back to article Smart Meter biz case still there, insists tragically optimistic UK govt

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has denied the total cost of Smart Meters has now outstripped the projected savings, making the hated scheme even more pointless. The department had previously said the scheme would save £17bn. However, a report by the Major Projects Authority has pegged the total lifetime casts as £ …

  1. Anonymous Cowherder

    I had a smart meter fitted last week

    And I am pretty happy with it. It shows our energy usage in £s and has actually, even in a relatively short time got my wife thinking about the energy we are using and that it costs money! Horrifically sexist comment but true, instead of my channelling my inner father and telling her to put a jumper on she did it herself last night.

    So thanks British Gas for fitting the smart meter! Great Success!

    1. Steve Crook

      Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

      When (if?) you change energy supplier I hope it'll continue to work :-)

    2. Mad Mike

      Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

      But you don't need a smart meter to do this. Fit a clamp and display and you can get all this for a few quid. Nothing like the money required for smart metering. Lots of them can even work out the pounds as well as giving an energy figure.

      Without being rude to your wife, how difficult is it to realise that energy costs money, therefore if you want to save money use less? Don't turn heating on, wear more clothes. Don't leave lights on when not required. etc.etc. It's hardly rocket science and a meter/display is hardly required.

      The government could massively reduce the cost by simply sending every customer two pieces of equipment. The first would be a clamp and display. The second would be a plug through energy meter so you can measure individual appliances (you could turn them on and off and watch the clamp meter mind). Total cost maybe £50 max for each household. A hell of a lot cheaper than the £13-19b they're predicting for smart metering.

      1. Anna Logg

        Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

        "But you don't need a smart meter to do this. Fit a clamp and display and you can get all this for a few quid. Nothing like the money required for smart metering. Lots of them can even work out the pounds as well as giving an energy figure."

        Many local libraries will lend you one for free for a month, by which time the novelty of saving the cost of half a Mars bar a year by turning the loo light off more promptly will have worn off, job done,

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

      @Anonymous Cowterder

      Who installed your meter, was it Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page ?

      Going off track, I've just noticed on brit eng dictionary (updated1.19.6) in FF, the spelling check suggestion for Zuckerberg is c*cks*cker, nice one :)

    4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

      You've just outlined pretty much all of the consumer benefits (you missed out remote meter readings).

      You've not seen what the downsides are, of remote control of your power system, of remote hacking, which may allow other people to determine whether the house is empty, and even turn off your power if the meter is one that does this. If it's not one of those, it will need replacing again before the program is complete.

      Also, from what I've read, you've also pretty much locked yourself into a single supplier, because they use different and incompatible metering technology. If you wanted to change to a supplier that used a different meter technology, then you may have to pay an additional meter installation charge.

      You could have achieved much of the same benefit for electricity (sans remote meter reading) with one of any number of clamp-on external measurement systems (OK, they're less accurate, but still can demonstrate power use in real time) without any of the downsides.

      I listened to the Radio 4 Today program this morning, and Roger Witcombe, chairman of the Competition and Markets Authority (a government institution), who was a guest on the discussion about energy companies and overcharging, mentioned smart meters as an aid to choosing supplier, but in such an apologetic tone of voice that it seemed to me that he was echoing an official line while not really being supportive of the devices himself!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week@ Peter Gathercole

        "Roger Witcombe, chairman of the Competition and Markets Authority (a government institution), who was a guest on the discussion about energy companies and overcharging, mentioned smart meters as an aid to choosing supplier,"

        One of the few benefits of smart meters will certainly be for prepayment customers. Due to the specifications it is almost impossible to stop prepayment smart meters from having access to all the tariffs available to credit customers, and that should significantly lower the costs for people on prepayment arrangements (currently pre-pay tariffs are generally much higher than credit tariffs). Switching suppliers should also (in theory) be a lot easier, because changing suppliers when you have a prepay arrangements can be quite difficult under current arrangements.

        Not that that justifies the near £20bn cost of the scheme, mind you.

