back to article Smart meters are a ‘costly mistake’ that'll add BILLIONS to bills

A report from the Institute of Directors (IoD) warns that the government's rollout of smart meters “should be 'halted, altered or scrapped' to avoid a potentially catastrophic government IT disaster.” The report, entitled “Not too clever: will Smart Meters be the next Government IT disaster?” describes the £11bn scheme as “ …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Common sense where a Gov IT initiative is concerned ?

    Burn that man for heresy !

    Edit: to comply with UK GOV sex discrimination laws the following addendum has been added:

    Burn that woman for heresy !

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      "Edit: to comply with UK GOV sex discrimination laws the following addendum has been added:"

      But that's astill a sort of sexist get-out clause.

      Why not a simple 'Burn them!'?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Elmer

        Perhaps it's:

        1) A satire on the assumption that all directors are male

        2 ) A satire on Gov interference in speech

        3 ) A poke at political correctness

        4 ) An essay into the deconstruction of humour

        5 ) A Chuck away Christmas cracker joke

        6 ) None of the above

        7 ) I'm off to get a Maccy D.

        Fingers on the buttons.....Go !

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Edit: to comply with UK GOV sex discrimination laws the following addendum has been added:

      Hah!

      You think the diversity laws are there only to protect men & women? There's a whole range of things which people "feel they are" which have to be promoted. Have you considered the profound effect of smart meters on the furry community?

  2. Jimmy2Cows
    Facepalm

    Smart, huh?

    "Smart Energy GB responded to the IoD report, claiming the IoD "does not understand what’s needed to secure Britain’s energy infrastructure for the future."

    Ok then Smart Energy GB, tell us what's needed? Wait... what? Oh. Smart meters. Yeah. They will secure Britain's energy infrastructure.

    Silly me. For the briefest instant I thought maybe they were talking about building more nuclear power stations. What was I thinking?

    1. John Lilburne Silver badge

      Re: Smart, huh?

      NP is not securing the future. The bulk of the known sources of uranium aka yellow cake is mined in Chad which is not exactly stable, a bit like locating your energy future to the Kush mountains. Also the known reserves of uranium ore, given our present consumption, is no more than a few decades at most.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smart, huh?

        >> "Also the known reserves of uranium ore, given our present consumption, is no more than a few decades at most."

        Thorium.

      2. thames

        Re: Smart, huh?

        @John Lilburne - "The bulk of the known sources of uranium aka yellow cake is mined in Chad which is not exactly stable"

        According to Wikipedia, the only mineral which Chad mines is small quantities of sodium carbonate. I've not seen any source which says they produce any uranium at all.

        The number 2 uranium producer is Canada, and Australia is number 3 (Kazakhstan is number 1). I'm pretty that neither Canada nor Australia are about to fall over due to political instability.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart, huh?

          " I'm pretty that neither Canada nor Australia are about to fall over due to political instability."

          Canada maybe, but Australia has a bit of a history or doing daft things politically so I'm not sure I'd place any long term bets on that one no matter how stable the country looks right now. And let's face it, the UK could be just a few months away from revolution if the non-voters suddenly realise it was their responsibility to keep UKIP at bay! Thankfully we still have a Queen to overturn such things like she did for them down there :)

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Smart, huh?

        1: Most uranium is mined in australia and canada.

        2: Uranium is about the worst possible nuclear fuel for a large number of reasons (but it's easy to turn into bombs, which is the real reason most development went into it)

        Molten Salt Thorium-cycle systems (Google: LFTR) are arguably the best long-term fission-based solution and can even clean up the uranium cycle's problems (aka "garbage disposal")

        They're currently where almost all serious research is being directed. Expect to see the first working LFTR system since the 1960s Oak Ridge experiments operational late this year or early next.

      4. southen bastard

        Re: Smart, huh?

        the future of nuke power is thorium not US bomb fuel

        dont you read this gutter rag?

        anyway Australia has plenty of yellow cake and we sell it cheap (like everything else)

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Smart, huh?

      Beyond more nuke plants, there's the need to secure the IT infrastructure and maybe look at using TCP/IP over power cables as a backup for infrastructure in case you lose telco but have power.

      I agree that Smart Meters are a joke. If you look back at how they were sold. They tried to show it as a benefit to the consumers. In fact the only advantage is that it makes reading meters easier and lest costly for the power companies.

      And of course they add yet another access point for threats to the power infrastructure.

      Yes Virginia, there really are bad people out to get you....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smart, huh?

        Uranium ore has been mined in the UK before, and could probably be mined again, albeit it would cost a massive amount more to mine given that we have higher safety standards for mining and higher wages.

        Apart from that, the green lobby would scream blue fucking murder so it's not worth doing politically. While there is a debate over if we have a thousand years worth of uranium at increased usage, nobody seriously says that we haven't got enough easily recoverable to last the next century when the majority of plants will near certainly be Thorium based reactors instead of Uranium ones.

        Or Fusion. But that's 30 years away, so we might not have it in a century.

        1. csmac3144

          Re: Smart, huh?

          " While there is a debate over if we have a thousand years worth of uranium at increased usage, nobody seriously says that we haven't got enough easily recoverable to last the next century when the majority of plants will near certainly be Thorium based reactors instead of Uranium ones."

          In any case, Canada has enough uranium to last for thousands of years and it's unlikely we will become hostile to the UK any time soon. Help yourselves (at market rates).

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Smart, huh?

          Fusion will be 30 years away from commercial use when the total electrical energy output of experimental systems is sustainably more than the total electrical energy input by a factor of at least 10-100

          Merely being "over unity" at the business end of the lasers is not enough by a factor of at least 100,000.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Smart, huh?

