? Go into the kitchen and give it a good talking to? Spend several hundred pounds replacing it with a newer model in order to save a quid a month?"

      Umm... you haven't bought a fridge in a long time.. have you?

      But what will real time awareness change?

      I had one for a few months when I was part of a beta test for a different product, and they used a little clamp meter to measure my electricity consumption before and after the tested item was fitted. The real time awareness alters behaviour.

      Turning the kettle on less often, turning the lights out when not in use. Not having the telly on when nobody is watching. Only using the oven when unavoidable..

      "Does anyone really leave energy hogging appliances running excessively long without realising it? Would such people pay any attention anyway?"

      Yes. I did. An extra 10 minutes or so preheating the oven.. No big deal..Right? And for heating up a frozen pizza. perfectly economical.. Right? And surely a flat screen TV doesn’t use that much leccy.. does it? And the kitchen light is a fluorescent.. low power.. innit.

      From experience, rather than contrarian conjecture.. When you have an up to the minute indication of how much electricity you are using right now,, It is surprising how often you think twice about starting the kettle boiling a second time, because you had to futz about with something for two minutes, or letting something defrost on the counter in it's own time, instead of sticking it in the microwave.

      But hey.. I'm sure you will use more power in protest.. Right?

      From experience.. It does indeed make a difference. From a high horse. many things are difficult to see.

    4. Someone Else Silver badge

      @ AndrueC --

      And when all's said and done what is anyone supposed to do with the knowledge that their fridge is the biggest consumer? Go into the kitchen and give it a good talking to?

      Perhaps if you're and MP...

      But this gave me a good giggle, so have an upvote!

    5. bluest.one

      The whole "helping you monotor your usage so you can save money" is a trojan horse to get the meters in your house. The idea that there is any altruism here is laughable.

      The real intention behind smart meters is time-sensitive charging, so the energy cartels can charge you more when energy use is high.

      In other words: if you're hungry at 6pm and want your dinner, you better be prepared to pay extra for cooking it when everyone else is doing the same.

    6. Charles Manning

      Do something... anything...

      There are two groups of people who think Smart Metering/IoT is great:

      (A) Those that are going to make huge money out of it - regardless of whether it works or not. Big engineering companies smell the gravy.

      (B) Those that want to be seen to be part of setting up impressive (to the unwashed) clever sounding tech like Smart Meters, Smart Grids etc. These are mostly the politicians who want to be seen to be doing something.

      People that actually sit down and analyse this stuff soon realise that we're trying to use a tech hammer to beat something that is not really a tech problem.

      The biggest argument behind Smart Metering is that the leccy price will change with demand. The customers will know what the current price is and thus modify their usage to reduce consumption.

      Is anyone really going to turn off their appliances when the electricity rate go up a bit?

      No, I won't watch TV at 7pm. I'll wake up at 2am and watch then when the leccy is cheaper. Oh, and dinner's going to be at midnight. And I'll skip charging the leccy car tonight... Really?

      Most of our electricty usage is very hard to defer without seriously disrupting our day-to-day lives. We want it now - not in a few hours time.

      About the only load that is really easy to move in time is water heating. That's been handled - well - by ripple control for at least 30 years.

      We all shake our heads at the $100M IT refit projects that don't stack up. Smart Metering is going to be worse.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You can already get devices that clip onto the existing mains cable that give a pretty good idea of what power you are using. Here in Australia the local council went round issuing them for all households along with some other bits and bobs for $50. I believe they're actually from a UK company more to the point. Therefore these solutions exist. The smart meter is just there to fleece the customer for fitting it and to allow the power company to fuck them forever more.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    I had one of those sort of smart meter things

    ...you know the ones supplied by British Gas. It sat there looking pretty, wasting electricity.

    Still I did save a lot of money....I changed supplier.

  4. Steve Medway

    "Why can’t we switch supplier within the hour with our meter reading?"

    That will be because of the data transfer catalogue (DTC) and the amount of messages that need to go between the new and old supplier plus mop (meter operator), dc (data collector) and the da (data agragator).

    There isn't even a common field standard where economy7 meter readings are kept (even at the same electric supplier)! So it ain't so simple.....

    Classic example, from memory a DTC 'D69' message is a 'confirmation of an objection rejection removal' message, there are bloody hundreds of the things.... (A bog standard transfer involves about 40 DTC messages though).

    1. MyffyW Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Why can't we switch supplier within the hour

      Good article. I must be getting old when I find myself agreeing with the Conservative member for Windsor.

      Thanks Steve Medway, hadn't realised quite how Byzantine the switching process was behind the scenes. Assuming this could be simplified it would certainly be more worthwhile than a rip-and-replace on everyone's meter.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If these meters were truely smart.....

        If these meters were truely smart they would automatically switched to the cheapest supplier on a second by second basis, directly paying for the electricity as I used it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If these meters were truely smart.....

          "If these meters were truely smart they would automatically switched to the cheapest supplier on a second by second basis, directly paying for the electricity as I used it."

          If you had automated switching it'd actually be on half hourly metering periods, because that's how the market conducts balancing and settlement. Automating switching to the cheapest tariff is conceptually simple.

          But the role of suppliers is not merely sending you a bill, it is primarily contracting generation, hedging, balancing and settling energy accounts, and settling all the related systems charges, then offering that as a bundled flat rate tariff. Whilst sending the bills is the most visible activity it is also the least significant thing energy suppliers do. If the whole market is on automatic switching, then the suppliers can't contract generation ahead (because they'd go bust as soon as they found themselves out of balance, with take or pay contracts but no customers to sell to). What that means is that if you have automatic switching of tariff, then you're asking to participate in the wholesale electricity market. In theory the suppliers could operate in the spot market on customers behalf, but it's still a race to see who goes bust first, a bit like demanding that Tesco should sell to you at the price it pays wholesalers.

          Lets' assume you want those peachy wholesale energy prices, that at face value look to be about half of retail electricity costs. But government need to raise about a billion quid a year to fritter on their beloved social obligations, so that'd gravitate to a new tax on energy supplied, or higher income tax. Then you've got the problem that wholesale power prices vary all day and all year round. Forward contract prices vary by a factor of three summer through to winter, and in winter you use three times as much leccy, so your December electricity bill will be around ten times your August bill (and without suppliers there's no monthly direct debit on offer). But even that variation assumes you contract your demand profile with a generator (because those are forward not spot prices). In that case if you use more than you;ve contracted in any half hour then you are "out of balance" and you would be hit for penalty payments because you want power beyond what you've contracted to buy. That means as much as 100x charges for the out of balance power, because in practical terms you're the person paying for all opex and capex on a generator that only runs for three hours a year. All of this risk and complexity is why we have electricity suppliers.

          And even with that potential world of complexity and pain, as you've eliminated the supplier role, you need to rent your meter from somebody (or buy your own, and agree a service and assurance contract with somebody so that the meter can participate in the market. Oh, and lastly, unless you buy a separate hedging contract, then you're exposed to swings in wholesale energy prices over and above the normal daily and seasonal variations. You'll also need to pay feed in tariff subsidies to all the pensioners with solar PV on their bungalows.

          And since you're in the wholesale market, you'll need to pay separately for electricity transmission systems costs, balancing system costs, and distribution costs. Distribution costs in particular at a bu99er, because they have a fixed charge, a maximum capacity element, unit charges that vary across three different times of day, and extra for reactive power (with so much domestic demand from CFL lighting, LED lights and displays, and refridgerant compressors you can expect to be hit for these).

          You could of course contract an energy generator to do all this for you, and cut out the supplier.....except that they are then your supplier. The underlying cost structure and complexity of the industry won't change, so it'd be no different to how things are today (although worth noting that the spotty lawyers who populate OFGEM earnestly believe that integration between suppliers and generators is a problem).

          So yes, it can be done, but just be careful what you wish for.

