back to article UK energy minister rejects 'waste of money' smart meters claim

Claims by a former Conservative Party energy adviser that the government's £11bn smart meter project will be “a ghastly mess” have been dismissed by current energy secretary Amber Rudd. Meg Hillier, Labour MP and head of the Public Accounts Committee, questioned Rudd yesterday over the much-criticised scheme, which will also …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Purpose

    The purpose of smart meters isn't to enable people to save money but to enable remote-control by the by both the government and the utilities.

    The government will be able to switch off your power before they raid your home and the utilities will be able to switch it off as soon as you fail to pay one of their bills on time, and then add an exorbitant charge to restore it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Purpose

      That's why I have

      - Solar Panels feeding a load of 12v Batteries

      - 18hp Stanby Generator

      As my Electricity Supply comes about a mile along overhead lines, it does get interrupted from time to time. The last was by an HGV demolishing one pole after skidding on some ice. Took them two weeks to find another wooden pole.

      If they impose these things I'm quite prepared to go 'off grid' as far as my supply goes.

      Then I would be only connected via my phone line. Never had any Gas despire BG saying that I did for a long time.

    2. Secman

      Re: Purpose

      There are many people in New Zealand who would disagree with you, as they are saving large on the electricity bill by paying spot rates for power, a feat only possible through the use of smart meters.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Purpose

        many people in New Zealand ... are saving large on the electricity bill by paying spot rates for power

        How many is "many"? I suspect it's actually a few people who can organise their lives around power prices and that the sort of low-income people who really need this kind of thing cannot be that organised. Very simple things like not heating your home during the day aren't always practical if you aren't out at work, and running the washing machine during the cheapest period could save a lot of money, so long as your wash cycle doesn't take three hours and you don't have the sort of family that means you have to run the thing at least twice a day.

        And then there's the extremely obvious point that has been missed by practically everyone (apologies if this has already been mentioned further down) that the energy companies are not in the business of making losses. If a large enough number of people reduce their bills, the companies will simply have to put the price up across the board in order to maintain profitability.

        Yes, it can work, but only if the numbers taking up the opportunity are low, and everyone else pays for them.

        M.

        1. Secman

          Re: Purpose

          ...and that the sort of low-income people who really need this kind of thing cannot be that organised

          Fair cop; not everybody is able to respond to pricing signals and thus cut down their costs. So lets have two more examples.

          There are services aimed exactly at the sort of disorganized people of which you speak. Like Glowbug. They do pay-as-you-go electricity. They are a lot cheaper than the traditional pre-pay meter from the old-school large electricity companies. You can get a little light-up thing that changes colour and displays your current status, see here: Glowbug: How it works

          There is another retailer that gives you a free hour a day of electricity. They have a "fair use" policy, but they actively encourage folks to have do their laundry and run the dishwasher etc in the free hour.

          energy companies are not in the business of making losses

          All these retailers are in business to make money. The differentiate on many things incluing how much money that want to make, which is mostly about their cost base.

          I suspect our electricity industry is structured differently to the UK. The companies that sell electricity to (most) consumers are retailers. Retailers buy electricity at spot price, and sell it for, literally, whatever they want. There are (last I looked) about 27 retailers in New Zealand. Its a competitive space. So different retailers are doing different things, some choose to have shops, others have no physical presence. Some operate through local dairys. (Dairies in New Zealand are like the corner shop in the UK).

          Rather than "simply have to put the price up across the board in order to maintain profitability" the unpopular retailers who want to stay in business need to either compete on price, or compete some other way, or they will end up eventually with no customers. There are other parts of the electricity industry, but they are relatively unaffected by this retailer competition.

          The smart meter revolution has allowing the consumer to now have a choice, whereas previous it was one rip-off versus another rip-off. This isn't some theoretical clap-trap. This is happening for real.

          1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

            Re: Purpose

            "I suspect our electricity industry is structured differently to the UK. The companies that sell electricity to (most) consumers are retailers. Retailers buy electricity at spot price, and sell it for, literally, whatever they want. There are (last I looked) about 27 retailers in New Zealand. Its a competitive space."

            Well, NZ is a vastly different power market than the UK, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, every country is unique, so power market (and economy yaddda yadda) are always going to be different. Both NZ and the UK+Ireland are nations of islands, both produce oil and gas, and both are roughly the same area, and similar climate (YMMV) but broadly speaking higher demand winters, lower demand summers. But there are massive differences in scale of population (total and density), industrial uses, and resource dependance.

            NZ produces a vast amount of it's power from hydro. 57% last count, and that's declining from 70+. IMHO they shouldn't have been mothballing off generating stations, but that's part of the whole marketisation exercise. The running and variable cost of inputs of it's generation are quite different to a thermal plant, less warmup, your "fuel" is either off or on without* extra cost. Quite a lot more maintenance that's less convenient than thermal plants, but in general hydro is really very very good, and about as nice as you'll get for a renewable. It's just not very transportable, and you can't really plonk down in an arbitary spot. If we could knock up a Manapouri for every major industrial site it solves a lot of transmission and load balancing issues. I'm sure someone who does actual engineering might know better, is building a powerstation next to each major energy user the best way to solve things?

            NZ has also until very recently had most of the major players in the generation and supply of wholesale markets belong either to the government, or the government be the majority shareholder. What happens in 5-10 years time, after sufficient "competative pressure" has been brought to bear, will result in higher prices and less security of supply.

            NZ is on it's own for supply. It can import fuel, and extract plenty for local consumption down to retail level (innapropriate heating with LPG causing deaths) but it has no access to other countries power markets. Hence generation and supply was run by the government for many years. Parts still are. The splitting it into various parts has been either a huge failure (if you're a consumer) or a great success (if a shareholder). With a stalinist diktat run feethly socialist power construction and generation NZ had the second lowest price of retail power in the OECD. Now it's nearer the middle, not because other countries got cheaper. That's the competitive market for you, same product, twice the price. Only in this case, your tax dollars already paid for every single part of it.

            Now, since it may seem as I'm knocking you, you DO have a very valid point. For the people who are already being fucked by the power companies (it's the poor. It's always the poor. That's why they stay that way) then replacing their pre-pay meter with any plan that charges like a normal retail customer is a massive step up. Doesn't require a smart meter for that. Can also see why you'd use them as a pilot group, since it's always going to be better afterwards, and you can get some feedback on how much a fucking pain installing smart meters is.

            *water rights and usage in NZ is a whole 'nother can of worms.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Purpose

          "Yes, it can work, but only if the numbers taking up the opportunity are low, and everyone else pays for them."

          Just like the solar feed in tariffs :(

      2. The Boojum

        Re: Purpose

        Can't comment on New Zealand but in the UK electricity market only 1% or 2% of electricity changes hands at spot rates. The vast majority is covered by forward pricing agreements.

      3. Whistlerspa

        Re: Purpose

        Good luck handling the radiation related health issues that can arise from these 'Smart' meters.

      4. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: Purpose

        Horseshit.

        Firstly you do not get to buy spot power prices as anything short of an industrial user in NZ. I used to administer one of the systems for submitting bids, so unless you're a milk factory or aluminium smelter, you're buying at retail.

        Pre-buying retail power (powershop? Unless they've gone under) is perfectly fine, but like almost all power retailers they buy at wholesale, usually in advance (ie not spot), then sell to the plebs at retail. Powershop and the ilk let you buy in advance, and pass some savings on to you. However, when I was last living in NZ there was almost no point in shopping around for power prices. I've always had gas, and there are usually only one or two companies that supply gas, and the discount they give you for a combined tarif is lower than any savings that can be made from pre-buying power, or the cheapest supply options.

        The only way you're "saving large" buy pre-paying is because you where on a rip-off tariff before. But that's pretty much the norm for NZ utilities. Don't get me started on the fucking phone lines. You should save roughly 20-30% if you go from a "pre-pay, bad credit" to a "pre-pay". Most would give me 10-15% off for simply paying on time.

        A power audit can certainly help people cut down on their bills. My experience of NZ houses and UK flats is that about two thirds have some sort of "power leakage" where if you turn off everything, you still are chunking through the power. NZ ones mainly shitty wiring and some power theft, UK ones mainly power theft with some shitty wiring. But once you've worked out what optional appliances can be switched off, and defrosted the freezer etc, then you can't do much to change your usage. There's a limit to what you can turn off, and what appliances you are willing to replace. Smart meter won't save you anything by itself, only a change in behavior.

        Mind you, there are times in the past when I'd like to have had a smart meter. Mainly when the previous person lied about the meter reading to the power company (who accepted that for 12 months he used ~2 months worth of power) and then the power company tried to charge us for ~18 months of power for 6 months of usage during the warm part of the year.

        1. Secman

          Re: Purpose

          Firstly you do not get to buy spot power prices as anything short of an industrial user in NZ. I used to administer one of the systems for submitting bids, so unless you're a milk factory or aluminium smelter, you're buying at retail.

          You don't live in New Zealand any more, do you, MonkeyCee.Perhaps you did, ten years ago, five years ago, maybe even three years ago, when it was true, only big boys could buy electricity on spot. Then came smart meters, new and innovative retailers, and now anyone in a smart meter area can buy on spot because spot is a choice offered by at least one retailer.

          Welcome to the brave new world.

          The whole point of this thread is that apparently smart meters are a waste of money, and only benefit The Man. Well, in at least one country with smart meters, that is out and out bullshit. Or more accurately, it may benefit The Man, but it benefits consumers as well, offering them choices that prior to smart metering simply weren't on the table.

          1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

            Re: Purpose

            About 5 years ago now. Still in contact with buddies in Transpower, and their various contracted out comms stuff.

            It's not really "smart meters are a waste of money" there are many good reasons for them, and replacing shitty pre-paids should be top of the list. It's that there is an idea that smart meters will reduce demand, by making us all more aware of our usage. so we should all have one, is poxy. Having it mandated by government, not paid for out of taxes but by raising the costs of electricity supply, and then told that it's for our own good is what the objections are.

            Smart meters can and should be used in new builds, when replacement is required, and when the current meters are anti-competitive or predatory. I think they also should be available for anyone who wants one, certainly if different tariffs are available to different customers.

            You could save money on your power bill by changing behavior, and by reading the damn thing and comparing prices. Price watch sites have been around for 10+ years, and before that any budget advisor/CAB/friend would help you if your math was shit. The information about your power usage is already available, and there has been years of poking and propping to get you to work out your best option.

      5. RyszrdG

        Re: Purpose

        ...except that the meters being installed do not allow spot rate charging. Dream on. These meters are entirely for the benefit of the suppliers at your own expense. The government suggests that you will need to monitor the meter and make adjustments to the way that you consume the energy to save perhaps as much as £20 a year. You can save multiples of that just by fitting led bulbs and improving your insulation or even by changing your supplier.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Purpose

          ..except that the meters being installed do not allow spot rate charging.

          They can handle half hourly charging, which is the same basis as wholesale electricity markets operate. In theory this could be "spot", but don't forget that end users need to pay transmission system charges, distribution charges, subsidy recovery charges, social obligations costs, balancing and settlement costs, billing and overheads. Its those "other" costs that mean your average retail charge is double the average wholesale cost. And because of things like the incompetently managed solar PV and wind subsidies and obligations this element of your bills will keep rising for the next four years as a minimum.

          But nobody buys spot power unless they can afford to be without power when the price skyrockets at peak times. It doesn't leap if you've got a forward contract, but being unhedged and uncontracted in the wholesale market at times if system imbalance would result in paying prices of hundreds of pounds per kWh, because you'd be the person paying for the entire annual cost of short term peaking plant.

          So in practice, an energy supplier could offer you a wholesale tracker tariff through your smart meter, that offers a smoothed and hedged version of the wholesale cost and then adds all the extras. Why any residential energy user would want such a complicated system I can't say. Can you imagine trying to check a bill where the usage is reported for every half hour, and the price can vary for each half hour? That'd be a 4,300 line energy statement every quarter.

          In reality, time of use tariffs actually offered to residential users are not trackers, and are usually only three time zones per day, typically with some seasonal variation. For me, that's still too complicated. I like the current system, where the supplier offers me power at a simple flat rate, I pay the bill, and the lights come on. Sadly governments of all persuasions are committed to the ghastly mess of smart meters whose best use case is to make the simple more complicated. There's no positive business case for the suppliers - the low cost of manual meter reading is too low to pay for this vastly expensive scheme. And the costs of expected greater bill accuracy is minimal (a zero sum game across customers with credit and debit differences when paying estimated bills).

          1. Somewhere in the Colonies

            Re: Purpose

            You make good points - but fwiw, our meter only provides readings 48 hours later (apparently because we are in a new apartment block).

        2. Secman

          Re: Purpose

          ...except that the meters being installed do not allow spot rate charging

          I find that unlikely.

          All that is needed for spot rate charging is a meter that can record consumption in time periods that match the spot price brackets. The charging and calculation is done by the retailer who formulates the bills sent out to customers.

          Ofgem state (link):

          Over the coming decade, the roll-out of smart meters to homes and businesses has the potential to transform how the retail market operates to the benefit of consumers. These meters will be capable of measuring the amount of energy used in short time periods.

          The entire electricity industry globally works on the idea that the day is divided into half hour slots, and thus I find it... unreasonable that the UK is going to have fitted meters that are any less capable than the standard meters every country with smart meters uses. What Ofgem says makes me think your smart meters will be just the same as ours

          Whether an electricity supplier chooses to offer this kind of tariff is, of course, open to question. The New Zealand experience is that when smart meters arrive, new entrants arrive to try something different to what the existing marketplace offers.

          1. Bluenose

            Re: Purpose

            The problem is that as always the concept of something new (spot pricing) is being presented as a great advantage to consumers however, I found the following on a web site in New Zealand:

            A spot-price contract can bring significant savings but also can expose consumers to financial risks. If you are thinking of signing up, before proceeding, carefully consider all the risks and rewards and whether your financial position gives you the ability to manage the risks.

            If you are unsure - seek independent advice.

            So yet again consumers are being sold something that is more likely to see them screwed than one that actually gives them real benefits. One only has to think of all those who found that the value of their investments went down significantly when they needed to go up or found themselves with wonderfully cheap interest only mortgages that the linked investment accounts can't pay off.

            As the original comment on this said, the people who really need stability and certainty of price so as to be able to adequately budget and pay for their power will find themselves railroaded through mis-selling in to contracts that result in them being cut off and chased by debt collectors.

        3. cloth

          Re: Purpose

          I always laugh at the idea that I can save money by spending it e.g. save pounds per year by replacing your boiler. LOL ! so, let me get that straight 400 quid plus of boiler will save me how much - hmmm.

          As for smart meters - I used to work on them at IBM and they were all about the consumer voting in to get their electricity reduced at times of high-demand. It's also going to mean the death of the meter man as it'll be remote,possibly, drive-by (depending on the tech they use). But, so what - that'll save the companies money but it won't be handed on. This is nothing more than big companies lobbying the government with their usual corrupt back-handers.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Purpose

        Some would also say that the New Zealand utility industry - effectively a set of State Owned Enterprises - forces this behaviour by it's inherent inefficiencies.

        (Posted as anon because of my role conflicts of interest).

    3. The Boojum

      Re: Purpose

      It is also probably to reduce the horrendously complex settlement system for consumer electricity bills, in which it can take two or three years to arrive at a final, correct allocation of costs.

      1. kwhitefoot

        Re: Purpose

        That's just incompetence.

    4. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Purpose

      "The government will be able to switch off your power before they raid your home and the utilities will be able to switch it off as soon as you fail to pay one of their bills"

      It's quite easy if not quite legal to use a small 3G jammer to stop that happening! And getting revenge can be interesting: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/02/stolen_sim_woman_jailed/

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Purpose

      The government will be able to switch off your power before they raid your home and the utilities will be able to switch it off as soon as you fail to pay one of their bills on time, and then add an exorbitant charge to restore it.