        "and maybe look at using TCP/IP over power cables as a backup for infrastructure in case you lose telco but have power."

        Internet-over-power has been tried (and failed) many times.

        (that's separate to Homeplug, which uses similar tech and works middlingly ok)

  3. sorry, what?
    Unhappy

    SMART = Smart Meters Are Real Threat?

    So 'smart' meters "could even expose consumers to cyber threats" - that sounds right to me. Same goes if you consider any form of actually connected smartphone app that can perform any sort of control of supply rather than passive meter reading.

    I really do think the "vested interests" (Smart Engergy GB's response sounds exactly like what you'd expect from one of these) should be backed off and an independent review undertaken.

    1. Graham Cobb

      Re: SMART = Smart Meters Are Real Threat?

      Particularly in the light of today's serious revelations about personal data being sold "for 5p".

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: SMART = Smart Meters Are Real Threat?

      "Smart Energy GB's response sounds exactly like what you'd expect from one of these"

      Not even the POWER COMPANIES want smart meters (too much cost, too little benefit). This is entirely driven by outfits wanting to push smart meters for their own agendas.

      I'm sure that skiddies will love to drive down roads switching off smart-meters as they go. It gives a whole new meaning to "War Driving" (I'm sure many people would pledge a tenner to whoever manages to switch David Cameron/Ed Milliband/Rupert Murdoch/Alec Salmond's power off remotely)

      1. hoola

        Re: SMART = Smart Meters Are Real Threat?

        It is not about who "Wants" SMART meters, it is all about who gains from having them installed. This is nothing to do with consumers but is all about the usual suspects involved in the deployment and

        ongoing support of this infrastructure.

        Captia (What a suprise) £175 million over 12 years

        CGI £75 million over 8 years

        Arquivi Smart Metering £625 over 15 years but this appears to only cover the north. It would be safe to assume that the lucrative south will be much more with the greater density of homes.

        Telephonica 1.5 billion over 15 years

        If CGI are the Defence group then I would have even more concerns about the ultimate use of the infrastructure. I also recall some link somewhere about the ability to target power cuts (load shedding?) and to make it easier to cut people off. Given the state of electricity supply in the UK for the next 5 years there are more questions than answers.

        reference:

        https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/helping-households-to-cut-their-energy-bills/supporting-pages/smart-meters

        http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240205914/DECC-names-IT-suppliers-for-smart-meter-project

        http://www.cgi-group.co.uk/

  4. keithpeter
    Windows

    Just give us the numbers

    At least we have had the cost-benefit analysis for the HS2 and people can argue about it. Get them to *publish* the report so we can all see what the numbers are like for smart meter rollout.

    1. smartypants

      Re: Just give us the numbers

      The problem with seeing the numbers (e.g. HS2) is that it just confirms your worst suspicions!

      There is nothing more annoying than to read load of post-hoc bullshit whose only purpose is to try to prop up a political decision. The worst example of this in recent years has to be the dodgy Iraq dossier.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Just give us the numbers

        "The problem with seeing the numbers (e.g. HS2) is that it just confirms your worst suspicions!"

        The numbers show:

        1: HS2 has real benefits to Birmingham and the North - so much so that it's arguable that the line should be started NOW between Birmingham and Manchester, with extensions south to be discussed later (maybe) when access rights have been sorted (if ever).

        2: Smartmeters are an expensive Boondoggle with no measureable benefit to anyone.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just give us the numbers

      Pick a extremely high number x2 (to allow for the fact it was under budget) - cost of cancellation = amount of kick backs received.

    3. Lusty Silver badge

      Re: Just give us the numbers

      Knowing the numbers will only tell you what everyone already knows - the benefit is not cost based. Sure, a few people will save a few quid, but most won't. The other benefits are currently not quantifiable, as the article stated, and so even with the numbers we wouldn't be able to have a sensible discussion because half the people think energy consumption would drop and the other half don't, just like in the climate debate.

      Handing over the report would definitely fan the flames of people who don't think that smart meters will help reduce energy consumption and therefore carbon emissions etc. so I don't think they should hand it over. If they do, the newspapers will publish the numbers, enrage the uneducated masses and the money will definitely have been wasted. If we do nothing, then worst case is everyone gets a replacement meter which can be read remotely which would at the very least improve the archaic system we have now where once a quarter I have to let two men into my house to avoid getting estimated (read imaginary massive numbers) bills.

      I'm not necessarily in favour of these meters, but the content of the article was enough to convince me that we shouldn't stop them at this point - someone clearly has an agenda in stopping them.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Just give us the numbers

        "once a quarter I have to let two men into my house to avoid getting estimated (read imaginary massive numbers) bills."

        This particular issue was solved 40+ years ago. Put a remote display externally or mount the meter in an external locked cabinet.

        Smart meters are a solution looking for a problem.

        1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: Just give us the numbers

          Smart meters are a solution looking for a problem

          Not really. In that particular case, the power companies still have to send people out to read the meter. This costs.

          I think the main problem is the costs involved. Myself, I would suggest that they make it voluntary, charge for the meter and installation for those who want it, but allow the companies to charge a reasonable* fee for sending people out to read the meter. This would allow consumers to do a real cost/benefit analysis of their own: Are they happy to pay out for the meter, given that it may take N years to pay for itself? Are the other benefits involved worth the cost? And so on...

          In the end, forcing the rollout at this stage is a bad idea, IMHO. I agree that the meters will probably be obsolete before they have paid for themselves. By then we may have things like smart appliances, more electric cars, more solar panels and/or home generation/storage systems, all of which will benefit from more advanced smart meter technology, but noone will be happy rolling out updated models so soon.

