back to article UK smart meters arrive in 2020. Hackers have ALREADY found a flaw

British consumers could easily hack into controversial new smart meters, allowing them to illegally slash their energy bills, cyber-security experts have warned. The caution came as top White Hall apparatchiks met with energy industry leaders today to discuss plans that will see the the devices installed in every British home …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Which is why $energyCompanyOfTheMonth will find it very hard to arrange an appointment to fit one.

    And if they even try and piggy back on my Wifi, much fun will be had as it only works when the engineer is in the house.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

    There's another way to get your PC hacked. It will never stop, will it?

    It will just become worser and worser...

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

      The real cost issue - providers want smart meters because it saves them the cost of sending meter-readers round... sensibly, they prefer to use existing networks (mobile or wifi) rather than build their own, but they want to get a free ride off this existing infrastructure without building any safeguards, that is nuts. Is it really that difficult/expensive to have the equivalent of an RSA token (same as you would get in a bank dongle) in each meter to make sure that data sent is untampered-with?

      Secondly, why insist that all meters be changed now, instead of replacing them gradually at their natural end-of-life. Yes, it will take 30-odd years, but what's the rush?

      1. Blofeld's Cat
        Devil

        Re: Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

        "saves them the cost of sending meter-readers round"

        Well they could do that straight away, judging by the way they ignore whatever reading the nice man from G4S has given them, and always send an "estimated" bill instead.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Soon you will be able @James Micallef

        "providers want smart meters because it saves them the cost of sending meter-readers round"

        For crying out loud, James! Energy suppliers do not want to install smart meters at all. It is a legally mandated requirement, passed into law by your democratically elected "representatives" in the Energy Acts of 2008 and 2011. And they did that not because you asked them but because they were told to by the Uberfuhrers of Brussels, in directives 2009/72/EC and 2009/73/EC.

        Manual meter reading costs are about five quid per meter per year, and I'm sorry to tell you that a £5 a year benefit won't even pay the interest on the costs of a £200 smart meter, never mind the capital or operating costs. There are some other modest savings over the £5 on manual meter reading, such as not having errors arising from estimated bills, and the ability to settle traded volumes far quicker and more accurately, but these are also modest.

        1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

          @Ledswinger

          That whole episode was one dodgy day for democracy, wasn't it?

          Not saying the noble Lord took a bung or anything, but...

          A few years from now, when the energy shortages are really kicking in, these little things are going to be the ideal way of meeting some artificial carbon emissions target. Some rich politician in a mansion house full of old fashioned lightbulbs and servants is going to instruct his minions to switch off Halifax for an hour tonight in order to deal with a drop in wind power.

          You'll probably be forced to pay for your shiny new smart meter too.

          Brave new world, huh?

        2. James Micallef Silver badge

          Re: Soon you will be able @James Micallef

          @ledswinger - thanks for clarifying the meter reading cost, however 1 thing I don't understand... if UK residents are protesting that they will pick up the meter costs (or that the companies will pass it on to them by stealth anyway), surely ANY savings however small on reading the meters is a profit for them?

          "passed into law by your democratically elected "representatives" "

          not mine!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Soon you will be able @James Micallef

            "if UK residents are protesting that they will pick up the meter costs (or that the companies will pass it on to them by stealth anyway), surely ANY savings however small on reading the meters is a profit for them?"

            In theory yes, in practice no. A very small reduction in operating costs will get swallowed up in the continual competition to win customers, in spiralling government interventions, and the like. Without droning too much, the two things that drive energy company profits are (like most businesses) volume and raw material costs. Across the full energy value chain the cost to serve is around 50% fixed, 50% variable (and that variable is related to input fuel costs that are set by world markets). So increasing volume (eg a cold winter) is very important for energy company profits, though note that the profits are recorded in accounts published long after the cold winter is forgotten. Equally a mild winter is an economic disaster for energy companies. And the reason rising input costs are a driver of profits is simply because (like all retail businesses) pricing is a margin on input costs. BMW dealers make better profits per car than Ford dealers, but not as much as Bentley dealers. The same applies in groceries, and most other forms of retailing.

            In other markets (eg Spain or the southern US) peak demand can be summer, in which case volume and profits are driven by hot summers and greater air conditioning use, but the principle is the same.

        3. jonfr

          Re: Soon you will be able @James Micallef

          @ Ledswinger, I didn't find anything about smart meters and them being requirement by EU regulation. What I did find was this thing here.

          "(27) Member States should encourage the modernisation of dis­tribution networks, such as through the introduction of smart grids, which should be built in a way that encour­ages decentralised generation and energy efficiency."

          If you can point me towards the article that says smart meters are an requirement it would be helpful.

          http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:211:0055:0093:EN:PDF (Directive 2009/72/EC)

          http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:211:0094:0136:en:PDF (Directive 2009/73/EC)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Soon you will be able @jonfr

            "Annex 1 of EU Directives 2009/72/EC and 2009/73/EC3 on common rules for the internal market for electricity and gas require that Member States undertake a cost benefit assessment on the provision for domestic customers of intelligent meters that shall assist the active participation of consumers in the electricity and gas supply markets, and implement these meters where the assessment is positive."

            That's from a House of Commons Library briefing note on smart meters. You can certainly argue that the EU didn't mandate them unless the cost benefit assessment is positive. But according to our government (with its evangelical belief in climate change) the cost benefit calculations are positive, and therefore the UK smart meter roll out is indeed mandated by EU directive.

            You can argue that the calculations are wrong (and I suspect most people round here agree they are) but that's a separate matter. As long as DECC's numbers turn a positive NPV on the "benefits", smart meters are required by EU directive.

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Soon you will be able @jonfr

              A normal (electromechanical) meter will OFTEN work backwards (the ones with little pointers will do so correctly, the later type with digits will simply click when you get to a '9' on the units counter. So the system is already there for 'customer participation'. But wait, that'd mean you got the same per kwh as the power co charge you, and we can't POSSIBLY have that!

        4. Nuke
          Meh

          @Ledswinger - Re: Soon you will be able @James Micallef

          Wrote : - "Manual meter reading costs are about five quid per meter per year"

          I have been up to two-and-a-half years (in Bristol) without seeing a meter reader, going on self-reading and estimates.

          Probably just as well - some meter readers are useless. When I first moved to the Bristol house, they got the all-important changeover reading wrong by about 1000 units. Funny thing was the company never admitted they were wrong and never sent a second reader to check. They just accepted my own reading and sent a corrected bill "in the interest of customer relations" or some such BS.

