back to article £11bn later: Smart meters project delayed again for Crapita tests

There has been yet another delay in the ongoing saga of cash-burning that is the UK’s national smart meter initiative. While the communications infrastructure was due to be switched on today, the £11bn project’s turn-on has now been delayed again until September, the BBC has reported. The Data and Communications Company (DCC …

  1. Picky
    Mushroom

    The hackers will turn the lights off

    Centralised database - not tested - turn everyone's gas and electricity off?

  2. Valeyard

    what the hell

    I need to sit down i'm that surprised

  3. My-Handle

    "It is currently being tested to deliver a long-lasting, world class bill to payers"

    FTFY

    1. gv

      I'm curious to know what technologies are being used for the "long-lasting, world class system."

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Two paper cups and a length of string.

        1. Steve Walker
          Unhappy

          Unlikely, as Capita are involved they would forget the string and you know both cups would be incompatible.

          1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            And when you ask for the string you'll be told that it requires contract change at £lots.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        > used for the "long-lasting, world class system."

        A random-number generator combined with a filter to make sure only poor people pay more..

  4. earl grey Silver badge
    Devil

    BEIS(t) with two backs

    And i can tell you which one you are and what they're giving you.

  5. James 51 Silver badge

    If everyone was getting solar panels or turbines on their roofs it would make sense. Perhaps if our white goods had the capability to communicate with the grid and run when there is the most capacity available it would also make sense. At the moment it is hard to see it being good for anything that could not have been done cheaper with people or in another way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, you could do the same job with people or other incentives

      but you only get funding for "digital" or "technical" shiny shiny as it sounds more advanced and progressive than just getting something done.

      this is a classic case of automate or bust.

      In my area attempting to automate things forces out all the exceptions and abnormal circumstances and forces many areas to agree (or disagree) on how these are handled at enterprise or device level or some other demarcation, and when to drop out and ask people (if we can agree who) will take a look when intervention is required.

      So... Project requires technical shiny to start regardless of necessity, technical shiny needs to handle loads of circumstances groups of people are used to, or better at handling, we are not influencing manufacturers of devices to integrate in any way with any kind of power management or wiring houses with managed circuits, and we don't really know what we are going to do with it once we are finished anyway.

      IMHO its not SMART if only the meter is smart - a meter just a set of dials after all so its not really changing anything.

    2. James 51 Silver badge

      I know no one is going to make white goods that can do that until the smart meter is in place but given the longevity of them there is going to be a lead time of at least ten years on this. Will the meters still be relevant then or will they need more RAM or CPU or Bluetooth chip to do the job?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Agree

      "Perhaps if our white goods had the capability to communicate with the grid and run when there is the most capacity available it would also make sense."

      Completely agree, but the problem with that is, it would usually mean running at night, which for washing machines, dryers, dish washers etc in terms of safety isn't recommended. Most people do it, but it isn't recommended to run them at night while in bed, due to the possible fire hazard.

      My washing machine one night just before I went to bed, tore itself apart, the drum broke off while on spin (1500rpm), tearing the drum and fragments coming through the side of the washing machine, big hole in the side, no fire, but could have caused a short and caused a fire. Anyway back on topic.

      The second is, if everyone did this at the same time, it would move the peak usage times around. The grid would have to schedule each appliance for specific times to get it balanced. Then people may not get their clothes or dishes done when they were hoping.

      Its a difficult thing to get right and expensive, so the money being invested in this could be spent better elsewhere to improve efficiency and reliability in alternative power sources.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Agree

        it would usually mean running at night, which for washing machines, dryers, dish washers etc in terms of safety isn't recommended

        Not only that, consider the number of people for whom running appliances like washing machines and dryers means they and their neighbours get a load of noise and vibration. Do you really want that 'thunk, thunk, thunk, ...." at 3am when you are trying to sleep. If my neighbours were running anything like that in the early hours then I'd be complaining to the council as it's a statutory nuisance.

        When then, one gov department is basically telling people to be antisocial b'stards, while another will be trying to deal with the nuisances caused.

        but because there is huge swathes of the population that have expensive pre-pay meters that they cant afford to move away from - but they can afford to move to standard tariffs!

        But the point people have been making is that this does not need smart meters. No really, smart meters as they are being done here really really REALLY are not needed. It's just one of those things being pushed to try and hide the true purpose - which is energy rationing in all but name.

        A meter capable of remote switching between pre-pay and post-pay does not need the intrusive and insecure data slurping - nor does it need the remote disconnect feature. A meter capable of recording usage at different rates does not need the intrusive and insecure 1/2 hourly data slurping.