          Let those who want them, get them and pay for them.

      2. DaLo

        Re: Just give us the numbers

        "... once a quarter I have to let two men into my house to avoid getting estimated (read imaginary massive numbers) bills."

        Where do you live that is so dangerous that it requires two men to read a meter? Also I just post my meter readings online or phone them through, the meter rarely gets read by a company representative unless it seems wildly wrong.

  5. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Trollface

    Smart meters

    Not so smart, eh?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This:

    the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has refused to publish them, citing commercial sensitivity.

    So, the upshot is this, the vast majority of the public will be hoodwinked into these meters because the government will dare not see another IT project fall flat on its arse...

    They will do EVERYTHING in their power to complete this roll out.

    How many times have independent scientists shown the government true stats only to have them brushed aside or removed from office....

    They are coming. Be prepared to defend against them... Tinfoil at the ready...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This:

      the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has refused to publish them, citing commercial embarrassment.

      TFIFY

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    This is all well and good until their recommendation:

    "Abandon the whole programme and develop a smart phone app instead – look into developing a smart app which would convert a photo of their current mechanical meter into a meaningful number for the suppliers. This would cost tens of thousands of pounds rather than billions."

    This could rapidly become "convert an edited photo of their current mechanical meter into a meaningless number" and "cost customers tens of pounds rather than hundreds".

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      ""convert an edited photo of their current mechanical meter into a meaningless number"

      What, as opposed to just entering a false reading on the web site?

    2. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      This could rapidly become "convert an edited photo of their current mechanical meter into a meaningless number" and "cost customers tens of pounds rather than hundreds".

      When I read this part of the article I immediately thought of something like SecurID. Have the display present both the units-used counter and some cryptographically-generated hash or time signature (like a HMAC involving the current time, the value of the counter and the serial number of the meter). Of course, once the meter is in people's hands, you're bound to find someone who has the skill needed to hack the device (eg, to find the secret serial number) but the vast majority of people won't.

      I agree with the people who suggested the smartphone app idea. Done right it would be vastly better (and more secure) than "smart" meters that need to be networked.

      Without wanting to blow my own trumpet (too much), I'm sure I could knock up a proof of concept for this in an afternoon with a Raspberry Pi, a small screen and a mobile phone. Just use QR code libraries on the Pi and phone and you've got a fault-tolerant reader (QR includes error correction) that can automatically send an SMS reading to wherever. Of course, this is probably way too easy. I'd have to massively over-engineer it for the government to have any interest in it.

  8. Graham Triggs

    IT disasters...

    Really, government IT disasters fall into two categories:

    1) Projects that are too ambitious

    2) Projects that are not ambitious enough / outdated / not implemented

    It's not sufficient to simply sit around not doing any IT projects, just because a few don't work out. Over the long run, not implementing anything will be far, far more costly - both in waste, and in having to do much larger projects to catch up, rather than smaller projects to renew.

    It's ok for government projects to fail - what needs to happen is to restructure them to recognise that they might fail, and to ensure they don't fail quite so expensively. The problem isn't the project, but the archaic way in which it is constructed and awarded, which does not work for the benefit of the client (government / the public), but to ensure that contractors can extract as much money from the public purse as possible.

    As for the IoD - they are an organisation that largely exists to ensure that the "haves", have more... I do strongly believe that a strong economy is important - we can't share wealth when we nobody has wealth - but more often than not anything that annoys the IoD is something we should be doing.

    1. vagabondo
      Facepalm

      Re: IT disasters...

      "It's not sufficient to simply sit around not doing any IT projects, just because a few don't work out."

      a few! a few -- realy only a few?

    2. Richard Jones 1
      Flame

      Re: IT disasters...

      IOD = people who generally have to make things work in their domains and who get booted round the countryside and out if they don't. Contrast that with many government projects where the team move on to a higher grade before the sh1t hits the rapidly rotating object. and the bill for the mess goes to the general public.

      There is nothing smart about a meter that will tell the world when you are, and are not at home. Frankly the whole idea is dumb, My family uses the washing machine when we want to wash clothes, the microwave when we want things heated, ditto the kettle, the toaster the heating and the rest of the gubbins in the house, not forgetting the PC and its printers. Power consumption is not helped by being retired, so we are always in the house with a dependant who is largely house bound and able to do only so much for themselves.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: IT disasters...

      3) Projects to solve a non-problem.

    4. John Sanders
      Thumb Down

      Re: IT disasters...

      I have a bridge over here to sell you... comes with a smart meter for the toll.

  9. Nifty

    And just this morning, something else that's fishy

    Farming Today this morning - this scheme http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/control/technologies/ers/index_en.htm - laptop data entry on fishing vessels then uploading it. What could possibly go wrong?

    And this recent fail:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/03/26/part_of_cap_it_system_may_be_scrapped_after_digital_fail/

    Avoidance of apps and mobile devices in favour of laptops. Weird when you think what a productive and creative app ecosystem is out there.

    We need is a compact optical/WiFi device to clip onto our old electricity & gas meters that sends images to a cloud for digitization. Random checks by wetware meter readers. Done cheaply in months.

    1. vagabondo

      Re: And just this morning, something else that's fishy

      That was nearly OK until you mentioned the "cloud" word.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And just this morning, something else that's fishy

      > We need is a compact optical/WiFi device to clip onto our old electricity & gas meters that sends images to a cloud for digitization. Random checks by wetware meter readers.

      Most meters have an optical port for the "wetware" meter reader. At least one company is already building clip-on hardware that will interrogate the meter using the optical port and transmit the reading to HQ via GSM.