          1. chris 17 Bronze badge

            Re: If these meters were truely smart.....

            If the complexity is the problem, then they should rip up the established procedures and start again. Keep It Simple and cut out the hidden costs. I don't in principle have an issue buying a service contract to cover the meter & distribution, & pay separately for my billing & then separately again for social contributions and green levies, if overall it is cheaper. I'd look to piece together a portfolio of cheap components to build and satisfy my energy supply needs.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: If these meters were truely smart.....@chris 17

              "If the complexity is the problem, then they should rip up the established procedures and start again. Keep It Simple and cut out the hidden costs."

              The complexity is driven by unfortunate hard reality, and the outcome wouldn't be any different if you ran your own power generating set. Electricity involves capital assets, it cannot be stored, and therefore you have some assets that are used only infrequently, meaning that the cost varies. If you need one extra GW of plant to serve demand for ten hours in the winter, that's a £250m asset that will have a load factor of 0.1%. The cost of capital doesn't change on lower utilisation, and unfortunately even that low utilisation won't make it last any longer. The same concept exists for distribution, in that capacity costs are divided according to when you use power. And when you contract to buy electricity, because it can't be stored (cheaply or efficiently) you have to commit on a near take or pay basis.

              All the complexity follows from these simple concepts. If you want it simpler, then rather than industry "ripping up established procedures", you need to change your demand to a load profile that matches somebody's generation asset - either by turning things on and off as the wind blows, or by creating completely flat demand that suits nuclear.

              If it's that simple, set up your own power cooperative. Borrow to buy a package spark ignition generator, and see how you get on "off grid". If you run the genset to follow a domestic load profile you'll very rarely be running at optimal efficiency, and you'll have a double the number of breakdowns due to the thermal and mechanical stresses (my company has tried this, we know). And because your genset has to cover winter peak demand (all the lights, fan heaters, tellies, hair dryers, cookers all on at the same time) you'll have to buy one that's too large for 99% of your use, making it both expensive and inefficient.

              The only simple solution is to live without electricity.

          2. gwangy
            Alert

            I foresee a future

            Where maybe thre is only ONE energy supplier, so all the competition nonsense is stripped out. Its run for the benefit of consumers, so all the dividends are stripped out. And the company would choose a balanced mix of sources commensurate with economy,emissions and energy security. That company is called British Energy, a nationalised, combined Conglomerate.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem isn't so much the DTC and the change of supply process (which is long, convoluted and designed for an era of overnight batch processing). That can be overcome (at a massive cost to suppliers and customers). A more significant barrier is billing. You can't switch in an hour if it takes days for direct debits and bank authorisations to be set up. One way to go would be to centralise payments through a separate company (like prepayment meter payments are handled at the moment), but there are huge problems in that area that would need resolving first.

      1. chris 17 Bronze badge

        All accounts should be registered with OfGem and the accounts and billing data sent from OfGem to your chosen provider at the mutual pre arranged schedule. There should be less changes required for changing provider and OfGem have all the data to check if the market is working properly and if people are paying over the odds.

    3. Clown Shoes

      Why can’t we switch supplier within the hour with our meter reading?

      Why do you need to? You're buying power as a retail customer, not a day trader.

      When I switched suppliers (EDF to Ovo), it took me ten minutes on the phone to arrange for my supplier to change at the end of the month. At the end of the month I entered my meter reading on their website and my final bills got calculated automatically.

      It was two weeks between me making the phone call and the switch happening, but setting it up only took a week and I personally only had to make one phone call.

  5. frymaster

    Smartphone app

    "why can’t we just use an approved smartphone app for ad hoc readings today?"

    My supplier (British Gas) lets me do just that

  6. Ole Juul Silver badge

    Perfectly logical

    The reason you need a smart meter is so that the people who make smart meters can sell them.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Perfectly logical

      The reason you need a smart meter is so that the people who make smart meters can sell them.

      And the people who make appliances can use the information as a marketing tool to persuade us to replace perfectly functional things with newer versions.

      And never forget of course that the government can increase taxes to pay for this (and prolly 'forget' to lower them later when it's complete) in order to protect the environment and future generations.

      Oh dear. My cynicism seems to be showing :-/

      1. Flatpackhamster

        Re: Perfectly logical

        And so that energy companies can use them to cut your power when there's not enough on the grid. They are a back-door mechanism for power rationing due to a failure to build enough capacity, thanks to a truly batshit crazy obsession with CO2 emissions.

    2. JohnMurray

      Re: Perfectly logical

      And the companies can have MP's on the board, if not owning them!

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        @JohnMurray

        "And the companies can have MP's on the board, if not owning them!"

        Let's not forget the reason this item is included in legislation is someone bunged a Lord to include it in the relevant legislation.

        There is no EU mandate for it if it's too difficult (or expansive) for the country to do it.

  7. Richard 12 Silver badge
    WTF?

    I'm astounded

    We should legislate for the outcome, not a specific technological solution.

    An MP with a brain!

    Even more astounding, he's a member of a political party and he managed to keep his brain.

    1. Stern Fenster

      Re: I'm astounded

      > Even more astounding, he's a member of a political party and he managed to keep his brain.

      "When in that house MPs divide,

      If they've a brain and cerebellum too,

      They've got to leave that brain outside

      And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to".

      (WS Gilbert, "Iolanthe", 1882)

      Nothing changes.

    2. Squander Two

      Re: I'm astounded

      Yes, that sentence just leapt out at me as well. From an MP? Unbelievable.

      I had not heard of Mr Afriyie until a few minutes ago. I am now willing to believe that maybe he should be Prime Minister.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm astounded

        Yes... This is what he's hoping for!

      2. Squander Two

        Statistics

        Point out that Adam Afriyie has a brain: 22 upvotes.

        Suggest that maybe he might be PM material: 2 downvotes.

        9% of Register readers demand brainless Prime Ministers.

        1. Squander Two

          Talking of brainless....

          8%! Fucking moron.

  8. Down not across Silver badge

    We don't need no new meters

    If possible, we should look for a less expensive solution that gets the same job done. For example, rather than seeing your energy use on a wall unit, why shouldn’t you be able to view it online or through a mobile app instead? This would save us the estimated £228m cost of installing in-home display units (IHDs). Rather than installing a whole new meter, why can’t we just stick a small camera or reading device onto your existing meter which can regularly record and transcribe the current meter reading? And why can’t we just use an approved smartphone app for ad hoc readings today? This is now perfectly feasible and these readings should be accepted by the energy suppliers.

    I'm shocked. Some sense finally. Replacing perfectly good working meters is pure insanity, not to mention the various issues should the meter be remotely controllable.

    The simplest solution to instant readings for power companies (and far cheaper than new meter) would be using the existing induction pickups coupled with a small GSM (or other radio) that would periodically send updates.

    Reading the meter optically is another (and perhaps more reliable) method and has already been done many times at hobbyist level. That dot on the wheel is rather easy to pick up (and saves trying to OCR the digits).

    Also should you change suppliers, new supplier can provide their kit (or new SIM for GSM etc).

    1. JohnMurray

      Re: We don't need no new meters

      But then the meter-makers-installers would be minus several billions. Better they have the money rather than us. Like the man said: Follow The Money. Whenever a gov decides we need to spend tens of billions, to no reasonable gain, check the companies directors/owners against who's-who. Then look around for a hedge fund.

    2. chris 17 Bronze badge

      Re: We don't need no new meters

      Just need one central account linked to one smart meter then utility providers can provide billing from the data sent to that 1 account.

      1 Regulator in the customers favour can then work through billing and other disputes with the providers.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I honestly can't see a point in fitting smart meters. For the vast majority of people I think it will work like this:

    Monday: Meter fitted

    Tuesday: "Bloody hell I'm using a lot of electricity" - sound of rushing around the house switching everything off.