        It would be entirely possible to switch from pre-pay to post-pay via a message passed via the credit key system IF that had been built in. OK, it would be a lot harder to switch from post-pay to pre-pay and that might mean a premises visit - but that premises visit wouldn't need tools, wouldn't need someone (supposedly) qualified to change the meter - just insert a key with an instruction to switch modes.

        The problem is that they've gone down this route of "the data is available, we must slurp it" without ever stopping to ask "should we slurp it" and "what use is it" - the answers being NO and "not a lot". We've had multi-register meters for many decades - they just tot up usage for each charging rate. The same could be done with the dumb so-called "smart" meters - just tot up usage for each charging rate (the majority will be just 2 or 3 rates tops) and report the totals each month. THAT is all the information needed for billing purposes - the rest is just hacker bait and marketing departments wet dreams.

        It will leak sooner or later. This is UK Gov and Crapita, a network with 30 million nodes on it, devices that won't (in practical terms) be patchable when the inevitable vulnerabilities are found, and a database that has to be a juicy target.

    4. MR J

      The thing is, smart meters are not going to help with this at all. It will do little to help the management of feed in systems. Now if those same systems had battery backups that were there to provide some sort of capacitive buffer for the system - and the national grid could control the release of that energy!, then we would have something magical.

      I fully support smart meters, not for the middle or upper class, but because there is huge swathes of the population that have expensive pre-pay meters that they cant afford to move away from - but they can afford to move to standard tariffs! The real benefit will be for those people once those highly expensive meters are gone and the ones who are responsible enough, and have enough money, to move off of pre-pay get to do so.

      I look forward to it personally too IF it allows me to track usage hour by hour. From what I have seen this is not what they are set up to do for the end customer. If it showed hourly usage then users, I, would know if split rate services are good.

    5. Toltec

      "Perhaps if our white goods had the capability to communicate with the grid and run when there is the most capacity available it would also make sense."

      I visited a friend in Atlanta earlier this year and he told me there was a meter system you could sign up to which coordinated home air-con units to balance power draws. You got a discount on your electricity if you took the system.

      1. Michael Dunn
        Big Brother

        @ Toltec

        "You got a discount on your electricity if you took the system."

        Yeah, but in Britain, they'll probably find a way to charge you extra.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      communicate with the grid... mmmmm

      " if our white goods had the capability to communicate with the grid and run when there is the most capacity available it would also make sense."

      They already do, courtesy of the mains input.

      Measure the mains frequency. Over 50Hz means there's spare capacity, switch on the high demand heating/cooling. Under 50Hz means there isn't spare capacity, don't switch on the heating/cooling.

      That'll cover most of the proposed applications of smart meters, works today in every grid-connected property once suitable appliances are built (what appliance doesn't already have a microcontroller in it these days?), and cost pennies per appliance.

      Read more at the abandoned website

      http://www.dynamicdemand.co.uk/

      This scheme obviously doesn't offer a selective remote off capability, but as others have pointed out, load shifting doesn't require a remote off capability. Whereas the 21st century equivalent of rolling brownouts *does* benefit from a remote off (so, for example, important premises like police stations and MPs' bars don't have to resort to emergency power)

      If you have even more time on your hands, read Professor Ross Anderson's words on smart meters.

      1. Killing Time

        Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

        Sadly you or your sources have little concept of AC distribution theory or how the grid is managed. Simply put, frequency is affected by grid inductive and capacitive load which is constantly changing and enormous effort and resource is put into trying to keep the frequency as close to 50Hz as possible, in fact Grid Code dictates a specific range as frequency directly relates to power.

        To suggest pushing the grid frequency around as a means of communication is a non starter.

        Superimposing lower amplitude higher frequencies would be and is an option, think 'mains link' products but whatever the solution, it will be the one with the most acceptable cost.

        Shoving the grid frequency around at command is not it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

          "enormous effort and resource is put into trying to keep the frequency as close to 50Hz as possible"

          I'm fully aware of this, thank you, though I'm not sure where inductance and capacitance come into this particular picture (though I do realise that power factor significantly away from unity on significant loads is a Bad Thing for lots of reasons).

          So, when the grid needs more supply, the frequency falls below 50Hz; maybe a little, maybe a lot, depending on the shortage. The Grid's electricity suppliers are expected to react accordingly. When the grid has an excess of supply, frequency goes over 50Hz, and again suppliers are expected to react accordingly.

          In case it's not obvious, the frequency is the same everywhere on the Grid, unless some magick is used to regionalise the system.

          For a picture of what happened when large chunks of two UK power stations went offline in quick succession, and a picture of the role that grid frequency played in those events, try

          https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/sites/default/files/docs/2008/07/national_grid_-_system_events_of_27_may_for_dswg_16_july.pdf

          Summary: Loss of over a GW in two stages. Generators unable to respond in a timely manner. Consequently frequency dropped below tolerable limits and across the UK load shedding occurs (tripping caused by the impermissibly low grid frequency). Recovery doesn't go quite according to plan.