      And there is also Automated Meter Reading which has been around for years - short-range RF transceivers on the meters, meter-reading human drives down the street with an interrogation device which picks up the readings.

      IMO the lure of "smart" meters is in differentiated tariffs, i.e. charging more at peak times to flatten the peaks and reduce the amount of generating capacity that needs to be kept on standby.

      Unfortunately people use lots of power at peak times for a good reason (such as, they're at home and not in bed yet), so it pretty much boils down to soaking the public unless they expect half the populace to sleep from 6 p.m. to midnight, and the rest to sleep from midnight to 6 a.m.

      IIRC the electricity company in South Africa determined that differentiated peak tariffs for domestic consumers only had an effect on behaviour at a level 10 times the normal electricity price.

    3. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: And just this morning, something else that's fishy

      "Farming Today this morning - this scheme http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/control/technologies/ers/index_en.htm - laptop data entry on fishing vessels then uploading it. What could possibly go wrong?"

      I built something like this a decade ago for the local(ish) prawn fisheries. It consisted of an Excel spreadsheet to fill out and a button to FTP the resulting file server where it was collated with a script and imported into an Oracle database. No need for laptops 'cause every boat already had at least three PCs on the bridge and a GSM data connection (invariably with an illegal signal amp inline - the chaos that resulted whenever a skipper forgot to turn if off when entering port was a joy to behold).

      The real trick is to structure the scheme so its in the fishermen's best interest to report honestly. It turns out that if you make them feel they are part of the management process, rather than the thing being managed, you get much better data. Who'd have guessed?

  10. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    Speaking as a Scottish Power customer who, despite several frustrating phone calls and the involvement of the Ombudsman, has not had a bill for a year, I'd be happy simply with a bit of paper that told me my usage.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Speaking as a Scottish Power customer who, despite several frustrating phone calls and the involvement of the Ombudsman, has not had a bill for a year"

      I didn't tell you this, but most of the large energy suppliers only keep all billing records for 6 months. Meaning that when they eventually ask you when you last paid a bill, say about 7 months ago...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Speaking as a Scottish Power customer"

      Get a new supplier. Seriously. SP are dreadful - up to the point of trying to leave us without any heating or ability to cook in the middle of winter for two weeks.

      1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

        That was my thinking - not sure how it's going to go - getting a new supplier before the old one has even set the account up properly. In theory they shouldn't block the switch but we'll see.. Ovo should hopefully be a bit better. Not the very cheapest, but good reviews on service.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          When I last moved SP were unable to bill me, or read the meter, for about three years because there was no postcode (the postman seemed to manage just fine 'though). Eventually I received bill only for one metered quarter plus one precedding estimated quarter. Then I was able to change suppliers, which took about five months).

  11. Christopher Lane

    I've always wondered...

    ...if a energy meter could be made with an e-ink display which displayed a QR code consisting of:-

    Meter reading | MPAN | Meter number | {some random value unique to meter and not known to end consumer} | md5 of previous fields

    It just updates at every full unit "click". Then just read it with your suppliers smart phone QR reader app and the consumer can never fiddle the reading.

    Hack proof and no more tiny dials to read and discern the clockwise/anti clockwise sequence etc but does need a smart phone which isn't necessarily universal yet I suppose.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've always wondered...

      > Hack proof

      Not really, but the general idea has merit. Have to be a F/OSS implementation to ensure transparency. Also all the suppliers would need to agree to a standard and, given the fact the can't do that with current "SMART" meters, it'll never happen.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        Re: I've always wondered...

        The goal is to make the meter reading easier.

        Wireless so that they don't need physical access to the meter. (Beware of dog), in buildings, etc...

        You could lock down the meters so that once they are installed, the only communication would a HELO statement containing the data and then no further communication. You want to modify the meter? You need to use a physical connection and the PC has to have a special fob or smart card chip to ensure secure access beyond passwords.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Meh

          Re: I've always wondered...

          "You need to use a physical connection and the PC has to have a special fob or smart card chip to ensure secure access beyond passwords."

          Available from eBay, shipped from China 3 days after 1st roll out.

        2. Lyndon Hills 1

          Re: I've always wondered...

          The goal is to make the meter reading easier.

          I think that's only one of the goals, some others include

          allowing the energy co. to control your power supply when they need to

          making consumption more apparent to the consumer, in the hope that they will moderate their use, thus assisting in meeting EU energy targets

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: I've always wondered...

            "making consumption more apparent to the consumer, in the hope that they will moderate their use, thus assisting in meeting EU energy targets"

            Consumers either already care and have taken action, or don't give a shit and won't unless their power bill goes up by a factor of 5-10

            Unfortunately, those in the former camp will have their power bills go up too.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Hmmm..

    "the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has refused to publish them, citing commercial sensitivity."

    Last I heard, the government is answerable and is funded by the public and is not a commercial entity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Lost all faith... Re: Hmmm..

      "Last I heard, the government is answerable and is funded by the public and is not a commercial entity."

      No, it's funded by the poor, and answerable to the wealthy.

    2. Red Bren
      Unhappy

      Re: Hmmm..

      The government is funded by the public but is answerable to its political donors.

  13. Tezfair

    short term benefit

    I brought one of those meters that give you a live readout on consumption. It was useful at the beginning as it showed things like two florecent tubes in the kitchen consuming 120w each, when the tubes were only 60w (old design). Or it showed that the house had a baseline consumption of 300w (CH pumps, tvs, radios, server, phones etc)

    Over the years we have swapped to LED GU10's and switched to halegen bulbs as the smaller filtament bulbs popped, so the consumption naturally reduced.