    Wednesday: ...a quiet day...

    Thursday: Everything is back to how it was Monday after they discover switching off a wall wart makes no difference other than they have to keep bending down to switch it on.

    Anyone who actually really cares about saving energy will almost certainly have already done all the simple things to save power and none of them require you to see your meter reading in real time. I sat down one time and did the calculations for the break even if we replaced our fridge with a more economical model. The new fridge would need to last about 10 years but considering the old one still has some life in it replacement would actually cost us money.

    I actually thought about building an automated meter reader. We have an electricity meter with a flashing light and it would be easy to just count the flashes. I'm sure someone with EE skills could build a device that cost peanuts and ran on goodwill.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      I actually thought about building an automated meter reader. We have an electricity meter with a flashing light and it would be easy to just count the flashes. I'm sure someone with EE skills could build a device that cost peanuts and ran on goodwill.

      Indeed it has. Many times.

      http://www.airsensor.co.uk/component/zoo/item/energy-monitor.html

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I actually thought about building an automated meter reader. We have an electricity meter with a flashing light and it would be easy to just count the flashes. I'm sure someone with EE skills could build a device that cost peanuts and ran on goodwill."

      The units themselves will be no more expensive than the ageing mechanical meters they replace (possibly much cheaper in volume). The main cost driver is the relatively precipitate replacement programme that has been mandated by the EU, and that means prices go up as supply and fitting skills are constrained, and it means higher write off costs for the mechanical meters.

  10. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Flame

    Here's an idea.

    We have some sort of meter on the wall that tots up the kWhrs we use. Once every three months, say, a chap comes round and looks at the number, and calculates a bill based on that amount. This bill is written on a piece of paper which drops on the doormat a few days later; the householder instructs his bank to make a payment.

    The onus should be on the supplier to measure the usage. Not estimate it; measure it. Requiring the householder to measure it, whether it's by looking at the meter or by using a smartphone application (hmm, wonder how many security holes will be baked in?) is the wrong approach entirely.

    Do away with smart meters. They're a waste of space, time, and money.

    If people can't work out that leaving the oven or the heating or twenty-seven halogen lights on is costing them a fortune, they're not going to make any changes just because a little light tells them to.

    This is an overcomplicated solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

    1. Dan Paul

      Re: Here's an idea. (Human power)

      I tend to agree that smart meters are a waste because the REAL reason is that power companies are looking for a way to get rid of those nice folks that come to your house and read the "dumb" meter.

      One less "union man" equals more dosh in a greedy power supplier's pocket.

      1. David Lawrence

        Re: Here's an idea. (Human power)

        I would just like to point out a few home truths to Mr Paul and other haters, who probably hate 'greedy suppliers' in the same way that they are programmed to hate other large establishments that the Daily Mail tells them to hate.

        And here are the facts....

        1. The Suppliers operate to smaller profit margins than most other 'service providers' including your mobile phone network provider. It's around 4 or 5 per cent. Not a great deal really for the huge risks and responsibilities they face.

        2. SMART metering is a government mandate, not some get-rich-scheme concocted by the suppliers.

        3. Yes it does mean the end for traditional meter readers however the new meters are more sophisticated, and therefore they will break more frequently. Suppliers still have an obligation to visit and inspect on a regular basis so the workforce reduction will not be as great as you may think, and other costs (eg network, equipment, infrastructure) will actually be far higher.

        I personally think that SMART meters are a bad idea as they only really deliver.....]

        1. Real time information to tell you where your money is being burned (when you actually cannot do very much about a large proportion of that, unless you want to fit solar panels).

        2. An end to estimated bills.

        The former can be addressed with a much cheaper, simpler device which simply clamps around the main power cable going into the meter.

        The latter is a total non-problem unless you are so lazy you can't be arsed to even provide a meter reading when you move house, in which case you get what you deserve. Most (not all, admittedly) people pay by monthly instalments which are worked out based on annual consumption, so who gives a monkey's about estimated bills anyway? Eveyone has the absolute right to alter their DD payments if they can provide evidence that they are not consuming as much energy as their Supplier thinks. Of course, if they are wrong they will have to face the consequences of that mistake - which may be a lump-sum payment demand if they switch supplier.

        Other people on here like the idea of real-time supplier switching..... sure, great idea but it ruins the concept of payment by monthly DD. If you want that then you will also probably have to accept a future where all Suppliers run like mobile phone providers on a 'pay as you go' type arrangement... you know - pay first then get the energy to consume. As someone else already pointed out "be careful what you wish for".

        1. Dan Paul

          Re: Here's an idea. (Human power)

          Mr. Lawrence, I do not read the Daily Mail. I do not believe that smart meters have any value to anyone except greedy electric companies. Smart Metering is a scheme produced by those same electric companies to remove even more people from the workforce. Lobbying the government to push smart metering is the same thing as scheming (conspiring) to do it.

          There is no way that any single "smart meter" could tell real time WHERE you are using electricity, only HOW MUCH. You would need a current meter on each of your CIRCUITS in order to tell WHERE you are using electricity. I SELL power metering technology.

          Estimated billing is only done because the greedy electric companies will never hire enough meter readers to visit all the meters in a timely fashion in the first place.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Here's an idea. (Human power)

          @David Lawrence "The latter is a total non-problem unless you are so lazy you can't be arsed to even provide a meter reading"

          Due to a disability i cant get across the garden to the Gas meter, I would like a smart meter for this reason so that so i can get readings BUT the utility company wont supply one and where the meter is located is outside away from power (and my flat) so if it needs power they wont be able to fit one anyway, my electricity meter is "smart!"

          i would like meters that report to me internally on a real time basis on a local network (using high security and encryption) so i could access stats on any device on the network, but only reports to the company preferably only Monthly not hourly or more often as the amount of data that this gives the Utility company about my lifestyle is more than i am comfortable with. i also don't want the utility company to have remote control of the meter. it has been Proved that the security is so non existent or so poor that an attacker can take control of and shut down supply of individual meters or all meters of the same type in a geographical location.

          a simple pulse block and a transmitter should upgrade my existing meter without having to change the whole meter. and if connected to something like openenergymonitor.org or open HAB, i get all the data to control my usage (if i want) without the utility company having it. Then I would just need a routine writing on the local server to take the data once a month and securely submit it to the utility suppliers website so no manual interaction needed.( by me or the utility company) No estimated bills and no new expensive, insecure, intrusive smart meter.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Here's an idea.@Neil Barnes

      " Once every three months, say, a chap comes round and looks at the number, and calculates a bill based on that amount...Do away with smart meters...an overcomplicated solution to a problem that doesn't exist.."

      If you believe this, why are you reading a tech web site? I hope you posted this by typewriter (and only then if your quill pen wouldn't access the internet).

      In reality my company's meter readers have to try and get access to meters inside houses where there's nobody in when they call, or where the occupants are actively trying to avoid having the meter read, or don't want strangers in their house. Then there's outdoor meters that are accessed via a gated development they can't get into to, or via a garden with an ugly dog. Then there's "unreadables" where the meter stopped working or was deliberately vandalised months ago but we never knew, or even meter cabinets bricked up, or with garden sheds across the front. The manual meter reading success rate is abysmal. That then (along with customer mis-reads, or reluctance to read) causes inaccurate bills. There's an overlay of the monthly direct debit for some customers that causes pain, confusion and customer service costs. It also means that the energy suppliers have to plan their business on guessed levels of customer demand because we have to balance and settle on half hourly periods, so knowing what residential customers used over three months is no f***ing use whatsoever, other than to send you the inaccurate bill. And when we have to guess demand, we get it wrong, that means penalties in the market, and your costs go up.