      Governments raid houses in the early hours of the morning, they have plenty of money for dogs, guns and portable lights - the best your money can buy.

      For the utility suppliers, smart meters are as welcome as turd in a Christmas card. They're complex, unreliable, untested, expensive technology that does jack shit for us. We're doing this because the knob-ends of Parliament say we have to, on pay of vast fines. The energy regulator will still set the criteria by which you can be cut off, and it is no easier with a smart meter than a dumb meter (other than that we wouldn't need to worry about a forced entry if you pretend you're always out). Curiously, perhaps the only group to benefit from smart meters are the lower social orders who are most commonly cut off. For the first time since forever, these people will be able to be on the full range of energy supply tariffs, instead of being on the expensive manual prepayment meter tariffs.

      The journey for the non-payers is thus easier, they can be put on pre-payment more cheaply, and if they get (automatically) cut off for lack of credit, they reconnection fee is zip.

      This is a benefit to the section of the community most commonly disconnected or in arrears, but they won't see it that way. Whether you think the total £20+bn programme cost is justified for that modest benefit to a small subset of society will depend purely on your politics.

    6. AlbertH

      Re: Purpose

      The purpose is to introduce the rolling power cuts - like we had in the 70s - when the demand exceeds the supply.

      1. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Purpose

        The purpose is to introduce the rolling power cuts - like we had in the 70s - when the demand exceeds the supply.

        Seems unlikely -- they managed rolling power cuts in the 1970s without smart meters, I can't see why you'd think that they would need smart meters to do it today.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Purpose

          "they managed rolling power cuts in the 1970s without smart meters, I can't see why you'd think that they would need smart meters to do it today."

          Were you there in the 1970s? These are some of the things you might have noticed if you had been there.

          In a 1970s home, heating that would operate without electricity was perfectly normal. Not so now; how many homes, offices, etc, have heating that will work without electricity.

          In a 1970s shop, cash tills might still be mechanical. Shops with electric tills, that wanted to continue trading during a power cut, could invest in emergency lighting and battery-backed cash tills. In the 1970s, not being able to process card transactions wouldn't be a major issue.

          In a 1970s office, it might still have been possible for some work to have been done in the absence of grid power, especially if safe emergency lighting was available.

          In the 1970s, most people's telephones (at home and elsewhere) would still work even if the mains failed. No one was reliant on a mobile phone system that would quickly collapse if there was a wide area power failure.

          In the 1970s there was no Internet (there was barely any X.25), and so (for example) there was no concept of connected "distribution centres" and "just in time" deliveries for the stuff we rely on every day (food and fuel, to name but two).

          In the 1970s there were no cities with "computer optimised" traffic management, so it might still be possible to get from A to B in reasonable time when the power's off.

          In the 1970s there hadn't relatively recently been riots and looting in the streets in many of the UK's major cities.

          There's lots more where all that came from.

          If you can lose a few GW of domestic demand on a rolling basis in an "emergency" (which might perhaps need emergency legislation, or might just happen and be legalised afterwards) you might, perhaps, be able to avoid nationwide chaos.

          'Course the smartmeter rollout and the installation of new Grid capacity are both so far behind the curve that we're going to see the worst of both worlds - barely-managed wide area outages, indiscriminately cutting everybody off, regardless.

          1. swampdog

            Re: Purpose

            I generally agree but you are incorrect on one point..

            "In a 1970s home, heating that would operate without electricity was perfectly normal. Not so now; how many homes, offices, etc, have heating that will work without electricity."

            Central heating was reliant on timers back then, as now.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Purpose

              Central heating was reliant on timers back then, as now.

              Back then central heating was a luxury. In 1970 less than a third of homes had central heating.

              1. Andy Davies

                Re: Purpose

                Back then central heating was a luxury. In 1970 less than a third of homes had central heating.

                and a solid fuel boiler with convection/'gravity' fed radiators counted as central heating.

          2. Why Not?

            Re: Purpose

            The power cuts hit at home frequently, I was too young to work.

            But nearly every night there were power cuts, we had hurricane lamps to light the house and we read books. Imagine that now the H&S bunch would complain about the lamps and most kids aren't sure what book is.

            The cost of replacing meters should be part of running costs. In the decades I have owned various properties I have never been asked for access to replace or even test the meter, many of which are 30-50 years old. I can't think of many organisations that sell goods by a measured quantity who aren't required to test their scales etc on a regular basis.

          3. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Purpose

            Just for laughs:

            In a 1970s home, heating that would operate without electricity was perfectly normal.

            Central heating systems have always relied on electrical pumps, but I'll grant you that more homes had stand-alone gas fires or even (shock!) open fires. Hot water was also more likely to be stored in a gravity-fed cylinder than made on-demand by an (electricity-needing) "combi" boiler.

            In the 1970s, not being able to process card transactions wouldn't be a major issue.

            In the 1970s I can't remember card transactions being "processed" at the till - the details were recorded on those roll-over carbon machines and processed later, so absolutely no difference at all if there's no power.

            In a 1970s office, it might still have been possible for some work to have been done in the absence of grid power, especially if safe emergency lighting was available.

            These days, of course, the absence of water for hand washing or toilet flushing is actually an H&S issue and can close offices and schools, many of which have stores of water for such purposes which are supplied to outlets by - you guessed it - electrically-powered "booster" pumps.

            In the 1970s, most people's telephones (at home and elsewhere) would still work even if the mains failed. No one was reliant on a mobile phone system that would quickly collapse if there was a wide area power failure.

            Not sure how valid this argument is as many cellular sites have some amount of battery and/or generator backup (the bigger sites anyway), as do central exchanges. If you have a wired phone, chances are that it will work through a power cut.

            In the 1970s there were no cities with "computer optimised" traffic management,

            I refer the honourable gentleman to the 1969 film, The Italian Job where a large plot point revolves around a city-wide computerised traffic management system being compromised.

            Ho hum. Have fun!

            M.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Purpose

              "In the 1970s there were no cities with "computer optimised" traffic management, I refer the honourable gentleman to the 1969 film, The Italian Job "

              My learned friend will not mind being reminded that we're talking about the UK, and that the traffic system in question was not (the hint is in the title). Perhaps "*very few* British cities had "computer optimised" traffic management" would be better. Look up SCOOT from the TRRL (pioneered in the 1990s).

              "card transactions ... paper... absolutely no difference at all if there's no power."

              Yes and no. Vastly more card transactions these days, and many (most?) card transactions *require* online authentication. Without on-line authentication, business is greatly disrupted.

              "many cellular sites have some amount of battery and/or generator backup (the bigger sites anyway),"

              As you say, typically this is bigger sites. In many parts of the UK, coverage and capacity are only adequate because of small lower power cells which don't have any meaningful battery backup.

              "If you have a wired phone, chances are that it will work through a power cut."

              If it's routed through BT equipment in a BT exchange, probably.

              If it's a cable phone? Don't count on it.

              If it's LLU voice? Don't know, could guess, would prefer definitive info.

              We'll find out soon enough.

        2. Panicnow

          Re: Purpose

          THose cuts were not managed well, As a party member, my house was turned off like the rest in my street. This way I can keep my power on while the riff-raff next door crowd around a candle

    7. JohnG

      Re: Purpose

      "The government will be able to switch off your power before they raid your home..."

      Thus providing the targets with some warning of the imminent arrival of the men in black (or blue). Time enough to destroy or flush any incriminating evidence, break out weaponry, etc.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "In a letter to Rudd this month Henney had said the only beneficiaries will be the meter manufacturers."

    Given standard IoT security this is wrong. Terrorists could also be beneficiaries. This is the line to push. It will stop the roll-out stone dead (assuming it isn't effectively stone dead anyway). And their security won't be able to be improved because encryption.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Supporting terrorism

      Don't forget to mention paedos, too. You're sure to win the argument then

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Supporting terrorism

        After all, even Politicians occasionally think about the children (I won't comment further).

    2. swampdog

      It will stop the roll-out stone dead

      It's a National Security issue in any case. We all see the "panic buying" at supermarkets just because they are going to be closed "tomorrow". We didn't have Just In Time back then but I saw for myself how quickly a community can fall apart.

      Take the bad UK winter of the 80's. My car was amongst a few that would actually start. No diesels would and most petrol had poor batteries. My friend owned a Fruit 'n' Veg shop. Sold all his milk within minutes of opening. I get his call - can I make it into town? Three trips later: boot full and rear seats filled with hundred's of pints of milk we are finally prevented from selling milk because an adjacent shop complained.

      Three decades ago shops had stock. Our shops had two days worth of milk. We were snowed in for four days. A little moderation from all and I'd have not had to make any trips.

      Store tins. Don't tell your friends you have them because they *will* kill you when their kids get hungry.

  3. Timbo

    I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

    LCD type panel meters that read one's electricity use, have been around for a while....so, if one wanted to monitor one's energy use, making such a meter "smart" won't make more people change their energy habits.

    Of course, linking a smart meter to your broadband and an app, could be useful....but you'll be able to do that with various other solutions, if you wanted to....and there's the rub.

    Having this system "foisted" onto consumers (who will end up have to pay for it, in their bills) really doesn't make any sense to me, esp if every consumer is "forced" to have it installed and the device(s) then just sit there, consuming energy themselves (paid for by consumers) and people take no notice of them.

    And supposing people don't have broadband - how will they work then? And for people who are "renters" (nor home owners) how will said metering link in to the irregular placement of one's broadband router - by wifi perhaps?

    And how long before these individual "smart meter" devices are hacked by 3rd parties?

    I can think of better, more sensible ways to spend £19bn....

    1. Kenny Millar

      Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

      No wifi required. It works along the power lines.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No wifi required. It works along the power lines

        "No wifi required. It works along the power lines"

        You think so?

        Says who?

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

        They use cellular data.

        So they don't work in many existing buildings.

        The smart meter at work doesn't work at all, which is interesting. All the LCD segments are solidly lit, we have no idea how much we've used until the bill comes.

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

          Richard 12 wrote: They use cellular data.

          That's probably fine for uploading metering information but I cannot see how the technology could be used for downloading price data (etc) in the short term, i.e. to take account of demand. While a celluar system can easily be demonstrated as controlling a domestic meter on the bench I can't see that upscaling to control up to >50 million meters, even with lots of cells around the country, unless of course the data can be downloaded in advance for later enactment against a clock; That, of course, would require the meters to have real - time information available, in which case the question arises - from where?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Commswonk Silver badge

              Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

              You downloading live video or viewing National Grid data is not the same as having to download live price data to millions of consumers at the same time.

              Sorry, but you have no idea what you're talking about is unnecessarily confrontational and FWIW factually incorrect. As with emails please think before pressing send. :)

              1. Richard 12 Silver badge

                Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

                Netflix have both far more users and far more - and unique - data to send.

                If we did assume a need to distribute spot price to all meters in the country, there is such a thing as "multicasting", where you send the same packet to all subscribers.

                Cellular networks also have a lot of low-level stuff that goes out to every single mobile telephony device, which could be used instead of IP-over-GPRS or similar.

                However, I have yet to see any argument that instantaneous spot price is either necessary or desirable at the meter, as opposed to simple banding and shedding command signals.

                Those are commonly done with low-frequency signalling on the actual mains supply. (See France)

                1. Davemc

                  Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

                  Don't we also have signalling to switch stuff off at peak demand?

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_teleswitch

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

              I've worked on them. Smart meters struggle to get a reliable connection from many properties. As do the tablets used by the people installing the meters.

          2. TheVogon Silver badge

            Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

            The data does not need to be downloaded to the meter. Would you look at your meter before turning on the washing machine? Most wouldn't be bothered. The spot pricing is used only on the billing end, and if any ability to view the current spot price at home was required, you could use the internet.

        2. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

          The smart meter at work doesn't work at all, which is interesting

          Our smart meters (at work) work very well, and my boss can access some very fine-grained data on electricity and gas use...

          ...but still they send a meter reader around once or even twice a month!

          M.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

            Our smart meters (at work) work very well,

            Speaking as somebody working for a company obligated to install millions of these meters, I can confirm that they often don't work. They use mobile phone networks, and all too often the location of the meter, be in under the stairs, or in a meter cupboard buried in a wall results in no adequate signal. There's a whole range of other problems, but I'm trying to keep it brief.

            There's problems from start to finish with the whole smart meter concept, the business case, the technology and the implementation programme for UK smart meters. Government know this, but don't have the balls to admit they've fucked up, so as usual they press on.

            Let's have a sense check:

            Henney says smart meters are a pile of shit and won't work. He's got two engineering degrees and has worked in the electricity industry.

            Rudd says they will work. She's got a degree in history, and after briefly working for Morgan Stanley and being "released" tried to forge a career in venture capital, then journalism, then human resources, before deciding that politics was a cushy world where you didn't need any talent.

            So...who do we think is right? The posh totty from Cheltenham Ladies College who is great mates with that ghastly turd of a prime minister, or the bloke who knows how electricity is produced and delivered, and which end of a hammer to hold?

            1. Random Handle

              Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

              >Speaking as somebody working for a company obligated to install millions of these meters, I can confirm that they often don't work.

              What does this mean for consumers...is the only issue that they need to send a reader round? - or will it eventually nobble the power if it can't phone home?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

                What does this mean for consumers...is the only issue that they need to send a reader round? - or will it eventually nobble the power if it can't phone home?

                The marginal costs of manual meter reading are less than five quid a year per household. The savings on that don't pay for five hundred quid of smart meters. To be honest, I can't say what happens if a smart meter fails after successful commissioning. I would expect the billing systems simply default to estimated billing. For customers on direct debit plans there's no big deal (albeit no benefit from £10-20bn of cash spent with no value). For prepayment customers things could be more tricky.

                Then again, could things be any worse than the current performance of people like npower, coop energy, and first utility?

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

                  "Then again, could things be any worse than the current performance of people like npower, coop energy, and first utility?"

                  You're an optimist aren't you?

                  There's always room for worse.

                2. peter 45

                  Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

                  "The marginal costs of manual meter reading are less than five quid a year per household. The savings on that don't pay for five hundred quid of smart meters."

                  Now this is the most important point. Whenever you listen to an asswipe Politician touting the position that 'we are only doing this for YOUR benefit, you know', you will know just how much they are bulshitting.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

        UK Smart Meters work either via 3g celluar networks or radio (north of England and Scotland) so no powerline technology.

        Also I thought Register was generally populated by sane technically savvy people and not the typical conspiracy nutters spouting crap about radiation and government conspiracies to switch off electricity.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

          "typical conspiracy nutters spouting crap about radiation and government conspiracies to switch off electricity."

          If there was no need for the disconnection capability, there'd be no need for the kind of smart meters that are being rolled out (well, supposed to be being rolled out).

          Where's the conspiracy?

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

            The conspiracy is in imagining that people will be disconnected arbitrarily at the behest of Big Brother, rather than just - as they are now - by their power company for not paying their bill. That does seem, to me, to be delusional claptrap.

            Note, I'm not saying it's not a ghastly mess. Most government technology initiatives are. But the level of hysteria and paranoia visible in this thread are truly - well, they're approaching Texan levels.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

          "not the typical conspiracy nutters spouting crap about radiation and government conspiracies to switch off electricity."

          A surprising amount of Reg users still dispute anthropogenic global warming, despite the evedience and scientific acceptance of it being overwhelming for at least a decade now. Education costs, but ignorance is free as they say...

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

            Radiation, AGW, State actors pushing an agenda that doesn't benefit the people on the receiving end. The first two *are* bollocks, the last *may be* bollocks.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

              "The first two *are* bollocks, the last *may be* bollocks."

              I assume you mean as in the dogs? The existence of the first 2 isn't in any doubt.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

        Part of the problem with them is that the meters don't use wifi or a power line connection. They rely on a mobile signal. Not so easy when they are under the stairs....