    Now its in a drawer somewhere as the batteries kept needing to be replaced but mainly I paid no attention to the readout as there was nothing else to save power on without splashing out cash on a slightly more economical model.

    1. John 48

      Re: short term benefit

      Tezfair Wrote:

      "I brought one of those meters that give you a live readout on consumption. It was useful at the beginning as it showed things like two florecent tubes in the kitchen consuming 120w each, when the tubes were only 60w (old design)."

      What it really showed you was that the display was probably just doing a quick "amps times volts" computation of the power being used, and getting the wrong answer! It sounds like it was not correctly allowing for the non unity power factor of older florescent lights...

      (a common failing of many of the power meters that just clip a current transformer round the wires feeding your consumer unit)

      Traditional strip lights with an old inductive ballast will present a load that is partly "reactive". That means that not all of the current actually drawn ends up being used to actually do any work. The reactive current is drawn on one part of the mains cycle, and then pushed back again on the next. Hence you will not actually be charged for all of that current drawn (the old style domestic meters we have now are quite good at only charging for the real power used and not the reactive part).

      The same error will occur for any other load that is not purely resistive in nature (e.g things like CFL bulbs, induction motors in fridges/freezers etc, modern "switched mode" PSUs as used in practially every phone charger and plug in gadget).

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: short term benefit @John 48

        You have a very good point, but that is not what Tezfair was talking about.

        What he said was that it enabled him to reduce his consumption. OK, he might have replaced some things that did not need replacing because the reactive load was not being taken into account, but he still reduced his consumption. That is what was important to him, not checking the accuracy of the billing system.

        What he wrote mirrors my experience exactly. I too used one of the cheap clamp on meters to monitor instantaneous use, and I spotted a number of things that I could do that reduced the consumption, and managed to drop my base load as measured by the meter by about 45% (although peak use is still about the same because of high current devices like washing machines and tumble driers). My bills have gone down (or at least they did not go up as fast), and I now do not keep my meter running either. It achieved it's aim.

        I would probably not benefit particularly from having a 'smarter' meter, apart from not having to provide meter readings.

        1. Paul Shirley

          Re: short term benefit @John 48

          "You have a very good point, but that is not what Tezfair was talking about."

          What he described was reducing what the *power meter read*. For the tubes it's unlikely there was a matching real power reduction and who needs a smart meter to tell them low power bulbs will reduce consumption?

          Useful in the same way a placebo is, just there to remind you to actually replace and turn off powered stuff. But that means they might as well loan people cheap power meters for 3 months instead of mugging them for smart meters (and doing it every time they try to change suppliers).

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            "just there to remind you to actually replace and turn off powered stuff"

            But that's exactly the point.

            In my case, it gave me the impetus to actually find these things, so I would judge that it was more valuable than a placebo. It was also a useful demonstration to the other family members that what they leave on has an effect on the household consumption, and that was tremendously valuable on it's own. If it gave over inflated readings, then that made it more valuable still!

            As I understand it, recent equipment with a CE mark has to have a power factor close to 1, so that this type of meter will be more relevant once older devices age out of the house.

      2. Measurer

        Re: short term benefit

        ALL HAIL THE SPARKY.... FROM ANOTHER SPARKY!

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: short term benefit

        "(a common failing of many of the power meters that just clip a current transformer round the wires feeding your consumer unit)"

        It's surprising how easy it is to get accurate readings by simply sniffing the voltage too, but that would make installation "too hard" for home installations unless you have something reading the electric field as well as the magnetic one.

    2. ilmari

      Re: short term benefit

      I tried one of those too, but it was like watching a rsa key fob tick.

      And yes, it had no clue about power factor, so it thought laptop power brick eats double what it really does, and idling wallwarts were overestimated by a factor 10 or so..

  14. NIck Hunn

    Keeping the Quangos funded

    The Smart Energy GB response is interesting, as it illustrates how their main interest is remaining funded as a quango, even if that means screwing the consumer. Sacha Deshmukh’s opening riposte is that “The Institute of Directors wants to reverse the modernisation of Britain’s energy system and take us back to an analogue dark age”. Had he spent time looking at the technology in these smart meters he’d have realised that they are the dark age. They were specified before the world saw the iPhone or had grasped the concept of the Internet of Things. The IoD’s main complaint is that the current smart metering programme is effectively a dark ages of smart metering technology. Out of date, over-priced and incapable of delivery any of the benefits which DECC claim. And the world is still waiting for DECC to release its financial justifications, resisting Freedom of Information requests to make then public.

    There are important benefits that smart meters provide. The problem is that the UK deployment won’t provide them. The IoD report is a timely warning that DECC and the industry is sleep walking into another Government IT disaster.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Keeping the Quangos funded

      "And the world is still waiting for DECC to release its financial justifications, resisting Freedom of Information requests to make then public."

      I wonder how many court cases it'd take to change their mind? "Commercial sensitivity" is a common catchcry and the ICO bats it to the curb fairly regularly.

  15. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Copy Water Meters

    In my area, water meters can be read electronically by someone outside the property. Why don't the gas and electric companies adopt a similar system. Then (and this is the really radical idea) instead of having to send three people to read gas, electric and water meters, you just send one to read all three.

    I know it's not as sexy as millions of meters being on-line, but why over complicate things? And we all know how good the public sector is at large IT projects...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Copy Water Meters

      Because the water companies don't (yet) need to double the cost of water when everyone wants it at the same time to avoid building more water factories

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Copy Water Meters

        "Because the water companies don't (yet) need to double the cost of water when everyone wants it "

        As another poster pointed out, real world experience shows that it takes a change in price around about 10x to make a difference.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All too true...