      There's a lot of benefits to smart meters, but almost none of them are accurately recognised by the government analysis. Our experience on many thousands of smartmeters installed is that electricity demand reduces permanently by around 4% (gas is around 1% reduction or less). We can't really say whether that's better meter accuracy, or customer reaction to the new meter, but it's measurable across large numbers of meters, and those savings are in customers' pockets forever. Then there's the fact that we save both on manual meter readings (only about £15 a year) and upon all the mis-billing costs of estimated bills, and upon the costs of customer service to sort out resultant direct debit problems. Behind the scenes we can reduce our balancing and settlement costs, and we can reduce the costs and pain of moving people on or off pre-payment meters. We can offer new tariffs if people want time of use tariffs we can do that - and indeed adjust the times easily if that's sensible, unlike the set in stone Economy 7 times. If the regulator doesn't mess it up through Utopian Socialism we can even reduce the costs of bad debt and bad debt recovery. With a bit of luck we may even be able to pro-actively respond to lifestyle changes which at the moment are a notable cause of direct debits getting out of hand because usage patterns change compared to the assumptions underlying the direct debit. We also believe that the solid state meters will be more reliable and more accurate than mechanical meters.

      There's things not to like about smart meters - the pointless in home display, the central warehousing of meter data, the unduly and expensively fast roll out programme, and the usual fraudulent green agenda being forced by the EU, but to suggest you'd prefer a flat capped MEB employee to come round and read your meter is akin to saying that's you'd rather go back to the old dial telephones and the GPO. Say hello to 1971 when you get there.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Here's an idea.@Neil Barnes

        Read my second paragraph, Ledswinger. I believe the site lacks a sarcasm icon...

        No problem at all with a meter which can be read remotely by the supplier - provided it can be read by no-one else, and all the obvious fraud channels are closed. That's a sensible use of the technology. This is stuff that could and should have happened years ago. There is in truth no need for a man in a hat hammering on the door - save that it will always be necessary to inspect from time to time to see who's bypassed the unit or stuck a nail through it, as you point out happens currently.

        An all-singing all-dancing happy smiley touchy feelie application that is there primarily so that politicians can pretend that people are 'in control' and 'have choice' and that this will significantly change their behaviour? That's pointless gimcrackery.

  11. steve harris

    Security risks? Fraud risks?

    Do I really want my electricity meter exposed to the 3bn people currently using the internet? How much money is it going to save me? Versus how much risk I run from being defrauded? From having a 'denial of power' attack from some script kiddie?

    I think this needs several years of serious thinking through - and not by some half baked CS group hoping to make it big in Silicon Valley, dancing to the tune of their venture capitalists all with the sole goal of selling the idea to a big US corporation ... this whole 'internet of things' gold rush is scary - if people can hack my television, well, whoopee-kak. Hack my utility meters? Domestic appliances with fire risks? Windows? Doors? Over my dead body!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Security risks? Fraud risks?

      It should generate a good market in Dummy Loads that you can leave plugged in while you are on holiday.

  12. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Boffin

    He's dead right.

    Modern electronic meters have a LED on the front, that blinks for each Wh. A stick-on receiver would be able to count the flashes.

    Gas meters have "volt-free contacts" that could be connected to a counter. They've had them a long time - back in the 90's I was part of a team that made an energy logger*. It had "pulse" inputs precisely for this reason.

    * Hi to the rest of the Hawk 5000 posse :-)

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: He's dead right.

      Modern electronic meters have a LED on the front,

      My 35 year old house has analogue dials for meter reading. And a fusebox that uses actual fuse wire. Come to think of it a better way to spend money might(*) be to pay to have the consumer unit in properties like mine upgraded.

      (*)When it involves (however indirectly) taxation I always struggle to come up with a good reason for spending money.

  13. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    Why bother?

    At the beginning of this year I borrowed a set of energy-meters from a client for a weekend. Stuck them on pretty much every appliance in the house, gathered the data into a spreadsheet... and discovered that I was spending something like £3 a day on electricity. Part of which was a standing-charge.

    Remember - this was in winter. In summer it's probably half that (though the dehumidifier occasionally gets intensive use).

    Honestly, even if through the use of a 'smart' meter I cut my electricity utilisation to *zero* then the saving is well down in the noise - there's at least three times that amount of daily variance in the cost of my wine-consumption.

    Fretting about whether your fridge is costing you 20p or 22p a day to run - well, get over it and get a life.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why bother?

      True, I don't care either about 2p (or 10p) a day difference in the electricity ... but then I'm not living on the breadline. But if someone can somehow save (e.g.) 4p a day on electricity (albeit by other means than buying a new fridge), then by the end of the week, they could afford an extra can of Tesco value baked beans. Such tiny amounts are not always irrelevant to everyone.

    2. Badvok
      Mushroom

      Re: Why bother?

      Oooh, look at you, you don't really care about spending £90 per month on electricity. Maybe you should wake up, take a look around you and notice that some people struggle to find that amount of money for food.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why bother?

        And me saving money on my electricity would help them buy more food how exactly ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And me saving money on my electricity would help them [how?]

          I was just pointing out that your situation isn't the same as everybody else - your (and my) ability to dismiss such"tiny" savings as irrelevant does not mean such savings are irrelevant to everyone.

          It was the OP who told everyone to "get a life", implying a universal message, not me.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Why bother?

        spending £90 per month on electricity ... some people struggle to find that amount of money for food.

        And spending £200 of taxpayers money on a smart meter to tell them how much electricity they're using every instant is going to help them how, precisely?

        If they're that short of cash you can be sure that they're already very aware of their electricity use, and switching off everything they don't need. They probably also don't have the smartphone or broadband that they'd need for a "smart app" either.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why bother?

        "Maybe you should wake up, take a look around you and notice that some people struggle to find that amount of money for food."

        All the social housing round my neck of the woods has a Sky dish on the side, and the denizens all appear well equipped with fashionable mobiles, and more able than I am to go down the pub regularly. Maybe they should prioritise their spending if there's not much left for food?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why bother?

          Just because "social housing round [your] neck of the woods" seems to be inhabited by those not on the breadline doesn't mean that there are no people in that situation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why bother?

            "Just because "social housing round [your] neck of the woods" seems to be inhabited by those not on the breadline doesn't mean that there are no people in that situation."

            That's true. But the failings of the welfare state or employment policy should be addressed in those areas, rather than trying to artificially force down the costs of energy. Spending £200 on a smart meter might not help the legendary poor, but actually their bill doesn't take a £200 hit today. The costs of the new meters will be amortised and blended into bills over many years, JUST AS MECHANICAL METER COSTS ALREADY ARE. Given the modest efficiencies that smart meters incur, the actual cost of the programme on bills is probably neutral to moderately positive over the longer term.

            Having said that, there always were better ways of spending the circa £14bn that the programme will cost in the UK, but unless you believe the limp-wristed British government could and would tell the EU to sling its hook, then the requirement is enshrined in EU and UK law, along with all the other drivers of higher energy costs - renewables, carbon taxes, energy efficiency schemes and the like.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Why bother?

              "JUST AS MECHANICAL METER COSTS ALREADY ARE"

              Just as mechanical meter costs USED TO BE, shurely?

              Post privatisation, the industry does nothing unless there is a short term profit to be had.

              When it was state owned it was entirely reasonable to expect meter costs to be amortised over the lifetime of the meter (a couple of decades for coils and clockwork?).

              The privatised successors deploying relatively short lived smartmeters want their short term payback, and they want it NOW. That's the way of the market.

  14. David Roberts Silver badge

    Which devices are using resources?

    A smart meter won't be able to tell you which appliance is using gas or electricity without either a massive infrastructure upgrade or intelligence associated with each device.

    Obvious example - your gas meter just measures bulk flow and doesn't know if it is the cooker or the boiler using it.

    So if you require intelligence at each device then once you know what each device is doing and you don't need intelligence at the meter.

    Presumably all the fluff is just to conceal the fact that this is an installation of automated meter reading to put meter readers out of a job.