    2. JohnMurray

      Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

      Given that with a system powered from renewable sources, some form of system regulation will be needed. smart meters will be part of the "demand side regulation" (as opposed to having loads of dispatchable generators)....they will enable rapid re-pricing of supply...who is going to continue running the dryer/washer/dishwasher when the unit cost has just clicked into 75p/unit?

      And it will, of course, be a costly, patchy, bodged and unworking mess. Just like a lot of .gov ideas...

      1. chris 17 Bronze badge

        Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

        @JohnMurray

        who will know when the rate has jumped to 75p per unit and what will you do about it when your out and unable to connect to the washing machine/dishwasher/tumble dryer/oven etc to turn off whatever is consuming the leccy? suck up the 75p to wash the dishes or spend an hour+ and whatever transport costs to get home turn it off & go back to work?

        in order for smart pricing to work all the devices in our home will need to be smart and we will need some type of policy based scheduling to turn on the high demand services at low prices and some type of override to make the machines work when we want them regardless of price. This is why smart meters are bunkum, they do nothing to help reduce energy use, they will just encourage us to buy more stuff to save a few pennies on our leccy bill.

        1. JohnMurray

          Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

          Quite right.

          So:

          https://ec.europa.eu/energy/intelligent/projects/sites/iee-projects/files/projects/documents/e-track_ii_final_brochure.pdf

          In the long, not-so-far-away, future.........

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

            Looks good on paper. Also, paper is from 2009.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

          in order for smart pricing to work all the devices in our home will need to be smart

          Nope. They just need to be plugged in to a "smart" outlet. Which have been around as long as dual-tariff metering. Low tariff -> outlet gets powered -> washing machine starts running, boiler heats up, etc. With more smarts you can do a bit more than blunt on/off, such as "once you've powered this outlet, do not switch off for at least $duration" so that the machine ran run its full cycle uninterrupted, but the machine does not need to be smart itself.

          And when you switch the Teasmade to "Tea Now" it had better not be on a smart outlet, or even (for tomorrow's version) be smart itself because just making tea now is exactly the smart thing to do.

          1. GW7

            Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

            "Economy 7" has been around for decades in the UK. It is simple to use and understand and it doesn't rely on unreliable electronics or insecure interruptible communications. You could run your dishwasher and WM on cheap night time 'leccy if your house was wired with a separate Economy 7 circuit (usually provided for running night storage heaters).

            If you want to know how much electricity you are using to help cut down a bit, you can spend around £30 and buy an "Owl" or similar remote monitoring device and display. It doesn't need a £250 (or whatever) so-called "smart meter".

            Smart meters seem like an incredibly expensive way to provide no benefit to the user. The utility companies will pocket the extra profit made by sacking the meter readers. The ability to ration electricity to the poor, while keeping the rich supplied (on higher "uninterruptible" tariffs) in times of demand outstripping capacity must surely be the underlying motivation. Yes, the result will be a ghastly mess and a huge waste of money. Money spent on delivering unjust power cuts to the poor so the rich can continue to consume, thereby maximizing profits. Money that could have been invested in energy security that would stave off power cuts through improving energy efficiency, expanding energy storage and adding nuclear energy generation to replace decommissioned reactors.

            Anyone wishing to install a so-called "smart meter" in my house will need a warrant!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

              "Economy 7" has been around for decades in the UK. It is simple to use and understand

              And about 35% of E7 customers would be better off on a standard flat rate tariff, to judge by industry experience. You need to have at least 40% of your total electricity demand in the off peak period, and that's a lot easier said than done. The only people who are better off on E7 are those with electric storage heaters and a fairly poorly insulated home. And even then they'd be better off switching to a flat rate tariff outside the main heating season.

              If you have storage heaters and use E7, there's logic in using appliances during this period, but there's no point at all in having E7 if you don't have the significant storage heating load. And don't forget that E7 users have a higher daytime rate that takes back some of the perceived savings.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

          "This is why smart meters are bunkum, they do nothing to help reduce energy use, they will just encourage us to buy more stuff to save a few pennies on our leccy bill."

          ISTR someone calculated the running cost of 40 million smart meters 24/7 was something like a whole extra power station being needed.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

            ISTR someone calculated the running cost of 40 million smart meters 24/7 was something like a whole extra power station being needed.

            Yes, we had that debate a while back ICBA to search the forum threads, but recollect that it was about 240MW nationally required to run smart meters. In industry terms that's a small CCGT (nothing like the big ones, eg 1.4 GW Didcot B), but you might not think it so small if they wanted to build one next to you.

            Enlarge the pictures on this link to see what a 240MW CCGT looks like:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterborough_Power_Station

    3. David Pollard

      Re: I think it *will* be a ghastly mess

      I can think of better, more sensible ways to spend £19bn....

      Two or three Generation III+ nuclear power stations for a start.

  4. Howard Hanek Bronze badge

    Control

    So when will the explosive device implanted in our heads to be expected?

    Then we'd all have SMART heads wouldn't we?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    Not smart enough

    These terms "energy security" and "fuel poverty" are new to me as a Yank. I could google them, but it's more fun to guess what they mean.

    "Energy security" literally means "Being in a state of reliable energy supply." How does overturning the metering system in such a big way help? Are the meters not working right at this time?

    "Fuel Poverty" I don't quite get. Is it a lack of money to buy fuel? Naah, that would be plain old poverty. Hmmm. Maybe the fuel itself is impoverished? Not good enough? Maybe, but the stated goal is "for people to reduce their bills and use less energy, therefore creating fewer carbon emissions." How does forcing people to use less fuel reduce fuel poverty?

    Oh I get it! It's the Warmist government that is suffering fuel poverty, having decided for the entire nation that less fuel is good. Wait, that would mean more fuel poverty, not less...

    I'm confused. Is this just doublespeak?

    1. Aitor 1

      Re: Not smart enough

      It is not about efficiency, as in spain for example they have been pushed with different excuses.

      In spain they are used to control if the house/flat is in use, and by how many persons. The sw has been available for years, but was extremely unreliable with analog readers.

      Apart from the illegal control aspects, if you rent it and don't declare and pay the required taxes you will be caught.

    2. Tom Womack

      Re: Not smart enough

      "Fuel poverty" means you have to spend more than 10% of your disposable income on energy to achieve an inhabitable house. It usually means 'insulation poverty'.

      (IE it's plain old poverty, but specifically the kind caused by having to spend a lot on fuel just to keep warm; mostly affects poor pensioners who want to keep living in the same house they haven't been able to add insulation to since 1953, or poor single mothers of small children who have to keep the house warm for the baby)

      1. Doctor_Wibble
        Boffin

        Re: Not smart enough

        > more than 10% of your disposable income on energy

        That definition (for UK.gov at least) seems to have changed, presumably because the 10% is too easy for the peasants to understand.

        It now seems to be the lower left quadrant of a graph, left of "60% AHC equivalised income + energy costs" and below "Median required energy costs" (specifics will change yearly) and now requires a load of worked examples to explain, instead of that crazy old fashioned method of "energy costs divided by income" which at least didn't try and sound scientific - the new one has more mumbo-jumbo, but no discernible improvement on the original simple basic indicator.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Not smart enough

          > more than 10% of your disposable income on energy

          That definition (for UK.gov at least) seems to have changed, presumably because the 10% is too easy for the peasants to understand

          I don't think it was ever 10% of disposable income - it was 10% of gross income because fuel is one of those things that we simply cannot live without, like food and water. Fuel costs are one of the things taken off your total income, and what is left is disposable.

          M.

    3. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Not smart enough

      Oh I get it! It's the Warmist government that is suffering fuel poverty, having decided for the entire nation that less fuel is good.

      I see you've decided to swallow the 'warmist' nonsense proferred by your wilfully ignorant politicians and their coal and oil industry backers. Burn, baby, burn! What harm could it possibly do? And it's not like all that fuel will ever run out anyway.

    4. Asterix the Gaul

      Re: Not smart enough

      This is another New Labour idea persued by the Tory gov't,just like privatisation of the NHS is,when PFI was the starting gunfor the current 'outsourcing'.

      Just like our surveilance society now taking shape with ISP's ending up charging their customers for the government to spy on the,it is one more candle of privacy & freedom being extinguished.

      Our fathers,who fought the last war for the very things being now being eroded at a great pace,would make the East German STASI state very happy,but would make those who died fighting for 'freedom' in WW2 turn in their graves.

      What makes me as an elderly person really angry,is that the younger generatiions think that nothing matters or is worth fighting for,save that their sense of entitlement is not diminished.

      Putting this meter lark in perspective,compare the possible savings with the Standing Charges that utility consumers have to pay,no matter how little their usage,the same is true of telecoms, ALL of these charges are extortionate in proportion to the usage charge.

      Not only that,since when have these companies ever spent the equivalent of these sums in total on the infrastructure,I suggest NOT EVER.

    5. Andy Davies

      Re: Not smart enough

      "for people to reduce their bills and use less energy, therefore creating fewer carbon emissions."

      Is this woman crazy - she just blew away all the justification for the government;s support for electric/hybrid cars!

  6. Andy Non
    FAIL

    Complete waste of (my) money.

    I already use electricity as economically as I can and no smart meter is going to change my usage in the slightest, assuming I ever even look at it. The whole thing will just leave me out of pocket by the cost of the meter and nothing gained. It just introduces security risks from hackers and more things that can go wrong. I'm guessing many other people feel exactly the same.

  7. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Well DUH!

    Every bugger knows damned well that it'll be a pig's ear, a waste of money and that the touted energy savings associated are distilled from purest bullshit and the resulting concentrated turds polished in powerpoint.

    But the EU have mandated that it be done, so we're fucked. Everything you see from the government here is a manful attempt to deflect blame from the oligarchy actually at fault, in a vain attempt to avoid a GTFON vote in 2017 and the sudden stop of a rich political gravy train.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Well DUH!

      If instead of putting a British minister to sell the snakeoil and receive the blame, they actually said "it's because EU", we would be quite surprised at how little the British government actually does. There's a directive behind most things they do. I haven't looked but I wouldn't be surprised if they're rushing out new alcohol limits and pushing a fat food tax just because a directive or similar has come out and they want to claim that they're taking the initiative and the rest will follow.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Well DUH!

        "If instead of putting a British minister to sell the snakeoil and receive the blame, they actually said "it's because EU", we would be quite surprised at how little the British government actually does. "

        It's quite often the case the BritGov plc has crafted and/or lobbied the EU for some of these stupid projects so that they can blame the EU when it all goes pear-shaped. Or, worse, they get others to propose it and then lobby supporters.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: Well DUH!

      The EU is a scapegoat, no more. That's why it's so much more popular with politicians than it is with the public - because the public blames it for a lot of what the politicians do, but the politicians know that without it they'd have to take that blame themselves.

      The EU may have mandated smart meters, and it may or may not have been egged on by .gov.uk to do that. But it certainly didn't mandate "by far the most complex rollout in the world".

  8. Kenny Millar

    Software update required

    You can just imagine it... every household in the entire UK goes dark at exactly 2AM on the last saturday in October because a software glitch couldn't handle the shift from BST to GMT....

    A software patch takes 5 days to complete... but requires a site engineer to visit every house in the UK because the meters have locked up and won't respond to the request for a firmware update...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Software update required

      These firmware updates you speak of, I wonder, will they have a secure (unique)keys on the hardware to verify the authenticity of said firmware to stop miscreants loading their own and taking control of the smart meter?

      Probably not...

      So if someone does take control which is very likely going to happen the who is going to pay to have the useless piles of garbage removed and replaced? Us again?

      I wonder what is happening to the old meters? Might be an opportunity to buy and sell back.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: Software update required

      Every household in the UK is going to be running the same type of meters with the same software?

      And it won't be programmed or tested to cope with something that everyone has known about for decades, and smart meters in other countries have - well, have never yet failed to take in their stride?

      Well, in that case it's a good job that the rollout isn't scheduled to happen all in one year, because when it first strikes only a small percentage of households will be affected. Phew, good bullet dodging there.

    3. swampdog
      Joke

      Re: Software update required

      "A software patch takes 5 days to complete... but requires a site engineer to visit every house in the UK because the meters have locked up and won't respond to the request for a firmware update..."

      How dare you suggest the IE6 flash component is hackable! ???

  9. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Facepalm

    How much?

    £11 - 19 billion. How on earth can it cost that much? How much did the Large Hadron Collider cost?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much?

      Corruption.

  10. Tom 35 Silver badge

    smart extra money meter

    We have had them in Ontario (Canada) for a while. They use them to charge more in peak hours.

    When they were first installed they charged 3x more during peak then over night / weekend but each increase they seem to boost the cheap rate more then the peak, it seems people have moved to much to the off peak and they want more money now.

    If you want useless we now have smart water meters. I don't know what good they are unless they want to count the number of times I flush.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: smart extra money meter

      but each increase they seem to boost the cheap rate more then the peak, it seems people have moved to much to the off peak and they want more money now.

      This is because the real value of "flexibility" in the wholesale power market isn't that expensive. They fudge the numbers to include additional fixed costs in the peak rates to meet the political imperative to make peak electricity sufficiently high that people use less.

      But as you suggest, if demand does shift, the fixed costs of generation and distribution don't change by more than a couple of percent. All the crappy subsidies for solar and wind still have to be recovered, the distribution grid is still the same size, has the same costs, the power stations already built still need to be paid for.

      That's why you see the change in peak versus off peak. On a truly cost reflective basis the premium for peak power isn't enough to force much change, and that then defeats the whole point of smart meters and political interference.

  11. Peter Christy

    They tried to install smart meters at my home last year (a 60s/70s built bungalow). Despite having a large cupboard specifically for the electricity meter (over 6 ft high, about 18" wide and over a foot deep), they said they couldn't do it as "there wasn't enough room"!

    Just how big is this thing???

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      I have one of those cupboards, too. Yes, we've always kept our tin foil in there. Yes, we always keep it unrolled and pegged to hangars. Doesn't everybody?

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      "Just how big is this thing???"

      Yeah, well, there has to be enough room inside for the little man that takes the readings and pulls the levers and stuff, see?

  12. davemcwish

    Definition of success

    Reduction in domestic electricity demand ? Articles in 'the popular press' about fuel poverty being replaced by 'out smart meter saved us £££££'?

    My guess is success will just be completion of the rollout.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Definition of success

      Articles in 'the popular press' about fuel poverty being replaced by 'out smart meter saved us £££££'?

      There is a sizeable budget for propaganda. The DECC "gaz and leccy" campaign is just the start. Soon the energy suppliers will start joining in, not because they believe in smart meters, but because we are obligated to install them (or rather to offer them).

      You certainly will see stories in the press about "how the Jones family became energy-engaged by having a smart meter and saved £££". For a tiny minority this may even be true, but for most people smart meters are mere technology lacking a real purpose.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Definition of success - going OT

        "energy-engaged"

        Engaged! More marketwanker-speak.

        After I'd renewed my house insurance recently, my insurers decided to start spamming me except it's not called "spam", its "part of our customer engagement". (We'd had words about spam a couple of years ago after I found the email address of someone senior in their marketing.)

        Using your own domain for email has benefits. Last summer I sorted out my email to give individual addresses to people I'm a regular customer of. So they've quickly found themselves disengaged when I deleted their address. They'll find themselves even more disengaged next time renewal's due.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Definition of success - going OT

          Engaged! More marketwanker-speak

          In the context of energy, "carbonwank-speak" is more appropriate. Ever since Blair created the "Department of Energy & Climate Change", a small army of civil servants has looked for every possible means of pushing you to use less energy than you do, because they have a mission to save the planet. And they earnestly believe that the population unknowingly waste vast amounts of energy, but if only we knew how many polar bear cubs our standby devices cost, then we'd change our evil ways, put on two jumpers, and sit in the dark, bored and shivering.