          If people know better, please share.

          "Superimposing lower amplitude higher frequencies would be and is an option, "

          Yes indeed, I also remember "ripple control" long ago, thank you.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

            And if thousands of white goods around the country attempted to participate in autonomous demand management, the grid would disintegrate the first time there was a minor frequency excursion.

            Suddenly dropped load is ****ing terrifying.

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

              "Suddenly dropped load is ****ing terrifying."

              But, but, but ... as I recall, one of the claimed benefits of smart meters to end-users was that they'd see their own consumption figures in real time and would be encouraged to adjust their behaviour accordingly. We were even promised that our white goods might eventually be smart enough to do this themselves.

              I'm old enough to remember the attempt to break the grid during the miners' strike in the 1980s. That was a one-off attempt. It failed. If you actively encourage people (with high prices) to install domestic equipment that effectively *automates* this attack, it is only a matter of time before it works.

              So have we just put 11 billion onto leccy prices in order to build the weapon that destroys our grid?

          2. Killing Time

            Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

            'I'm not sure where inductance and capacitance come into this particular picture (though I do realise that power factor significantly away from unity on significant loads is a Bad Thing'

            So what do you think is affecting the power factor? Its the inductance and capacitance. This admission puts the rest of your comments into context such as your suggestion that the frequency is the same everywhere on the grid, its a big grid and not every point can be the same instantaneously, there is a system inertia which has to be managed.

            It's a non starter...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

              "its a big grid and not every point can be the same instantaneously,"

              Maybe voltage can't. Frequency has to be, give or take near-unmeasurable differences, otherwise things will disconnect to avoid disruption and damage to the grid. Still not sure why you think inductance and capacitance are relevant to the big picture.

              "there is a system inertia which has to be managed."

              There is indeed a system inertia, largely due to big heavy rotating things generating AC electricity. Exactly what are you suggesting needs managing? The inertia can't be managed, but the difference between supply and demand can be and generall is managed. Which is where we came in.

              I'm not even sure we're talking the same language here.

              1. Killing Time

                Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

                'I'm not even sure we're talking the same language here.'

                No we are not. I am talking from the point of view that I worked in the power industry for a number of years with direct experience of the issues. You, along with posting as an AC are frankly just waffling.I note your earlier indignation did nothing to contribute on a technical level.

                The assertion 'frequency has to be, give or take near-unmeasurable differences' the same across the grid is just nonsense, for a start it defies the laws of physics! The US, with their larger grid, for precisely this frequency control problem, section their grid using Direct Current inter-connectors, but I digress.

                Additionally, don't confuse 'system' inertia with physical inertia. System inertia comes from the variance of making a change to the change actually happening throughout the system, its a control concept.

                Perhaps your quoted source abandoned their website because they no longer wanted to be associated with a ill conceived idea which doesn't stand up to scrutiny, you may want to consider following that lead....

                1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

                  Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

                  I am talking from the point of view that I worked in the power industry for a number of years with direct experience of the issues.

                  Ah the "resort to authority" approach. Pity you don't seem to have learned all that much in that 40 years then.

                  The assertion 'frequency has to be, give or take near-unmeasurable differences' the same across the grid is just nonsense, for a start it defies the laws of physics!

                  It defies the laws of physics for the whole grid (talking UK, all AC connected, grid here) to not be at the same frequency. There may be phase differences, but over a few cycles these cannot be more than an imperceptible difference in frequency. Lets face it, if the phase different across the grid exceeded some "not very large" fraction of a cycle, then things would be tripping or going bang due to the excess currents caused.

                  Just see what happens if you try over-driving a generator. It'll change phase (become more leading as the power goes up) - but it will not change frequency as it's locked to the grid. Only if you drive it so hard that it electrically "cannae do no more" then it will slip - yes it'll now be running at a different frequency, but not for long before either all the breakers trip or something goes bang in a big and spectacular way !

                  So some small fraction of a cycle, averaged over (at least) a few tens of cycles is going to be "fook all" in terms of frequency deviation. At very most you could get a small deviation to register if (for example) you suddenly opened the taps on a big generator and significantly changed the current flows in part of the network. In the long term (where long is measured in seconds), phase differences across the network due to power flows etc simply cannot show up as a frequency difference.

                  The US, with their larger grid, for precisely this frequency control problem, section their grid using Direct Current inter-connectors, but I digress.

                  You are confusing the terms here. The US grid is decoupled for stability control, not frequency control - though the two are fairly closely linked. It's due to the increased difficulty of the problem of balancing supply and demand across the much larger number of organisations involved.