          When I subsequently moved to where I am now they never even took a changeover reading - just asked me for one over the phone! So I don't know where that £5 goes.

          Wrote : - "There are some other modest savings over the £5 on manual meter reading, such as not having errors arising from estimated bills"

          A big expense for these companies is the time spent investigation over disputed bills, including estimated ones. But do you seriously believe that will stop with smart metering? I predict that the disputes will increase.

        5. david 12 Bronze badge

          Re: Soon you will be able @James Micallef

          >And they did that because they were told to by the Uberfuhrers of Brussels,

          ...Who did that because the companies wanted improved meter reading. Brussels, of course, added in more features and more demands, which increased the price and vulnerability of the meters. The companies agreed, as the price they were willing to (have you) pay in order to get permission for the new generation of meters they wished to install.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smart Meter

        providers want smart meters because it saves them the cost of sending meter-readers round... AND THEY GET TO MODULATE THE LOAD BY TELE-CONTROL WHEN NECESSARY!

        ....

        Secondly, why insist that all meters be changed now, instead of replacing them gradually at their natural end-of-life. Yes, it will take 30-odd years, but what's the rush?

        BECAUSE THEY ($EnergyCompanyUK) MIGHT NEED TO MODULATE YOUR HOUSE 'OFF' SOON-ish

        allegedly, sorry for shouting

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Smart Meter

          Not a problem. I have a non contact voltage tester. If our power goes out and the incoming supply is still live, I'll notify the power co their meter is faulty and bypass it temporarily

      4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

        Visual Meter reading will still be needed.

        Just to make sure :-

        1) the device hasn't been tampered with

        2) the device is safe.

        Just not as often.

      5. Someone Else Silver badge
        Coat

        @ James Micallef -- Re: Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

        Yes, it will take 30-odd years, but what's the rush?

        Profits for the meter makers, of course. Do you think these yutzes want to amortize their profits across 30 years, when they can get them in 2?

        You'd make a really bad Republican...

        1. James Micallef Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: @ James Micallef -- Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

          "You'd make a really bad Republican"

          Thank @deity for that!

        2. Wade Burchette

          Re: @ "Someone Else" -- Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

          Profits for the meter makers, of course. Do you think these yutzes want to amortize their profits across 30 years, when they can get them in 2?

          You'd make a really bad politician...

          FTFY. It simply amazes me how many people blindly blame one political party when the opposing political party does the exact same thing. Cronyism exists in all political parties. For the US, George Bush and Dick Cheney had Halliburton. And I'm sure there are many more, but he is out of office so I don't keep up with it. Barack Obama has GE, Solyandra, and many other failed "green" companies.

      6. Naughtyhorse

        Re: Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

        Because in the mind of the regulator frantic activity looks like progress, and progress justifies the existence of the regulator.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      Re: Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

      Worser??? Dont know what language that is...

      The standard of English employed by the English speaking fraternity just drops day by sodding day.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Re: Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

        "day by sodding day."

        What's laying a lump of turf got to do with it?

        1. tony2heads
          Flame

          turf

          Can be dried and used as a fuel.

          http://lawrencecollection.com/photo/gathering-the-turf/

          Maybe needed soon in the UK (lucky there are still peat bogs).

          Icon: home heating at the end of the 21st century

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Worser

        I think its probably Winnie the Pooh, but can't find the quote.

        However, according to Wiktionary (the free dictionary that anyone can edit): "While common in the 16th and 17th centuries, worser is now found only in some regional dialects, and is considered nonstandard."

        Those standards are under constant revision ;-)

        (PS: additional points if you spot the missing apostrophe)

        1. davidp231
          Coat

          Re: Worser

          From the Collins English Dictionary (that nobody can freely edit):

          worser (ˈwɜːsə )

          adjective

          an archaic or nonstandard word for worse

        2. Scroticus Canis
          Holmes

          Re: Worser - "additional points if you spot the missing apostrophe"

          Found it, It's here "'" in the middle of the quotes. Where's my prize?

          It's its init.

        3. Roger Varley

          Re: Worser

          >> 'It just gets worser and worser"

          I think the actual quote is from Eeyore.

      3. THMONSTER
        Coat

        Re: Soon you will be able to connect your own PC to your smart meter

        Hear hear.

        It just gets worserer.

  3. psychonaut

    fucking fucking retards

    as above. this has been done to death.

    12bn quid.

    IT WONT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE TO PEOPLES ENERGY CONSUMPTION! IT WILL ONLY POSSIBLY MAKE THINGS WORSE YOU FUCKING IDIOTS AND ITS GOING TO COST 12 BN POUNDS

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: @psychonaut

      The evidence does show that smart meters have a modest effect, of low single digit percentage savings on electricity, and circa 1% savings on gas.

      Unfortunately that's about the same as the savings from a £30 energy monitor. But the cost benefit calculations for smart meters came from the same people that ordered aircraft carriers without aircraft, and who wrote the prize winning fiction that is the HS2 business case.

    2. An0n C0w4rd

      Re: fucking fucking retards

      it will make a difference to consumption when the govt (or energy company or national grid) decide you're using too much electricity at a peak demand time and turn your supply off the "manage grid load", of course since this is done in the National Interest(TM) you have no choice but to accept it and no recourse for compensation, etc.

      It's the only way that this can play out which will make any significant difference to energy usage.

    3. phil dude
      FAIL

      Re: fucking fucking retards

      Much agreement, it cannot make a difference. I myself have had "heating anxiety" in my all electric Oxford flat which HAD these stupid meters. I worked out it cost 1GBP to heat the water for a shower, and NO economy seven heaters - on or off...

      I might not die of hypothermia due to my relative youth but I am guess that there WILL be elderly people too terrified to turn on the heating. This has been emiprically shown.

      The ONLY use for a meter is to let the consumer know something is running when either

      a) it shouldn't be

      b) it is less efficient that expected.

      c) how much money they are going to sting you for.

      Oh, and who is liable for loss if the meter lets someone steal your data?

      P.

    4. Nuke
      Headmaster

      @psychonaut - Re: fucking fucking retards

      Wrote "IT WONT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE TO PEOPLES ENERGY CONSUMPTION!"

      Surely, what better way to spend the day could there than sitting watching a smart electricity meter ?