          And that's where smart meters come in. Obviously the fairly chunky energy bills most of us regularly pay aren't incentive enough. But if only we all had a panel on the wall reading in kWh, £ and drowned polar bear cubs, then we'd all become "engaged" with DECC's cause.

          1. swampdog
            Happy

            Re: Definition of success - going OT

            It's more likely the case those Civil Servants have a vested interest in maintaining their niche "dept of wankography".

            Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence!

            The trouble is it's infectious. I was recently told by my bank (on complaining I could not set up a payment for my Virgin Credit card) "you will just have to find another way of paying".

            Thank you Ledswinger, for giving an insight into the energy industry.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Definition of success - going OT

              It's more likely the case those Civil Servants have a vested interest in maintaining their niche "dept of wankography".

              I do have some dealings with these people, and to give them their due, there's two types of civil servant. The technical specialists are often clever, and have a lot of experience in their niche policy field. These people generally know a lot about their specialism - but they operate in very narrow silos, have limited engagement with the fellow specialists even in the same department, and often lack any clout or visibility. Sadly the second type of civil servant are the movers and shakers of the civil service, usually Oxbridge arts graduates, have been fast tracked into management, and have neither real world experience, technical knowledge, or leadership ability. It's these senior fluffers who are the biggest cause of problems. Never held to account, flitting from department (and fuck up) to a new department and a new fuck up, before eventually retiring on an obscene pension with an honours list going (like Lin Homer). And its these free lunchers of the "First Division Association" who have most dealings with ministers, and who preside over policy disasters. The minsters are likewise know-nothing air heads, and when you add in the lobbying of (in particular) unaccountable yet often government funded NGOs, you have a mess of biblical proportions. And I haven't even mentioned the corruption and incompetence in Brussels.

              Just as the free lunchers drift between departments in a form of over-paid Brownian motion, you'll be able to make the connection from my energy-informed view to other government departments leading world class fuckups, like DfT, DEFRA, MoJ, DFID, DWP, BIS, DfE, MoD etc.

              Politicians are invariably a force for making the world worse, but in the UK it doesn't matter, because the Civil Service guarantees chaos regardless of the government intentions. There's must be a net present value of (guessing) of the order of £3 trillion from making the civil service work effectively, with true visibility, meritocracy, accountability (and a lot of senior sackings). Personally I can live with the civil service being inefficient (which is what politicians bleat on about), but it's that lack of effectiveness that really damages the UK, and which nobody is doing anything about.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK Energy minister is a ruddy waste of money, what salary is she on?

  14. Christoph Silver badge

    The experts have given their considered professional opinion.

    This opinion contradicts the political policy.

    Therefore the experts are completely wrong.

  15. Brent Longborough
    Big Brother

    I asked my supplier how the data was encrypted...

    and they said:

    "We can't discuss that for security reasons"

    Bodes well!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I asked my supplier how the data was encrypted...

      "We can't discuss that for security reasons"

      In other words it isn't!

    2. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: I asked my supplier how the data was encrypted...

      Industry standard ROT13 encryption. Applied twice for extra security.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I asked my supplier how the data was encrypted...

      There is no encryption. A friend found one in a flat he moved into last month. We had a play with the meter and a GSM test set. We not only could provoke the thing to send whatever data we wanted it to send, but we could change the logging parameters - ie: the tariffs - at will.

      You can be certain that at a strategically sensitive moment, the details of how to hack your Smart Meter will be widely published.........

    4. swampdog
      Joke

      Re: I asked my supplier how the data was encrypted...

      "I asked my supplier how the data was encrypted... and they said:

      "We can't discuss that for security reasons"

      Bodes well!"

      Bit like my medical practice. Number withheld then straight into asking me security questions. Ha! Let's see who has the last laugh when I don't turn up for my tablets.

      Hang on. I haven't thought this through!

  16. Dwarf Silver badge

    I spot a trend

    So, I just read the article about UK drink recommendations going against all sorts of research and being unaligned with the rest of Europe. Then I read this and see the minister rejects guidance from an expert / skilled person - yet they expect us to follow their advice like sheep.

    If they start listening to fact, then I might be inclined to listen more to what they say, but until that time, well, .I'm off to use my old non-energy efficient cooker that has asbestos heat proofing and cook some nice bacon to go with my cold beer.

    Its supposed to be a free world with free speech, so those who want to nanny and control and Foxtrot Oscar !

    Can anyone also tell me what happens if I have solar panels and a smart meter and they cut me off - what happens to all the solar stuff then ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I spot a trend

      Can anyone also tell me what happens if I have solar panels and a smart meter and they cut me off - what happens to all the solar stuff then ?

      Yes. Once smarter meters are fully enabled, you won't be on what's currently referred to as a "deemed" (guessed) payment for FiT, you will get paid for what is actually produced. If you were to get cut off, you'd have no export tariff (the smaller part of the FiT), the meter might record the in-house use to be rebated when your meter reconnects. But for most people the PV wouldn't be able to power the house for much of the time, and the electrical system will be down, unless you've got PV, battery storage, and fairly low electricity demand.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It need not have come to this

    Yes it's a mess and the problems are those of a lot of big IT-related government projects.

    It need not have happened like this. They could have brought in the right skills but no, they let a committee of energy companies design it. These guys are still living in the 20th century.

    So they are installing useless displays instead of facilitating actionable insights that independent companies can deliver via apps.

    Oh well. They can set up another enquiry but it won't change the way big projects like this are (not) managed. Some would say this is corrupt but I think incompetent is a better word.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It need not have come to this - Bingo!

      "facilitating actionable insights that independent companies can deliver via apps."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It need not have come to this

      So they are installing useless displays instead of facilitating actionable insights that independent companies can deliver via apps.

      Yo! Anonymous knob! Energy companies are mandated in law to install in home displays. When industry asked if we could use apps instead, we were told "yes, but only if you install an IHD as well". There was a formal consultation about this last year, all published on the DECC web site.

      But don't let that stop you jumping to ill informed conclusions.

  18. Commswonk Silver badge

    Oh for crying out loud...

    Rudd added: "We discussed in earlier questions energy security and fuel poverty. Smart meters will be a very good way for people to reduce their bills and use less energy, therefore creating fewer carbon emissions. Smart meters are an important part of that."

    I really would love to know how. We (i.e. Mr & Mrs Commswonk) don't heat the house if we don't need to, we don't put the washing machine on if there is no washing to do, and we only turn the cooker on if there is a meal to prepare. Mrs Commswonk does tend to put unnecessary lights on but even then the additional load is marginal.

    If I feel so inclined I can read either or both of our meters without difficulty. How are we to reduce bills in any meaningful way? Sit and shiver? Wear clothes that are in sore need of washing? Exist on uncooked food?

    If variable pricing is to be the order of the day then we could, I suppose, become nocturnal and sleep during daylight (when it would be reasonable to assume energy prices would be "high") while using the C/H, washing and cooking during the hours of darkness when energy prices may be lower.

    The trouble is that smart metering has become totemic in the cause of reducing energy consumption; it is an article of faith, and as such must not be challenged; those who do will soon be burnt at the stake as heretics who refuse to confess their sins and repent.

    And of course if (when) it all goes wrong (as defined by not achieving meaningful savings on a household level) it will be our money that will have been flushed down the drain.

    Grrr.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Oh for crying out loud...

      Of course, a real smart meter would monitor the suppliers' tariffs and switch to the cheapest say, every fifteen minutes. This would drive electricity prices down to the cost of production. Which is how capitalism works.

      Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh for crying out loud...

        This would drive electricity prices down to the cost of production.

        No it wouldn't because there's tens of billions of quid that need to be added to the "cost of production" for the government's subsidy and obligation schemes, not to mention the cost of running the distribution networks, billing and corporate overheads.

        Because of all the add ons, you'd never really get cheap power, you'd simply have volatile prices and zero transparency. In gross terms, electricity pricing is very close to a zero sum game. Which means that if you get cheaper off peak prices, your peak prices have to go up far more (peak periods are shorter than off peak). And even if you can shift your use and get an overall benefit, 99% of the time somebody else will have to pay more to compensate.

        Time of use tariffs for residential customers are a stupid idea. Most people think their suppliers simply send them (an inaccurate) bill. The real value energy suppliers offer is actually to intermediate between the brutal and volatile world of the wholesale markets, and sell that at a nice steady fixed rate. Maybe you can do away with that; Knowing a bit about the wholesale markets, I wouldn;t touch a time of use tariff. YMMV.

  19. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Backhanders

    The main reason for "smart meters" is almost certain to be backhanders to some senior politicians. (If MPs tax records were public, most of them would be headed for either the Old Bailey or a lynching.)

    Unfortunately for this country, the Conservative Party has an effective dictatorship for the next several years - between the loss of Labour seats in Scotland to the SNP and the joke of the current Labour leader, the chance of the Conservatives losing power in the next ten years is near zero. Ar the Conservative MPs know this, they are not now even bothering to pay lip service to what the public wants.

    1. Loud Speaker

      Re: Backhanders

      The conservative party is in power because the alternatives are obviously worse. This is something labour need to get to grips with, but show no signs of doing so.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Backhanders

        Not sure that it's entirely fair to blame just the Conservatives; don't forget it was the Labour Party (when in Government) that ran up the white flag when faced by the global warming / decarbonising enthusiasts; IIRC it was Milliband, E who was the Energy Secretary that started dumping supposedly eco - policies on an unsuspecting electorate.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Backhanders

        If only the Labour party had a few press barons behind it...

    2. swampdog
      WTF?

      Re: Backhanders

      "Conservative Party has an effective dictatorship.."

      On the plus side, at least we might get nuclear power & not lose Trident. Well, possibly if they stop spying on us.

      There's an idea! Stop spying on your own population then perhaps there'd be some cash for the military!

  20. zebm

    Surely will increase GDP?

    The cost of installation will affect GDP. Then when the burglars see that you are on holiday GDP will again be boosted when you have to buy replacements for what they nicked.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Surely will increase GDP?

      In the same way the damage caused by the floods will actually boost GDP too. Just think what flooding the city would do for GDP!

    2. swampdog
      Joke

      Re: Surely will increase GDP?

      "The cost of installation will affect GDP. Then when the burglars see that you are on holiday GDP will again be boosted when you have to buy replacements for what they nicked."

      This is actually my argument in reverse. Make drugs legal. Sell them for cost price. GDP will flatten out because everything we own would only have to be stolen once.

      I see where you're coming from though. With your economic plan GDP increases!

  21. C. P. Cosgrove
    WTF?

    I know I am missing the point . . .

    Dear me. I have been a householder for the forty years since I got married and in all that time I have only ever looked at an electricity meter if I have been asked to provide a reading rather than have an estimated bill. I am reasonably sure that my wife knows where the electric meter is but I am equally sure that she has never looked at the array of numbers on it.

    But I don't need a smart meter to keep a wary eye on electricity consumption. I get a reminder every three months - it's called an electric bill !

    Chris Cosgrove

  22. batfastad

    Smart?

    I saw the headline and thought, I'm not going to read this as it will get me all annoyed and I'll end up ranting into the comments. Well, here we are.

    How exactly are these meters smart? Sending usage data back directly to the provider? Sounds like a smart way to cut the salary bills of the private utility companies, for the benefit of their shareholders.

    It's not like these will have fine-grained control over every plug socket and light switch in the house to tune usage. It's an on or off remote control of the electricity stopcock... about as dumb as you can possibly get!

    If you want to monitor usage why not just buy one of those gadgets that count the flashing light on most meters. Then ask people to hook it up to their wifi to submit readings over the web to the provider. Ok so not everyone has wifi but enough to ease the meter reading aggro on the provider.

    Or a better idea, why not just stck with the current system of asking people to submit their own meter readings online? Gives you exactly the same information as to power usage as a smart meter.

    Does anyone know the actual power usage of these smart meters? Presume the provider will pick up the bill? Or whichever Baroness Sir Something Wotsit decided to spend our money on them?

    Better off just rectifying the under investment in critical infrastructure over the last 40 years and buying some nice new nuke stations instead. I know there are some in the pipeline but however many that is, double it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smart?

      How exactly are these meters smart?

      Simple answer, they allow external access to switch off your supply when the renewable energy supply isn't available. That way they can control the rolling blackouts that will occur when most of the base load coal fired generators are shut down by EU directive to satisfy the green blob.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Smart?

        I sincerely hope you are wrong, but have a horrible feeling you might not be. While many appliances might not care too much if they are disrupted (after all power cuts because of faults are not entirely unknown) how many washing machines are going to start from where they left off? What is going to happen to half - cooked food? Depending on the duration of any cut fridges and freezers are going to start to warm up, which is going to have the unintended consequence that they will all demand power when service is restored rather than randomly switching on and off under the control of their own thermostats; any widespread disruption is bound to be followed by an entirely artificial peak when switched back on again.

        I also wonder about the practicalities of switching off a large number of consumers at the same time. With >50 million smart meters in service (supposedly) exactly how are they going to be addressed and controlled? There have been one or two planning applications submitted near to here by Arqiva, with the stated purpose of being for smart metering over radio systems using (IIRC) cellular technology. Exempting those properties where someone is on home dialysis or other medical support that requires an uninterrupted supply of power could be quite some challenge.

        On the plus side if we can classify all this as a "governement IT scheme" there is very little prospect of it working, although "not working" could result in our all having to sit in the dark.

        I suspect an epic fail ahead. Once again political dogma meets technology, with the usual results.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart?

          I have a nifty little GSM jammer that will nicely prevent the meter being remotely switched off. If they persist in trying, bypassing the meter is trivially easy with very basic electrical skills (bear in mind you're working "live", though). I'm NOT going to let the bastards take away the services I'm paying outrageously high prices for already.

          The specious "Global Warming" nonsense needs to be shown for what it is - just another way of raising taxes.

          Staying AC because I'm a government functionary who knows the truth and is really pissed off about it. The 1997 - 2010 Labour government bankrupted this country, and now we all have to pay for it.

      2. Tridac

        Re: Smart?

        Re: Smart

        I doubt if there will be any facility to switch off the power within the meter. To do that would need at least a 100 amp contactor or solid state relay, which would cost more than the rest of the meter put together. Be assured that they will be made in China: Cheap, cheerful, unreliable and minimum parts count.

        18 Billion does sounds a lot. Assuming 100.00 each manufactured and installed, 50 E6 meters = 5 Billion. So how has this been calculated ?...

        1. A Known Coward

          Re: Smart?

          @Tridac: I think if you re-read what you wrote, reversing the paragraphs you'll have both your answer and eliminate your doubts.

          In case you still have any doubts, just Google, these meters do allow the supply to be turned off remotely, that's the entire point of them.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart?

          So how has this been calculated ?...

          I suspect this whole life costs, not just installation. Although personally as somebody with professional involvement in the programme, I think the up front costs will be a lot more than the government claim.

          £100 manufactured, certified, installed? You're 'aving a giraffe, my son. It's more like £250 without all the failure costs of installation that go ahead and don't work, and without the operational efficiency problems, without the soon to spiral out of control Data Communications Company costs. There's something like 23m 'leccy meters and about 18m gas meters. So the capital cost (for sod all benefit) is around £10-11bn. But when DCC goes wrong, and the smart meter roll runs into problems, you'll be looking at £330 a meter installed, for £13bn capex.

          It's a mess, it should be cancelled, but the politicians are hoping to blame the industry when it all goes shit shaped. Even now, it is only UK government interpretation of EU law than mandates smart meters - they could easily re-interpret the economics on a more realistic basis and admit it is a crap idea. But despite claims to the contrary, the current Tory government love the EU, and they simply don';t have either the wit or the courage to do this.

          1. Tridac

            Re: Smart?

            ...£100 manufactured, certified, installed?