                  Simple example, of a large generator in (say) New York trips, then that will have an effect across the whole network - reduced voltage and reduced frequency. If the whole network were AC coupled then you could then find generators in California opening the taps to compensate - when what you really need is generators local to New York to open the taps. The result could be significant changes in power flows, and if load is high then the risk is that you exceed capacity on some line somewhere with the risk of that tripping and causing a cascade failure (cf Niagara Falls incident).

                  Yes, the phase across the network will change, but the relative frequency (once you average ofer a few seconds) will still be exactly the same.

                  And this is why we have A (note the singular) central control room orchestrating our grid. We don't leave it to all and sundry to try doing their own thing, the control room orchestrates it - just like an orchestra would make a horrible cacophony if all the musicians tried to do their own thing rather than have the conductor organise them.

                  Splitting the US network with DC interconnects allows frequency control to be done in several smaller regions - thus simplifying the task somewhat. In addition, over long distances (which they have in the US), HVDC can have lower losses than AC.

                  It's also the same reason all our inter-country interconnects are DC - it avoids all the problems that would be caused if we had to co-ordinate our frequency control with the rest of Europe. Not to mention, the AC-DC and DC-AC converters offer very easy power control, much easier and quicker than tap changing on a transformer.

                  1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

                    Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

                    I will add that on a large scale, loads doing their own thing based on frequency is a bad thing. For fairly small amounts it'll work out fine - just like one user switching on the kettle doesn't make the lights change in the next street. But if really large amounts of loads were self controlled like that, then there is the risk of instability.

                    Eg, frequency drops, lots of load sheds just as supply is being ramped up, frequency recovers and overshoots, loads go back on just as the supply is being ramped back down - rinse and repeat.

                    As I say, for small amount this isn't a problem - the small loads won't all switch at the same thresholds or at the same time. Get enough loads operating autonomously and it would make the grid somewhat harder to control.

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

                    Thank you for that (earlier AnonymousCoward passing briefly by), it actually makes some sense to me (maybe you should worry about that, but I suspect not).

                    "Get enough loads operating autonomously and it would make the grid somewhat harder to control."

                    In principle yes. In practice, measurement+digitisation error alone at appliance level (if this is driven by measuring mains frequency) would likely add a certain amount of randomness, so that not everything would switch off exactly simultaneously. Add a bit of hysteresis or similar if there isn't already enough in the appliance control setup so there's less risk of the unintended cycling you (perfectly reasonably) describe. If necessary, add some device-specificness in the logic (conceptually similar to the way classic Ethernet involved device-specific backoff times to address a logically similar problem of how to prevent lots of interconnected devices doing the same thing at the same time).

                    On the surface it seems (to me) like something to watch out for rather than something tricky to solve.

                    As it doesn't seem likely to happen, it's probably not worth worrying about.

                    On the other hand, being short of a few GW of generation, especially on a calm cold winter evening, seems to be increasingly likely, and that might be worth worrying about at some stage.

                  3. Killing Time

                    Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

                    I don't recall claiming 40 years in the industry.

                    Have you heard of the speed of light, speed of a wave front through a conductor and propagation delay? That is the phenomenon which ensures frequency cannot be the same at every point in the grid instantaneously.

                    I have no intention trawling through the rest of your essay arguing the toss other than to question the emphasis you have placed on a single control room (it's in Warwick for the record) when in practice, to control frequency, NGC request strategically placed generation units around the UK grid to operate in 'Frequency Control' mode where they essentially act as regional 'clocks' to stabilise the local frequency.

                    I have no need to "resort to authority", I just resort to practical knowledge.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

                      "Have you heard of the speed of light, speed of a wave front through a conductor and propagation delay? ."

                      Thanks for that. I'm sorry to say it, but for anyone (including me) that wasn't sure before, you have now confirmed that you are rather confused about the basic underlying science involved here. I think it used to be A level physics, dunno whether it still is.

                      "That is the phenomenon which ensures frequency cannot be the same at every point in the grid instantaneously"

                      Dearie me.

                      At any given instant in time, at any given point on the network, you can measure voltage but you can't instantaneously measure frequency. And because of propagation delay of an AC signal, the instantaneously measured *voltage* of a continuous AC signal is going to be different at different places on the network. That's basic physics.

                      On the other hand, frequency cannot be measured instantaneously. It just can't. It's derived from the time it takes for a complete cycle of something - in the case of 50Hz UK grid frequency, it takes 20milliseconds (more or less). If you want a more accurate frequency measurement, typically you need to measure for longer. Not instantaneous.

