back to article Don't panic. Stupid smart meters are still 50 years away

The government's hated £11bn smart meters project will not be complete for another 50 years, stats from the Department of Energy and Climate Change indicate. According to government figures for the first quarter of 2015, around 211,700 smart meters were installed, bringing the total up to 1,054,800. Earlier this year a report …

  1. Blank-Reg
    Mushroom

    Shocker. The only way that one of these things will get installed in my home is either over my dead body or someone installs it without my permission

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Unhappy

      both of which can be arranged .....

    2. Oddlegs

      Why?

      I can understand some concerns about privacy but smart meters? "Oh no, the powers that be will know exactly how much gas and electricity I'm using!!" What possible nefarious use could anyone have for that information? Contrast that with more accurate bills, not being hassled for meter readings and potentially innovative products/pricing based on time of use.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Because you've fallen into the trap? Look at all the cool gadgets! (Sound familiar? Look at all the advantages of this national ID card tied into every database that even your landlord will need to query / update before you can rent a house!).

        It's called feature-creep. Once a microprocessor-controlled device connected to the Internet is in your house, the next steps can happen without your knowledge.

        A proper smart meter, however, is destined to have the ability to curb your electrical usage. The electricity companies know EXACTLY how much energy they are pulling at any one moment. Smart meters do not enhance that. They may enhance USER knowledge, but so does a £20 clamp meter on a smartphone app. However, smart meters' purpose is then really in doubt. They aren't there to be smart *monitoring* meters. They are there to do something else, eventually.

        That may not be what they're deploying at the moment (I have a suspicion that those install numbers are pretty similar to the number of, say, new-build homes and/or local-government-controlled property?), but you get no say in what the device can or can't do or what model they put into your particular home.

        There are also already-published vulnerabilities in just about all the devices currently used that may allow more than just a number to go back and forth, we're talking Internet-connected devices after all.

        That aside, however, the system as is relies on the honesty of the user and moving to smart metering implies I'm NOT being honest with you. You have to prove that to me before I'll let you change an existing, perfectly-working, sufficiently accurate system with some random IoT junk that could do anything it liked with my data and/or supply.

        Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

        Paranoia? Possibly. But when people are so vague about what they are installing and WHY they are installing it (the real reason is to be able to cut you off at peak times unless you are a paying member of their Energy Prime subscription, to be honest), and you look into quite what they could gain by the stated purpose (nothing) against what they could gain from a not-fantastical extension of capabilities that you'll get no say over (i.e. control of your off switch).

        1. Meerkatjie

          They don't trust us already - I've had the meter man come in twice over the last 2ish years to check I haven't been doing anything dodgy.

          1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

            We get one every six months - and we self report via our providers website - accurately

          2. Old Lady

            I asked our meter reader why they were coming more often than they used to. He told me that it was an agreement between the power companies & Ofgem that the meters are now read every 6 months plus the meter reader checks whether the customer is having problems meeting the cost of gas & electricity. I now know why we received a letter which started with " It has come to our attention that you are not on our vulnerable persons register " because we are pensioners, nice to know they won't cut us off for non-payment. On the QT I got the impression it was something the companies wanted so that they could make sure the meter wasn't being bypassed.

      2. DanDanDan

        Why? Because it's super expensive for the perceived "convenience". No-one wants them and no-one needs them.

      3. Lionel Baden

        I already learnt my lessons .....

        Few years ago I had a real Barney with my electricity supplier, after switching to them. They assumed (incorrectly) that a 2 bed flat consumed £1800 in a quarter (all previous were around the £300 mark). I politely declined to pay, until they resolved the billing issue or at least investigate it. They wanted the money upfront then they would resolve it, Yeah right .......

        They answered in kind with legal letter bailiffs, and also people to turn off my supply (also illegal, due to young children on the property).

        Give them the power of the smart meter, regardless a computer somewhere detects that a payment has been missed, Bang there goes your supply, without anything you can do. I would be held to a incorrect £1800 Ransom.

        lets skip forward 9 months !! yes a whole 9 months (paid all consequent bills in the meantime) and funnily enough it turned out they were wrong and stated I was £90 in credit.

        The problem you ask in having over an unfeeling massive corporation that has little to no ability to work with case exceptions !!! well have a little think about it, they already gloated about teh ability to finally turn devices on or off depending on electricity need (fridge, dryer etc etc etc) I dont really want to go with a company who makes a saving by fleecing the end user.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: I already learnt my lessons .....

          I have to say, if I do get given a smart meter that has the capability to cut power (whether or not they say they'll ever exercise it), the first thing I'll do and which I'm sure I won't be alone on: Buy a generator. put in solar panels, etc.

          Then if they do cut off through some "mistake", I will be sure to charge them for the hassle, fuel and inconvenience at generator rates. And unlike the many threats I've received over the years that have always come to naught, I *will* send in the bailiffs to their head office to collect if it gets that far.

      4. Anonymous Brave Guy
        Facepalm

        Re: Why @Oddleg

        Smart meters being used to better gauge your electricity usage is a Trojan horse to eventually cut you off during peak hours if they deem you to be using too much electricity; If you don't mind this, then do carry on believing the propaganda, the rest of us won't care and will actively refuse their installation.

      5. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        @Oddlegs

        We already have these in SoCal. You can go to Edison's website, create an account for an address and view your usage history. You'll soon notice certain daily patterns when the electrical usage spikes and they helpfully have the temperature of each day so you can see the spike from the air conditioning. You can also make arrangements to have the power turned on or off. You can pay the bill right there online. It's all very convenient. They even allow multiple accounts for a given address so your spouse could check it as well. Unfortunately a nefarious person might be able to use this information to determine when nobody is at home and decide a visit regarding acquisitions is in order. Likewise I'm sure it comforts the FBI to have a good estimate of how much time they have to plant evidence lawfully execute some sort of warrant on the property. All your electrical usage down to the hour online, what could go wrong?