            Interesting. Manufacturing cost should be low, as there’s not much more than a pcb and display in a modern meter. They don’t use an expensive current transformer, but a shunt, just a strip of metal, with all the power factor correction and calibration in the embedded firmware. There’s no reason why that should cost more than a few tens of pounds for production in the far east. The biggest cost will be the installation labour, but that’s a one time cost across the life of the meter and could be contracted out to telco / internet companies. As for “going wrong and other issues” the companies themselves should foot the bill, but doubt if that will be the case.

            ...Even now, it is only UK government interpretation of EU law than mandates smart meters

            Ah, come the revolution (referendum), we might even get to the state of being able to tell the eu to fsck itself at last, then governments of any colour will have no excuse :-)…

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Smart?

              Interesting. Manufacturing cost should be low, as there’s not much more than a pcb and display in a modern meter.

              Absolutely correct. But don't forget the fact that these all need to be calibrated to NMRO standards, we need the paperwork to follow through on everything, there are a whole range of different models (no standardisation!), the logistics for installation are expensive, one-time-only organisations, the roll out will be inherently inefficient, and that's before the additional reasons I can't elaborate for commercial reasons for significant cost increases through to 2020+.

              If government were were doing the job properly, they'd obligate the DNOs (not suppliers) to do smart metering but only on an asset renewal basis, and they'd set a single national specification, consult to kingdom come before locking the spec in (software) stone, and then award a single national meter contract to a manufacturer.

              But as usual they're spending your money, and in this case it isn't even officially tax-funded, so DECC really couldn't give a shit, and they've gone for the most misbegotten mess in many decades.

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart?@Tridac

          I doubt if there will be any facility to switch off the power within the meter.

          There most certainly is the capability to interrupt supply, at two levels.

          In terms of full interruption (cutting people off) it can be done remotely, although all the same restrictions apply to the process of cutting people off. Having said that, all smart meters can be converted to PAYG meters, and anybody who's experienced the old "money in the slot" versions knows what happens when you run out of credit.

          The second way is that smart meters have an "auxiliary load" controller. The idea is that you can voluntarily connect certain devices to a circuit controlled by this, and at a network sent signal, these devices have their power interrupted. Obviously there's no value to users unless they're on a time of use tariff, but even then the real marginal value is quite slim. If you can accept that the kids will have to go to school in wet clothes because the tumble dryer went off, but the £20 a year saving is worth that, then this is the technology for you.

          All the details are available on line, search SMETS2 specification pdf

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart?

          "I assume there will not be any facility to switch off the power within the meter. "

          Assumptions can sometimes be verified. This one can, and is demonstrably wrong.

        5. AlbertH

          Re: Smart?

          Er - the "contactor" is a solid state relay. It's rated at 80A and it can be switched off remotely . The actual - ex-factory - cost of these things is in the region of £19 per unit, but the electricity companies are forced to pay almost £84 a time, plus installation. They will - of course - recoup that "investment" by overcharging householders for their power - even more than they do already!

          1. Tridac

            Re: Smart?

            AlbertH:

            That raises questions: Is the ssr controlling the main circuit, or the auxiliary circuit ?. 80 amp rating may not be enough for the main circuit at peak load, electric cooker, shower, storage heaters etc could reach 80 amps. Also, an ssr will drop 1-2 volts at least at full load, so a quick sum says 80-160 watts power dissipation in the ssr itself, which one assumes the consumer will be paying for. 160 watts dissipation would require a very big heat sink, or forced air cooling. Just how will they handle that ?. In this instance, a clunky old mechanical relay / contactor would be far more efficient. Finally, an ssr is normally off, so after every power cut, it will stay off until the meter has rebooted or it gets comms to reconnect the power

            Have they really thought this through ?. Seems like they need some real engineers on the job, rather than arts graduates with no clue...

            1. swampdog

              Re: Smart?

              @Tridac

              "Have they really thought this through ?. Seems like they need some real engineers on the job, rather than arts graduates with no clue..."

              I have two fuse boxes in my house. Has anyone considered legislation where if one energy supplier cuts me off, what the other does? Yeah I know it's all the same power but as it's all legal bollox my question stands.

  23. dcluley

    Remote control

    I have had a long correspondence with Southern Electric about this matter. It started in October 2014 when I got a standard circular type letter telling me my electric meter was an old one and needed replacing and they wanted my permission to install a smart meter (leaflet enclosed with all the advantages). Please would I telephone for an appointment. There would be a few necessary questions but the phone call should take no longer than 20 minutes. I wrote back saying that if it was going to take that long then please could I have the questions in writing.

    Several letters back and forth with an underling who resolutely refused to put the questions in writing saying that the reason was the Data Protection Act. Why is it that these people think that waving the words 'Data Protection Act' about absolve them from answering proper questions? I pointed out that I was familiar with the Act and asked them to quote me the section they were relying on to refuse to put the questions in writing. Needless to say I didn't get a sensible answer to that question.

    I finally got to correspond with someone at senior management level I eventually got him to concede that all their suggested benefits did not apply to me. I can read a meter; I know what devices use a lot of electricity; I keep a spreadsheet of my meter readings and associated bill and hence monitor costs. I listed the downside points: that instant cut-off (even by mistake) would be possible whereas the current system involved procedures that meant a mistake was unlikely. I pointed out that there still wasn't a British Standard for Smart Meters so even if they installed one they might have to replace it with an approved on later. One of their stated purposes was to reduce demand peaks. I pointed out that smart-metering domestic supply would not solve the problem. Peak demand for domestic consumers occurs at specific forecastable times like cup final final whistle; advert breaks in TV soaps when everyone switches a kettle on etc and that no amount of smart metering was going to stop that. I did concede that if they had smart meters for industrial users with large bills that might make a difference.

    The senior manager eventually agreed that he accepted my decision not to give permission for a smart meter to be installed. I asked him whether he still wanted to replace the meter and would they put in an old type one. He said yes they would do that; but I am still waiting for them to do it.

    What they really want to do is enable differential charge rates according to instantaneous demand at any time of the day; if only they were honest enough to say so.....

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Remote control

      One of their stated purposes was to reduce demand peaks. I pointed out that smart-metering domestic supply would not solve the problem. ... I did concede that if they had smart meters for industrial users with large bills that might make a difference.

      Large users are already part of the "load balancing" scheme:

      Frequency balancing by demand management

      This has been happening for decades, well before the invention of the "smart" meter.

      Perhaps the real story is that now we've shut down all the steelworks it's no longer possible to reduce demand sufficiently just by turning off a couple of factories and instead they need to look at turning off a couple of cities!

      M.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Remote control

        Perhaps the real story is that now we've shut down all the steelworks it's no longer possible to reduce demand sufficiently just by turning off a couple of factories

        Interrupting steel making like that never happened (on a planned basis anyway) because it would destroy the plant.

        The reason for the current focus on "demand side response" is that politicians have commissioned all these crappy renewables, and without cheap power storage you end up with feast & famine scenarios for the grid. In Germany, their obsessive and expensive build out of renewables means that about three times a month the wholesale power price turns negative. That doesn't mean retail users like you and me get paid to use power, but it does completely fuck up the wholesale power markets and distribution grids, and DSR is hoped to be a way of managing that.

        In reality, the way to reliable low carbon power was never wind turbines and PV (expensive, crap technologies in northern Europe) but was modestly over-provisioned non-EPR nuclear, backed a mix of OCGT and CCGT gas plant. This was obvious when Blair commissioned the energy policy that is delivering today, but he outsourced the decisions to his fuckwit mates in Greenpeace,

        We are where we are, and its Shitty Mess Central. How do we get out of it? We can't because the politicians don't have the brains or the balls. But in theory we could by admitting that its a mess, cancelling all PV feed-in-tariffs, cancelling RO and CfD arrangements, cancelling Hinkley Point C, and starting again. In the short term build a shit load of cheap CCGT with a twenty year life, and in that twenty years design and build simple, effective nuclear plant (again, not EPR).

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Remote control

          Perhaps the real story is that now we've shut down all the steelworks it's no longer possible to reduce demand sufficiently just by turning off a couple of factories

          Interrupting steel making like that never happened (on a planned basis anyway) because it would destroy the plant.

          Well it was certainly talked about as if it could happen when I worked in Rotherham for a bit. Not, I grant you, in the actual steel making plants - after all, cutting power to an arc furnace is a recipe for, well, something messy - but in the steel processing plants anyway, where cutting the heaters for a rolling mill could easily produce the 3MW minimum requirement and for the 15 minutes of the interruption the plant could probably carry on.

          Heaters, motors - big users of power. How else are you going to shed 3MW within 2 seconds?

          M.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Remote control

            Heaters, motors - big users of power. How else are you going to shed 3MW within 2 seconds?

            That's correct, and increasingly big energy users are being encouraged to get involved in National Grid's ancillary services market to provide frequency response (and even generation capacity from standby plant). But this opportunity has largely migrated to China will all of our outsourced manufacturing and heavy industry.

            Moreover, look what happened when our last remaining steel plants were all about to close because of (amongst other influences) high energy costs and emissions taxes. This elimination of steel making was actually contributing to the government ambitions to reduce emissions. But then government came in with schemes to reduce the energy costs of energy intensive industry (and thus undo the intended outcome of the previous policy).

            Government are fuckwits. They don't understand that if they want to cut carbon emissions and energy use, that's not going to be done by every middle class family using 10% less, its going to be done by the fuel poor becoming unable to afford energy, and industries unable to compete at high energy costs going to the wall.

  24. pewpie

    Can't wait..

    To strap my own personal mobile phone mast to the side of my gaff, and give my whole family a good chance of developing new and interesting cancers.

    I just *love* obeying corrupt politicians and their stinking fucking quangos.

  25. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    They can F right off

    I know that some of my appliances are not efficient. All the white goods are fine. My film watching device is a CRT projector, taking up about 600W, but it's not used anywhere near as often as anyone with an efficient new telly, so overall I actually win.

    My main computer has a number of monitors, including one CRT one at the moment, but the environmental cost of replacing this inefficient old CRT monitor, and less efficient GPUs with modern alternatives is higher than keeping it on. That doesn't resolve the power demand, of course, or help the economy, but it is kinder to the planet as a whole. Also, it's much better to my wallet...

    1. swampdog

      Re: They can F right off

      @ BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

      "I know that some of my appliances are not efficient"

      Ditto. I have three vmware servers. They average 250 watts total, 450 if they're all powering up at the same time. They compensate for the energy efficient light bulbs that don't provide extra heat during the cold weather.

  26. Martijn Otto

    In the Netherlands they're also forcing these so-called "smart meters" through your front door. They pose a lot of problems. First is the remote monitoring: If someone gets access to that system they just have to look for houses that suddenly use less energy to know who is on holiday (good candidates to break in!). The functionality cannot be turned off. Well you can tell them to "turn it off", which means they'll set a flag somewhere in their system telling them not to remotely read your meter.

    A friend of mine did this, then put an aluminum cage around his meter. Two weeks later he got a call from the network company saying they couldn't read his meter.

  27. PhillW

    He,y meter manufacturers.....

    someone convince me otherwise:

    "Oh we just put the ashing machine on"..... electricity use has just gone up.

    I just went round and turned off all the lights the teenage lad left on ... our electricity use just went down.

    Its dark I want to read - I NEED a light on ... our electricity use just went up

    A couple of years ago we had solar panels fitted, now we look at the weather forecast and think "lets put the washing machine on at 11am and the dishwasher at 1pm 'cos its going to be sunny tomorrow"

    We have CHOSEN to have a green electricity supplier, not 'cos they are the cheapest, but because that is what we WANT.

    Since having solar fitted I have taken electricity meter readings every week, I know exactly what our energy usage is and why it has peaks and troughs.

    Why the feck would I want to PAY to have a smart meter fitted?

    It aint going to tell me anything I don't already know.

    My reasoning is that the meter manufacturers have either got compromising photos of Rudd or a nice non exec directorship lined up for her.... end of.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: He,y meter manufacturers.....

      "Oh we just put the ashing machine on"..... electricity use has just gone up.

      You have a domestic crematorium!!!?

      1. Commswonk Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: He,y meter manufacturers.....

        "You have a domestic crematorium!!!?"

        Brilliant; have an upvote.

      2. Martijn Otto

        Re: He,y meter manufacturers.....

        To be fair: They do use a *lot* of electricity.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He,y meter manufacturers.....

      My reasoning is that the meter manufacturers have either got compromising photos of Rudd or a nice non exec directorship lined up for her.... end of.

      The whole sad mess was signed into law by the Labour party mate. Rudd deserves a kick up the arse for not calling time on it, but in terms of why it is being done, ask Blair, Brown and their parliamentary chums.

  28. Fading Silver badge

    Like DAB radio

    The smart meter technology is already out of date. But like DAB radio the government is unable to contemplate that the technology is outdated/unwanted/unneeded and offers nothing to the consumer they can not get elsewhere better and cheaper. A small monitoring device which communicates with a smart meter app is all that is required to give the "benefits" to the consumer, they don't need a LCD display, and they don't need the ability for the power companies to remotely turn off their power.

    I've had the same conversation as a poster above but refused one one the grounds that it did not encrypt what I considered personal data (the times I am at home or not - as I live alone this would be easy to determine) and as such contravened the data protection act. Via DD they already have control of how much I pay them the least they can do is ensure I have power when I want it.

  29. TheProf
    Flame

    Seasons

    When it's cold outside (winter) I use up to 8 times more energy than when it it's warm outside (summer).

    I don't need a new meter, I've got a calendar.

    Hint: It's now winter------->

    1. swampdog
      Joke

      Re: Seasons

      "Seasons

      When it's cold outside (winter) I use up to 8 times more energy than when it it's warm outside (summer).

      I don't need a new meter, I've got a calendar.

      Hint: It's now winter------->"

      Kill him!

  30. Commswonk Silver badge

    Adding Insult to Injury?

    Following serious sins in a previous life we have to live next door to a primary school. A couple of years ago someone decided that it would be a Good Idea if the playgound was illuminated durung the hours of darkness; the lights come on around 0600, off during daylight then on again until perhaps 1930/2000. Those times seem excessive but worse is to come...

    Whoever set the system up had the wit to recognise that this lighting would not be required at weekends, but failed to take account of the fact that it would not be required during school holidays. As a result there was a two week period over the Christmas / New Year holiday when the lights dutifully came on, morning and evening to illuminate an area that would, by definition, be unoccupied.

    "We" - council tax payers - have no option but to pay for this; that is itself bad enough. However if as a country we are trying to manage our energy consumption how could such a situation ever come about?

    To quote Horace Walpole The world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel. I just feel angry that we can have smart meters foisted on us with no clear picture of their (alleged) advantages and their full functional capabilities while waste such as that outlined above can occur.

    1. swampdog
      IT Angle

      Re: Adding Insult to Injury?

      Our local primary is covered in green beige, like a billiard table. Literally. The tarmac is covered in green beige.

      The infants walking near the river: boys have to wear incandescent pink whilst the girls get to wear standard green hi-vis.

      Our council spent a few £million moving the servers a few feet to the left during the recent banking crisis. They popped some RCJ's underneath the current server room and said it wasn't safe. It had an ICL mainframe in there for 30 years.

      Queue many ground staff job losses, management is still considering their options. One manager is lost through "natural wastage" (caught viewing porn) and another management position is sold to the public as saving money. It was actually a re-designition of an existing job whereby that manager was retiring.

      Two years later manglement has moved the server room a few foot to the left. Then they discovered there wasn't enough space so extended right on top of where the old server room used to be. Oh. Forgot. The whole reason for this debacle was flood defence. Running out of money they replaced the 1st floor aircon with a pair of sub river (massive) hoovers.

      The leader of this project got promoted. They couldn't *not* promote him. We all know why don't we boys & girls?

  31. ad47uk

    While we can refuse these meters, we are still going to pay for them via our bills, just like we are paying for people to stick solar panels up on their roofs.