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: @psychonaut - fucking fucking retards

        "Surely, what better way to spend the day could there than sitting watching a smart electricity meter ?"

        Better than some TV.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Faraday cage

    If it uses wireless/mobile what's to stop the homeowner fitting a grounded metal enclosure round the device after installation. It's my wall and I'll fit what I like it if doesn't touch their device at all.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Faraday cage

      Mine's in an under-stairs cupboard. The cupboard is used for routing my cables through. I predict that a fair amount of Cat6 cable in there is likely to interfere with anything trying to get out wirelessly, as I already struggle to grab a mobile signal in the house, let alone in those dark depths in the middle of the house.

      And I was originally intending to put my Wifi in there - it seemed nice and central - but the signal was atrocious before I started putting cables through it.

      I'm not saying I'd go out of my way to make it not work, but I think they'll struggle to make it work even so. And, sorry, but you're not going to relocate my meter just on the basis of that. The meter's been there for decades and the house designed around that and I'll be damned to have something hanging off an exterior wall and blocking my side-alley.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: Faraday cage

        Is there any reason (beyond making it more difficult for users to tinker with them, and avoiding the typical Reg demographic of technically minded+pissed off at these things) why the meters can't have a communication module that can be remotely wired into the meter, so the meter can stay where it always was, and the module can be placed somewhere where it can pick up a good mobile/wifi signal?

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Faraday cage

          "why the meters can't have a communication module that can be remotely wired into the meter,"

          They (currently) have no gov-given right to drill holes in your house.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Faraday cage

          It's a shame they can't be connected back to the energy company with some sort of long cable. Oh wait, they are... So why the need for wireless?

          Can't they run a slow (non-radiating) protocol over the existing cables - something that won't interfere with radio amateurs unlike the PowerLine Ethernet stuff that householders install and do not conform the radio standards.

          1. Cliff

            Re: Faraday cage

            http://www.ispreview.co.uk/story/2011/06/07/gridline-delivers-broadband-access-via-electricity-lines-to-rural-cumbria-uk.html

            Why yes, yes they can...

      2. Nuke
        Meh

        Re: Faraday cage

        Wrote :- "The meter's been [under the stairs] for decades and the house designed around that and I'll be damned to have something hanging off an exterior wall and blocking my side-alley."

        They will see about that. The gas and elecricity companies have been exerting pressure for outside meters for some time, and it looks like all new build is that way. But I somehow managed to get a new gas supply with the meter inside the house, and when a reader first came he was astonished that I had been able to do that these days.

        Radio reception will be the perfect excuse for them to move all meters outside - ironic as the need for meter reading should decrease.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Ooo I hope the flaw can be scripted....

    Drive along road. set all usernames and password to randmon gibberish and then reset device to reading 0. Repeat for as many roads as possible.

    Oh the fun.

    1. davidp231

      Re: Ooo I hope the flaw can be scripted....

      And setting the en-co's smart meters to levels equivalent to the energy output of an olympic swimming pool-sized cannabis farm.

  7. Kent Brockman

    standards

    Are they all going to be to the same standard???

    Like the British Gas one fitted by the previous owner, that my current supplier, EDF cant communicate with because it doesn't work with their systems... so all it does is sit there beeping at me telling me i've overspend because it cant reset the tariffs..

    Fools

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: standards

      That was my thought as well. All the suppliers are sharing the same grid, the old meters just worked with the grid and were never supplier-specific. To make them so is plain stupid

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: standards

      Hi Kent,

      There are 2 phases to the UK smart metering rollout:

      - Foundation

      - Mass Rollout

      The Foundation phase is underway and the equipment deployed under that phase is built to a standard called SMETS1. Interoperability of meter equipment in this phase isn't great, different manufacturers are using different combinations of meters, comms gear, comms technology and headend (the bit of software that manages messaging to and from the meter). The Foundation phase is intended to be a small scale pilot that allows the industry to gain experience and roll that experience into the next iteration of standards.

      The Mass Rollout phase which is due to begin towards the end of 2015 will use only equipment that conforms to SMETS2 (Equipment technical specification) and GBCS (The security specification). There is only one headend (Instant Energy from CGI) which everyone must integrate with and the communications networks are being built by Arqiva (Long Range Radio) and Telefonica (cellular and mesh).

      I hope this helps answer your question.

  8. Mephistro Silver badge
    Devil

    "allowing them to illegally slash their energy bills"

    So smartmeters could end up being a good thing!. Go figure!

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: "allowing them to illegally slash their energy bills"

      Well, Lewis Strauss, in 1954, did promise "Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter"

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: "allowing them to illegally slash their energy bills"

        The production of power in this country is about to drop off a cliff. If they can set limits on consumption during peak periods via these meters then I would think that would be high on their 'this is why we want these in at any cost' list.

        1. Bob Wheeler

          Re: "allowing them to illegally slash their energy bills"

          I've no idea how much a (oil/coal/nuke) power plant costs, but I would have thought £10.6BN wolud go a far old way towards it/them.

          Just thinking out side the profit margin.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "allowing them to illegally slash their energy bills"

            I've no idea how much a (oil/coal/nuke) power plant costs, but I would have thought £10.6BN wolud go a far old way towards it/them.

            £10bn might buy you a single 1.6 GW reactor, based on the dismally high costs for Areva EPR plants (although in practice you'd build more like 2 x 1.6 MW reactors for around £15bn, like Hinkley Point C).

            The same £10bn budget would buy around ten 2GW CCGT (ie more than enough to head off the capacity concerns in the UK power market).

            And £10bn would buy you about 4 1.6 GW hard coal plants (when built to EU environmental standards).

            However, government has mandated that suppliers must spend the money on smart meters, and they've also messed up the wholesale market so that gas plant is loss making. Even if smart meters weren't eating the money, nobody would invest in new gas capacity at the moment. The forthcoming "capacity mechanism" is intended to subsidise required non-renewable plant, and will make sure that the existing gas plant is retained (DECC hope), but unfortunately due to incompetent design it will act as a huge windfall for EDF's existing nuclear fleet in particular, at customers' expense.

        2. davidp231

          Re: "allowing them to illegally slash their energy bills"

          "...If they can set limits on consumption during peak periods via these meters..."

          They can happily set it the consumption to binary zero by remote so they can do pretty much whatever they like.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: "allowing them to illegally slash their energy bills"

            "They can happily set it the consumption to binary zero by remote so they can do pretty much whatever they like."