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: @Oddlegs

          The burglar argument is naff.

          Want to know if someone is at home? Ring their home phone or knock on the door, look for lights on, etc.. No answer = 99.9% chance there's nobody home. And, besides, I have just as much running automatically when I'm not at home as I do when I'm at home and that's only going to get more true as time goes on.

          Nobody's going to bother to use smart-meters for that. That's not the problem at all.

          The problem is when they want to put smart-meters in that have the capability to cut power to non-essential circuits. Not burglars deciding whether 0.1KWh more or less means you're in or not when they still have to drive over to your house and knock on the door anyway.

          1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

            Re: @Oddlegs

            @Lee D

            Sure, the average meth head on the prowl for a quick buck walks up to the door knocks but it's clear you've never met a professional thief. Professionals plan ahead and if it takes a week to case a juicy target it isn't really an issue because they're going in to take everything. Professionals watch and look for trends and it's that much easier when you can get easy data directly from the electric company. Sure a professional isn't going to waste a bunch of time on a target that isn't worth it so many homes will likely be left for the smash and grab meth heads. Also, ringing the home phone means you need the number which may be unlisted (assuming a land line is even there) and with lots of folks now on packaged voip lines it's easy enough to have it ring through to a mobile so that's largely useless information.

            Perhaps you haven't noticed but SoCal tends to be a rather warm place and because air conditioning is expensive I don't know anyone who leaves it run all day when they are out. Instead they have it set to kick in about 30 minutes before they expect to get home or those with indoor pets set a max temperature while they are out and drop it for their arrival. That change is a bit more than flipping on a few led bulbs and far in excess of 0.1 kWh. Consider when you're looking at a 2.5 ton unit you're talking 8.8 kW of output. Run that for 30 minutes and it's a giant change and quite obvious when looking at the hourly power usage trace.

    3. Wolfclaw Silver badge
  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Staggering incompetence

    Government's ability to piss away mind-boggling amounts of our money on utterly pointless projects, apparently decided on a whim - and then fuck it up anyway - never ceases to amaze.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Staggering incompetence

      This is a piss-away by design by Mandy(TM) and Brown(TM) along the lines of the 3G auction.

      The "functional separation" of the components into communications company, data processing, retail, etc made it pointless for _ALL_ telcos in UK as well as any company aiming to establish dedicated infra to bid. The spec was rigged so that a reseller/outsourcer only can "add value" by applying as a "communications company".

      I remember applying for a network architecture job in that area at the time and the clueless PM interviewing me explaining how they intend to assemble the a "best of breed" hodgepodge of 5 different communication technologies to deliver that. Towards the end (when it became clear to me that this is not a job for me) I had to tell her - that "breeding a Chihuahua with a St Bernard a best of breed does not produce. It simply does not work". It has to work 98%+ with _ONE_ tech. If possible - 100%. Otherwise the normal means (technical, regulatory, etc) of rolling out utility tech cannot be applied and from there on it is not possible to deliver it on time and on-budget. It will be late and it will be overbudget (if delivered at all).

      This is besides the fact that the whole setup is made necessary by a previous financial engineering piss-away which split the utilities in the UK into a 3 level split instead of 2 level regional franchises + grid. The rest of the world has retail and mid-voltage delivery run by _ONE_ company allowing technical solutions at substation level. UK is the only country in the world where "value" is supposedly delivered by adding an extra retail layer which does _NOTHING_ at all besides reselling and adding extra margin. This also necessitates interchangeable low value metering infra (so that there is no switching penalty) and so on.

      1. glen waverley

        Re: Staggering incompetence

        "The rest of the world has retail and mid-voltage delivery run by _ONE_ company"

        Beg to differ. State of Victoria has generators, hi voltage transmission, mid/lo voltage distribution and retail as 4 separate layers. Not saying it has benefitted the poor bloody householder tho.

        Which in a way supports AC's argument.

  3. frank ly Silver badge
    Big Brother

    ??

    "... the government's rollout of smart meters should be "halted, altered or scrapped" to avoid a potentially catastrophic government IT disaster."

    What does the operation of smart meters have to do with the government or goverment IT?

    1. Archaon

      Re: ??

      Having subsidised shady home improvement companies to ring round and offer cheap insulation (via grants), the latest scheme is to subsidise shady energy companies so that they can put a shady smart meter into every household.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ??

        " the latest project is to subsidise shady energy companies so that they can put a shady smart meter into every household."

        FFS, here we go again. Energy companies don't get any subsidy for this. We are legally obliged to do this by laws past under Blair/Brown, confirmed by the last government, and the costs go on your energy bill. Most energy suppliers don't want to own the smart meters themselves, so this will become a nice profit opportunity for a financial services company that can load up on cheap QE debt (Australian bank Macquarie are the most likely beneficiary).

        The Reg have also got the wrong end of the stick, the install rate for meters at the moment is merely the "Phase 1" part. DECC's foolhardy intention is for real volume to be delivered from this year through to 2020, in a vast pell-mell rush that will see all manner of problems arise. When the suppliers have inevitably failed to dish out the government's dictated number of meters, then they will be subject to multi-million pound fines by OFGEM, which of course come out of customer's pockets.

        You'll see this in due course, because suppliers were supposed to have all B2B customers on semi-smart ("AMR") meters by April of this year, three of them are deemed to have failed, and OFGEM's ponderous bureaucracy is now deliberating how much to extract in fines.

        1. Mad Mike

          Re: ??

          "Energy companies don't get any subsidy for this."

          I sort of agree and sort of don't. I agree in as much as it isn't a direct subsidy per se. However, agreeing to allow them to add it to the bill (and the regulator looks the other way) is effectively the government giving a subsidy. It just goes direct from the customer to the supplier, rather than from customer to government (in some form of tax) and then to the supply company.