    I do not think smart meters will make much difference to how most people use their energy, we still need to make tea/coffee, we still need heating, lighting, we still need to cook, using washing machines and need hot water.

    I may make some people think twice before they use their dish washers or tumble dryer, but I very much doubt it.

    I know a few households that have smart meters and out of them all only one still look at the display, My next door neighbour chucked their display in a cupboard.

    I think they could be dangerous in the fact that older people may look at them and see how much money their heating is using and turn it off, so freezing to death.

    Someone on here say they use the power lines, that is not true, to send data they use the mobile phone network, so they use a sim card. A mate of mine lives in the sticks and when British gas was going to p;ut a smart meter in they tested for a signal via different networks and could nto get one so no smart meter for my mate.

    The provider i am with do not seem in a rush to install one, which is fine by me.

  32. wiltshirejohn

    @dcluley

    " I pointed out that there still wasn't a British Standard for Smart Meters so even if they installed one they might have to replace it with an approved on later"

    Also different leccy suppliers use different meters, different software... so if you dance to that other favourite gubmint tune and SWITCH - then your spiffy new smart meter immediately becomes a good old-fashioned dumb meter.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: @dcluley

      "Also different leccy suppliers use different meters, different software... so if you dance to that other favourite gubmint tune and SWITCH - then your spiffy new smart meter immediately becomes a good old-fashioned dumb meter."

      Sounds interesting should they ever try to insist on installing one here.

  33. sysconfig

    If smart meters really helped saving energy...

    ...the energy providers' lobbying efforts would have made sure that they are never going to see the light of day. By definition those who sell energy to us cannot have any interest in reducing the amount of energy we use; it would cut into their profits.

    But they are being rolled out, so how do the energy providers benefit?

    I suspect that we'll soon see variable tariffs (if they don't exist already) whereby prices go up during peak hours such as 5pm, when people are coming home and would prefer their house to be warmer than outside temperatures; early morning hours, when everybody gets up and ready for work; weekends, when most families are at home. Off-peak times are likely going to be charged at very similar prices than before, increasing overall costs. (Temporarily they may be cheaper; just wait 2-3 years and compare again.)

    People who don't pay exactly on time will probably see energy supply remotely switched off, likely incurring an excessive admin fee (clicking a button or having the process automated is definitely worth £50 or so per incident, right?)

    And switching providers is going to cost serious money too. "Oh you got a Fucking Stupid Meter 2000? Well sorry sir, we need to install a Seriously Dumb Counter 900 instead. That'll be £50 installation fee, but we can waive that if you commit to our overpriced 48 months contract."

    Also, I'm expecting really ridiculously creative offers like: If you only use a certain amount of gas/water/electricity, it will come really cheap, but energy used beyond that allowance will be costing two arms and legs. Much like some mobile/landline tariffs out there.

    I know I sound upset. That's because I've been debating this subject with EDF for well over 12 months now. So far they have failed to convince me that the smart meter brings more benefits to the customer than the energy provider. Until they succeed (which they won't), a smart meter is not going to happen unless a law forces me to have one. (Right now they are only working with guidelines and lack of nation-wide standard.)

  34. The Boojum

    A smart meter might encourage me to reduce my personal consumption of electricity but it will have f***-all effect on my children.

    1. swampdog
      Alert

      UK energy minister rejects 'waste of money' smart meters claim

      "A smart meter might encourage me to reduce my personal consumption of electricity but it will have f***-all effect on my children."

      They haven't thought it through. Power starvation will result in more children. When it's dark, people shag!

  35. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Smart meters?

    Can you query them via bluetooth or other computer type means so you can use cheaper rate electricity when its available?

    No? You have to go and look at it. So it only smarts if you bang your head on the stair cupboard door if your lucky enough to have one indoors.

    I can see why they wanted to get them out as soon as possible then - last thing you want is the consumer actually involved in the market by actually having a smart meter.

  36. Mr Dogshit
    FAIL

    Just don't do it

    There is no law that says you have to have a "smart" meter. Mine had to be replaced in December - I rang them and said I wanted an ordinary meter.

    No problem. The bloke from Lowry Beck turned up and replaced it with a normal one. I had a nice long chat with him. He said he was supposed to sing the praises of these thing but thought they were a load of nonsense.

    Like identity cards, this is something nobody needed or wanted, which is going to cost a fortune and end up being a massive failure.

  37. Tridac

    Seems to me that the main disingenuity here is that many non tech aware people will think that a smart meter will automatically save them money. That is how the idea is being sold, failing to mention that the only way to save money is to use less energy. Another agenda and half the story as usual. Can't imagine that most people will spend a lot of time looking at the meter to save every last fraction of a unit.

    As for reading: Don't know how many meters they intend to install, but they could never read them all at once in real time. Assume 1 second per read and say 20e6 meters would take 231 days to read them all !!!.

    Anyway, the rack of servers and old machines in my garage running 24x7 may show interesting statistics. Probably think i'm growing some unusual plant varieties :-)...

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Tridac wrote: As for reading: Don't know how many meters they intend to install, but they could never read them all at once in real time. Assume 1 second per read and say 20e6 meters would take 231 days to read them all !!!.

      A couple of erroneous assumptions, I think.

      (1) If the proposed system uses cellular technology as we know it read times are likely to be well in excess of 1 second. Setting up each individual call will take longer than that.

      (2) I haven't checked your calculation in detail but I think you have assumed that "nationwide" only one reading will be taken at a time. That would be silly; the separate companies will each be uploading readings from different sites within their region so in fact multiple readings per unit time will be perfectly possible.

      I am still at something of a loss to see how a cellular system (as we know it) can download changing tariff information to customers, unless some existing and developing systems can broadcast to multiple recipients. I was thinking about this whilst out walking the dog and (perhaps perversely) the now - apparently - out - of - favour TETRA functionality would seem to be far better suited to the application than a normal cellular system is. TETRA allows a broadcast function so that sending to multiple recipients is perfectly straightforward. Polling individual customers to obtain meter readings is also likely to be much quicker than any "dial up" system, although whether it would get down to the "1 second" suggested above is something I would be reluctant to comment about in detail.

      Without downloading tariff information to users how are users to know that switching the washing machine on now would be a bad idea, and that it would be better to leave it until later? This perhaps raises another issue; will meters display kWh consumed or "price units" consumed? If I use (say) 10 kWh how will my supplier know if it was at a cheap or expensive rate without having to upload metering information every hour or so, which would be silly.

      I didn't think much of the idea of smart metering from the outset; the more I think about it the more I think the idea is complete crap.

      1. Tridac

        Commswonk,

        It was just a back of the envelope figure and yes, one second setup time is optimistic and assumes a single interrogating device. The point being that it would take a whole raft of added infrastructure to provide any real time fine grained control of load and they already have that at substations, so that reason is a bit of a red herring. The only reasonable value I can see in this is for firmware / tariff updates, but how many consumers would actually keep track ?. That faces the same problem in bandwidth terms, especially if the tariff changes are required to reflect real time grid loading. Perhaps something like Tetra is the answer, but gsm modem hardware is dirt cheap these days. My bet long term would be internet connected, which is more reliable and could be done for about the same cost of hardware.

        It's clear that smart meters are of no benefit to the consumer at all, so what is the real agenda, other than for the snooper multinational / state data collection programs ?. Perhaps the eventual aim is real time 24x7 data collecton, so for extreme example, they could use load patterns vs time as supplementary evidence in dope growing trials. Yet another intrusion into privacy, imho...

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          The point being that it would take a whole raft of added infrastructure to provide any real time fine grained control of load and they already have that at substations, so that reason is a bit of a red herring.

          But if consumers have to have the option of changing their behaviour in response to price peaks then the tariff changes have to reach the individual consumers, not just their nearest substation. In any case substations local to here have no control other than if someone turns up to change something manually.

          ,,,but how many consumers would actually keep track? A very good question. Very few, I suspect, unless all other domestic priorities are sidelined in favour of meter - watching.

          That faces the same problem in bandwidth terms, especially if the tariff changes are required to reflect real time grid loading. Without that what's the point?

          gsm modem hardware is dirt cheap these days True, but I don't think GSM functionality will allow "simultaneous broadcast" to multiple recipients. TETRA does.

          My bet long term would be internet connected, which is more reliable and could be done for about the same cost of hardware. I would agree but for several factors. How is the internet going to interface with smart meters? Am I (or anyone else) going to be expected to provide free access to my internet connection for use by my energy supplier? FWIW my WiFi is deliberately turned off, and I use an ethernet connection. If they want access to my internet connection they can bloody well make it worth my while. Futhermore several premises in this road (and it can hardly be unique) do not have an internet connection of any sort by virtue of the age - related choice of the residents, and what impact is "smart metering by internet" going to have on overall traffic levels and contention? I do not want the service I get being degraded by heavy loading of metering data unless I am somehow recompensed for that degradation. It's my internet connection, and I pay for it. If my energy supplier wants to piggy - back then they can pay me - handsomely.

          Also note an earlier comment of mine; Arqiva submitted several planning applications locally for radio sites for "smart metering", although I don't know what radio technology is planned. That would point to it not being internet based.

          It's clear that smart meters are of no benefit to the consumer at all cannot be anything but completely true. In an earlier posting Ledswinger (IIRC) stated that the smart meters have the capability of having an auxiliary switched output that can be controlled by the supplier. I can't speak for anyone else but I'm not going to rush to have duplicate ring - mains installed so that selected items can be switched off by someone else. The cost of that would be unrecoverable from any likely saving.

          1. Tridac

            Commswonk: In an earlier posting Ledswinger (IIRC) stated that the smart meters have the capability of having an auxiliary switched output that can be controlled by the supplier. I can't speak for anyone else but I'm not going to rush to have duplicate ring - mains installed so that selected items can be switched off by someone else. The cost of that would be unrecoverable from any likely saving.

            I guess here’s a real benefit from an efficiency and emissions pov to reduce the variations in demand on the grid, since this allows running the generators at peak efficiency more of the time. Someone else in this thead pointed to an EU report which discusses that in depth. One of the ways to contribute to that ideal is is to have a finer degree of control over appliances in the home and that ties in with the currently fashionable “internet of everything”, though much of that looks like hype currently, solutions looking for a problem. Should be good for employment rates though, as there's already a severe shortage of good embedded systems bods.

            Agree about rewiring the house for the auxilliary circuit, but can see a future where all new homes will have internet included, metering and appliances connected and where for example, 1 out of every 3 13 amp sockets are switchable by the utility. If it could save money, I might even agree to it myself, but it will take decades to come to fruition anyway, by which time all the tech options and capability will have changed. It’s obviously uneconomic to try and convert all the current housing stock into a smart home state. It’s just not going to happen, but if every new appliance had an rj45 or wireless bult in, you could have the capability with no wiring changes

            As usual, government is behind the curve and never radical enough to catch up with the constant flow of tech...

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              "as there's already a severe shortage of good embedded systems bods."

              Do you really think this has been worked out in sufficient detail to appreciate the need for good engineers?

            2. Commswonk Silver badge

              It’s just not going to happen, but if every new appliance had an rj45 or wireless built in, you could have the capability with no wiring changes

              You have just described the Internet of Things, which is about as popular on El Reg (for perfectly valid reasons) as a dose of clap. In addition you are assuming that I will hand over my internet feed to someone else for them to play with. I pay for it; if anyone else wants to use bits of it they will have to guaranteee that it is to my advantage, not theirs. And/or pay me; does BT allow sub-letting of an internet service?

              To quote Samuel Goldwyn Include me out.

        2. GrantB

          How it works

          Information is readily available online about how smartmeter data is collected and used, but having worked in this area, can tell you that typical profile is for the meter to aggregate consumption over half-hour periods, store it in memory and upload say once a day.

          HH data - 48 reads per day except day light saving +/- 1 hour, is collected by meter reading or network companies, supplied to your retailer who will multiply the consumption values by the tariff at that time (peak/off-peak/shoulder etc).

          Lots more complexity under the hood to deal with missing data, reconciliation with bulk feeds from GXP's etc, but basics are easily understood.

          Tariff data is not normally sent to the meter. Network companies with say 500k metres should be able to read all of them everyday; the amount of data is surprisedly small; couple of hundred bytes of raw data per meter per day if only recording KWH

          1. Tridac

            Re: How it works

            Thanks. Too lazy to look this up so far, but that fills in most of it...

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      "Seems to me that the main disingenuity here is that many non tech aware people will think that a smart meter will automatically save them money."

      Exactly. No, wait, I'd like to tweak it a bit:

      1) Replace 'many' with 'nearly all'.

      2) Take into account that nearly all of the people making the decisions are 'non technical people', too.

      Wait again - I've just had a brilliant idea! If a smart meter saves me money, I'll have them install two! I'll save twice as much!

  38. GrantB
    Facepalm

    The paranoia!

    So many supposedly IT savvy people on this site showing a fair bit of paranoia about smartmeters.

    Sounds like in the UK, the roll out has not been helped by government intervention and the costs don't sound right, but regardless, everywhere else in the first world, the old electromechanical dial meters are being replaced with smart devices just as old rotary dial telephones were swapped out in the past. Any other industry, where sticking to spinning dials is seen as better than microprocessors?

    Having worked in the industry, being able to set up a bunch of registers and calculate consumption as/when required and get readings when needed such as when customers move in/out, makes accurate billing systems much easier than some person having to visit the property, avoid the dog, unlock gates etc every couple of months. When human meter readers miss readings or get them wrong, then the billing system has to estimate over many months, and algorithms then get very hit and miss. The cost of sending a person to do a special (out of cycle read) is very high compared with smartmeter costs.

    Compared with a single or day/night non-smart meter in which the cost per unit has to be some average value that does not reflect the actual cost to supply power (which varies a lot between peak and off-peak), having a smartmeter has advantages to customers and electricity retailers.

    Reading a lot of comments, so much misunderstanding from people who just don't know anything about these systems. Really think they will cause cancer, scare the horses, allow your local burglar to hack your account before breaking a window?

    Here in NZ and in other countries, I can check consumption via an app, switch retailer and just don't see any problems either as a customer with a smartmeter, or when I used to work on utility billing & meter reading systems. Your mileage may vary, but generally smartmeters are a useful if minor incremental improvement to a complex electricity supply system that generally works so well that people don't notice how good the system is.

    1. dcluley

      Re: The paranoia!

      If it were just a question of making meter reading more efficient then installing smart meters that were interrogated every 3 months (or even every month at a pinch) would be all that was needed. The fact that they want to monitor usage at levels down to every 30 minutes suggests there is more going on here.

      1. Tridac

        Re: The paranoia!

        Think, Big Data. I'm sure you must know that Intelligence gathering involves collecting seemingly unrelated data from many sources and then using analytics to find patterns.

        Whether intentional or not, malice or not, it's yet another failry insignificant, but potentially very real invasion of privacy that all people are being subjected to these days, to an ever greater degree. Yet no-one seems to care...

        1. dcluley

          Re: The paranoia!

          "Yet no-one seems to care..."

          I certainly care. I have stopped using storecards etc; I pay for most ordinary stuff by cash or use my bank card. I try to leave as small a footprint as possible without withdrawing completely from soociety.

        2. GrantB

          Re: The paranoia!

          You do know what data is collected right?

          Total power consumed in a period, probably half-hour period. Which is then made available to you via n app or website and aggregated up into billing periods like 'nights'.

          Because you consume power and your retailer wants to bill you for the power you used. Wow.

          If you are really worried about Intelligence gathering abilities of analytics, then more effective solution would be to stop using a cellphone and go back to non-smart rotary dial land-lanes as well.

      2. GrantB

        Re: The paranoia!

        "If it were just a question of making meter reading more efficient then installing smart meters that were interrogated every 3 months (or even every month at a pinch) would be all that was needed".