                      The speed of light in vacuo is around 3E8 metres/s, call it 300 km per ms, so in one cycle of 50Hz (20ms) the voltage will travel 6000 km or so. Actually it's somewhat less than that, because we're looking at electricity in a cable rather than in a vacuum. Let's maybe call it 4000 km or so in a 20ms cycle.

                      On that basis, for all practical purposes the grid frequency is the same across the UK. If it wasn't, there'd very quickly (a few ms or less) be huge circulating currents (e.g. between a generator at 49.8 Hz and a generator at 50.0 Hz) which would massively disrupt grid operations.

                      "strategically placed generation units around the UK grid to operate in 'Frequency Control' mode where they essentially act as regional 'clocks' to stabilise the >>local<< frequency."

                      So close and yet so far. There is no >>local<< frequency, only the national frequency. There is local instantaneous voltage, but it isn't greatly relevant to the original discussion here - frequency response.

                      The fast response frequency regulation generators contribute power locally, allowing the transmission systems to stabilise the *national* frequency, when there is a fast change in demand (or supply). A similar system applies to slower changes in demand (or supply).

                      "I have no intention trawling through the rest of your essay "

                      Clearly. Readers who want to know more could perhaps look at what National Grid have to say about frequency stabilisation (though like much of the 'modern' electricity industry, sadly it's more about commercial contracts than about engineering):

                      http://www2.nationalgrid.com/uk/services/balancing-services/frequency-response/

                      "I just resort to practical knowledge."

                      What exactly was your job at Gridco? It doesn't sound like it involved engineering fundamentals.

                      1. Killing Time

                        Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

                        OK AC, you really showed me the error of my ways, I bow to your far superior ability to look shit up on the internet and obfuscate fairly simple principles. Good luck with getting your frequency control idea off the ground.

                        By the way, I have never worked for Gridco (whoever they may be), in case you are being a bit stalky as opposed to sarcastic.

                        1. Anonymous Coward
                          Anonymous Coward

                          Re: communicate with the grid... mmmmm

                          "Good luck with getting your frequency control idea off the ground." (and the rest).

                          Not my idea.

                          Meanwhile, you seem to be disagreeing with both fundamentals of school-level physics and with the way National Grid (familiarly known as Gridco) and their electricity suppliers operate their grid frequency control and response mechanisms. Which is probably very similar to the way every other Gridco operate their own national (and sometimes multi-national e.g. [1]) grid.

                          I thought you said you'd worked in the (UK?) business, which would mean Gridco UK or their suppliers, no? Or were you working for one of the new breed of science-free electricity traders?

                          Don't take my word for it, find someone with a clue and have them explain this stuff to you properly. The physics isn't that difficult, given a decent teacher (obviously not me) and a pupil who's prepared to listen and think.

                          The world is a better place when people have a proper clue (rather than a misunderstanding) about what keeps the lights on.

                          [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronous_grid_of_Continental_Europe

    7. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Perhaps if our white goods had the capability to communicate with the grid and run when there is the most capacity available it would also make sense."

      This is one of the sensible uses of the Internet of Things - and it doesn't require smart meters.

  6. Roopee

    I'm glad they're optional.

    Too late to scrap it and save the stupid amount of money that we'll all be paying for, but at least it's optional to have a smart meter, for now...

    Do you trust big businesses like utilities not to 'monetise' the data they collect, for their benefit not yours? Thought not, me neither, that's why I'll never have a smart meter voluntarily.

    1. The obvious

      Re: I'm glad they're optional.

      Me too, given most energy companies well documented ability to fsck up billing, nobody in their right mind would trust them not to make a massive cock-up and cut off your supply remotely...

      1. Zimmer
        Big Brother

        Re: I'm glad they're optional.

        Refused to have one fitted some time ago....

      2. Zimmer

        Deleted.. duplicate..see above

    2. MrTuK

      Re: I'm glad they're optional.

      Quite easy to completely screw the system, just put a Faraday cage around the stupid smart meter !

      Its not as if the meter is outside and even if it was, they cannot make it illegal to put a Faraday on your own property wherever the meter is !

      But its also easier not to accept the stupid thing in the first place.

      I you are not intelligent enough to know what uses power and what doesn't maybe you are not smart enough to use a smart meter anyway so whats the point except to data slurp on people too stupid to realize whats happening - its just the same as Win 10 !

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: I'm glad they're optional.

      For anyone who wants to double check that they're not compulsory see the following:

      http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/do-i-have-to-accept-a-smart-meter

      http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111129/text/111129w0004.htm

      Now personally I won't be taking one or two as I prefer giving my meter readings over the phone/web but the SmartEnergyGB website (https://www.smartenergygb.org/en/faqs) FAQ page has some wonderful insights/answers. For example

      ......What is a smart meter?