          The whole justification for this is complete nonsense. The benefits will never be realised and it will dramatically increase the amount of sales bumf coming through our doors. Additionally, the supply companies are busy creating new websites etc. to try and make some use of the new information, costing even more!!

          When will the government and supply companies realise the average consumer simply wants to pay the minimum possible for each unit of power (whether electricity or gas) and preferably never speak to their supply company, let alone have a 'conversation' with them. If you want to reduce your power usage, all the required information can be provided for a few pounds from your local DIY store. Insulate as much as possible, buy efficient appliances (they're all labelled now), switch things off when not in use and buy yourself a plug through meter (for appliances) or a whole house monitor (such as Owl) for a few quid if you want to know what's using what.

          It certainly isn't rocket science, but £11billion (yeah right!! much higher now) would certainly pay for a lot of rocket science..................

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ??

            " is effectively the government giving a subsidy. It just goes direct from the customer to the supplier,"

            Not to the suppliers - we just collect it. Although suppliers are obligated to install smart meters, the problem is that expected returns are too low for a non-infrastructure provider - our costs of capital are too high. That's why the financial services sector will clean up, because (very, very simplistically) debt is a liability for a commercial company, but it is an asset for financial services companies, because commercial businesses are expected to make money on trading, whereas FS companies make theirs from lending. So the balance sheet always balances, but a financial company will always look at the return on its small equity contribution, and uses a shed load of cheap debt to pay for the assets involved.

            "The whole justification for this is complete nonsense."

            Yes. The same sort of made up business case and impact assessment that has been used for things like HS2 and carbon taxes, is used to justify London airport expansion etc etc.

            "When will the government and supply companies realise the average consumer simply wants to pay the minimum possible for each unit of power (whether electricity or gas) and preferably never speak to their supply company, let alone have a 'conversation' with them."

            This is very well understood by the energy companies. This is why the customer service is poor, because although people will anecdotally say they will pay for better customer service, it is a pure commodity market, and nobody will actually put their hand in their pocket and pay the extra few quid per year that would get better customer service. Smaller companies with brand new systems clean databases, and lean management usually offer better performance whilst they are small, but as they grow their systems, processes and culture acquire a thick coating of cruft (so OVO and First Utility now have a higher number of pro-rata complaints to the Energy Ombudsman than say British Gas or EDF).

            1. Mad Mike

              Re: ??

              @Ledswinger.

              "This is very well understood by the energy companies."

              I beg to differ. The energy companies want to use this to supply more 'products' and 'offerings' to everyone. Look at all the extra products now available via your energy company... More products equals more profits.....hopefully.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: ??@Mad Mike

                "The energy companies want to use this to supply more 'products' and 'offerings' to everyone. "

                You've been getting your facts from the Daily Mirror again, haven't you?

                Due to intervention by Vacuous Dave himself, energy companys' licences were amended so that by law the most they could offer at any one time was four tariffs for single rate and four for each other time banded tariff. No-flat rate tariffs were banned. Choice has intentionally been reduced because life was supposedly too complex (whereas the zillions of mobile phone tariffs didn't attract Call Me Dave's attention.

                Smart meters won't sell any additional products and services (those are offered usually via the website to try and make up for the dismal margins that the commodity energy sales produce). The smart meters will be capable of complex time of use tariffs, but no supplier (to my knowledge) offers the sort of complex, risky, dynamic pricing that could be offered, and the most adventurous you're likely to be offered is a three rate meter (overnight, standard, peak). Maybe you want that, but our research says that people know they are buying a commodity, they will buy the cheapest they find on a comparison web site, and (as other posters have suggested) most don't want anything to do with their energy supplier: "I pay you, you get the bills rights, keep it simple and keep costs as low as you can, and that'll do me".

        2. Archaon
          Megaphone

          Re: ??

          FFS, here we go again. Energy companies don't get any subsidy for this. We are legally obliged to do this by laws past under Blair/Brown, confirmed by the last government, and the costs go on your energy bill.

          It's not a subsidy in terms of "Fit a Smart Meter and we'll give you £100 per house" but that's not the only way a subsidy is defined. Nonetheless the Govt is still spaffing £11bn to do something that the energy industry should be paying for if they want it. Even so the cost still gets put on our bills. If we're paying for it twice and they're not paying for it at all then it's clearly a subsidy. It might be "indirect" (for lack of a better term) but it's still a bloody subsidy.

          1. YetAnotherPasswordToRemeber

            Re: ??

            @Archaon

            Nonetheless the Govt is still spaffing £11bn to do something that the energy industry should be paying for if they want it.

            That's the problem, the energy companies don't want it but are having to install it and we're the ones having to foot the bill.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ??

        It's not shady. It is a reporting tool. On You. Yes YOU. Translation - "did you volunteer".

        A smart meter data describes in detail your usage pattern so it is a perfect tool to deduce are you at home, are you doing what you usually do and report it to anyone who can get a RIPA request for it.

        You do not even need "smart" appliances for it. The dataset available under normal data retention rules is more than sufficient to establish a baseline and compare current.

        Wonderful for data mining too. Fantastic for "list of houses to rob and when to do so" if you manage to steal a data set.

        1. Mad Mike

          Re: ??

          "A smart meter data describes in detail your usage pattern so it is a perfect tool to deduce are you at home, are you doing what you usually do and report it to anyone who can get a RIPA request for it."

          To a degree, but not as much as you think. It supplies half-hourly meter readings (not a continuous graph etc.) once a day. Now, you can deduce some things from this, but not as much as a continuous graph. Indeed, this is one of the major shortcomings of the project. A continuous graph sent in near realtime would actually be very useful for the networks companies, but this is absolutely not what is being implemented.