        That is exactly what a couple of electricity retailers I worked with did; use smart meter HH data aggregated up to monthly consumption values, so billed on one 'virtual read'. Some minor issues with this (i.e. if there is a gap in the HH data, do you interpolate and/or estimate? or pull the data later and rebill?) but advantage is that it is just a cheaper way of reading meters, and the billing contract with the customer can remain unchanged. Contract law means that your retailer is limited in changing T&C's unilaterally.

        "The fact that they want to monitor usage at levels down to every 30 minutes suggests there is more going on here".

        Yes, they can measure consumption roughly in the period it occurs. That is it.

        The retailer can then offer a better range of pricing, like cheaper power at night or middle of the day when they have power flooding the system they need to offload, and charge more when everybody is arriving home switching on ovens/heating and maxing out their local transformer. You have choices - you can stay on simple single rate plan or, if you are capable of setting a timer (some apparently can't) then take advantage and switch retailer and/or plans.

        Network companies tend to use the information for planning consumption patterns so that they scale transformers or build out wiring if they can see things like a old office block being turned into apartments (they have information at a course level anyway, but can help planning)

        If you think there is something more to it that, then tell me what it is?

        I would think anybody working in the industry is as puzzled as I am at the odd beliefs that surround smartmeters. They can't watch you, won't give you cancer, and can't control your devices unless you choose to wire them in to some network controlled relay (and the network companies won't generally know anything about the devices attached). Even weirder is that the same people worried about smartmeters recording one variable (consumption in half-hour period) will also own phones. Telecom billing systems obviously collect much more personal information which _is_ used by governments and other agencies.

        To put it another way, if you were selling KWH as your business, would you prefer to pay a person to wander slowly around the neighbourhood and read victorian era spinning dials, or get a read uploaded automatically on a daily basis?

        1. swampdog

          Re: The paranoia!

          "The retailer can then offer a better range of pricing, like cheaper power at night or middle of the day when they have power flooding the system they need to offload, and charge more when everybody is arriving home switching on ovens/heating and maxing out their local transformer. You have choices - you can stay on simple single rate plan or, if you are capable of setting a timer (some apparently can't) then take advantage and switch retailer and/or plans."

          Yes we have choices. Why are you suggesting we choose to have less choices?

          There is no power to offload. The turbines are either spinning or they are not. The kettles will go on during the adverts. If you've got some magical grid storage device then patent it. You will be rich very quickly.

          1. GrantB

            Re: The paranoia!

            "Yes we have choices. Why are you suggesting we choose to have less choices?"

            What?

            I am suggesting more choice is a good thing; and an advantage of smart-meters. You can choose to stay on the same tariff like UN24 (single rate, uncontrolled) the same as a dumb meter, so no change other than LCD display rather than dials. Staying on the old plan, might even be an advantage in some non-typical usage cases.

            Analysis (and real world usage - smartmeters are not new) is pretty clear that there is generally an advantage to both customers and the utilities to go for peak/off peak pricing.

            "There is no power to offload The turbines are either spinning or they are not. The kettles will go on during the adverts. If you've got some magical grid storage device then patent it. You will be rich very quickly"

            The UK has plenty of apparently (to you) magical grid storage devices. Look up STOR for a start. There are some very interesting systems in the UK including Dinorwig.

            One thing that might surprise you as well; there are (rare) periods when spot prices go negative; that is the system pays consumers to consumer more power as they have a surplus they need to offload.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_response#Electricity_grids_and_peak_demand_response

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The paranoia!

              "Look up STOR for a start. There are some very interesting systems in the UK including Dinorwig."

              Dinorwig's marvellous, and what it was built for back in the 1970s when service was as important as profit was indeed storage, typically day vs night demand matching.

              That's not quite what it's used for these days in the modern post-privatisation world.

              In recent years owners First Hydro have found it more profitable to sells Dinorwig's services on the rapid response grid frequency control market (zero to ~1.5GW in a couple of seconds if planned, or just over a minute if unplanned, is hard for other folks), which is slightly different from the "bulk storage for a few hours" market, both in practical engineering terms and in market contractual terms.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The paranoia!

      "The cost of sending a person to do a special (out of cycle read) is very high compared with smartmeter costs"

      Smart meter costs (to customers) were estimated in an earlier post as around £300 initial, £500 lifetime - I'm not sure if the latter figure includes the costs of the additional power used by the meter itself. Annual cost of regular visits from meter reader, around £5 per year; out-of-cycle visits just to read the meter are pretty rare.

      Of course all customers will be paying for the smart meters via their suppliers irrespective of whether they actually have one - I'm guessing the suppliers wont be encouraged to include this as a separate line item on the bills they send out.

      1. GrantB

        Re: The paranoia!

        "Smart meter costs (to customers) were estimated in an earlier post as around £300 initial, £500 lifetime - I'm not sure if the latter figure includes the costs of the additional power used by the meter itself"

        Estimated by somebody who obviously does not have a clue. Retail, one-off in the UK for something like the Iskraemeco ME 372 - about £130. Brought in bulk from China.. much cheaper. Basically close to cost of doing a single manual one-off special read. If you are doing regular replacement of old units (that are mechanical and thus wear out), you will replace them with a smart unit wherever possible.

        For manual reading, I had real data in previous job, but work out a human meter reader doing around 100-150 reads per day on average (rural areas are a much lower rate, inner city can be higher) over a few hundred days per year excluding holidays etc. 6 to 12 reads per year. Plus overheads (managers, car, office, computer system, bloody ugly rugged Symbol handhold, MDMS, dealing with complaints, dog / lock control, unreadable dials). Special reads are not that uncommon - people moving house, and check reads. Keeps coming back to human error - transposed numbers, dials read in wrong order etc. Trust me, I have had to deal with this stuff (and errors from smart systems)

        The cost of a smart meter is easy enough to be found online, but simple and obvious point is that in markets like Australia and NZ, companies are replacing dumb meters without any government requirement to do so. Makes economic sense to the (private) businesses that have to collect data. One side-effect of this; once a residential street is largely full of smartmeters that are remotely read, the cost of reading remaining meters manually goes up incrementally.

        BTW - the spinning dial style meter uses more power than a smartmeter, but trivial in both cases.

        "Of course all customers will be paying for the smart meters via their suppliers irrespective of whether they actually have one - I'm guessing the suppliers wont be encouraged to include this as a separate line item on the bills they send out".

        Retailers could probably break down bills by cost centers like meter reading, but manual meter reading is more expensive and will get more expensive.

        But don't think basic economic facts get into the way of complaining about technology.

    3. swampdog

      Re: The paranoia!

      @ GrantB

      I think you're missing the point. I overpay my bills during the warmer months so that things even out. You may be finding there's an advantage now but how long is that going to last?

      There's two factors. Commercial. Govt. Which one is going to shaft you first?

      1. GrantB

        Re: The paranoia!

        Wait, you *overpay* your bill and you see that as a valid argument against smartmeters?

        a) So keep doing that if you really want your supplier to earn interest you could be. Just having more accurate data in your bill, doesn't change when and how you pay

        b) If you really want to even things out, switch to a retailer that offers fixed monthly direct debit payments. Called something like SmoothPay, LevelPay or other brand names, the system calculates averages over historical data and you end up achieving the same thing without overpaying. I don't know them, but eonenergy for one offer this.

        Yeah, governments will shaft you, companies will to. You can wear tin-foil hats, shake your stick at 'em, but whether you have spinning dials in the meter or a computer in there will make little difference either way. Only thing that makes me feel a little better is voting for the least offensive choice in politics and switching companies where possible, so I don't reward bad performance & crap service. And try to do a decent job on systems I work on.

  39. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    I don't know very much about th NZ system. And you obviously know very little, if anything about the mandated UK system.

    1. GrantB

      Except the company I worked for sold into the UK, so I am probably more familiar with the UK market than you think. Same billing software sold into multiple markets, same HH data from meters, similar tarrifs, different currency and reporting.

      But interested to know what exactly you think is so special about the UK electricity supply sector that makes you think it is so different from others like Australia and NZ? What makes the UK use of smartmeters so different from the rest of world other than the government mandate?

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        "But interested to know what exactly you think is so special about the UK electricity supply sector that makes you think it is so different from others like Australia and NZ?"

        I was going to comment along the lines that as the cars in the UK drive on the wrong side of the road, maybe the electrons were travelling through the wrong wires - but then I remembered that in NZ and Australia are driving on the left as well. So, sorry, no idea.

        1. swampdog
          Joke

          "But interested to know what exactly you think is so special about the UK electricity supply sector that makes you think it is so different from others like Australia and NZ?"

          [I was going to comment along the lines that as the cars in the UK drive on the wrong side of the road, maybe the electrons were travelling through the wrong wires - but then I remembered that in NZ and Australia are driving on the left as well. So, sorry, no idea.]

          At the risk of offending GrantB.. okay, fuck it, I will offend GrantB.

          @GrantB:

          It's because you're colonial. We have a Queen & secretly you like to be told off.

          @allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          You nearly got there with the insult.

          The rest of the world drives on the wrong side of the road. You all know this and it is because you couldn't quite bring yourself to offend the Queen that you stopped short.

          Here's offence: Duke of Westminster. American Embassy.

          1. GrantB
            Facepalm

            @swampdog

            "It's because you're colonial. We have a Queen & secretly you like to be told off".

            You mean Our Queen that appears on Our paper money?

            I am not offended. Summer holidays here. And your posts are proving my point perfectly; paranoia about the government is driving this hate of the technology and nothing to do with any specific issues.

            <joke.. of course>

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "But interested to know what exactly you think is so special about the UK electricity supply sector that makes you think it is so different from others like Australia and NZ?"

        I don't know about your environment but here we've had a stupid charge to "renewables"* which means supply is increasingly unpredictable.

        In consequence the responsible govt dept, rather than admitting it's got things wrong & needs to take action to keep the lights on, wants to be able to balance the system by remotely switching the lights off. And we don't actually like the idea that someone in Whitehall or wherever should be able to remotely switch off our washing machine mid-cycle or our freezer or our fridge or our lights.

        Given that smart meters are, in effect, remote switches, we see them as an essential element of achieving that. The irony, of course, is that when they start to exercise that ability, should they get it into their hands, the political consequences will finally dawn on the govt. with the result that there'll be a panic programme to build nuclear capacity at whatever cost.

        "other than the government mandate"

        That in itself is sufficient basis for mistrust whatever the colour of the govt. If anything the other lot would be even worse.

        * Renewables here don't include much hydro nor, as far as I'm aware, any geo-thermal. And this comes on top of generations of technophobe politicians and administrators who have thrown away our early lead in nuclear generation.

        1. GrantB

          Renewables don’t have to mean end-supply is unpredictable. Currently renewables here in NZ make up over 80% of electricity supply (and increasing) but extremely reliable. Similar in other countries like Iceland as well. In the UK, if you have nuclear stations providing base load, then throwing a bunch of renewable’s on-top makes sense; there is a grid and a bunch of systems in place including some skilled people for shunting load around to deal with wind, tide and solar variation.

          Coming back to Smartmeters, just how and why do you think somebody in Whitehall or wherever are going to “remotely switch off our washing machine mid-cycle or our freezer or our fridge or our lights”?

          Your Smartmeter is very unlikely to be connected in anyway to any relays controlling lights or appliances. Typically the power consumption for most appliances/lights is so low, that the only thing connected to a networked control line is hot-water heating, and that is generally managed by the network distributor and not the retailer. HWC's are typically hooked onto a ripple control on a non-smart meter, so no change there, other than more fine-grained control and monitoring - which is a good thing for most people.

          In any case, shedding load at grid level is normally done with industrial users - a single industrial user can have systems setup to switch something like kilns off as/when required if there is cost/benefit to doing so. Hotwater heating is more likely turned off to benefit local transmission lines/transformers in residential areas, but obviously retailers and network companies benefit by selling power; hence incentive to keep the power flowing whenever possible.

          I can tell from the downvotes that people don't like the government mandated change; and it is a bit odd really, as without any government interference old meters would slowly be replaced over time anyway, just as other electronic-mechanical devices make way for modern hardware and software with no conspiracy required.

          1. swampdog

            UK energy minister rejects 'waste of money' smart meters claim

            "Coming back to Smartmeters, just how and why do you think somebody in Whitehall or wherever are going to “remotely switch off our washing machine mid-cycle or our freezer or our fridge or our lights”?"

            Simples. There is "Intelligence" and there is "Evidence". It's not possible to mix the two. Either you know something & keep it quiet or you make it public, in which case it becomes evidence.

            Ask yourself one question. Why have our respective governments got so much of a hard-on to snoop upon their own populations?

            There is money and there is power. It isn't money because just about any tin pot country could knock out all the satellites. That leaves power. Who vets the politicians?

            We could watch "Yes Minister" for a laugh. My concern is for a civil servant with an agenda. They'll just want a decent pension but in their pursuit they'll leave behind a trail of shit legislation and advise the current political incumbent against making X a minister leaving Y as the choice.

            Given that nothing about MP's gets into the media until they're nearly dead I'm inclined to think all of the ones in power have something to hide, or they wouldn't be such dicks.

            There was an article (I think it was here on ElReg) about analyzing data via power usage. Why change something that works (dumb meters) for something (smart meters) that might not?

  40. Tridac

    From Ledswinger, upthread:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/smart-metering-equipment-technical-specifications-second-version

    I’ve just had a quick scan though that. It’s still at draft stage, V1.58, as of November 2014. It’s a complex spec, based around a zigbee network, with separate hardware described for gas / electricity metering, communications “hub”, user interface / display and auxiliary load switching. Potentially a lot of hardware to install, though I guess some or all functions could be integrated into the same box. No mention of gsm, though the the hub could conceivably integrate or have options for gsm, wifi, ethernet and more.

    It looks like it has very fine grained data gathering and load control capability. For example, control of several auxiliary load switches; active and reactive power import and export are measured, as are min / max loads against time. The import / export stuff accounts for grid tie systems and home generation, while reactive power measurement provides the ability for higher charges for users with poor power factor. Just as industrial users have been for decades. There’s lot more and quite interesting in an eyes glazed sort of way.

    But, still even now at draft and a half baked spec imho. For example, the auxiliary contactor section doesn’t even mention current or voltage rating at all. Will the meter itself have the “main” contactor, or must there be at least one auxilliary contactor ?. Who will pay for all the voltage drop losses across the ssr ?. Let’s see now, 50 watts loss average * 20e6 meters = 10e9 watts losses !. Even if they use a mechanical relay, the holding coil will consume 5 - 10 watts, so not that much better. Meter itself < 4 watts, but the hub and gas meter are externally powered and thus paid for by the consumer…

  41. Dave 15

    Its rot

    If I need to cook dinner or wash my clothes I will, I do NOT care what some 'smart meter' says. I will NOT be changing my washing machine until it is beyond repair (after all the modern ones insist on using electricity to heat the incoming water instead of cheaper and more efficient gas available in my house).

    The whole concept is flawed, expensive and pointless.Technology for technology sake... like a lot of things today.

    Add to this that I have zero doubt, that the meters will all be made overseas by foreign companies so once again the British government will be forcing British citizens to provide employment to others while paying their neighbours to sit at home with no jobs.

    British governments of ALL current political shades should be lined up on the wall and shot.

  42. David Roberts Silver badge

    Hot fill washing machines

    AFAIK these were phased out because by the time you had run all the cold through to get some hot water the washing machine was full.

    OT for smart metering of course.

    For the Kiwi posting to this thread, the mention of easily switching between suppliers is a dead giveaway. For this to work the smart meters would have to be built so any supplier could read any meter. It is suggested upthread that this is not possible. So the benefits of doing it right do not currently (!) apply in the UK.

    1. GrantB

      Re: Hot fill washing machines

      I might be that Kiwi

      Enduring a bunch of downvotes, but damm it, was on the end of my Summer/Christmas holiday, somewhat bored and people keep posting dumb-arsed things about a topic I actually somewhat familiar with. .