      ......Smart meters are the new generation of gas and electricity meters. They are being installed in homes across Great Britain at no extra cost, to replace the traditional meters, including prepay key meters, most of us currently have ticking away under the stairs, or outside our homes.

      Now call me cynical if you like but won't the cost of the meter and installation just get added to the bill they send me? It might not be that obvious they probably won't add a Smart Meter charge to my bill. It will probably just be that all the tariffs come with slightly higher prices. I just can't see the energy firms just stumping up for this roll out out of their own pockets. Smart Meters cost £340-£400 each I believe.

      So security:

      .......How secure are smart meters?

      .......The smart meter security system is very secure. Security has been at the heart of the whole smart meter rollout programme from its very inception and right through the design process. Smart meters have their own closed, dedicated communications system that employs technology widely used by, for example, the banking industry. Smart meters have been designed with top cyber security experts, including the government and GCHQ, to ensure that security best practice has been incorporated at every stage.

      Well Thank goodness for GCHQ then because according to an article on the inquirer.net (I couldn't find it on El Reg) the original plans for the meters had one single decryption key for all the meters.

      Now I may not be a top security boffin or even boffing a top security boffin but I do know that's not a really good idea. Apparently neither do GCHQ who thankfully had things changed.

      http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2451793/gchq-intervenes-to-prevent-catastrophically-insecure-uk-smart-meter-plan

      ......What are the technical standards that smart meters have to meet?

      ......Smart meters are covered by strict UK and EU product safety laws. These ensure that smart meters all have the same high quality and safety standards, regardless of your energy supplier.

      So everyone is clear now on the technical standards after reading that? So we move on to:

      ......What health and safety tests have been carried out on smart meters?

      ......The smart meters used in Britain have undergone one of the most rigorous safety testing regimes in the world and exceed every UK and EU safety standard. Public Health England, the government's agency on public health, has said that exposure to radio waves from smart meters is well within guideline levels, and is many times lower than the exposure from wifi and mobile phones.

      So everyone is clear now on the exact health and safety tests after reading that? So we move on to:

      ......Does a smart meter mean my energy can be cut off more easily?

      ......No. You’re protected by strict regulations against your energy supplier switching off or disconnecting your gas or electricity supply. This protection remains as strong with smart meters as it is with traditional meters.

      So from that can I deduce that there won't be a provision in the meter to cut off the supply remotely? Well no I can't because it doesn't mention anything (technical or otherwise) about the ability of the people I pay for my energy (or some nefarious player) to remotely disconnect my supply.

      This has cock up written all over it and I won't be having it in my house thank you.

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I'm glad they're optional.

      "at least it's optional to have a smart meter, for now..."

      It's likely to stay optional - with suppliers loading in charging penalties if you don't take it.

      FWIW I thought UK smart meters weren't going to have 100A contactors in them to be actually able to turn the power off

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    A month ago, our anonymous tipster still thought they were going live today...

    Link

    So nice to know that everything's going so well and running to plan.

  8. Adam Trickett

    Gaz and Leccy...?

    Apparently it will help get "Gaz and Leccy" under control, and give us accurate bills. Given that my bill is already accurate and I don't have cartoon characters causing mayhem at home what value is there in this process for me?

    I suppose what they really mean is that they can charge you more at busy times of day and less when no one wants gas or electricity - allowing them to better manage load - but that's not how it's being sold to consumers...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gaz and Leccy...?

      those adverts always leave me irritated - and with a question: if the bills are inaccurate, where does the liability lie? How does one get the money back from the people who came up with the idea?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gaz and Leccy...?

      No, the actual use is to turn you off when the wind doesn't blow and there is not enough electricity being generated because the EU diktat called for the closing of real power stations.

      Another fine mess Red Ed got us into.

      1. jabuzz

        Re: Gaz and Leccy...?

        More Brexiter nonsense, you have got your way so put a sock in it will you. The is no EU diktat requiring the closing of any power station.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Gaz and Leccy...?

          The is no EU diktat requiring the closing of any power station.

          Strictly speaking no. But both smart meters and UK coal closures are triggered by the UK implementation of EU directives. As is the farcical and expensive build out of PV and wind assets to meet EU targets on renewables.

    3. The obvious

      Re: Gaz and Leccy...?

      I like the idea of balancing out usage away from peak times but equally I've had a handful of billing cockups, they've always been sorted but doing so has sometimes taken a while... making billing more complicated seems like a bad idea for consumers and the idea of some chimp in a call centre being able to nix my heat/power remotely doesn't fill me with confidence.

    4. jay_bea

      Re: Gaz and Leccy...?

      As well as paying more for electricity at busy times of day, I also suspect that you will have the "opportunity" to pay more to get a guaranteed supply that is not subject to brown-outs when demand is likely to outstrip supply.