        2. Joel 1

          @AC

          "A smart meter data describes in detail your usage pattern so it is a perfect tool to deduce are you at home"

          Nope, it would give the information about whether the sun was shining - at the moment during the day the energy flows the other way.

          However, I'm more than happy to stick with my old analogue meter, as it spins backwards when my panels are producing more than I'm using - I've informed the electricity company, and submit monthly meter readings that are negative in summer, but no-one seems to be bothered.

          My meter is actually a reconditioned one that is 19 years older than my house - I thought they were supposed to swap them out every 15 years, but 16 years and still no sign of it. Maybe they are holding off for the smart meter rollout...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: @AC

            "I thought they were supposed to swap them out every 15 years, but 16 years and still no sign of it. Maybe they are holding off for the smart meter rollout..."

            I've lived here for 30 years and am expecting the gas meter to be changed sometime soon, still on the second one, first was new when I moved in. The electric meter was also new when I moved in and is still there. Maybe it's only gas meters which wear out?

    2. adnim Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: ??

      The profits from the energy companies go into the pockets of share holders. The use of smart meters is of no real benefit to the consumer but, due to the redundancy of meter readers/data input staff and their support infrastructure, the energy suppliers will make tremendous savings and even larger profits.

      So why again is the tax payer financially supporting private business?

      The argument for supporting the banks had at least some reason but this is simply stupid.

      Four of the "big six" energy suppliers in the UK are French, German and Spanish owned. Only British Gas and SSE have UK parent companies and they are all very profitable indeed. So why the fuck is the UK taxpayer paying for upgrades to the energy supply network of privately owned companies?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ??@ adnim

        "So why the fuck is the UK taxpayer paying for upgrades to the energy supply network of privately owned companies?"

        Go and ask government and the EU. It's their rules, not anything the industry asked for. The cash savings from reducing manual meter reading is about £5 a year, that won't pay a quarter of the interest costs on a single smart meter, and specifying, buying, installing and maintaining the things is a headache we'd rather not have.

        The only real benefit of smart meters is that we think that they'll greatly reduce the number of estimated bills (a big cause of inaccurate billing and out of kilter direct debits), and we think they should offer better control of bad debt, along with easier payments for people on pre-payment meters. That might be worth another £5 a year, so still only covering half the interest costs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ??@ adnim

          "The only real benefit of smart meters is that we think that they'll greatly reduce the number of estimated bills "

          My electricity supplier sends me an email when they want me to give them a meter reading. Every so often they tell me not to bother as a man will come to read the meter - presumably just to check my honesty.

          However - on occasions they have ignored my online reading and the bill said "estimated".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ??@ adnim

            "Every so often they tell me not to bother as a man will come to read the meter - presumably just to check my honesty."

            In part yes, but also a check on energy supplier honesty and that the meter still looks to exist and operate. Balancing the system relies on energy use data, so it isn't just the suppliers who have an interest - generators, National Grid, DNO's. Reconciling the difference between what is generated and what gets accurately billed is the devil's own work and all suppliers end up with "lost" energy, between what they've paid generators for less system losses, and what gets metered and billed.

        2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: ??@ adnim

          > The only real benefit of smart meters is that we think that they'll greatly reduce the number of estimated bills ...

          But just remote reading of a normal register would also do that. No need whatsoever for sending back individual consumption figures for 48 periods per day.

          Those of us who didn't fall for the propaganda know exactly what they are for - and it's not remote meter reading, that's just a nice incidental benefit !

          The real function is load side demand management. It's carefully not really talked about that the real reason is to be able to hike prices when demand is more than supply (like long cold spells when the wind isn't blowing (think December 2010)). And if that doesn't work, to start cutting people off - like in the 70s but on a more granular basis.

          As for the "get your machine to do the washing at 2am" story - nice idea, run machines that are known to be an above average fire hazard in the home while people are sleeping, and of course if you don't live ina detached house, f**k the neighbour who's trying to sleep while your washing machine is rumbling the ceiling of the flat below.

      2. Mad Mike

        Re: ??

        @adnim.

        "but, due to the redundancy of meter readers/data input staff and their support infrastructure, the energy suppliers will make tremendous savings and even larger profits."

        Let's see what really happens. Wouldn't surprise me if we see no drop (or significant drop) in staff numbers. In the meantime, during deployment, staff numbers will increase dramatically. Did you know the comms hubs (bit that does the communications and talks to DCC and meters) is actually battery powered? They're trying to make the batteries last longer, but aren't doing very well at the moment to my knowledge. So, there'll be jobs there running around replacing batteries all the time!!

        Also, a lot of the technology is really a bit dubious (IHDs for instance) and I suspect an awful lot of technical support jobs will be created to fix all the faults.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    The idiot/idiots who are still blundering on with this ill thought out, outrageously expensive and badly executed spying project please find the nearest tall building and take a leap of faith.

  5. Graham Marsden
    Holmes

    "At worst, it could prove to be a costly failure"

    What's this "at worst" business?

    Given the number of other such epicly mis-managed government inspired boondoggles which have turned out to be catastrophic disasters, that should read "It WILL be a costly failure"!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "At worst, it could prove to be a costly failure"

      That's at best, not at worst.

      How do you think the grid will fare if someone programs the smart meters in a large metropolitan area to go on/off every 5 mins.

      1. Little Mouse
        Thumb Down

        Re: "At worst, it could prove to be a costly failure"

        "unwanted by consumers, over-engineered, mind-blowingly expensive"

        Pick any two three.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "At worst, it could prove to be a costly failure"

        "How do you think the grid will fare if someone programs the smart meters in a large metropolitan area to go on/off every 5 mins."

        I dunno. There seems to be an awful lot of smart meters out there "in the wild", especially in the US and Canada and have been for a few years now. I'd think something like you image would probably make fairly dramatic news headlines but no one seems to have done yet.