      2. James Pickett

        Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

        I heard Roger Witcombe, too, and of course no-one on the Today programme had the wit (or knowledge) to tell him that smart meters were, in fact, a hindrance to switching suppliers - the exact reverse of what he had just stated. But then, anything remotely Green is given a free pass by the Beeb, who only believe what they read in the Grauniad, anyway!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

      I've had a meter that tells me how much I'm using for years - it's got this little wheel that whizzes around faster the more I have switched on. Also as an audible reminder, the wife yells at me when I forget to switch off the lights...

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

        The reduced consumption is temporary. Soon goes back to the previous consumption when the novelty of the meter wears off.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

          The reduced consumption is temporary. Soon goes back to the previous consumption when the novelty of the meter wears off.

          Absolutely true. I picked up a clip-on display half-price at some closing down sale somewhere, and enjoyed watching the graphics on it change whenever the kettle or the telly was on. When the battery ran dry, I couldn't be arsed to replace it. Since I was never in the habit of leaving any light on unnecessarily, or leaving devices on standby, or not switching everything off when I went to bed, the only saving I made was from turning the fridge setting down a little (and leaving a 3-litre bottle of cider in there to act as a cold sink).

          Naturally the cold sink needed replacing every Saturday afternoon, but still.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

            "and leaving a 3-litre bottle of cider in there to act as a cold sink"

            The thermal inertia effects can improve a fridge's performance (although the same effect can be had by putting something around the temperature sensor to reduce its sensitivity, and that takes up less space). But a 3 litre bottle of cider, man! What were you thinking? We live in a golden age of cider making (certainly compared to the dark days of the early 1980s), but nothing remotely drinkable has ever been sold in a three litre PET bottle.

            Anybody looking to emulate this should satisfy themselves with a 2 litre bottle of Old Rosie....

            1. Paul Shirley

              Re: I had a cider last week

              "Anybody looking to emulate this should satisfy themselves with a 2 litre bottle of Old Rosie...."

              I still remember the morning ritual of upending trade jars of Old Rosie to stir the artificial clouding agent back in. I'd advise anyone that actually likes cider to avoid the stuff and order a 20l box of something real, take out a shelf and it will fit comfortably in even a small fridge. It's also a lot more thermal inertia.

              Of course you'll have to pre pour to let the heavenly juice warm up to proper 12deg drinking temp ;)

        2. James Pickett

          Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

          Still, at least Mrs Cowherder will take her jumper off.. :-)

    6. tony72

      Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

      Research shows that the effect you noticed with your wife is short-lived; for the first two or three months, while there is some novelty value, people have increased awareness of their energy usage, and make an extra effort to save energy, but beyond that, they tend to revert to their previous behaviour.

    7. JP19

      Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

      "So thanks British Gas for fitting the smart meter"

      and they thank you for the extra £250 going on your bill to pay for it you moron.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

        "So thanks British Gas for fitting the smart meter"

        and they thank you for the extra £250 going on your bill to pay for it you moron.

        I can't help thinking that it should be "El Reg commantards thank the British Gas social media engagement team for shilling us with this advert".

    8. davemcwish

      Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

      Um...It's summer, at least in my part of the UK. We've had the hottest June temperatures in 100 years so what's the need for central heating being on ?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err... surely a mistake

    The costs which have unexpectedly just risen again are actually much more certain and tangible and will have to be met first.

    Sure it should be expectedly. As everyone who did the technical analysis and architecture for real 7 years ago I am going to repeat:

    There is only _ONE_ _WAY_ this is going to work - 100% provision of a data channel to a household. That is what SM needs an no mobile network will deliver that. Not now, not ever. Even if it does, it is not fit for purpose as it is unicast per household - no means of emergency broadcasts, etc.

    Further to this, the data channel is how you can build a valid business case. A guaranteed 99.995% available data channel to the house (regardless of technology) is a valuable commodity even for very low rates - it will effectively turn the alarm and home security industry on its head overnight.