            If we were talking about unpaid bills, warning letters etc. before that happening then that's one thing, what I don't like is the prospect of someone deciding to cut my power off just for kicks (I'm not just referring to the power companies here) and bucks.

            If these things are hackable without physical access and are capable of turning my power off, I will do everything I can to safeguard the device from remote interference, regardless of whatever 'security' measures these things are eventually supplied with.

  9. YetAnotherLocksmith

    Oh, it is going to be fun

    I have scaled back warrant runs massively now, but a few years back I'd be the one breaking into your house to swap the meters when you hadn't paid or had fiddled things. There's huge teams of us, 3 or 4, usually men, sometimes with a dog handler or rubbish removal guy, & of course, sometimes the police.

    Smart meters are going in, mostly to stop the power companies having to waste their profits paying this huge army of people who actually do work in the UK - they keep driving the rates down, but they can't outsource us. Instead the power companies literally want to be able to toggle your power off, while you are on the phone talking to them, to get you to pay.

    Which is wrong.

    The fundamental issue is that the power companies make billions. Literally millions per day. They are happy to take the subsidised government hand outs, & sod the rest of us. Yes, even those who work for them - staff are expensive, robots are not.

    Oh. The other thing? There's going to be an army of out-of-work very professional locksmiths who, even more so than now, will be fighting over the scraps of work left over.

    So make sure you've got great locks fitted, because believe me, there's plenty of locksmiths out there who won't sit on the dole and watch their kids starve.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Oh, it is going to be fun

      Care to recommend some? (Locks, not locksmiths!)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, it is going to be fun

      "The fundamental issue is that the power companies make billions. Literally millions per day. They are happy to take the subsidised government hand outs, & sod the rest of us."

      Of course power companies make millions, we're huge companies undertaking complex and often high risk capital and manpower intensive operations to give miserable whiners like you power at an acceptable cost and reliability. I'd wager you don't do your locksmithing for free, why should the pension funds, insurance companies and private investors who own power companies provide the requisite capital for free? Take SSE, as they're a UK only company active in all parts of the energy market. Return on capital employed last year? 4.9%. That's about half the rate made by a supermarket, and a quarter of the figure for BT. If you've got a van and tools that are worth £15k, and your knowledge is intellectual property worth the same again, then 4.9% return would mean you earned £1.5k a year. So what you're saying is that you want power companies investors to provide the money required for a rate you wouldn't dream of getting out of bed for?

      As for government handouts, what ****ing handouts? Energy companies are obligated by law to spend around £2bn a year on helping improve energy efficiency, and sorting out deficiencies in the welfare state. We have the government rubber stamping EU directives to shut down our generating assets without compensation. We have obligations to buy ever increasing percentages of power from the government's beloved wind turbines. We have to administer at our own cost bizarre middle class subsidies like the various "feed in tariff" payments. We have our arms twisted to invest in nonsense like "green deal".

      But do continue to post your valuable thoughts - any comment thread on smart meters rarely centres on any facts.

  10. Graham 24
    Unhappy

    The actual government PDF makes for depressing reading

    See http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06179.pdf

    It contains phrases like

    "Demand-side response involves electricity users shifting (or reducing) demand usually prompted by price"

    which translated means

    "we will charge more for electricity and gas at peak times"

    and

    "a proportion of savings experienced by suppliers may be expected to pass on to consumers"

    which translated means

    "We expect the energy companies' profits to go up as a result of this"

    The good news is

    "Licence conditions allow suppliers to access monthly (or ‘less granular’ i.e. less frequent) consumption data for billing and other regulatory purposes without needing consent. There will be a clear opt-out for daily collection of data, and an opt-in will be required for use of the most detailed half-hourly consumption data"

    Whether the companies choose to honour a consumer's opt-out choice remains to be seen. My guess would be that they will encourage people to opt in by "charging less" for opted-in consumers, whereas the reality would be charging more for opted-out ones.

    1. An0n C0w4rd

      Re: The actual government PDF makes for depressing reading

      "Demand-side response involves electricity users shifting (or reducing) demand usually prompted by price"

      the worrying thing is what the "unusual" methods are. I suspect "load shedding", in other words rolling blackouts to reduce grid load, probably using the smart meters to turn off your supply. possibly based on which tariff you are on (more expensive tariff = less likely to be turned off or something)

      I'm sure the government will tout this as being green, but all that will happen is it will drive the sale of inefficient petrol, diesel or natural gas based generators to homes/business keep the lights on.

      "Licence conditions allow suppliers to access monthly (or ‘less granular’ i.e. less frequent) consumption data for billing and other regulatory purposes without needing consent. There will be a clear opt-out for daily collection of data, and an opt-in will be required for use of the most detailed half-hourly consumption data"

      How can a consumer prove one way or the other? if the meter reports hourly data no matter what, the provider can use that data and mask it behind something else.

  11. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    Wi Fi meters...nothing but bad...

    I've read that there are also talks about plans to use remote control of meters to throttle power usage. That could kill a fair number of people in the coldest and hottest states who's lives depend on that electricity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wi Fi meters...nothing but bad...

      true-ish, but maybe not 'kill people' as the idea would be to turn off (modulate) different patterns of dwellings for as short a time as possible, if the industrial load-shedding didn't allow the peak-needs to be met! It might kill a few on the margins.

      If the smart-meters ever get home networked/domotics & Internet of Things, then it'd be just your Fridge/Freezer that was switched-off for 4 or 5 hours, your freezer wouldn't really notice, but the Grid would survive better. This roll-out of Smart-Meters probably won't be able to do IoT, so maybe there'll be another 12BN later? who knows, actually - maybe the industry bods on here can let us know which secure IoT standard for LAN/PAN the current meters will eventually support?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wi Fi meters...nothing but bad...

        Zigbee. And only approved devices will be able to communicate with the SM HAN

      2. druck Silver badge

        Re: Wi Fi meters...nothing but bad...

        AC wrote:

        If the smart-meters ever get home networked/domotics & Internet of Things, then it'd be just your Fridge/Freezer that was switched-off for 4 or 5 hours, your freezer wouldn't really notice, but the Grid would survive better.

        You don't need a smartmeter or internet of things for that. All the device has to do is monitor the mains frequency, when it is below the nominal 50Hz (or 60Hz in some places) the grid has more demand than capacity. With a few pennies worth of electronics fridges, freezes, washing machines and dishwashers, etc could just pause, not for four hours, but a few minutes is all that is normally necessary before fast response hydro kicks in, giving time for slower backup plant to come online.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wi Fi meters...nothing but bad...