        I'm not saying it's a secure system and that your scenario can't happen, but I suspect it'll take a bit more than some script kiddie messing about to cause damage.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Madness

    We had a nice bloke come round a few weeks ago to install ours. The other half said yes and I couldn't be arsed to cancel it.

    He turned up on time, had all his stuff with him, went to the corner of the kitchen where the meter was , pulled his gadgets out to check the signal strength and said "No. Not enough signal to fit the meter".

    Ah! Now if we lived in the middle of the Yorkshire moors, or the top of Scotland or some other wild and barren place, like say Slough or Catford, I'd say fair enough. However we live in central London, not quite close enough to be Zone 1 but close enough to have the privilege of Zone 2 fares. The problem was that the box of tricks he had only worked with one mobile provider and that one happened to have shite reception in this part of London. I asked if any of his other boxes of tricks worked on other mobile providers, he said "no".

    I'm on GiggGaff and t'other half is EE <spit>, and can't remember what the mobile provider he checked for was but the chances of them upgrading the reception around us for this is probably the same chance of a large posse of good looking women turning up on my doorstep begging to fulfil my wildest fantasies, me somehow becoming an Astronaut and getting selected to play for England at the RWC and scoring the winning final try from a last gasp running the length of the pitch effort whilst dancing through the All Blacks; somewhat less than "fuck all".

    So I live in centralish London and I can't get reception. Now I'm a sample set of one, however I happen to think I'm the average bloke on the Clapham Omnibus so I suspect there will be a lot of other people who will have no reception as well as there's nothing special about our house.

    £11B pissed up against the wall when the NHS is struggling to make ends meet. Utter fucking madness.

    1. Major N

      Re: Madness

      IIRC British Gas units use Vodafone. Other vendors may vary.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Madness

      The radio model for mobile smart metering delivery was done more than 7 years ago. The results were very clear - it cannot work unless it is coupled with moving the meters outside.

      The "industry" (the retail utility parasites) and government reaction to that was to decouple the "communications" company so that it can be given to an outsourcer which will say it will work instead of figuring out how to make it work.

    3. Meerkatjie

      Re: Madness

      I live in a long row of zone 1 London apartments that were built just after the war. We had the sparky come round to install it for us - mandated by the housing collective - he took one look at the wiring and said it couldn't be done. To install it he would need to turn of every other apartments electricity during the installation since the wiring was setup badly because it was cheaper and easier at the time. I'm guessing there's going a whole lot of those elsewhere as well.

    4. Scott 53

      Sample set of two (three if you count my boss). Apparently I shouldn't attempt to make mobile calls from the cupboard under the stairs as it's the one dead spot in my house. Same goes for my manager's garage.

  7. CaptainHook

    Auto Switching

    The only Smart Meter that I would consider worth while would be one which compares the unit prices on offer from each supplier at different times during the day and auto switched supplier for me.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Auto Switching

      Silly Captain. "Markets" aren't supposed to work for the customer.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Auto Switching@ CaptainHook

      "The only Smart Meter that I would consider worth while would be one which compares the unit prices on offer from each supplier at different times during the day and auto switched supplier for me."

      Well, ask OFGEM to mandate what they call "dynamic pricing". A smart meter can do this, even the skanky SMETS2 specification ones that DECC have mandated

      Because of the way the wholesale markets work you will only have a rough idea what you'll be charged in advance, but a smart meter could avoid suppliers altogether - you pay whatever half hourly price the market is charging at wholesale. Obviously you'd need to contract your minimum capacity at system peaks (otherwise you'd be hit with vast "out of balance" charges at the price charged by rarely running system peaking plant) so there's a fixed charge for that generating capacity. Then you've got to pay your levies - all those subsidies for solar, biomass and wind have to come from your bills, along with climate change levy payments, carbon price floor payments, and transmission and balancing system costs. Of course if you're supplier free, you need to contract to hire your meter from a regulated provider, so don't forget that.

      Then you need to pay for the LV distribution. This involves a capacity charge that you'd agree, that is set by by your maximum possible load (set by an MCB or a limit switch in the meter). Then there's the maximum load charge (separate from your capacity charge). If your household load is reactive there's extra charges for that. Then the distribution unit rate charges have three rates during the day that vary, and vary by DNO. And then there's fun like Load Adjustment Factors that operate across five daily and seasonally varied periods to reflect the system losses. If you're going down the "pay only what it costs" route, you'd also have to opt in to TRIAD payments, where there's an extra charge for your demand at the three peak periods within the year (which cannot be accurately predicted in advance). And a whole lot more besides.

      Obviously you'll be paying a lot more in winter than in summer, and during the day whenever people want to use a lot of energy. And because of the way that the markets work, you'd need to post collateral if you want credit, so in practice this vastly complex structure would be pre-payment only. Given that most residential suppliers are making about 4% net margin, I'd suggest that's a small price for a flat rate, year round credit tariff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Auto Switching@ CaptainHook

        Well you have to think that in addition to saving that 4% net margin, I would be CEO of my own energy company, which has got to be worth a few million quid a year.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Auto Switching@ CaptainHook

          "Well you have to think that in addition to saving that 4% net margin, I would be CEO of my own energy company, which has got to be worth a few million quid a year."

          If you've got the time, the documents published by the CMA will tell you what you need to do to get your new energy supplier off the ground. You could start with an off the shelf vanilla CRM, and buy it SaaS. So minimal capital committed, but higher costs later on. Then you need a leased building, staff, marketing and customer recruitment, plus corporate overheads. You can start with as few as fifteen staff (below this you can't have reasonably hours of availability), but because your lease commitments will generally be in advance, because your other costs will have to be paid long before customer receipts have covered the costs of customer acquisition, and because you'll need to post collateral to trade in wholesale markets, you'd probably need credit lines to give you unsecured working capital of around £1m (so you'd need a core team with relevant experience, and a VC willing to take a punt in return for a big equity stake).