    There is of course the issue of people who don't have an internet connection or a smart phone to enable one of the simple DIY home reading schemes, but this surely doesn't justify replacing every meter in the land.

    Granted that it would be nice to include instant reading at the point of switching between suppliers, but simple add on devices could do that much more cheaply, as suggested in the article.

    So time for a re think.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Which devices are using resources?

      "A smart meter won't be able to tell you which appliance is using gas or electricity"

      Apart from the meter having no idea which appliance is actually consuming the energy, a 'current consumption' metric is meaningless to your average home owner. The only number that matters to them would be a projected cost of the energy at the end of the quarter.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Which devices are using resources?

      "Presumably all the fluff is just to conceal the fact that this is an installation of automated meter reading to put meter readers out of a job."

      Smart meters are mandated by EU law, not by a business case from energy companies. My employers have no desire to own a fleet of millions of meters, so anybody believing that industry asked for this needs their head examining. As noted elsewhere, the costs of smart metering we think will be covered by the systemic savings, but the few quid a year from manual meter reading is only a small component of the savings.

      1. Graham Cobb

        Re: Which devices are using resources?

        @Ledswinger

        I note your claims that the industry didn't ask for this, but I find that hard to believe. Of course, I don't think they asked for it to make life easier for consumers, or to help them save money. What the industry wants is remote control. That is the single biggest benefit to the suppliers.

        There is no need for smart meters to include remote control: it increases cost, decreases reliability of the meter and massively decreases the reliability of the electrical supply when billing and admin mistakes are included. When I last switched suppliers, the new supplier forgot to take the direct debit and also forgot to send me any bills or even any letters saying I owed them any money. The first I heard of the problem was a phone call at 7AM from a debt collector accusing me of owing money! The supplier accepted full responsibility for their mistake, and paid me compensation for my trouble. But if I had had a smart meter, the first I would have heard was a power cut of, presumably, several days duration as I arranged for them to use the direct debit thay had on file.

        I replied to the government consultation saying that the "remote control" feature should be able to be overriden with a physical (purely mechanical) bypass by the consumer, unless they were on a pre-payment tariff, and that under no circumstances should the supplier be able to cut anyone off without sending someone on-site (as well as all the other protections required today). The supplier could offer me cheaper tariffs if I was willing to leave the remote control available, but I would always have the choice of bypassing the remote control (possibly automatically switching to a higher tariff).

        I live in a rural area and my electricity supply is unreliable enough already without introducing additional points of failure (physical and administrative).

  15. stu 4

    Smappee

    I bought a smappee (smappee.com) 2 weeks ago.

    Don't buy one - they are utter shite.

    most of features don't work, support is terrible and app is flaky.

  16. Andrew Hill

    What we really need is more nuclear power stations so we don't have to worry about how much energy we are using.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      A bit before my time but I seem to recall the refrain was "Electricity too cheap to meter", that worked a treat didn't it.

      There is no reason to be profligate just because we have high generating capacity, anyway replacing all generating with nuclear wouldn't work as nuclear is only really suitable for the baseline generation we'd still need near-line generators that can be rapidly brought on line to meed transient demand or to fill in when there's little wind, this can be done with hydro or gas both of which can go from idle to generating in a few minutes, to take coal or nuclear from idle to full capacity can take hours or even days.

      Anyway generating with fusion is only 20 years away and that will really be a game changer, strangely fusion has been "20 years away" for the last 30 or so years but we'll get there eventually.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "we'd still need near-line generators that can be rapidly brought on line to meed transient demand or to fill in when there's little wind, this can be done with hydro or gas both of which can go from idle to generating in a few minutes,"

        Many hydro installations can go from off to generating in 20-30 seconds. NG combustion plants take about 20 minutes and combined cycle natural gas turbines can take 40+ minutes to come online.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "What we really need is more nuclear power stations so we don't have to worry about how much energy we are using."

      Sounds like you don't give a toss about the huge holes which have to be dug in other countries to source the Uranium for the reactors, nor do you give a toss about the highly radioactive waste which has to be stored somewhere(*) for many lifetimes after you used the electricity to watch 'match of the day'...

      (* Or tossed in barrels into deep bits of the Ocean, as the Americans had a habit of doing in the '80s ... http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304773104579268563658319196, which should remind you that the nuclear industry is as willing to take short cuts for $$profit$$ as any other)

  17. CABVolunteer
    Thumb Down

    ".... and the energy company EDF has said that a smartphone app would be quicker to roll-out and cheaper for consumers."

    How would the 'smartphone app' work without changing the meter? My guess is that the energy companies have zero interest in consumer monitoring of energy demand but a keen interest in monitoring each consumer's usage AND the ability to remotely disconnect or 'reduce to the statutory minimum energy flow to preserve life' without having to send out a crew to cut the cable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: the ability to remotely disconnect

      "a keen interest in monitoring each consumer's usage AND the ability to remotely disconnect or 'reduce to the statutory minimum energy flow to preserve life' without having to send out a crew to cut the cable."

      At last!

      Somebody gets it, and thus needs more than an upvote.

      Well said.

      It seems appropriate to point out that an electrity *monitor* can be done after a fashion without needing much installation or much cost. To be able to offer *control* as well does need something being installed and does imply much more cost. This is independent of any legislation which may currently allegedly prevent smart meters being used for remote disconnection. Legislation can be changed within hours if the need arises (e.g. recent UK "data retention" clarifications).

      The words of Professor Ross Anderson (Cambridge) on smartmeters are worth a look. See e.g.

      http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/Papers/meters-offswitch.pdf

    2. Paul Kinsler

      Re: How would the 'smartphone app' work without changing the meter?

      Perhaps by taking a dated photo of the meter, and sending it to the energy supplier? :-)

  18. Infury8r

    Human meter readers perform one unsung task that Smart Meters will never replicate. Regular visits by the humble meter reader is the first line of defence against energy & fuel theft via meter-tampering.

    And every other consumer pays for that theft.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      I wonder how many meter readers for how long you get for your eleven billion?

      Don't forget to factor in the redundancy payments...

    2. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Stop

      er ... actually

      a 100% mesh grid of smart meters will tell you *exactly* where the leccy/gas is being pilfered from.

      1. Infury8r

        Re: er ... actually

        "A 100% mesh grid of smart meters will tell you *exactly* where the leccy/gas is being pilfered from."

        On the contrary, it'll simply tell you that some is being stolen. But the companies 'know' that anyway, because the quantities they bill for, are less than the quantities they pay for.

    3. Dan Paul

      Exactly!

      They perform another task. Making the greedy electricity company pay for their salary. As they should for any meter that they want for billing their electricity. All legislation for smart meters should specify the cost shall NEVER be passed on to the consumer because this meter is not YOURS but THEIRS!

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Exactly!

        How does that work?

        Companies have to pay for many things - office space, cleaners etc.

        That is paid for from the revenue they get.

        If costs are increased, then either revenue must increase or profit decrease.

        In the consumer* energy market the per-customer margins are really tiny, thus any per-customer increase in costs will be very significant.

        They only make a notable profit though scale - it takes thousands of customers to make a profitable consumer energy supplier.

        * The Generation market is very different and very distorted, which makes comparisons between profits of vertically-integrated and consumer-only companies very difficult.

  19. Andy 73

    Good article, Smart meters overhyped

    We've had smart meters in our energy-efficient home for five years now. As has been pointed out, usage goes like this:

    1. Install meter

    2. Gasp at how much power appliance X uses

    3. Get used to it and do nothing, as we need appliance X and a replacement costs hundreds

    The really hungry appliances are easily matched by 'background' kit (lights, things on charge, fridge, broadband) any one of which costs a lot of money to make a relatively small cost change.