          "All the device has to do is monitor the mains frequency, when it is below the nominal 50Hz (or 60Hz in some places) the grid has more demand than capacity. With a few pennies worth of electronics fridges, freezes, washing machines and dishwashers, etc could just pause, not for four hours, but a few minutes is all that is normally necessary before fast response hydro kicks in, giving time for slower backup plant to come online."

          Yes but...

          That covers the case of a short term (a few minutes) excess of demand over supply, and as you rightly, say the technology to address dynamic demand is trivial, has existed for years, and the demand side stuff could be mass marketed in weeks if necessary without incurring unnecessary installation costs. Again as you say, hydro or pumped storage addresses the supply side., and demand management covers the other end. For short term (minutes) needs.

          The "Dynamic Demand" website [1] has been around for a decade, and hasn't been updated for five years. No one's interested, despite the efforts of Nesta [2].

          Look at the facts not the messages. Short term demand management sn't the bit the authorities are fussed about, it's medium term and longer outages (hours) where selective mass disconnection is the only realistic option.

          For comparison, in a late morning in May 2008 an outage of [only]1.5GW (well, two outages in two minutes, totalling 1.5GW) led to disconnections of hundreds of thousands of customers in areas as far apart as London, Merseyside and East Anglia. [3].

          It wasn't peak time, it wasn't even winter, but there were wide area outages. The grid frequency went below normal operational limits (49.8Hz) for 11 minutes and below 49.5 Hz for 9 minutes. There was a brief dip to 48.8 Hz at one point.

          [1] http://www.dynamicdemand.co.uk/grid.htm

          [2] http://www.nesta.org.uk/project/dynamic-demand-challenge-prize

          [3] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7423169.stm

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Wi Fi meters...nothing but bad...

        "If the smart-meters ever get home networked/domotics & Internet of Things, then it'd be just your Fridge/Freezer that was switched-off for 4 or 5 hours, your freezer wouldn't really notice, but the Grid would survive better."

        The vast majority of UK housing has everything on 1 or 2 circuits and the IoT won't happen like you're envisaging for another decade at least.

        Shutting off my freezer wouldn't make you my friend, because I'd be sitting in the dark, fuming.

  12. CABVolunteer

    Change the government's mind?

    For those who don't want to have "smart meters" introduced via legislation, it strikes me that there's an obvious way to get this government to change its mind - simply get your MEP to make the EU mandate the introduction. Then this government will immediately object to yet another wasteful imposition from Brussels costing the hard-working families of Britain billions (only, this time they'll be right).

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Change the government's mind?

      They did.

      "Smart Meters" are an EU dictat.

  13. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    IT Angle

    The questions of communications

    How are these things supposed to communicate with the utility company? Is there an assumption that they will be able to piggy-back on my network, in which case that would be by dictat, not consent.

    If they are supposed to use the mobile networks, has anyone ventured outside London for long enough to realise that mobile comms are not universal, or reliable for many rural communities.

    Will there be a concomitant roll-out of mobile network upgrades to address this issue?

    [I still don't want one]

    1. SuperTim

      Re: The questions of communications

      Piggybacking off my wifi will involve having a MAC address which I specifically allow. But I dont think that will work. How will they send a "Turn On" signal to to a meter when it has switched the house supply off? My wifi wont work then. They must have a built in system that keeps working when the rest of the power is off, so that they can be remoted on again.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: The questions of communications

        Why have a system that can be remotely turned on? They'll have an "engineer" come out with some crap dongle that can just get plugged in to do it and then charge you £100 for the privilege.

      2. Graham 24

        Re: The questions of communications

        SIM card and a cut-down "3G dongle" in the meter itself is the obvious one. The supply side of the meter will always have power, even if the consumer side is turned off.

        1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: The questions of communications

          . . . resulting, presumably, in an uptick in the sales of short range cellular jammers.

    2. Mayhem
      Joke

      Re: The questions of communications

      Don't be silly - they'll use power line networking. After all, noone complains about that sort of transmission.

    3. BongoJoe

      Re: The questions of communications

      If they try to connect it to my router then it will be blocked at the firewall.

      And as for mobile phone communication. Well, not here by a long chalk.

  14. Peter Prof Fox

    Where's the free market when you need it?

    So assuming my PC is connected to my smart meter and has access to tariff data. That means I can switch to the cheapest supplier for the next hour and then do the same thing an hour later...

    ...What's that Sooty?

    ...I can't do that?

    So the usual crooked energy market continues.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Where's the free market when you need it?

      Now that detective is a good question.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where's the free market when you need it?

      "That means I can switch to the cheapest supplier for the next hour and then do the same thing an hour later"

      Initially you won't be able to do that, but if we move to half hourly charging (as has now been mandated under code change P272 for all business customers) then you could well find that you get what you seem to want. On a half hourly basis you wouldn't be swapping to the "cheapest supplier", you'd be looking at the wholesale market prices that everybody pays. Everybody (on half hourly pricing) would pay the same rate for that half hour. Obviously there's a different rate the preceding and subsequent half hour. If a power station goes off line, or a big industrial customer goes off load, then prices vary unpredictably. Each day of the year the price varies for the same half hour.

      You're welcome to that world if you want it!

  15. RyszrdG

    Can anyone remind me why they are being installed? On a cost-benefit basis with the current capability there is no case. A truely smart meter should dynamically negotiate for the lowest supply rate on (say) a 15 minute basis to give the consumer the best price. Also, at the rate of change of the technology the next refresh will need to be at most within five years. Who pays for the upgrade? No need to tell me - the benighted consumer again.

    1. Oddlegs

      There are several reasons. I'll leave it up to you as to whether they justify the cost of the rollout

      1) More accurate bills. The days of estimated readings will be gone. You'll pay for what you actually use and won't have to worry about getting a massive bill after having had your usage under-estimated.

      2) Fault monitoring. If your electricity or gas usage increases or decreases hugely it could point to a fault. With smart meters your supplier will notice

      3) More flexible pricing. This is where some people will get scared. Suppliers pay more for energy at times of peak demand. Currently they smooth that out over a year to give everyone an average price. With smart meters they'd potentially be able to charge different prices based on the time of day. I don't think it's unreasonable to pay more for your usage at times of peak demand (and less off peak), others may disagree.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I don't think it's unreasonable to pay more for your usage at times of peak demand (and less off peak), others may disagree."