    Having worked for one of the big 6 on their Smart Meter IT deployment, the full scale of just how badly the government have screwed us all on this is painfully apparent. True to form they have outsourced every aspect to the highest bidder regardless of quality of bid, delayed the specification while not moving the deadline, threatened punitive fines for non compliance from energy firms and generally not listened to any reasoned argument along the way.

    The energy firms don't want this, it provides little benefit compared to effort and cost (£50m so far at the firm I was working at) and all this gets passed on to the end customer whether we take a meter or not. Every other country that has successfully deployed Smart meters has done so either with a vastly simplified model or been able to do so because the utility is still government owned.

  17. -tim
    Flame

    More Smart meter fail?

    The 1st smart meters were the ones where they started transmitting so the guy at the meter spent about 10 seconds less at each meter and then someone spent a far longer time with batteries every few years.

    The next take was the custom frequency/sms/whatever meters hacked into normal digital meters which is fine for areas with new rollout where there is decent network coverage but not so good in other places.

    The local guys decided to roll out an IPv6 Wimax network for their meters which mostly weren't upgraded. Of course people figured out you could torrent over that network with a card removed from someone else's meter. With billions of IP address IPv6 didn't need security because the address space can't be scanned except that we know all 8 bytes of the /64 network number and 5 out of the low 8 bytes which means hacker search space is just a couple dozen million packets.

    Then there is the radio in my brain crazy issues to deal with.

    I figured a smart system would put the meters up on the poles were they can talk to each other without much in the way, hard to tamper with, fully under the utility control, cheaper because one meter could do many houses. It would reduce risk to burning down houses when the old meter boards had undetected flaws and there would be some redundancy when the new meter was reading far more power use than the old one because someone put in the wrong current transformers.

    /two firey icons and no zappy ones?

    1. vagabondo

      Re: More Smart meter fail?

      Putting gas meters up poles? That sounds like a fully qualified government tech project!

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: More Smart meter fail?

        As far as I'm aware most UK electicity supply to premises is underground, too.

  18. John 48

    The reason they are so keen on deploying smart meteres...

    is that they will allow "demand management". i.e. in an ideal world, the ability to communicate with appliances in your home and tell them to enter a "low power state" when the demand is outstripping the supply capability.

    Of course what this will really mean in the real world, is that they can remotely turn off power to individual houses (i.e. yours!) on a much finer granularity than can be achieved with the current mechanisms of demand management. Not only that its cheaper than building the power stations actually needed.

    This is what you get when you spend loads of money on renewable power generation capacity that is not despatchable on demand, can only actually provide a tiny fraction of the installed capacity over the year, and that requires that you build the same capacity again in a conventional power station to make up for when its dark and the wind is not blowing.

    Which begs the question, why not cut out the middle man and just build the nukes required instead?

    1. Circadian
      Flame

      Re: The reason they are so keen on deploying smart meteres...

      From article: Smart Energy GB responded to the IoD report, claiming the IoD "does not understand what’s needed to secure Britain’s energy infrastructure for the future."

      From the point made by John 48 - this is because successive governments have failed to plan for the future, and so we are likely to not have enough power to go around shortly. So the plan is simply to force-switch-off ordinary punters power when supplies get a bit limited. I'm certain that there will be certain addresses that will be exempt from this, but I'll leave it to others to guess which ones that the powers-that-be decide to grace.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: The reason they are so keen on deploying smart meteres...

        but I'll leave it to others to guess which ones that the powers-that-be decide to grace

        Hmmm... let me think on the exclusions: "Celebrities" (or any mind numbingly talentless twatt who's spent more than 5 minutes on a reality show), MPs and their aides, local councillors with the exception of the one or two token members who will estoll the virtues of the scheme and those with their trouts in the the "smart" meter trough?

        My insincerest apologies if I've missed any other worthies out.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: The reason they are so keen on deploying smart meteres...

      "Of course what this will really mean in the real world, is that they can remotely turn off power to individual houses (i.e. yours!) on a much finer granularity than can be achieved with the current mechanisms of demand management."

      The day that "they" start rolling power cuts in this manner is the day that "they" are likely to start seeing molotov cocktails being tossed through the office door (or worse).

      Of course "they" believe that they're nice and isolated from this mess, not realising that every single detail of their lives, locations and home addresses are obtainable and publishable should enough people be pissed off enough to start looking.

      If the masses become aware that this is even remotely on the agenda, installation of smartmeters will be resisted "by force if necessary", along with bypass arrangements becoming fairly common.

  19. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Flame

    Thermostats

    From my experience no-one knows how to use thermostats. People use them like a switch, either fully up or fully down. Maybe schools could teach children what thermostats are actually useful for and how to set them efficiently.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: People use [thermostats] like a switch.

      While this annoys me as well, it is in fact perfectly rational behavior for those who are feeling cold ("I want to turn the heating on") and those who are too warm ("I want to turn the heating off"). They don't use thermostats like thermostats because thermostasis in the temperature sensor is not the problem they want to solve. They want to solve the problem of how /they/ feel, here & now, and they don't want to do it by modulating their clothing, but with the heating/cooling system instead. It might be considered mad/annoying.inefficient/short-termist/whatever, but if you have a solution that requires a switch, and all you have is a thermostat, then needs must.

      I'm all for thermostats as thermostats myself. But I'm not everyone...

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Thermostats

      It's outstanding isn't it? Even with countless explanations, "her indoors" still thinks that in summer you should turn the damn thermostats down and that you turn them back up in winter.