          Even with some quite reasonable growth, to maintain that means more advertising, cut throat deals to attract customers, and a bigger overhead, so you won't be paying a dividend for three years or probably more, and you won't be earning £1m a year until your company has something of the order of half a million customers. The real way you'd make money is by holding onto as much as possible of the equity, and flogging that off. You could certainly be a multi-millionaire in about six years, but the price of that would be having no life for six hard years, and scraping from crisis to crisis in the first three years.

          How much do you want to be rich?

      2. David Lawrence

        Re: Auto Switching@ CaptainHook

        Most eloquently put, Mr Ledswinger and an upvote from me.

        You quite rightly highlight exactly how complex the underlying energy market actually is, and a very small number of people appreciate that. It's really easy to make cheap jibes at energy companies (even politicians do it, so that just shows you how easy it is) but it is far harder to understand and appreciate what truth lies beneath the surface. As you say, energy suppliers actually make a very small profit and take a daily kicking from press, public and politicians. I predict that it won't be long before a few of the 'big six' make a strategic exit from the supply business because it has become such a toxic mess thanks to constant, bungling government interference in a failed structure that was actually created by a Labour government, to give the gullible public the impression there was a free market with genuine competition.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Auto Switching@ CaptainHook

        "I'd suggest that's a small price for a flat rate, year round credit tariff."

        BUT i thought one of the goals of this smart meter roll out was to reduce peak demand so BEEEEELIONS don't need to be spent on new generating capacity as old coal fires stations go off line.

        and that will be achieved by peak rate pricing so rates will no longer be fixed year round tariff.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Auto Switching

          "BUT i thought one of the goals of this smart meter roll out was to reduce peak demand so BEEEEELIONS don't need to be spent on new generating capacity as old coal fires stations go off line."

          That's a subsidiary goal for smart meters - the overall belief of DECC is that they will magically reduce your total energy demand, reduce carbon and Save The Planet. Because, as with Paedo-druggy-terrorists, the job of government is to save us from something or anything. Whilst DECC don't like it, we'll always have system peaks, so there's some significant need for plant with low load factors. The hair-raising unit costs of real peaking plant that runs twice a year looks astronomical on paper, averaged over all energy consumption across the year it is piffling. This peaking cost will increase because of the idiot-conceived energy policy, but it still won't be umanageable (although the ever growing open and sudden subsidies for wind, solar, biomass may become unmanageable).

          and that will be achieved by peak rate pricing so rates will no longer be fixed year round tariff.

          That's a possible outcome. But unfortunately the War Against Peak Demand is (like the war on drugs) yesterday's war, and yesterday's lost war to boot. Looking forward, the eejuts of government plan to "decarbonise" transport and heating. At total energy volumes this means they are looking to at least double UK electricity demand (even assuming big efficiencies in heating and electric vehicles). After the closure of 12GW of coal plant under LCPD, and with something like 5-7 GW of older nuclear plant closing by 2023, there's an enormous squeeze coming in the mid to late 2020's that won't be fixed even if they build 3GW of over-priced French tat at Hinkley Point.

          What this will mean is that transport and heating loads have to be scheduled to fit into off peak periods, because otherwise the peak demand on a winter evening would melt the system (even the old pre-renewables system). But you then have the problem that there will be huge random swings in electricity generation from all their stupid solar PV and wind, but that then starts to set random whole sale pricing - if the wind blows, wholesale prices fall. If it doesn't they go up. Extended PV build out will be able to meet most of mid-summers day demand - but that means you need low load factor flexible (ier thermally inefficient) plant to cover the 14 hours a day when the solar power output is low or non existent.

          The whole of UK energy policy is a complete fucking mess, dreamt up by tree hugging cretins. The real answer to security of supply, emissions, and cost was always a national build out of nuclear, using thermal technology to bridge the fifteen year gap until you've developed the ability to build at a low enough cost. Hinkley Point is not part of this solution as it is a one off using the unproven and vastly expensive Areva EPR. And during the timescale of the current policy, the incompetent and traitorous duo of Brown and Blair sold Westinghouse to Toshiba, eliminating any possibility that we could deliver a new UK nuclear fleet through technology we had some control over, and since then we've thrown around £40bn at a rag-bag collection of low output, subsidy dependent "renewables".

          Even now, a screeching U-turn could somewhat expensively expensively seize victory from the jaws of defeat (at the expense of tearing up some of the stupid treaties and EU agreements). But that's just not going to happen. The shallow, stupid timidity of politicians cannot be over-stated, so we will press on with this collection of vastly expensive policies that are doomed to fail.

          It's enough to make you weep. Unless you're either a Graun-reading believer in all the cant about renewable energy, or somebody making millions selling "renewable" technologies to the feckless twerps of DECC.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Auto Switching

            I actually don't have a problem with paying a % premium to have a company "one of the big 6" supply me with fixed priced electricity and for that matter gas. I do have a problem with subsidising lots of the "green initiatives" (subsidies, insulation, paying for producers to not generate, etc) and paying for sections of society to get discounts on their bills.

            I agree the Government policies need looking at.

            Policy madness example on a private hydro scheme near a decommissioned coal fired power station the powers at be want to charge millions of pounds to make the connection and a levy to upgrade a substation that is not even near the site of the hydro scheme or on the distribution grid locally. they will only take a small less than 25% of the power output without these upgrades being paid for. Supply should be pretty reliable knowing the river (have lived near it most of my life) except in flood and drought conditions when there are environmental considerations that regulate river level and will stop generation,

            And in this area where they want to build loads more houses so there will be local demand for this power.