        The real function of energy suppliers is little understood, and it's not reading the meter and sending you a bill. It is to insulate customers from the brutal world of the wholesale markets, where generators offer contracts using pricing that varies by half hour, and by day and season. Those contracts are settled on what amounts to a take or pay basis. If you buy more than your customers use, you have to sell back into the market (either bilaterally in advance, or through the market's balancing and settlement process on the day) - that's probably at a loss. The big losers, however, are those who buy less than their customers use, because they are hit with "out of balance" charges which can be very expensive, easily enough to wipe out a company that gets it wrong.

        If you start down the route of "time of use" tariffs for residential customers, then you have real transparency problems for customers. Either the time bands are a crude approximation of the wholesale reality with unintended consequences, or you try and mirror the whole electricity charging structures, which include charges for distribution capacity, for maximum consumption rate, for total consumption, and has rates that can't be declared much in advance because the wholesale market doesn't work like that. And potentially you have to make customers sign up to similar "take or pay" tariffs (which mobile phone users are familiar with) accompanied by huge "out of bundle" charges if you exceed your contracted volumes.

        If people really want to have 48 different billing periods per day, with rates that can vary for each half hour, and have different charges for each day, with the meter negotiating (along with the other 25m smart meters!) for the cheapest half hourly rates, it can technically be done. The bill will be good reading, particularly if you don't want your winter fuel payments to be five times the summer payments, and thus have a direct debit overlay. Note that DECC, OFGEM and Which are all agreed that even current bills of a standing charge and a fixed flat rate are challenging for customers to understand.

        If you believe that you should fit your energy use to the convenience of the generators and distributors, then you're in company with DECC and OFGEM. Personally I think that things should work the other way round, and the systems should make my life easy, which (believe it or not) is the system we currently have.

        1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

          "The real function of energy suppliers is little understood, and it's not reading the meter and sending you a bill. It is to insulate customers from the brutal world of the wholesale markets, where generators offer contracts using pricing that varies by half hour, and by day and season"

          But aren't a number of the energy retailers wholly-owned subsidiaries of the utility companies?

          Not trolling, just asking.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "But aren't a number of the energy retailers wholly-owned subsidiaries of the utility companies?"

            Yes, absolutely.

            Take a look at the Annual Reports of the Big Six and you will see that they consider "vertical integration" (where they control the supply chain from ground to grid and beyond) an important part of their business model.

            It's this "vertical integration" that makes all the talk of "wholesale market prices" largely irrelevant. The vertically integrated outfits don't go near the wholesale market, only the little outsiders do.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Yes, absolutely. Take a look at the Annual Reports of the Big Six and you will see that they consider "vertical integration" (where they control the supply chain from ground to grid and beyond) an important part of their business model."

              Not true. The gas and electricity national transmission systems are owned and operated by National Grid plc as a government regulated monopoly operating under price controls. Look at the accounts of RWE, nPower, EDF, and E.ON and you'll see they have no ownership of electricity distribution grids in the UK (for the hard of thinking, that's 4 of the former big 6 who have no stake in any grid or distribution activity). SSE and Scottish Power do own local distribution grids, but (like National Grid) these are separately accounted and separately licensed and regulated operations. The rationale for SSE and ScoPo owning distribution grids is because their board want to hold a related asset investment that has lower risk returns than generation and supply (because OFGEM regulate the economic returns of networks, and the profits are not dependent on wholesale energy markets or volumes of power delivered).

              Most suppliers have some ownership of generating assets because that forms a partial hedge for reducing risk (and thus costs). Outside of the big seven (First Utility are no longer a "small supplier), smaller suppliers have to pay to buy hedging products in the financial market (or risk being bankrupted if the market moves against them), but they get a government subsidy in the form of exemption from Energy Company Obligation costs. That's worth about £60 per customer per year, and is greater than the costs of hedging cover.

              The only way that vertical integration between generator and supplier can affect consumers is if the companies collude - if company A uses transfer pricing to make undue profits in its generating business, then its costs would be far higher than other companies, it would lose customers and volume, and ultimately it would have to change or go out of business (look at how Tesco have suffered after losing the plot and becoming uncompetitive in their core market). Given that UK gas plant has been paid £2 per MWh recently I think there's no evidence of the "excess profits" that the whiners keep going on about. Another indicator people might like to consider is why we have a problem with loss of capacity in the UK market. If it's such a money spinner why won't new companies apply for a generation and/or supply licence, build a new gas CCGT, and line their pockets? You can get into the supply business by spending as little as £300k on a new CRM, a leased office, and the necessary OFGEM licences.

              All of this this should come out in the open as a result of the current Competition and Markets Authority investigation into the energy market, but you'll have to wait at least a year for that. Unfortunately the usual outcome of such investigations is incompetently planned market changes decided by civil servants, and last time they did something structural it resulted in British Energy (the UK nuclear power operator) going bust, and having to be bailed out by the government, who later sold it to EDF.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Take a look at the annual reports

                The statements have been in the annual reports, you saying "it's not true" doesn't change that (and nor does me not having time right now to look up the references).

                Nor does the presence of the Grid change the competitive effects. The grid has the same presence and the same effect for each of the big six.

                How much generation does First Utility own?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Take a look at the annual reports

                  "The statements have been in the annual reports, you saying "it's not true" doesn't change that (and nor does me not having time right now to look up the references)."

                  Well, keep posting unresearched shite then. I work in the industry, I know what my competitors businesses do, and the points I've made are all correct and provable from public domain documentation.

                  Regarding First Utility, they own no generating assets, and buy in the wholesale markets. They believe that this harms their competitiveness because of their belief that companies with generation sell in a preferential manner to their own supply business. This is rubbish, of course, because if that were the case then the integrated players would be reducing generation profits by transfer pricing (mechanisms more complex than pure sale price, but not something I'll go into detail on), yet would have no advantage in the supply business because smaller non-integrated players already get (in effect) government subsidies of £60 a customer.

                  There's also the issue that most "integrated" businesses are anything but, and have completely ring fenced, arms length arrangements for generation and supply (and often for energy trading). With the problems of unprofitable margins in conventional generation (technically, "low spark spreads") caused by government energy policy, no business could afford to "subsidise" supply, because there aren't profits to transfer.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Take a look at the annual reports

                    "completely ring fenced, arms length arrangements for generation and supply "

                    Same as BT Retail, BT Wholesale, and BT Openreach then.