      Not just me either, a heating engineer who visited has the same problem where whenever his wife is cold she turns the thermostat to max, and then when she's warm she turns it way down again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Meh

        Re: Thermostats

        same here I'm afraid.

        Comes in from the cold, needs to turn the heating up to 25c, despite the fact it's already at "normal" temperature.Or sits there in a vest top and complains it's cold.

        Hey ho.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Unhappy

          Re: Thermostats

          Thermostats are fine for preventing your rooms from freezing on individual radiators. However, my house GCH electroniki LCD display thermostat wont allow temps below 17 degrees - so the only non-thermostatted radiator remains quite warm even when not needed - and yes it actually warms the whole house if the GCH is on at all.And yes the Gas men are of no use

    3. jimbo60

      Re: Thermostats

      Aye, one of my big pet peeves is when people (including some in my own family) think that turning the thermostat up higher will make things heat up faster, whether it's the furnace or the oven. There's no concept that the thing doing the heating has a fixed heat output rate.

  20. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Would be a perfect example

    Of how corruption endangers the future of everyone. Except, of course, corruption only ever happens in Russia and never here or in any countries on today's friendly list...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: corruption

      Of course corruption happens everywhere, and not only in Russia or where ever one might seize upon as a target. I would expect that even in the most well run state or institution there will be some degree of corruption, suspicious exchanging of favours, or whatever.

      It's the degree of corruption present, or the situations in which it occurs, or the severity or irreversibility of the impact on those not party to the corrupt transactions that count.

      I'm not going to claim anything about whether this or that state is more or less corrupt than any other. But one can still compare them and make a judgement on whether that State A is (much) more or (much) less corrupt than State B.

  21. Graham Marsden
    Facepalm

    “unwanted by consumers, over-engineered and mind-blowingly expensive."

    So, no change there...

  22. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    So in a country suffering a deficit problem (before we even get to the debt problem) in a financially unstable world where we talk of recession, deflation and the eurozone, in a global QE experiment and low interest rates we can all look proudly on- another waste of taxpayers money. Yey.

    It amazes me how people can vote with the hopes of increased tax's when it is spent like this on flashy nothings about to be made obsolete before arrival and increasing bills further either directly and indirectly. The cost of energy is going up anyway for the green power (whatever you feel about it) and yet they want to push the cost up more for a useless trinket.

    I assume this started as an idea with good intentions. But this is certainly an expensive waste of money which the people who earned it would very much like to have and put to their own use.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "I assume this started as an idea with good intentions. "

      Why?

      AFAIK it's main benefits are a) Eliminate human meter readers (because they still have to be paid, so short range systems won't cut it) b) Re-price your utility prices to consumers by the second c) ability to run fine grained power cuts "demand management"

      None of these have any benefit to actual consumers.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smart Meters are needed but being pitched wrong

    I agree the case for Smart Meters as explained by DECC is tenuous (at best).

    Simplistically, the current electricity network was designed for a day when electricity generation was centralised and it then needed to be distributed through step downs to real consumers (commercial or domestic), and for a world where generation capacity was able to meet demand. In contrast, we are now in (or approaching) a world where generation is distributed (micro thingummys at domestic or community level will get more effective as tech improves) and where demand outstrips supply (esp when we all finally buy into electric cars etc).. So we need to have a better idea of what demand and generation is where, and to be able to manage it (incl netting off bills to reflect consumption and generation at household level). This requires some sort of intelligence at the end point --> Smart Meters. At least for elec.... But if the current "help you manage your bills blah blah rhetoric" is maintained, it is illogical to exclude gas. I vote we reposition smart meters with the public, and simplify the program by taking gas out of the equation.

  24. g e

    "refused to publish them, citing embarassing content"

    FTFY

  25. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    FAIL

    Thanks Britian!

    Because of your cock up, over here across the pond, left thinking politicians have pushed us to get smart meters.

    Oh we must get them so we know how we're using or misusing power.

    They have been shoved down our throat and to what end?

    We're now more vulnerable to attack and cyber threats.

    Security is always an after thought and too expensive to implement for the bean counters.

    Time for a class action, but then again. companies don't learn and lawyers just get fatter and spend money on private jets which just increases our carbon footprint so we lose even more.

    1. Alan Denman

      Re: Thanks Britian!

      Nothing to do with 'left thinking'.

      It is bandwagon lobbyists who have something to gain by fibbing!

      Right wing if anything.

  26. Ilmarinen
    Big Brother

    Demand Side Management

    We'll need to be able to "manage demand" by remotely cutting off the plebs' power.

    Especially in the depths of winter when the wind stops blowing and the solar farms are in darkness.

    And we've "decarbonised" anything that used to generate reliable power.

    But we wouldn't want to publicize that (plebs might get uppity, ask questions).

  27. Alan Denman

    Totally agree

    We need to make sure the UK is last to use these, and even then they might not be secure.

    Roll them out as current meters reach 'end of life specification'.

    Zero waste there

    I would also like to say that I monitor my own usage and think those savings are a whopping lie.

    There would be zero saving here with a so called smart meter, and zero savings for everyone else if they don't get educated !

  28. Alan Denman

    How many times have independent scientists ...........

    .......................shown the government true stats only to have them brushed aside or removed from office.

    No idea, but we know they cherry pick and ignore reality, that is if they actually know what reality is.

    It is quite hard to tell.

  29. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    "the fuel poor are effectively subsidising the fuel profligate."

    Well, it's business as usual then, right ?

    Right.

  30. Oninoshiko

    poor or very poor

    but only because "piss poor" wasn't an option.

    seriously though, limiting it to just large usage houses and display on a smartphone app seems like a vary reasonable alteration to me.