            Unfortunately fission power generation is still as far away as it was when i learnt about it when i was at school (80's).

    3. Matt Collins

      Re: Auto Switching

      If only I could up-vote you more than once.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Auto Switching

      I said exactly the same to one of the program's deputy directors, I didn't get much of a reply.

      @Ledswinger

      I'd settle for whatever retail supplier was cheapest that day or every 4 hours.

      The retail suppliers do all that stuff when they set their prices, but if they had compete with each other, we'd get better pricing out of them. As it is now, we get one oportunity, the one annual price change when each company in turn appears to be the best bet for the next year or fixed term.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Auto Switching

        "The retail suppliers do all that stuff when they set their prices, but if they had compete with each other, we'd get better pricing out of them"

        It is a commodity proposition. We get energy from the same wholesale market, meaning the technology mix of generation at point of sale is homogenised. Nobody will pay more for (eg) better customer service. Given that government have subsidised wind and solar, and mandated a certain proportion of energy to come from those, there's common subsidy costs. Networks businesses all have the same basic regulated business model.

        There is competition, and that's driven the suppliers *controllable* costs down, and reduced profit margins, and it has kept those down. But it can't do anything about fixed system costs, about global energy costs, or about the subsidies and market distortions that exist. Different hedging or buying strategies mean that different companies are cheapest at different times. That is competition in real action - unlike most other markets where "brand" and IP are used to justify price differentials that would otherwise be eliminated by competition.

        And it's strange, the average household communications spend is actually higher than the average household energy bills (£1,400/yr for communications, source OFCOM, £1,300/yr for energy, source DECC). Within that higher spend on comms, you have BT coining the money in on Openreach despite broadband complaints across the land, you have Apple making 60% gross margin on its puffed up handsets, and some nicely profitable MNOs despite their whingeing.

        So if you want more competition in energy, it is possible but you won't see lower prices, as they are at the minimum economic level that the market can deliver within the rigged market that DECC have created.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "Overengineered"

    But not I'll guess in the data security and access to the remote switch off functions.

    They will remain p**spoor.

    Remember Germany opted out of this EU requirement by stating it was uneconomical.

    IIRC it was only included in the relevant "Green" legislation because some peer got a nice brown envelope to make it happen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Overengineered"

      "Remember Germany opted out of this EU requirement by stating it was uneconomical."

      They did. But they are reconsidering that:

      http://smartenergy.e-world-essen.com/en/exhibitor-information/press-releases/single/view/2015/03/10/expert-interview-about-the-smart-meter-roll-out-in-germany-and-wireless-network-technology-for-smart/

  9. Jamsandwiches

    They tried to do install them at a friends flat. However they the installer walked away defeated due to every thing being far apart, thick concrete and a bad signal...never going to be 100% good luck

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      I think any kind of wireless transfer, I would find annoying. Certainly no need to talk to my kitchen etc. If they ever decide to stick with 3G/4G for these things, I do have a plan to create a Faraday shield in my under-stairs cupboard - it already plays host to a ton of electrical and IT equipment and is so tiny I could do it in an afternoon with some suitable-grade chicken wire.

      I'm not entirely sure they could do ANYTHING about that. I provided you with access to the property, as requested. Nothing says I have to give you the airwaves. Oh, is it too costly to move all the meters at your expense? Shame. Because, you know, the only other viable place is in the alleyway and I'd have to put a safety guard grille over it if it was out there. Health and safety don't you know, or I'll be bashing it off the wall with my bike every time...

      I imagine they are only really seriously considering power-line communications for the data transmission in the long run because of problems like this (if nothing else, they would be paying cell carriers for the data connections in perpetuity otherwise!), but the internal bits in the house (the entirely pointless "how much am I pulling" things that a £20 clamp meter and a smartphone app can do better than any kind of smart meter)? That's up to the user, not the electricity company.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I imagine they are only really seriously considering power-line communications for the data transmission in the long run because of problems like this "

        I seem to recall that they (DECC) hope to use the householder's own broadband via a home hub in these situations, but I can't be bothered to wade through the DECC propaganda and SMETS2 specifications to confirm that.

        Whilst you could refuse to allow the connection, you are already at liberty to refuse a smart meter (or more correctly, you are at liberty to refuse a smart meter running in smart mode). It is somebody else's meter, and they can insist on installing a smart meter if they are willing to have it operating in dumb meter mode.

  10. Richy Freeway

    Have had smart meters for about 7 years now. No fancy display in the kitchen, just replacement meters that send readings off to our supplier every day so they give us an accurate bill at the end of each month.

    What's the problem with this? I see a lot of people flapping their hands about when it's been nothing but fantastic for us.

    What have I missed in the last 7 years?

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      > What have I missed in the last 7 years?

      Not one of the ones being talked about here.

      I don't think many people (myself included) would be concerned too much if all the meter did was aggregate usage and basically transmit the register reading(s) ever so often (though I would be unhappy at every day).

      The problems with the "smart" meters is that they transmit much more data than is actually needed using the "because we can" principle. To provide billing does not need readings for every half hour of every day ! All that is needed is a total over some period of usage at each rate that is charged.

      The meters are designed to support having 48 different charge rates during a day, and to vary that by day, and to allow it to be changed remotely with next to no notice. In effect, if "they" think the country is going short on generating capacity then the first step is to hike the price to something stupid (think 50p/unit) for the next few hours - and it'll be down to the householder to realise and not use power (sorry dear, I know you've had a hard day at work, but we can't have dinner yet as we can't afford to use the oven).

      And if that doesn't work, then they can remotely turn off your supply. As already pointed out, no we don't have any faith that the big suppliers won't "cut off first, argue later" when there's a "disagreement" over billing.

      And of course, apart from the privacy issues when the usage records database gets hacked, it'll be fun when the control network gets hacked and meters are put onto stupid rates and/or half the country gets turned off at random !