      Switching retailers is very possible in the UK as with other countries like NZ. I did mention the company I worked for sold into the UK right?

      Pretty much any supplier could read any meter. Some lag in the UK still (no surprise reading some comments), as some retailers still don't have systems for dealing with HH data, so they fall back to aggregating HH data and treating a smart meter as a single monthly read. Worse case would be for a backwards supplier to resort to sending a bloke in a van around and reading the display on a monthly basis. Still more accurate than pre-smartmeter reads + estimates, but once smartmeter roll out is largely complete and retailers have all installed/upgraded systems for managing the data, then no reason the UK won't be like other markets and easier switching.

      One UK retailer I know of had this to say:

      https://www.ovoenergy.com/ovo-answers/topics/smart-technology/smart-meters/can-i-switch-energy-suppliers-with-smart-meter.html

      OT, but I would think that most automatic washing machines like our one; you select if you want to use a hot, cold, or warm wash. We use cold and save power.

  43. jaygee

    I thought part of the justification for smart meters was so I as a consumer could see my household consumption and if appropriate react - ie switch of a left on towel rail.

    I don't have a smart meter but I can - and I find this useful. And all courtesy of British Gas. It was a freebe.

    It consists of a magnet to go round a supply cable and a remote display. Ok it may not be very accurate but I don't need precision to see that consumption is unexpectedly high.

    Another advantage is the display is on the kitchen surface not at the back of a cupboard.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re "Saving you money"

    Another thing that nobody here has mentioned is that of a smart meter's ability to measure Reactive Power. On AC systems any non resistive load will have a Power Factor (leading or lagging) of less than unity (1.0), and the actual power drawn from the grid will be greater than that stated on the label. Virtually all modern switch mode PSU's (this includes all your "Energy Efficient" CFL & LED lamps) have little or no PF correction - the £15 plug in monitor I bought from Maplin shows this, and can typically be as low as 0.5. So your 11 watt bulb will draw 22 volt/amps. Now if your supplier decides, at some point in the future, to start charging you in Kvahr instead of Kwhr your bills will shoot up. I downloaded the UK smart meter spec, and this ability is confirmed to be part of it, along with the remote switch-off and parasitic draw. An episode of TV's "How It's Made" showed the assembly of a smart meter, and the first stage was the baseplate and isolating switch, so there's absolutely no doubt that this is possible. Also remember that the grand plan envisages "Smart Appliances" which will talk to your smart meter - this greatly extends the possibilities for suppliers to remotely control much of your consumption. Temporarily turning off fridges, freezers and things like aircon (unusual in the UK) are likely to be employed to reduce demand during other peaks.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re "Saving you money"

    Sorry mods - 2nd attempt at posting

    Another thing that I haven't seen mentioned on this thread is that of a smart meter's ability to measure Reactive Power. On AC systems any non resistive load will have a Power Factor (leading or lagging) of less than unity (1.0), and the actual power drawn from the grid will be greater than that stated on the label. The majority of modern switch mode PSU's (this includes your "Energy Efficient" CFL & LED lamps) have very poor power factor - the £15 plug in monitor I bought from Maplin clearly shows this - and can typically be as low as 0.5. So your 11 watt bulb will really draw 22 volt/amps. Now if your supplier decides, at some point in the future, to start charging you in Kvahr instead of Kwhr your bills will shoot up. I downloaded the UK smart meter spec, and this ability is confirmed to be part of it, along with the remote switch-off and parasitic draw. An episode of TV's "How It's Made" showed the assembly of a smart meter, and the first stage was the baseplate and isolating switch, so there's absolutely no doubt that this is possible. Also remember that the grand plan envisages "Smart Appliances" which will communicate with your smart meter - this greatly extends the possibilities for suppliers to remotely control your consumption. Temporarily turning off fridges, freezers and things like aircon (unusual in the UK) are likely to be employed to reduce demand during peak periods.

  46. BenR

    I'm really not sure how these devices will "enable consumers to reduce their energy consumption and save money"?

    Presumably all that will actually happen is the smart meter will flag up that your fridge, or your oven or whatever is using a lot of electricity / gas and that to save money you should consider turning the heating down or switching it off or replacing it with a more efficient device. To which the majority of people will go "Yeah, and I'm paying for that with...?" and carry on with the older inefficient fridge because they like to have food without mould on it, or carry on with the heating because it's cold outside and they don't want to freeze.

    I just don't see how they're advantageous for anything except more accurate billing than the comedic "estimates" energy companies usually make. And even then I'd expect some creative accounting to make sure you're paying over the odds.

    Think I'll just be constantly "not in" for the installation.

  47. tiggity Silver badge

    A smart meter might reduce my neighbours electricity use, they would see spikes every time I go in my garden.

    My neighbours (either side of the house I live) have poorly calibrated security lights that go off when I walk in my garden.

    Still, on dark winter mornings they save me money as I do not need my torch (at the early time I get up in the morning it is very dark in UK winter) to help me see when I top up the bird feeder, instead as I walk it triggers security lights on either side neighbours houses giving me very good visibility.

    Ignoring such random edge cases, totally pointless for any consumer who does not realise that kettle on = more leccy used, and more pertinently, extremely likely that there will be some nasty security problems at some point (& only ones they will bother to fix are those where consumer can "under declare" power usage)

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The biggest problem is when you switch providers your smart meter may become a dumb meter.

  49. Commswonk Silver badge

    "Tariff Data"

    In earlier posts I asserted that "the network" would have to be able to download price / tariff information to consumers' smart meters, a point with which one or two others have not agreed. My terminology was not perhaps as well chosen as it might have been; rate data might have been a better expression to use, to indicate to users whether electricity currently in use (sorry about the more or less unavoidable pun!) is at a "standard" or "higher" rate depending on overall demand.

    If the industry / government wants consumers to make "informed choices" then the information on which to base those choices has to be provided; without it consumers' decisions - assuming that they actually make those decisions - will be entirely random and equally random on their effects on overall demand at any given time.

    Smart meters have to be able to do at least some of the the following:

    1. Show the consumer how much electricity has been used in total.

    2. Show the consumer how much electricity is being used "now".

    3. Be able to switch parts of the comsumers' demand off to reduce overall consumption at peak periods.

    4. Switch the rate/kWh (between predetermined costs/kWh) and provide that "rate data" to consumers so that the consumers make the decision about what to switch off until later when the rate drops again.

    Obviously (1) is what meters do now. (2) is all well and good but it would require consumers to know what is, and what is not responsible for the current "high" reading for the information to be of any use, and who is going to switch the oven off when dinner is already being cooked? (3) can only work if there are duplicate ring mains installed (see earlier posting) or IoT technology becomes widespread, and even if it is ever adopted it will be a very long time before the total load it controls is a really significant fraction of the gross load; until then it will achieve little. (4) at least puts the decision in the hands of the consumer, not the supply company. (3) makes consumers potential hostages to the whim of the supply companies, and would be (IMHO) a Very Bad Thing.

    I would argue that very little of a domestic load is in any real sense "discretionary"; the washing machine is an obvious candidate for this household but that is less likely to be true where there are children in residence. The fridge and freezer might be, but if they "warm up" then the penalty would be that they take additional power later in order to get the internal temperature down again.

    The more I think about it the more I cannot avoid the conclusion that the whole exercise is doomed to be an expensive con from which consumers will gain nothing unless they are profligate in their use of energy supplies and are somehow persuaded to repent. Improbable...

    1. GrantB

      Re: "Tariff Data"

      "In earlier posts I asserted that "the network" would have to be able to download price / tariff information to consumers' smart meters, a point with which one or two others have not agreed".

      Not so much as 'not agreed', but just pointed out that this is not how it works.

      Look at your electricity bill; you are charged on units consumed. i.e. KWh.

      An example bill on a dumb meter would be something like 'read on 1 Jan 2016 = dial shows 000. Read on 31 Jan 2016 - dial shows 744'. Therefore bill is on 774 units at 10p per unit - £77.40 bill.

      Classic 'interval' billing.

      Smart meter gets dropped in. Now every 30 minutes it measures consumption - say you had nothing but a 1kw heater on, you would measure 0.5 KWh (0.5 unit) per HH. 48 HH per day, 31 days in a month, then the smartmeter would pass 48 x 31 x 0.5 readings to the data-collector that would calculate the same 744 units of consumption.

      Only difference is that if you choose a plan that had say 12-hour day and night tariffs, then the billing system would calculate that half the consumption was at say 5p night rate, and 15 cent day rate. Giving the same bill in my example.

      "If the industry / government wants consumers to make "informed choices" then the information on which to base those choices has to be provided; without it consumers' decisions - assuming that they actually make those decisions - will be entirely random and equally random on their effects on overall demand at any given time"

      Yes, it is called the pricing plan you are on. Your bill should be showing the rates you are on - i.e. day/night/peak rates. When you signed up with your retailer, you entered a contract.

      You can choose what works for you depending if you are low use, high use, people at home during day, air-con user etc. Amazing how many people don't bother shopping around for cheaper/better util bills.

      "Smart meters have to be able to do at least some of the the following:

      >"1. Show the consumer how much electricity has been used in total" -

      Yes, of course.

      >2. Show the consumer how much electricity is being used "now".

      No (not generally) as this is not needed for most residential billing. Some meters probably show this on the local display, but other than on TOU meters, information is not that useful, and some people (see on this thread) think that people watching your power usage is some evil plot.

      >3. Be able to switch parts of the comsumers' demand off to reduce overall consumption at peak periods.

      Not really a core bit of smartmeter functionality, as appliances and meters don't generally communicate. So maybe control over a hot-water circuit like with old dumb meters, but the idea is that you can get on your bill, the cost of using power during peak and off-peak, so are encouraged to set the dryer or dishwasher to go a delayed start. You save money, the network company smooths demand; win-win.

      >"4. Switch the rate/kWh (between predetermined costs/kWh) and provide that "rate data" to consumers so that the consumers make the decision about what to switch off until later when the rate drops again"

      No, I think you are getting confused with something like a TOU meters and Spot pricing. A big industrial user might opt into something like that and have people manage consumption, even firing up generators or shutting down machinery to manage costs.

      Entirely different with residential customers getting a smart meter which enables a better bill at the end of the month.

      "(3) can only work if there are duplicate ring mains installed (see earlier posting) or IoT technology becomes widespread, and even if it is ever adopted it will be a very long time before the total load it controls is a really significant fraction of the gross load; until then it will achieve little"

      Yeap, but look at the amount of upvoted posts, where people claim that smartmeters will mean that appliances will get turned off at the whim of the government...

      "I would argue that very little of a domestic load is in any real sense "discretionary"; the washing machine is an obvious candidate for this household but that is less likely to be true where there are children in residence"

      Domestic load is of course relatively modest. I can't even tell from consumption graphs when people are home in summer as the LCD TV/tablets etc don't even register. The few devices that do consume say 1KW or more such as hot water heaters, dryers, heat pumps, washing machines, dishwashers often have delayed start or timer functions, or tend to be devices that can be time-shifted by a few hours if there is encouragement to do so.

      "The more I think about it the more I cannot avoid the conclusion that the whole exercise is doomed to be an expensive con from which consumers will gain nothing unless they are profligate in their use of energy supplies and are somehow persuaded to repent. Improbable..."

      Will give you this; the UK implementation does appear to be very expensive way of doing things. I understand the reasons for the change, but the way it has been done is pretty awful.

      In the long run though, just a little nudge with tariffs that reflect the fact that peak electricity is much more expensive than off-peak (which seemingly a lot of posters don't understand), will help make the system more efficient.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Tariff Data"

        "peak electricity is much more expensive than off-peak "

        So, in the UK in 2016, what time of day is peak electricity (in pricing terms)?

        Hint: trick question, it's no longer to do with time of day, it's more likely to do with whether the wind's blowing or not.

        In short, short term price is to do with demand vs supply. No longer fundamentally related to time of day. Can you afford to delay that wash till the wind is blowing again? Let the freezer warm up till the wind blows again?

        Meanwhile, every grid-powered appliance already has a signal which indicates whether demand is tending to exceed supply or not, so there's no need for an expensive smartmeter installation to provide that, especially a smartmeter with a cutoff capability. The mains frequency indicates whether more supply is needed (<50Hz) or whether less supply is needed (>50Hz).

        Mandatory links:

        http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ (where the UK's gridconnected electricity comes from)

        http://www.dynamicdemand.co.uk/grid.htm (abandoned years ago but principles still valid)

  50. LucreLout Silver badge

    Question....

    My local water company has decided they have a right and obligation to install one of these infernal smart meters on my property.

    What rights do they actually have? Do I have any right to object and continue unmetered supply?

    From what little research I've done, the odds of them installing a secure device and keeping it secure by updates & patches seem to be on par with winning that 1 Billion USD Power Ball lottery, from Englandshire.

    I'm not worried about the state turning off my supply, more that about 5 mins after install, some it'll become a fun practical joke for the kids to drive around turning off peoples meters remotely.

  51. Martin an gof Silver badge

    I would argue that very little of a domestic load is in any real sense "discretionary"; the washing machine is an obvious candidate for this household but that is less likely to be true where there are children in residence. The fridge and freezer might be, but if they "warm up" then the penalty would be that they take additional power later in order to get the internal temperature down again.

    I started writing a reply yesterday along those lines, but when I clicked "preview" it wanted me to fill in a capcha (wot?) and then lost my text.

    My contention was that if part of the reason for smart meters was to be able to contribute to load balancing / frequency balancing by turning off such loads (I also included the tumble dryer) then you would need an awful lot of such loads to reach even the minimum Network requirement of 3MW.

    Without going through the reasoning again I made a bunch of very generous assumptions (things like everyone uses a washer once a day, every wash is tumbled, and washes are spread evenly through the 24 hours) to calculate that on average turning off the washer / dryer / fridge / freezer could be expected to save something like 2.1kW per house, most of which is due to the tumble dryer.

    In order then to reach the 3MW minimum you would need to switch off around 1,400 houses.

    In order to take up the slack when a 500GW generating set at a powerstation goes unexpectedly offline you would need to cut off the power to those loads in around 240,000 houses which is (according to the 2011 census) about the same as the total number of households in Cardiff and Swansea combined.

    Smart meters will not reduce bills (because as soon as profits start to go down, prices will go up) and are unlikely to have any of the other claimed benefits either.

    As has been suggested elsewhere in this thread. Solution in search of a problem.

    M.

  52. Tridac

    A bit more info: The system will be built around, (per house or consumer), a zigbee encrypted wireless network (Home Area Network or HAN), with the electricity and gas meters reporting to a communications hub. Each hub will be interrogated and managed by the equipment (via 2.4 Ghz and ~800Mhz radio networks) at the Data Communications Company, who have been awarded the contract and are a subsiduary of Capita. DCC probably formed specifically for the task.

    This seems like a whole load of infrastructure and systems to put in place just to read meters, so wonder what's next, once every home has it's private network comms hub ?. I guess water meters might be next, followed by "home security" systems, with cameras and microphones in every room.

    Should I be worried about this, or am I missing something here ?...

  53. JaitcH
    WTF?

    Just Tories looking after their friends in Industry

    Britain is almost unique in expecting users to pay for their own meters.

    The old boys, down at the club, must be buying their Tory MPs endless rounds of drinks over this one!

    In the USA, and Canada, heavy adopters of these technologies, the power companies install these meters at their own cost. And these things either employ MESH radio or wire communications.

    Adafruit, NYC, has a neat jammer - http://www.ladyada.net/make/wavebubble/ - that will fix the MESH radio and ferrites, around the power feed INTO the meter, will stop the signals dead.

    Developers in Toronto, Ontario, have gone one rip-off better - METERED HOT WATER. The catch? Any water, regardless of temperature, flowing out of any 'hot water' tap costs money!

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