    However, what the mandarins did here was to ensure that not a single old school buddy from the revolving door entities (energy retail, telecoms companies, G4S and security franchises, etc) will lose out of the deal. Only the taxpayer, but who cares about us commoners...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Err... surely a mistake

      However, what the mandarins did here was to ensure that not a single old school buddy from the revolving door entities (energy retail, telecoms companies, G4S and security franchises, etc) will lose out of the deal

      The principle beneficiaries of this scheme will be the Meter Asset Providers, who will own the meters. Because the energy suppliers cost of capital is too high (and business model not asset based) the vast majority of this MAP activity will end up with financial services companies. They'll get a fat and guaranteed return on several billion quid, with no material risk, zero sales and marketing cost, and not even the usual financial services risk of mis-selling fines.

      G4S, Crapita, telecoms providers will make (by comparison) minimal amounts, and the energy suppliers will act purely as tax collectors albeit gaining some very modest benefits for bad debt and meter reading costs that OFGEM expect to be passed through to consumers.

      The best thing consumers can do is to refuse to have a smart meter fitted, unless they (a) believe the claptrap about the benefits, or (b) they want access to better PAYG services, or access to time of use tariffs (there will be a subset of people for whom these are real benefits, even if that's not you or me).

      Note that if your supplier offers to fit a smart meter in "dumb" mode, that will probably just mean that your energy supplier won't have the meter data, but chances are that when Crapita get the Data Communications Company running, it may still hoover up the data even if your supplier can't access it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Err... surely a mistake

        The principle beneficiaries of this scheme will be the Meter Asset Providers

        Correct.

        This is also because the data-to-every-houselhold infrastructure established at the cost of 17 f*** billion pounds will _NOT_ be used for anything else but SM. This is the criminal waste here, not anything else.

        It is not a question of G4S making money. Question is in not losing money. G4S and friends have created a very interesting and highly distorted market for all security related services in the UK. UK is the only country in Europe (if not the world) where you are dependent on copper to have a monitored service in a household - alarm, panic button, emergency call out button, curfew enforcement for suspects under court orders, anything. Everywhere else this is mobile and in some places data over power (same tech as used for smart metering in some places). The latter is unavailable in the UK and the former requires selling a firstborn to cover the bill.

        Why is G4S so insistent on a tie between their service and bare (no data) copper - no clue. It is a fact. If there is an alternative data path provider their market position will get very interesting.

        If that service is available to everyone on a wholesale basis - doubly so.

        And as far as the usual suspect "secure" copper provider a large range of its services will be dead. Overnight.

      2. Red Bren
        Terminator

        @Ledswinger: Smart meters in "dumb"

        British Gas recently replaced my mechanical meter with a digital one. I repeatedly refused to accept a smart meter so they fitted a "dumb" one; it even described it as such in the work sheet they left me. Is there any way of telling if I've been duped with a dormant smart meter that could get reanimated at a later date?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Red Bren Smart meters in "dumb"

          "Is there any way of telling if I've been duped with a dormant smart meter that could get reanimated at a later date?"

          If it was British Gas (rather than National Grid who own most if not all of the old gas meters) then chances are you've been borged. British Gas are the most enthusiastic supplier about smart meters - they are years ahead of all other energy suppliers in terms of smart meter roll out, and I'd be staggered if they were fitting non-smart digital meters (in fact I think that their supply licence prevents them replacing a dumb meter with a dumb meter). They have a deal with Landis & Gyr (who hope to supply the majority of the 16m BG will need) although I'd guess that they could fit other makes to avoid excessive dependence on L&G.

          For a gas meter, open the cupboard and see what they've left behind. If it is a Landis & Gyr G370 it is certainly a full fat SMETS2 compliant smart meter. If it is any other G300 series then that becomes "almost certainly". For electricity you're looking to see if they've fitted a Landis & Gyr E470 - that's a smart meter. Search on those terms to find pictures if need be, but I'd bet you've been "upgraded". Some interesting (if slightly dated) discussion here:http://openenergymonitor.org/emon/node/2820

          Interestingly, if you have, but don't want smart meters, then it would seem that BG will be in breach of their licence condition 35.2, para c, subsections i and ii, which require that the supplier provides information that is accurate and not misleading. Although if energy suppliers mis-sell you a lightbulb, the bureaucrats at OFGEM will hound them to the seventh circle of hell, in this case OFGEM are utterly complicit in the Great British Smart Meter Scandal, so don't expect anything to be done about it (although if you can get as far as the Energy Ombudsman and they take up a complaint then they'll charge BG about £400 just for handling the complaint).