  9. chris 17 Bronze badge

    get "Gaz and Leccy" under control, and give us accurate bills

    just what exactly constitutes an accurate bill?

    to the day/minute/second?

    just how more accurate will the bill be than it is now?

    just cut everyone off every 18months if they've not switched or given a meter reading in the last 8 months

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: get "Gaz and Leccy" under control, and give us accurate bills

      "to the day/minute/second"

      Yes - but on top of that, an accurate bill requires up-to-date charges to be used as well .....

  10. djberriman

    Not here thanks

    In one word No.

    Even the adverts for smart metering are a total waste of money. I already know exactly how much I use and if I can be arsed for the few coppers I would save I could work out how much each thing costs to run but life is too short.

    Until I'm forced to have one I will refuse, this hardware will be hacked as like most of the IOT the scurity on it is bound to be poor.

  11. tiggity Silver badge

    I'll stick to old skool meters thanks.

    They work OK and no major privacy breach / hacking potential.

    As a bonus it provides work for someone to come round and read the meter, given retirement age steadily rising we need a few jobs that are not physically / mentally strenuous that can be done by older folks: I know there's no way I will be able to cope with the mental challenges of my dev job when I'm near predicted retirement age

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      In other news (which you may have had already) people with an "old school" gas meter that counts cubic feet have noticed at length that their new gas company was interpreting the reading as metric volume, and overcharging big time. I don't think either that making some poor retirement-age meter reader shuffle around reading the meters will fix that. Most of them don't understand the new money either, do they? They knew pounds, shillings, pence, tuppence, thruppence, tanners, and tenners. Anything else is still just confusing. I'm 50 and as you see I do remember the old money but I'm not nostalgic about it.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "given retirement age steadily rising we need a few jobs that are not physically / mentally strenuous that can be done by older folks"

      When you get to retirement age you may well find meter reading physically strenuous. Getting down to read a meter in a low cupboard isn't the problem - it's getting up again.

    3. Colin Bull 1

      As a bonus it provides work for someone to come round and read the meter,....

      The pay rate for this outsourced job is usually less than the minimum wage (whatever is it is called now) and the energy companies would rather estimate your usage so it is normally above what you normally pay, AND they do not create an invoice so they do not pay HMRC VAT until a later date, so keeping the difference in their bank.

      Cynical, moi!

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        I submit a meter reading over the phone/online so no need for an estimated bill or indeed a smart meter.

  12. JasonLaw
    Joke

    Private Eye

    I see what you did there.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Private Eye

      Are they related? Surely some mistake.

      Private Eye also is having a good Brexit, they haven't been this popular for years. I mean, I'm buying it.

  13. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    If you have a PV Array then the last thing you want is a smart meter

    With the old style of meter anything you generate is fed back into the grid and your meter runs in reverse.

    That means you only pay for what leccy you use in excess of what you generate.

    With a smart meter, your generated leccy is bought at a far lower cost than what you consume.

    guess who wins then? Not you. The power company gets leccy at a lower cost from you than from any other source.

    F**k smart meters.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: If you have a PV Array then the last thing you want is a smart meter

      With the old style of meter anything you generate is fed back into the grid and your meter runs in reverse

      I presume you're in the US, because in the UK meters don't run backwards as they have mechanical constraints to prevent that. Instead you have to have a generation meter on the AC line from your PV before it hits the consumer unit. Thus you get paid different amounts for used and generated electricity. In my case that's a distinct advantage because I'm paying ~14p for grid electricity and am paid ~52p for what I generate.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: If you have a PV Array then the last thing you want is a smart meter

        Strange that mine is running backwards as I type this and yes I'm in the UK.

        Apparently there are different types of old style meter and I have a good one. My PV Array was fitted last March.

        As for the feed in tarriff... It is reducing quite a bit over the next few years.

        https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/system/files/docs/2016/07/tariff_tables_july_2016.pdf

        1. Killing Time

          Re: If you have a PV Array then the last thing you want is a smart meter

          'As for the feed in tarriff... It is reducing quite a bit over the next few years.'

          But you do understand that the FiT is reducing for new installs don't you? If you are already in the scheme your FiT is index linked and will therefore increase in line with inflation through the term of your contract.

          If you have a PV installation then you must realise you have two meters? One new one to provide the figures to claim your FiT, which if you have registered would have required an initial reading and then another three months later which by my calculation would have been last month for you.

          If your import meter is running backwards then count yourself lucky until your local DNO decides to replace it, as is their legislated right to do so.

          1. psychonaut

            Re: If you have a PV Array then the last thing you want is a smart meter

            My old meter goes backwards when the panels produce more than we use.