    For homes where it would be possible to make a bigger saving (e.g. electric hot water), there is often a reason why the expensive option is there (no gas, family can't afford boiler replacement etc.), so a meter isn't actually going to make a difference either. Of course consumer education is a good thing and some will make the switch, but you could achieve the same thing with a TV campaign explaining how expensive it is to heat your home via different routes.

    I heartily applaud an MP who has considered these issues and realises that Smart Meters are an expensive commitment in a rapidly evolving field - but the question then is: What should we be doing? I quite like the Smart home hub (e.g. OpenDCU) idea where instead of putting in a closed bit of kit, we support an adaptable smart home infrastructure and standards that allow many to use it in interesting ways. Much like France introducing Minitel it could have a much bigger effect than just measuring our energy bills.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Good article, Smart meters overhyped

      Instead of replacing all the meters, how much would it cost to fit a solar panel to every residence?

      I'm sure this would have a bigger impact on reducing the energy load than fitting a meter designed to manage low levels of power when all the Nuclear stations start going off-line.

  20. Nifty

    Its about saving money not energy

    EU laws should eventually make all appliances low standby and energy efficient. Thats not why we need smart meters.

    It IS about forcing the suppliers to be more competitive. Look how competitive the mobile networks are, and there are only 4 suppliers. Why? Because any customer can pop out one standard SIM card from his standard SIM socket and pop in another.

    However, any solution that relies on bolt-on equipment to acquire a reading will be seen by the power suppliers as giving 'estimated readings only' due to fraud risk.

    There HAS to be a STANDARD supplier-agnostic solution that is as secure as the SIM card and fully accepted by all energy suppliers as no worse a fraud risk than the mechanical or electronic meters. That is all we need.

    Then the marketplace - with all kinds of plans e.g. prepay, bulk buy, direct debit, pay by voucher, pay by Paypal on your smartphone - can begin!

    If there was one simple comms interface that this magical meter reader should have it is a future-proof wireless or mains-borne protocol to communicate with your greediest appliances (via retro-fittable smart plugs) to obtain cheaper off-peak usage or some clever spot pricing options.

    We'll probably have to wait for Korea or Germany to do all this first, then the UK can copy the standards and import all the hardware from them.

  21. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    All these posts, and no one has hinted at the real agenda ..

    Smart meters will allow the supplier to reduce - or disconnect - the supply at will. It's a prelude to two-tier energy supplies, where the rich get nice permanent expensive power, and the poor get a supply that can be cut at a whim.

    I didn't read anywhere in that article how many new power stations are coming online in the next 10 years, although it's a nice round number ....

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: All these posts, and no one has hinted at the real agenda ..

      Lemme guess, slightly less than 1 and slightly more than -1?

    2. TrishaD

      Re: All these posts, and no one has hinted at the real agenda ..

      "Smart meters will allow the supplier to reduce - or disconnect - the supply at will. It's a prelude to two-tier energy supplies, where the rich get nice permanent expensive power, and the poor get a supply that can be cut at a whim."

      Actually - no.

      Regulations already prevent suppliers from disconnecting supplies until absolutely every avenue for recovering debt has failed. Smart meters wont make any difference to that.

      Remote disconnect is actually a smartarse DECC idea - suppliers fought it

      Having said all that, I've been involved in smart metering with a major supplier (thank goodness, I'm not anymore) and no, they have little to offer the consumer, certainly not at present. The only major significant advantage that I can see, in theory, is the ability for suppliers to provide cheap tariffs for off-peak usage. So, if you're in a position to schedule use of washing machines, dishwashers etc, for weekends and overnight, you stand (theoretically) to gain.

      Its not that big an advantage though, is it?

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: All these posts, and no one has hinted at the real agenda ..

        only major significant advantage that I can see, in theory, is the ability for suppliers to provide cheap tariffs for off-peak usage. So, if you're in a position to schedule use of washing machines, dishwashers etc, for weekends and overnight,

        Something which has been possible for 40-odd years without a smart meter, using either a simple timeswitch or a switching signal overlaid on the mains.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: All these posts, and no one has hinted at the real agenda ..

        "Regulations already prevent suppliers from disconnecting supplies until absolutely every avenue for recovering debt has failed. Smart meters wont make any difference to that."

        Irrelevant. Regulations can be changed quickly if the need arises, as can the law (e.g. the recent update to UK Data Retention law).

        The need will arise when UK electricity demand exceeds UK electricity supply and the historic response tactic, voltage reductions/brownouts, doesn't have the desired effect because so much of modern electricity usage does NOT decrease as the voltage falls.

        Shall we say three years?

    3. Pedigree-Pete

      No new power stations & a dwindling of existing

      Nice "Earth shattering controlled kaboom though"

      http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/492521/VIDEO-Explosive-moment-Didcot-power-station-in-Oxfordshire-demolished

  22. MJI Silver badge

    As to the person who started it in 2010.

    I am scared he may be next PM

    1. JohnMurray

      Re: As to the person who started it in 2010.

      All of the high echelons of politics are the same. Highly educated in a very narrow field. Thick as bricks outside that field.

  23. Nasty Nick

    It all about saving on generating capacity

    The real point of smart meters is to allow energy companies to control your use of power when demand is outstripping supply - "sqeaky bum time" if you like.

    And you WILL sign a contract to let them do this because otherwise your power bills will become quite unaffordable (unless you have lots of dosh of course). Ce la vie or maybe "Alles ist seinen Preis wert" is more appropriate.

    1. Nasty Nick

      Re: It all about saving on generating capacity

      Sorry Jimmy, didn't see your post. But it's worth saying again. As consumers we will be be royally screwed twice over - having to pay billions for the priviledge of paying for the system which switches our power off at will, and then paying again for even more exprensive power.

      The rational understand that it would be far more cost effective to spend the money improving the energy efficiency of all homes and offices than to waste £13bn (that's what I hear) on meters that will be years out of date by the time they get installed in numbers.

      And with improving the housing stock, the money is much more likely to benefit local economies rather than giving it to huge foreign owned business that pay next to no tax.

  24. Alan Denman

    Security risk will create need for removal.

    Burglars will love these, using them to find when you are not at home.

    Obviously when the security risk becomes too large its another £10 billion we have to pay to reverse the catastrophe.

    Also, we are likely need another new power station just to run the damn things !

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Stuff the meters

      Burglars will have a field day when all the lights go off ....

    2. Nasty Nick

      Re: Security risk will create need for removal.

      If we are lucky the whole project will crash and burn after only £6bn or so has been wasted - does anyone know how much has been spent so far? And to what effect?

  25. Lamont Cranston
    Unhappy

    We had a smart meter fitted a few months back.

    Seemed like a sound idea, as it meant that my supplier could take regular readings, instead of relying on their wildly inaccurate estimates (in spite of my supplying a reading every month). That's never happened (although, I did change suppliers about a month later).

    Theres a nice little touch-screen box that came with the smart meters (looks like a monochrome sat-nav), which ought to save me going out to read the gas meter, or crawling around to read the electric. Except it doesn't have an option for actually reading the meter.

    Total waste of time. It's actually made reading the meters harder as, rather than just look at the counters, I have to poke some unlabelled buttons and hope that the counter shows up.

  26. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Just sayin'

    Every time the government or big business say they are doing something for your benefit you just know they are lying.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Just sayin'

      Every time the government or big business say they are doing something for your benefit you just know they are lying.

      Fixed that for yer :D

  27. 96percentchimp

    It's about real-time pricing, not just turning things off

    The benefit of smart meters - combined with other kit like zoned smart heating - is that you should be able to access real-time pricing based on the supply and demand. There are already suppliers in the US offering this by combining (I think) Honeywell's Evohome system with smart meters, so users can heat their water when gas is cheapest - like Economy 7 but smarter.