                    Their books are totally transparent, aren't they, readers?

                    The same directors, same shareholders, and a dominance of the market couldn't possibly distort the operation of a fair and transparent market. It's absolutely unprecedented to say that they could.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK Smart Metering gear is still being designed!

    I'm just wondering that since GBCS isn't finished yet (The part of the UK Smart Metering specification that defines how the system is secured) and that none of the meter manufacturers are close to finishing designing and industrialising their SMETS2 gear, how can the author say that a flaw has been found?

    Like...you can't find a flaw in something that doesn't yet exist!

    1. IHateWearingATie

      Re: The UK Smart Metering gear is still being designed!

      EXACTLY what I was going to say - the quotes in the article even say this:

      "If the technology COULD be hacked for fraud, hackers with more nefarious intent may use these flaws for other purposes." (my emphasis)

      So it hasn't been hacked, and there is no sign of a specific flaw - just that people are going to target it (no shit sherlock) and might succeed.

      I'm not saying Smart Meters are good or secure - just that this is a terrible article

  17. Oddlegs

    Scare mongering

    And right now you can make up readings to give your energy supplier effectively 'hacking' it so things won't be any different. Even after smart meters are rolled out someone will still come round to your house to read it manually every year or two to make sure everything's working so any 'hacking' will only get you so far. The automated smart readings will also be validated against your expected usage so report zero or very low usage for too long and your supplier will want to know what's going on.

    No-one's pretending smart meters will be perfect but in the huge majority of cases they'll be at least as good as what we have now whilst also leading to more accurate bills. I don't understand everyones hatred of them here. So what if your supplier knows you tend to use most of your electricity between 5 and 6pm. They still won't know what it's being used for but it will allow them to potentially bring in more flexible pricing. We accept that you pay more for phone calls, holidays and transport at times of peak demand. Why should energy be any different? Sadly the government is not going to be building many new power stations any time soon so we're going to have to get smarter in how we consume a (soon-to-be) limited resource.

    Whether that justifies the massive cost of the rollout is another matter.

  18. wisewellies

    There's a safety issue too

    These so-called 'smart' meters are not going to be installed by qualified electricians - they are far too expensive. Instead the plan calls for an army of hastily-recruited PFYs with a couple of hours training. This might be OK for accessible meter locations, but a sizeable number of meters are fitted in dark, semi-inaccessible places, or with questionable wiring. Is a short training course really sufficient to equip these people with the skills necessary to identify a dangerous installation?

    In my own case, an SSE meter change technician wrenched the meter tails around quite a bit when he changed the meter - yet only checked the meter end of the connection for tightness. He didn't check the fusebox end. I returned to my house after a trip abroad to find a strong smell of burning, and a partially melted fusebox. This 'smart' meter programme can and will lead to house fires.

    1. davidp231

      Re: There's a safety issue too

      "Instead the plan calls for an army of hastily-recruited PFYs with a couple of hours training. "

      Or an army of people on the dole with the same amount of training being made to do it or their money is stopped. That wouldn't surprise me in the slightest, but any young installer (qualified or not) would be in for quite a shock when they come across the wiring in older houses (ie when black and red were the norm) - and they've only been taught the current standards in their meagre hours of "training".

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OOps

    If they do decide to start "throttling", what on earth is going to happen to my crop of "tomato plants" I've got growing in the loft ..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OOps

      Switch to CFL. You will get less "tomatoes" but save a small fortune in sparko...

      Apparently...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OOps

        I hear LED's are quite efficient too

  20. Panicnow

    Trojan Horse

    The point of Smart Meters is to enable "them" to turn off electricity on a house by house basis. So when there is a shortage, the rich can outbid the poor for what power there is

    It also will enable them to turn off the electric of dissenters etc. scary!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure why they don't do what the water meter people do.

    My water meter has a thing stuck to the front of it and a wire out to a little round black thing attached to the wall. No need for the meter reader to enter the house then.

  22. etmsreec
    Coat

    I wonder whether their "smart meters" will be smart enough to realize that there are PV "solar" panels on my roof and that the meter will get electricity flowing in the opposite direction when it's light and sunny?

    Oh, and nobody with any sense would build a base-load gas fired power station, since gas fired stations were never, ever, ever, designed for running base-load. However, the fact that we have gas plants like the one that had a fire in Didcot proves that the people making the decisions have no sense.

    1. davidp231

      Had a fire

      ...in a cooling tower.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh, and nobody with any sense would build a base-load gas fired power station, since gas fired stations were never, ever, ever, designed for running base-load. However, the fact that we have gas plants like the one that had a fire in Didcot proves that the people making the decisions have no sense.

      Where do you get daft ideas like this? All gas turbines have an optimal efficiency at a given speed, and that along with reliability suffers when you cycle power. They also have a relatively restricted speed range (compared to say a car engine that will work adequately well in a very wide range between say 1,200 rpm and 6,000 rpm). In combined cycle operation the plant doesn't start quickly, so isn't suitable for stop/start operations, and the cost of the combined cycle gear is difficult to recover in intermittent operation.

      CCGT is perfect for baseload operation. It's compact, incredibly cheap and quick to construct compared to all other options. Compared to other fossil options is is very clean. It is highly efficient if you don't mess around cycling the plant. And it is very reliable.

      The fire at Didcot is no big deal - there was a fire at the coal fired Ferrybridge plant this summer, a fire at biomass fuelled Ironbridge, last year there was a fire at the Hartlepool nuclear plant, and the year before a fire at biomass fired Tilbury.

      So, your point was?

    3. david 12 Bronze badge

      >wonder whether their "smart meters" will be smart enough to realize that there are PV "solar" panels

      Yes, modern meters don't let you silently flow power back into the grid. You have to reach an agreement with your supplier, part of which is installing a meter that meters the amout of power you flow back into the grid. In areas where there is a lot of power flowing back into the grid, the supply voltage goes too high, so the supply companies have to limit the amout that is allowed to be connected.

  23. KBeee

    The thing I find most strange is that when the UK had the CEGB, National Grid, and distribution "Electricity Boards", there was LESS Gubmint interference than these "Free Market" companies get.

    UK Gov throws up it's hands in HORROR that "We've GOT to rip you off cos the European Bureaurocrats are DEMANDING that we force Smart Meters on you so we can pay rich people to put Bling (solar panels) on their roofs and wind turbines in their Ancestial Grounds!"