          Now, if you've got a spy in the cupboard, then what does that mean? In theory, if it is in dumb mode, you've elected not to share your data with British Gas. When the time comes, they will "enrol" it to the Data Collection Company (part of DECC's byzantine infrastructure intended to make the simple complex), your refusal to share with the supplier still stands, but I don't think you have that choice with DCC (run by Crapita). Government will have their sweaty, incompetent mits on your data from that day, and the meter will still have all the unwelcome remote control and monitoring possibilities.

          1. Red Bren
            Pint

            Re: @Red Bren Smart meters in "dumb"

            Thanks for taking the time to compose such a detailed response. It seems BG have installed the L&G E110 which does indeed appear to be a "dumb" meter.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Red Bren Smart meters in "dumb"

              It seems BG have installed the L&G E110 which does indeed appear to be a "dumb" meter.

              Thank god, you're "clean"! Take the biohazard suits off lads, and put the bolt gun away!

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "no one wants to tell the Emperor that he has no clothes,"

    It looks as if quite a few people have told him. He's just not listening.

    1. dotdavid

      The clothes will come in time with efficiency savings, apparently.

  4. AMBxx Silver badge
    WTF?

    Question for you

    Is the same civil servant responsible for digital radio and smart meters? Despite all evidence against both, it just trundles along.

    1. Jim99

      Re: Question for you

      The policy is the policy because it's the policy. That's how government works.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another thought, did anybody figure in the cost of lost productivity as people have to be at home for the new meters to be installed instead of at work?

    1. Mad Mike

      @AC.

      I think you're missing the point. They're only worried about costs they need to concern themselves with. You earning a living is your problem, not theirs. Anyway. According to all the blurb, you don't have to have one, so refuse.

  6. Lallabalalla

    A Govt technology scheme in danger of being a costly failure??

    Shome mishtake shurely?

  7. M7S

    Given that it is supposed to help us decide when to use things to get the best rate

    Is there a feature that says "hold off on that kettle, if you wait 10 minutes before starting to make your cup of tea the tariff will drop and you can save money".

    No?

    Hmm, Please Minister, explain how I will actually be able to use this for the purpose you state it is intended for....

  8. Arachnoid

    No mention of the Health risks!

    Theres many a webpage and video dedicated to the possible radiation health risks assosiated with the devices fitted in the likes of the US so Im staying well away from them.

    Oh and if specuation is true these devices will eventually enable muli tarrif prices i.e. high rates during peak times.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: No mention of the Health risks!

      > Theres many a webpage and video dedicated to the possible radiation health risks assosiated with the devices fitted in the likes of the US so Im staying well away from them.

      Staying away from those particular webpages and videos seems like very sensible advice.

      1. Arachnoid
        Joke

        Re: No mention of the Health risks!

        I guess glow in the dark green is your colour of choice

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: No mention of the Health risks!

          I prefer a Readi-Brek orange.

    2. Mad Mike

      Re: No mention of the Health risks!

      "Theres many a webpage and video dedicated to the possible radiation health risks assosiated with the devices fitted in the likes of the US so Im staying well away from them."

      To be fair, a lot of these websites are by crackpots. If you look at the radiation out by a smart meter, you certainly wouldn't have a wireless router/access point in your house or a mobile phone.

      "Oh and if specuation is true these devices will eventually enable muli tarrif prices i.e. high rates during peak times."

      They COULD do this. In theory, you could change the price every half-hour of the day, but it would have to be known in advance. This could be used to steer usage and achieve a flatter demand profile. However, this requires rather a lot of social engineering as most loads are not movable.

    3. Dabooka Silver badge

      Re: No mention of the Health risks!

      "Oh and if specuation is true these devices will eventually enable muli tarrif prices i.e. high rates during peak times."

      A bit like good old Economy 7 does now?

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: No mention of the Health risks!

        "A bit like good old Economy 7 does now?"

        Very true. The only difference is the granularity. Smart meters could 'offer' 30 minutes segments, although why you'd want to do that, I don't know. There are essentially three primary usage periods during any 24hour period, although smaller fluctuations do happen within them.