    Electricity - although costing about 3x/kWh than gas - is typically a few per cent of domestic costs compared to gas-powered heating and hot water, which account for 40 per cent or more of the bill.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: It's about real-time pricing, not just turning things off

      Electricity - although costing about 3x/kWh than gas - is typically a few per cent of domestic costs compared to gas-powered heating and hot water, which account for 40 per cent or more of the bill.

      But isn't that just because most homes don't use electricity for heating and hot water? It'd be interesting to know what the savings would be comparing on-demand electric heating v. gas central heating. I'm not interested in storage heaters because they are (in my opinion) just a bad idea. But perhaps it would be cheaper to have genuine electric wall heaters. There's surely scope for them to be more intelligent than a single thermostat for the entire house.

      But..I believe that electricity for heating is inherently less efficient than gas because of the transport losses. The closer you burn the fuel to where you need it the less wasteful it tends to be.

    2. Infury8r

      Re: It's about real-time pricing, not just turning things off

      "It's about real-time pricing, not just turning things off

      The benefit of smart meters - combined with other kit like zoned smart heating - is that you should be able to access real-time pricing based on the supply and demand. "

      Correct principle, incorrect logic.

      It's not so much '...you should be able to access real-time pricing', more a case of your supplier will impose peak-damand charges. i.e exactly as they already do to most of their larger non-domestic customers whose entire winter monthly bill is dependent upon their peak ½-hour demand. Imagine it, you switch a light on in the garage to check something out, and the price you pay for all your electricity that month is increased!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smart Meters, not so Smart People

    Having worked in smart energy and been responsible for testing new technology as well as ensuring current technology - used in the INC market - still works, there is a myriad of issues.

    Firstly, a make of current smart meter can be completely wiped by writing a 0 to a particular registers.

    The CT ratio (in a single phase meter) can be changed to anything from 1000 - 1 to 1 - 1000 meaning a not so legal energy company could in theory set the recorded energy used on your meter to a slightly higher value. On the same make of meter a disconnect rely caused fires several years ago but no one really cared as it didn't affect the ability to settle the figures to the energy market, it only caused a fire which endangered people.

    The work I carried out on a range of IHDs was also silly. All they currently inform you is how much energy you have used, something which is easy to do by writing down numbers and doing simple maths. They do not currently tell you that your lights have used 5KWh more than last month or that you fridge is running a little too much, maybe due to a faulty seal. The current idea of a smart meter in the home is flawed and needs looking at desperately.

    I no longer work in smart energy due to the dragging heels of everyone involved and the up coming rollout of the DCC (Data Communications Company) and the entire program which is being run by the amazing Capita!

    Its going to be a long second half of a decade

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On reflection ... maybe these are a good idea.

    Since they have to be "unhackable"[1] then when people do get around to hacking them, it'll be free energy for me ;)

    [1]Otherwise the energy companies would have to fight any accusation of meter tampering individually. I still have the 1986 letter from Barclays apologising for a fault in their ATM. It was very useful on a couple of occasions when they tried to claim "our ATMs never go wrong".

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So

    £200+ for the new meter per household. Which will tell us what? A realtime value of how much energy we're using?

    Why not just give each house a dozen of those timed plug socket things, buy them in big enough bulk they'd be pittance.

    "You know your TV / PC / consoles all use power even when they're switched off?" plug in a socket timer, set it to turn off the games console and TV monday - friday from midnight until 5pm. Congrats, you just saved more power than the £200+ smart meter would cost. You just have the annoyance of setting up the time and date on the console every time you play.

    Personally I'd do the same with my oven / microwave, but neither work until the time has been set and that's just too much hassle.

    Instead of getting the dirt cheap £3 timers they could get the slightly more expensive connected timers, about £10 each, a dozen of those £120, you can still get info for the smart meter from almost every socket, while still setting up timers etc.

    Either way I already know what uses most power in my flat.

    PC / monitor > Console / TV / freezer / fridge / oven. (I don't use the microwave so didn't count it) the smart meter will tell me nothing, nor will it change my habits.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No No No

    Fortunately at present you can refuse to have a smart meter. Which is what I'll do since I don't want to have my energy supply messed about by a script kiddy in Kleptistan.

    Unfortunately, whether one has one or not one will still have to pay a 'levy' to cover the costs of providing them to suckers who think Milliband is capable of having a good idea.

    Politicians + IT = Chimps + brain surgery (probably unfair on chimps)

  32. 27escape
    Stop

    clip on units already available

    The manufacturers magnetic attachments that can go on the meters and capture the LED pulses that the meters give out every x units of energy. These attachments can also 'talk' to the meter to obtain information such as units used etc.

    It would not take much to extend these to send this information to the 'internet' so that your smart phone can read it.

    The manufacturers obviously will not like this as its cheap and they will not get lots of new meters, they will whine about security of the meters, though this simple comms is not using security.

    Note that payg gas meters already have a clip on unit that does this and communicates with a smart card to limit gas and display information.

  33. plrndl

    1. Anyone who is smart enough and concerned enough to make use of consumption and costing data is smart enough to use the data that is already available.

    2. Anyone who thinks smart meters will lead to reduced energy costs or use is naïve to the point of stupidity.

    3. The meters will be hacked within days of going live, putting them within the control of any bad-hat who wants to use them for their own ends.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I look forward to the discussion when the fitter asks where we want the display unit ...

    " you're not putting that ugly thing on any of my walls ! "

  35. Someone Else Silver badge
    Stop

    Short Answer:

    Wouldn’t it be great if you knew how much your gas and electricity were costing you minute by minute by looking at a smartphone app, visiting a website or glancing at a wall display?

    Uh, no.

    Next Question?

  36. eaamj01
    Trollface

    They Aren't For Saving Energy

    I thought the reason for smart meters is so that energy companies can cut off targeted supplies when they are having an energy supply shortage. In other words controlled power cuts to individual buildings.

  37. BonerHitler420

    I already have a smart monitor of my own

    I bought a Loop from Amazon for £30.

    It has an induction loop that you connect to your supply and it connects to your wifi. You can log on their website and see your energy usage and all sorts of pretty stats.

    The really clever bit is that it builds a profile and you can automagically compare energy suppliers via uSwitch.com and switch to the cheapest supplier.

    It's paid for itself in 3 months. Never mind saving the world and being green, I want to give those greedy bastard energy companies as little as possible.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I already have a smart monitor of my own

      "It has an induction loop that you connect to your supply and it connects to your wifi. You can log on their website and see your energy usage and all sorts of pretty stats."

      That's exactly the sort of thing I don't want. Why can't it just supply the data via WiFi direct to the app? Why would I want a 3rd party company other than my energy supplier having all that valuable data about me, including when I'm holiday?

    2. Nifty

      Re: I already have a smart monitor of my own

      Um how does it read your gas usage - the most expensive energy component of a house usually?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problems with these big brother meters

    The three biggest worries right now concerning these 'stupid meters' is the security of the data being uploaded to the electricity provider (in transit), what they will do with said data after collection, and the dreadful cut off clause that allows remote disconnections... whoever thought of that last one should be fired with immediate effect and have his future job prospects ruined permanently.

  39. Tom 35 Silver badge

    Already have a smart meter

    We got them in Toronto some time ago. The real use is so they could charge us more then double during peak period of the day so we will do our wash at night or the weekend. But once people switched to save money they started increasing the off peak rates faster then the peak rates so it's now less then double.

    If you save money they just raise the rates to make up the loss.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Already have a smart meter

      That's why they should be called profit meters, not smart meters.

  40. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Standards

    "Why not allow tech companies and entrepreneurs to compete to find the best way to monitor electricity and gas usage? Better choice will help customers make the best decision for themselves. Government’s job is then to ensure that technologies and companies compete fairly to provide customers with the best service."

    Competing smart metering? No. Seriously, NO!

    If each supplier is left to come up with it's own "21st century" smart metering system, that will make it harder to switch suppliers.