    While trying to repeal Human Rights laws..

  24. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Not sure how this will all work...

    Our meter cabinet (designed to electricity board standards) is an earthed metal cabinet.

    And I'm an electrician. If I see electricity coming into the main fuse, and not making it through the meter, said meter NOT being a coin op prepayment type, is clearly faulty, and WILL get bypassed (and the electricity supplier notified of readings, so it isn't considered outright theft).

    That is if they ever get in to fit one in the first place

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use Your Own Meter

    DO we have to Have a Smart Meter. I believe not but suddenly the Tariffs you are offered if you dont have one will go up :-(

    If you or the person who previously lived in the house you move in to had a smart meter fitted you cannot now (due to an addition to the law) have a Dumb meter refitted.

    I seem to remember that there is some clause that the Utility companies have to use the customers meter if its provided and is up to standard so change suppliers,fit your own "dumb Meter" [Recommend getting a qualified person as its a legal requirement when working on Gas or Electricity]. and send them the old meter back. update the national database that holds meter serial numbers for each property your new supplier now has to use YOUR meter. and they cant change it as its now YOUR property not theirs.

    My Gas meter is a standard dial meter but can have box attached to it that will "read" the rotation of the dial using magnetic impulses as it rotates, best of all worlds, no need to change the meter, it cant be hacked for lower pricing as it is still a dumb meter and can be manually read to confirm the electronic reading, the new box can send the data to the utility company. I dont get someone in a call centre cutting me off because my payment hasn't come through as their internal system is Fu**ed. it also cant be hacked by "terrorists" in a DOS attack on the GAS or Electricity Network. AND it would probably cost less and meters would still have their 30 year life unlike the new electronic ones which i believe have a service life of aprox 10 years

    OK it does not give the power mad executives and Govt types the ability to turn people off remotely to "manage" usage.

    So now I need to look for a house with Solar panels for power and heat, Wind Turbine, River for Hydro Electricity, and UPS and wood for fuel for heating. only way not to be controlled. and with this setup they cant even monitor usage as the UPS can smooth out and time shift demand and supply to/from the Grid.

    OK ill get my Foil Hat now............ :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Use Your Own Meter

      I'd aim for a stream rather than a full river, that way you could also use it as your source of water. I wouldn't trust river water even if was boiled and I only used the condensed steam as a supply.

  26. Robin Bradshaw

    https://www.usenix.org/system/files/conference/woot12/woot12-final24.pdf

    How long do you think it will be until someone finds a baseband vuln that can be exploited over the air interface so you can drive down the street with a fake bts in the car messing with all the meters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      having met Ralph Philip, think it'd be about a year of careful hacking - but the baseband exploit could be sold to $Government/$agency for about £0.1M, I doubt that Smart Meters in the UK would therefore be vulnerable, or even if vulnerable - there are juicier targets!

      but you're right - didn't a city in the US actually deploy & use virtually unsecured metropolitan Wi-Fi for data to/from their meters - hopefully UK industry will harden their design a little bit for security/privacy

  27. TheSkunkMonk

    doesn't my current meter constantly measure my usage? thanks but no thanks just more info for the marketeers to play with.

  28. All names Taken
    Alien

    Ha ha!

    Poor fools?

    Yes, this all brings fodder n feed to the mystique of paying for energy by direct debit - or rather grossly overpaying for energy by direct debit.

    I'd guess most el reg readers paying energy costs by dd are probably a good bit over by now with cash slushing about in energy co investments? By a good bit over I mean the additional bits hived off you in summer to pay for winter fuel use.

    Hmmm, lets see, pay by cash/cheque/money payment system after receiving a quarterly bill or pre-pay in advance (my money is on the cash based quarterly bill - loads cheaper doodz!)

    Funding for christmas fuddle?

    Make sure all 20,000 customers paying by direct debit have overpaid by about £100 for the year leading up to december.

    20,000 times 100 = 2,000,000 (I kid you not)

    leave it in high interest earner account and Bongo! fuddle paid for out of the interest alone seemplz!

  29. Equitas

    Left hand/right hand

    Had a smart meter fitted to one of our eight supplies about five year ago when we were buying our power on that supply from British Gas -- DNO is Scottish Hydro. Smart meter has a SIM connected in this instance to the Vodafone network. However (several suppliers later) the meter is still being read the old-fashioned way. This week I was phoned by some idiotic woman claiming that that meter was due to be changed and that because we were in a very remote area and they had an engineer in our area they wanted to do it now.

    So much for up-to-date communications.Told her she was the one who was far away in a strange country and I wasn't going to give her any further details.

  30. david 12 Bronze badge

    "If you physically own a piece of hardware you can compromise it,"

    The headline is one step more imaginary than the article, which is one step more imaginary than the BBC article it is based on. Only the Spanish know what the original researcher said, but this quote is attributed: "If you physically own a piece of hardware you can compromise it,"

    Yes, I've only got plastic seals on my meter to prevent me bypassing it. No, it's rather more difficult to "hack for fraud" than my old meter, which could be slowed down with the simple placement of external magnets.

  31. All names Taken
    Alien

    Energy provider or dosh abuser?

    I'd guess that most energy suppliers make more dosh from managing dosh than managing energy (but they seem to make a lot on that too?)

    Interim conclusion: pay by cash on quarterly arrears bills

  32. smartermind

    paranoid or what?

    Talk about being paranoid. Currently you report your meter reading by telephone or online. Occasionally a meter reader will call but as someone else pointed out it is invariably ignored and an estimated reading used. So what's to stop you from under-reporting your meter readings when you phone in? Nothing. The actual meter itself will still measure actual usage or is it being suggested that these are hackable as well? Somehow I doubt it.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: paranoid or what?

      >So what's to stop you from under-reporting your meter readings when you phone in? Nothing.

      It will catch up with you eventually - e.g. when you move house the new residents may deliberately report a higher value to get a leg up :)

      Also, while it may be a viable tactic to prevent the cash deposit build up, I wonder if you could get done for fraud because of the mis-reporting of the reading

  33. Leo_Williams

    It is not at all good news if hackers have found a way to tamper with smart meters. This way they will be able to illegally slash their bills and other innocent people like us would be affected. They can turn the power of my house sitting in the comfort of their own homes. This is really disturbing. I hope government is looking into matter and will do everything to protect our safety.

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