  11. zebthecat

    Funny that

    A couple of years ago I had the letter asking to change my electricity meter for a smart one as the meter was due for replacement (it looked pretty new to me).

    I said no thanks but was happy for them to put a new dumb meter in,

    Never heard back

  12. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    We will all succumb eventually

    Either that or face ever increasing financial costs for not switching to a Smart Meter tariff - though they will inevitably present that as a discount for switching rather than as a penalty for not doing so.

    Almost everyone has their price. My neighbour just switched to a Smart Meter because of the lower tariff; doesn't see the possibility of being hacked, cut off because of non-payment or rolling blackouts, as negatives against the money saved.

  13. Anonymous John
    IT Angle

    Running neck to neck with Universal Credits then.

  14. PlacidCasual

    Utilities will get the blame

    Like all things energy wise these days no doubt when the story reached the MSM the "theiving utilities" will be blamed for what is ulitmately a political decision.

    That £11Bn is being added to our bills as a "green initative" that will save us money.

    We so need to renationalise the energy utilities just to stop our incompetent lords and masters playing the current incumbents off each other to achieve the least practical solution.

  15. JaitcH
    Meh

    WHY. in other countries, are utilities ...

    able not only finance their smartmeters but actually make millions of them work (using MESH radio) whilst Cameron's favoured 'high tech' one-stop company can't do it?

    Better to get North Americans in to show them how.

    1. -tim

      Re: WHY. in other countries, are utilities ...

      North American utilities have been using common form factor meters for years and those meters don't require any wiring changes to swap out.

      When this was tried in Australia, there were several homes that had fires soon after someone touched the wiring since the old insulation broke off after being touched for the 1st time in decades. There is also the problem that many old meters had worn out and the new meters provided a huge shocking bill the 1st time they were read.

      I don't understand why they don't start putting the smart meters on the poles where the customers can't tamper with them and the can communicate to the world with ease.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Evidence Based

    The entire evidence-base for installing smart meters seems to be an individual government advisor who observed that after starting to check his meter readings regularly, was able to halve his electric bills.

    The novelty factor will have no impact or wear off rapidly for anyone who is not already acutely conscious of their electric bills. Potential energy reduction overestimated by probably around 5x...

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Evidence Based

      Energy reduction will be zero.

      If you cared, you'd be monitoring already. It's not hard to do and requires NO electrical work (clamp meter on the incoming cable at worst).

      Seeing what you use does not stop you using it - you already know that you're using it or not. If not, you either care about it (in which case why didn't you know that huge hot tub was sucking 10KW before?), or don't.

      Now add on thousands of unnecessary smart meters, plus the infrastructure to monitor them wirelessly, plus the server-end costs of hosting all that information, blah blah blah. You're talking net loss, before you ever get close to things like policies and legislation costs on top.

      Now consider why the electrical companies would care about that?

      Now consider why they might otherwise have an interest in having new fancy controllable kit sitting in your meter cupboard if not for the above?

  17. Brian Milnes

    We have an electrickery "smart" meter. There's a gubbins that goes with it, that the installation engineer got working by swapping it with a different one.

    I looked at it for a day or two, couldn't work out where any value the information it displayed would offer and it is now still sitting in its box on top of the meter.

    Currently (!) then, an utter waste of time and money.

    Later models that automatically work out devices and their running costs are on their way, Could be worth waiting for, but probably not.

    Personally, I already understand that my washer (which insists on being filled with cold water), the kettle, and an electric convection heater are very expensive to run.

    1. YetAnotherPasswordToRemeber

      Your washer insists on being filled with cold water as the hot water feed is pointless, because the hot water has cooled down in the pipe so is cold anyway, unless your boiler / water tank is right next to the washer

  18. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    The more serious issue

    Putting aside for one moment the question of whether smart meters are a good idea, we actually have a more serious problem. We have a government which, according to the best available estimates (and those have been quite consistent over a number of years now) is pissing billions up against the wall with not the slightest prospect of receiving benefits in the long term.

    And this is legal.

    A local authority wasting money in this way would have its councillors barred from holding public office and trying hard to explain to the beak why they should be allowed to just walk away. A national government doing the same thing is apparently just something we have to roll our eyes over.

    And we wonder why the country is short of cash. Well, with my free-market hat on, let me explain; if you don't weed out the dross, you are effectively penalising those who aren't dross. We have crap politicians and crap government because we have no mechanism in place to filter it out and anyone who is any good going into politics just gets snuffed out by the twats.

    Perhaps if we could get "spoiled ballot paper" scoring over 50% of the vote in constituencies where no-one of any calibre was standing, we might finally get some attention on this issue. Until then, we're fucked.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Business Smart Meter

    We have had five attempts by an electricity supplier to install a smart meter.

    They don't appear to want to install it out of hours for us, and keep telling us that they can only do it in business hours and the power will only be off for about 30mins.

    When the installers turn up we just tell them that the meter is in the cupboard and ask them not to disturb too much asbestos......

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure that would help

    "I don't understand why they don't start putting the smart meters on the poles where the customers can't tamper with them and the can communicate to the world with ease."

    I have heard a rumour that around here the poles move every 6 months so the taxman can't find them.

  21. Steve B

    We had the North American Market covered.

    However our devices, which attached to existing meters (gas,water and electric) and transmitted the data over low power RF to either fixed network receivers or meter readers passing by on foot or in a vehicle, were excluded from the Smartmeter project by the Labour government as only integral solutions were considered. Our owner decided that if he had no UK business prospects he didn't need UK staff so shut us down.

  22. nuclearstar

    I like my smart meter. It means I don't have to go outside to read the values. I changed supplier recently and the new one doesnt officially support smart meters so I still have to send them the numbers. But at least I wont be cold doing it in winter.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019