    If we MUST have smart metering of some form, then something which Goverment is supposed to good at is mandating a standard across the board so that we CAN switch suppliers easily.

    I don't want to have to get new meter installed if changing suppliers. If they all choose to use some form of online or "app" monitoriing, then fine. But you just KNOW that the biggest incumbants will already be looking now at incompatible metering hardware which they will roll out to existing and "new" customers for "free". Can we all say lock-in?

  41. Mr McGoo

    I live in Vancouver, Canada and have to have a smart meter. I also worked for the company rolling them out across the province. The costs of implementing a roll out are high. The smart meters only have a shelf life of 10 years, analogue meters are 50 years. Smart meters are more accurate than analogue too. I'm no electrician but my understanding is that the initial surge when starting something like a washing machine is not fully registered by analog meters, but smart meters can detect it and it seems to increase bills by around 10%. Electricity rates have increased significantly here since the smart meter introduction in part because the rollout cost $1b. Funnily enough there seems to be quite a few links between the local MP's involved and the electricity and smart meter companies. There are quite a number of fires caused by smart meter installation too - although most houses here a wooden constructions.

  42. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I already have a display on the wall that tells me how much electricity I'm using. It's called an electricity meter.

  43. Richard 51

    Not a smart article

    I would point out that the author of this delightful article says there are new technologies that make smart meters obsolete but fails to give one single example, except for sticking a camera in your current meter! He does focus on the interface for the customer and rightly points out that this can be achieved using smart phone apps or websites. But you still need the data from the meter and the smart meter is designed to record and transmit this data to the supplier. I cannot see how a camera stuck on your meter in a dark cupboard is going to be able to record the data and send it to the supplier so they can bill you accurately.

    Given he is a part of a government which has effectively confirmed the strategy of the previous government and forced the suppliers to spend hundreds of millions already on infrastructure to support the deployment of smart meters its a bit late to start re-considering the strategy and sounds like another sound bite from an MP who doesn't know much about technology.

    The way the government is going about smart meter deployment is bonkers but the underlying reasons for smart meters are sound and in the long term will probably form the backbone for all manner of technologies that are developing for home automation.

  44. DaneB
    Mushroom

    Smart meters are no doubt a waste of cash...

    ... then again, so was getting rid of those coal mines in the 80s... and privatising our energy needs full stop.

    Don't make us look too closely, mister Tory... we all know that nationalised utilities are what would benefit the public most, not more profit and target-driven crap.

  45. Nifty

    They have to dump power in Europe

    Just hearing on the radio that during sunny days Germany has so much spare power due to solar panels that it disrupts their grid. So they're trying to solve this by selling it to Poland and France. Whose power market is being disrupted in turn. Major issue, apparently.

    Smart metering with smart switches that can tempt high spot usage could help a lot.

    1. David_H

      Re: They have to dump power in Europe

      Hawaii has such a problem with this that they are refusing to connect up any more houses with solar panels

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't forget we are adding cars to that.

    ...And the newer cars already relay how much they are consuming through a smartphone app.

    So, naturally, you won't need a smart meter, because all of its functions will be embedded in every single appliance you buy from now on: cars, fridges, air conditioners, through (drumm roll) "the internet of things", which is meant to deploy, generate, read, or manage every kind of useful information about your devices, including energy usage.

    It will be just easier to add all these aspects to devices you buy than just enforcing it down on people.

  47. Charles Pearmain

    ....and the energy companies are dumber still.

    The EON smart meter installer turned up to fit my meter yesterday. He was here for about 7 minutes.

    "There's no O2 mobile coverage here so the meter won't be able to transmit the data back to us."

    "I could have told you that if you'd asked before coming out. So what's the alternative?"

    "Umm.... there isn't one"

    "You can't use another cell provider, or transmit the data cleverly down the distribution network?"

    "Umm.....no."

    "OK, bye. At least you've had a day out in the Cotswolds"

    "Yeah, nice here innit?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ....and the energy companies are dumber still.

      We're with Eon and they'll have exactly the same problem at our house. I'm forced to have a mobile on O2 via work and there's no reception within a mile radius of home.

  48. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

    A mistake had been made at a subsidiary of MiniPlenty

    MiniPower had elected to install the wrong sort of metering devices and could no longer 'load balance' matters. This of course in 'real terms' as applied to others would not matter. The concern, if there would have been one in one respect, is that people might notice having their usage of power rescheduled at such a large scale. People 'expected' their, luke warm, Victory Coffee at certain times during the day, give or take. Of course the later arrival of left shoes in respect of ordering the right assuming either arrived in the first place was not of much concern. This time shoe delivery would be suspended for all. Even the TeleScreens stopped working. More importantly The Ministries, without power, ceased to function.

    "Winston."

    Winston turned to see a man he did not recognise. Short, large head with a Vapid Smile dressed in a manner that suggested someone from a higher party echelon.

    "Yes?"

    "We have a special job for you."

    "Nothing seems to be working at the moment Sir."

    "Yes, we know but you are highly recommended so we can work around that and get you up and running on this station."

    The Vapid Smile handed over a large envelope.

    "We need it in about an hour Winston. People need to know the truth here. I know we can trust you."

    He paused and placed a box on Winstons desk then left.

    Winston opened the envelope. A history of someone called Adam Afriyie. Someone who needed to become an unperson.

    Winston looked at the box. It was wrapped in cellophane, black and proudly announced JSP 10 in Gold lettering.

    Winston set to work under the failing emergency lighting. Within the prescibed hour he was finished and then the lights failed. He fell asleep and was woken again three hours later.

    "Report Citizen!"

    Startled but looking left and right all the other stations were in darkness. He spoke into the microphone to deliver his report of 'the truth'. Adam Afriyie, and others, became unpersons.

    He looked at the JSP box.

    "Want one?"

    "Are they real Sir?"

    "Yes, but you do not really want one... not after... Look, I've got a torch with some batteries in it. Let's get you out of the building so you can walk yourself home. Apparently there is smoglight outside.

  49. peterod

    Definitely NOT Smart

    After 1 year having had smart meters installed I switched suppliers. The new supplier was unable to receive the data so I had to return to supplying manual meter readings. Approx. 1 year later I switch back to the original supplier who fitted the original smart meters only to be informed

    "It is not a straightforward procedure to resume Smart Meter functionality. It may be likely that a new Smart Meter may need to be fitted."

    So despite already having smart meters I will now have to have new smart meters installed again.

    So more expense which ultimately the consumer pays.

  50. Dieter Haussmann

    Smart meters - it's all about energy rationing and remote disconnections.

  51. Hugh Barnard

    Consumer Side Raw Data

    I agree with the article and with comments here that say that the current set of smart meters are only in the interests of suppliers. For example, we can expect predatory demand pricing and use of big data to rig the energy futures markets, business as usual, in fact.

    One thing that is missing from this debate is raw real time data on the consumer side. It's our spend and it's our data. I put this comment into the 'consultation' where, I have no doubt, it was comprehensively ignored by Sir Humphrey and his ilk. Raw real time would enable an eco system of graphing, intelligent control and modelling to build up for the benefit of the consumer [yes, I know, see the little flying pigs] rather than a patronising smiley face LCD display and big data for the supplier.

    I tried asking EOn for data logging on my gas meter [electricity is 'easy', just needs a clamp] and was comprehensively blanked. However, I've just asked a smaller supplier for a meter upgrade [from an old U6 type] and a logger and they're listening, at least. If/when I get somewhere, I'll publish the results. Meanwhile to see how the 'ecology' is building up it's worth taking a look at: http://openenergymonitor.org/emon/ for example.

  52. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    Errr

    How exactly does it know which appliance is using what? Unless monitoring is done socket by socket, this sounds like an expensive solution looking for a problem.

    Wouldn't it be much better just to offer a power usage audit for those that want it? Scoring appliances against an average.

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