    4. jackandhishat
      Trollface

      Re: No mention of the Health risks!

      Do these websites also mention the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide?

  9. Bob Wheeler
    Unhappy

    How many times ....

    <rant>

    has the excuse of "used different accounting methodology" been used?

    I've seen it twice in the last few days here on El Reg alone (Universal Credits Project I think was the other one??).

    I mean, when looking at these schemes/projects that total £xxBN, can there be that many different ways to count money spent, and add on money to be spent?

    </rant>

    I know I'm being simplistic, but this is becoming a very tired and overused excuse.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very different experience on this side of the pond. Our electricity "smart meter" bills us on time-of-day consumption (and we can download a spreadsheet of consumption in 10min intervals, if so inclined). I declined the fancy stuff such as reducing power consumption at peak times.

    1. Your alien overlord - fear me
      Paris Hilton

      Over here we have time-of-day consumption bills, any time of the day we consume electricity, we get billed for it. Or do you mean something else?

  11. RyszrdG

    To wit to woo

    I have owned an OWL monitor for the last 5 years. It has worked perfectly, does not compromise my security in any way and has highlighted the real electrical energy burners that we have progressively addressed to reduce our bills. The plain facts are that the benefits of 'smart metering' are entirely for the energy companies so that they do not have to maintain a fleet of meter readers whilst the consumer benefits are negligible and at worst misleading if you do not understand what you are looking at. The deception is making us pay for it.

    The technology is already obsolete and will need a refresh quite soon. No need to guess who will have to pay. It needs someone with cojones to stop the programme now and save us all a load of trouble and cost. If you are really interested in saving money then buy your own monitor. If you are not interested it will make no difference to your consumption whether you have a 'smart meter' or not!

  12. davidp231

    " 17 f*** billion pounds will _NOT_ be used for anything else but SM"

    Are the energy providers providing escort services now? I know you mean something totally different but...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      escort services

      G4S used to do that but they got a bit of bad publicity because too many people were breaking free from their restraints.

  13. Captain DaFt

    How, just how, please tell me?

    How did the smart meter thing get so convoluted and financially out of control over there?

    Here, the companies wanted smart meters to cut back on meter readers, reduce miss billings and enable people to opt in to peak hour management.

    So, they got permissions to transmit meter data over power lines at set time periods, quit buying old style meters and started buying new smart ones, then replacing old ones as they hit their replacement dates.

    Peak power management is totally opt in, and requires the power companies to install gizmos on water heaters and AC/Heating units. (Of Course, almost no one has done this, and most that did, had it removed after their first cold shower.)

    Aside from a bit of mouth foaming from the usual cast of idiots during the permission to transmit over power lines phase, everything is going smoothly, and costs have been negligible.

    And this is in a state that manages to fuck up nearly everything.

    So how did/are things going so badly for you?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How, just how, please tell me?

      "So how did/are things going so badly for you?"

      Because this is a government mandated, led, and managed scheme, in which unelected bureaucrats decide how to spend other people's money, and telling other people to actually do the work whether they want to or not. It's yet another UK example of the Stalinist approach to government, involving central planning, vast investment without benefits, and a total lack of any democratic mandate for the idea.

      Left to their own devices the industry would have done things differently. We'd probably have simple automated meter reading units, owned by the distribution networks who own the old style meters, and they'd be installed only on an asset renewal basis as old meters reach the end of their life. By their very nature digital meters would permit greater variety of tariff and better approaches to pre-payment.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: How, just how, please tell me?

        So, as Groucho Marx said, "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies."

  14. MiniG

    Smart meters have prepayment capabilities built into them. How long will it be before the Utilities offer/demand prepayment schemes for all their customers? A months energy, say £200, paid for in advance by 10million customers would yield a £2 billion cash windfall compared to paying the same amount in arrears. (as most customers do). I wonder if the Interest on that little lot would go a long way to pay for the Smart Roll out!!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why so expensive?

    Does anybody know how they manage to be so expensive? UK ~= 20M households, so it's ONE THOUSAND POUNDS per household.

    Solid gold?

    £50 meter + Internal laptop + charge to remove screen + £500 installation charge?

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