    1. Ray Gratis
      Facepalm

      Re: poor or very poor

      The poor have pre-payment meters, so take them out of the equation!

      1. cortland

        Re: poor or very poor

        I remember people in Aldbourne putting coins in the gas meter ca 1953.

  31. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    Another UK technological failure. Why?

    Smartmeters are not new, they have been around so long that second and third generation versions are coming to market.

    The big difference is that in overseas jurisdictions, commercial enterprises are doing the switch-over with their own money - and what private enterprise likes to lose money?

    But no, the Tory government decides to screw the public for the costs with power utilities laughing all the way to the bank. Why not simply mandate the costs will be born by the utilities and that they must convert 5% of their meter base per year?

  32. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Windows

    IN home display redundant?

    "Remove the requirement for an “in home” display – expected to cost £800m in total, the displays will be out of date in a few years. Far better to connect smart meters to people’s phones, tablets and PCs"

    Maybe that should be optional. Unless we are going to subsidise the 10% (IIRC) who are not on line with a free tablet, smartphone or PC.

  33. david 12 Bronze badge

    >current mechanical meter

    "look into developing a smart app which would convert a photo of their current mechanical meter"

    The mechanical meters are due for renewal. They will be replaced with a meter that is easier for meter readers to read, or with a meter that is read automatically (networked), or with a smart meter.

    The cheapest option is to replace the meters, as they become due for renewal, with more secure electronic models which are dumb, and not networked, but which have standard meter-reader features.

    In this "overseas jurisdiction" (Australia), the cost is borne by the companies, which pass it directly to the users. The governments mandated the most expensive option. The companies wanted option A, the government decided that option B was better, we got option C because once you've gone to B, C looks like a good idea.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lies, damned lies and smart meter rollouts

    Recently I received an email from our gas and electric supplier telling me that my meter is too old and needed replacing. When I challenged them how the meter in my newly built house could be too old, they admitted I had been "wrongly informed". This was after I had already told them where to stick their smart meters as there was no legal requirement on me to accept one - and they had agreed that they wouldn't bother me again. Government and EU pressure to roll out these pointless devices is driving bad behaviour in the gas and electric suppliers.

  35. jimbo60

    definition of smart meter?

    The term "smart meter" has multiple meanings, ranging from meters that are remotely readable to meters that signal devices to control consumption (such as switching air conditioners on and off). Which is meant by the article?

    In my locality (medium sized Colorado city) the utility switched over to the remotely readable form of smart meters for electric, water, gas. The latter two were add-ins to existing meters so the analog dials are still present. There was no consumer charge for the change. There was no rate increase for the change, and our rates are still well under averages. Presumably the costs were paid by the savings in meter reader labor. There were no politicians trying to make it more than it is, so it was just an efficiency improvement for the utility service. So there was no expensive boondoggle with this deployment.

    As an added bonus, readings are apparently done daily and the utility has added the ability for consumers to log onto their web site and view usage metrics, down to daily consumption, comparison against averages, and so on. (It's pretty remarkable to see what a decent Christmas light display adds to the electric usage!)

  36. NeilPost

    Spend the money on efficiency, houses, or a power station

    If you took the £11bn, and at a conservative cost of £5,000 to put in a new efficienct condensing gas Boiler and replace windows... that's around 2.2m houses with real efficiency gains, as opposed to a meter telling you some subjective stats on your usage.

    Or £11bn towards another nuclear power station...

    ...or just build some damn fucking vanilla council houses, that people arre allowed to buy, and the sale money used to build more.

  37. Benjol

    "likely to cost most consumers more than it could save them"

    That's the point of green policies, isn't it?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cost/Benefits and the pros of analog meter

    Two remarks:

    “The rollout is not until April 2016. That is plenty of time to publicise the numbers underpinning the cost/benefit analysis.”

    The main benefits of smart meter is to get rid of employees reading the meters. The saving energy argument is just there to get subsidies so you'll get rid of your staff without spending a penny on the tech replacing them.

    When you plan a roll-out, you already manufactured the meters in advance, and put in place the ressources for the roll-out. Surely, he/she is not waiting for the roll-out date to know if he/she manufactured lots of meters for nothing?

    The one thing I do not like about digital meter is that the screen can tell me absolutely anything.

    With an analog meter, it is harder to add 10% extra consumption (e.g. in in winter where it's most expensive, and reduce -3.33% for the other quarter where it is cheaper, if you want the same annual consumption).

    A third remark: usually, when you sell such big scheme to governments, you under estimate the price, so it is more sellable. Then, you ask for an extra to complete the necessary works. (A bit like the Olympics, no reasonable person on earth believe it would cost only 3bn)

  39. kraftdinner

    Look at Canada

    Been there done that in Ontario and got the electric burn marks to prove it. DON'T DO IT!! Bills went through the roof. Don't believe the ROI crap they tell you....

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm unsure about the situation in the EU, but I think that smart meters are essential in China and even smarter ones. China have a tendency of using less costly equipment hence causing limited durability and even more issues for the future. Over the past decade, China's rapid growth has caused major increases in demand in electricity. As a result to its insanely low prices due to government subsidies, consumers take advantage of such and use it recklessly. Dynamic pricing is being introduced in China over the last few years, which decreases grid stress and also provides bill savings. The reduction in stress or peak shifting or reducing limits the amounts of blackouts that can occur. Blackouts cause China 90 billion dollars in annual production lost. So, you do the math.

  41. Torchy

    May 2018

    Here we are in May 2018 and if you change energy supplier your smart meter has to be changed too.

    The electrician binned the older smart meter so this begs the question "who is paying for this waste"?

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