            1. Killing Time

              Re: If you have a PV Array then the last thing you want is a smart meter

              Yes, quite possibly as the old meters with a rotating disc are essentially a motor which rotates proportionally to the amplitude of the line current and relative to the direction of the current, They were designed at a time where the likelihood of having independent generation in the household was remote.

              Electronic meters measure the amplitude of the current and can just discard the reverse current situation and only increment an import counter (though generally, hidden in the backend is an export counter on any decent meter).

              You will still have a new electronic meter installed to satisfy the FiT scheme as the serial number would have had to be registered to make the payments against.

              Count yourself lucky as you should be getting the money and reducing the registered import consumption, you will be making a double win with the old meter until your DNO decides to change it.

              1. psychonaut

                Re: If you have a PV Array then the last thing you want is a smart meter

                "Yes, quite possibly "

                no,it definitely goes backwards.

                "You will still have a new electronic meter installed to satisfy the FiT scheme as the serial number would have had to be registered to make the payments against."

                nope, i get FIT and they havent installed a new meter. it may be different now though, this was 5 years ago

                "Count yourself lucky as you should be getting the money and reducing the registered import consumption, you will be making a double win "

                yes, i know, its great

                "with the old meter until your DNO decides to change it."

                i dont believe they can force me to change it, not yet anyway.

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

                2. Killing Time

                  Re: If you have a PV Array then the last thing you want is a smart meter

                  'nope, i get FIT and they havent installed a new meter. it may be different now though, this was 5 years ago'

                  That's very interesting.

                  Then do you mind me asking what figures you submit to claim the generation and FiT?

                  The energy I import FROM the grid is registered on my original meter and I pay my energy supplier based on those figures. I submit quarterly 'generation' figures from the 'new' meter and the contracted assumption is that I export 50% of it TO the grid ( my original meter is an electronic unit and does't go backwards).Therefore, I get money for each kWh generated and FiT on 50% of the total. This being the case, it's in my interest to actually export less than 50% of that generated i.e. use it myself, as I am being paid FiT on it anyway (along with the generation amount) whether I use it or not.

                  I am struggling to see how this scheme would work to your advantage with (what appears to be) your one meter which goes backwards. If its decrementing your total it sounds as if it's actually reducing the amount you can claim? Its worth thinking about, as your relatively high generation/FiT price may be obscuring an issue where potentially you could be earning more....

                  1. psychonaut

                    Re: If you have a PV Array then the last thing you want is a smart meter

                    you are getting confused between the standard electrical meter and the pv meter.

                    i have an old style spinning wheel leccy meter.

                    my energy company demands reads of this every quarter or whatever as per every other house in the country. i give it to them. they bill me.

                    when my panels overproduce (i.e they feed back into the grid because we use less leccy then we are currently generating) the wheel on the leccy meter runs backwards, undoing previous leccy we have used.

                    for the genration and fit - it is a separate digital meter, but it only calculates what we have produced from the array. this meter does not go backwards. i simply supply the number on the pv meter to the energy company,. they pay me 42p or whatever per kw generated (generation payment) plus about 4p per kw generated on 50% of each kw generation read (fit payment)

                    1. Killing Time

                      Re: If you have a PV Array then the last thing you want is a smart meter

                      "You will still have a new electronic meter installed to satisfy the FiT scheme as the serial number would have had to be registered to make the payments against."

                      'nope, i get FIT and they havent installed a new meter. it may be different now though, this was 5 years ago.'

                      I thought I had made the distinction between the generation meter and the import meter, but no matter.

                      Yes you are on a winner then, unfortunately you would have no control over the matter if your DNO decides to change out the old style spinning wheel leccy meter, its their property. Luckily for you, they get their carrier fee no matter what. Your energy supplier would probably have to cotton on to the issue or your DNO would have to implement an upgrade program as they do sometimes before you would be compelled to lose it.

                      Make hay while the sun shines as they say....

  14. jms222

    Mechanical ones certainly DO run backwards even if they're not supposed to.

    Friend with PV has so far avoided suppliers noticing this.

    Jon

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Mechanical ones certainly DO run backwards"

      Dunno 'bout leccy meters but gas meters do. Years ago my dad was helping a friend do up his kitchen which involved moving the meter. They connected it round the wrong way & it was a while before they noticed. The meter reader commented that they hadn't used much gas. In fact, friend had been burning as much gas as possible to get it back to where it started.

  15. paulf Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Might want to check your sums?

    FTSubhead: "This would be funny if it wasn't worth 31 years of non-existent Brexit NHS funding"

    I'm guessing this is a reference to the Vote Leave campaign which made reference to £350m for the NHS? Well, £11bn / £350m = 31.4 but I understood Vote Leave claimed we sent £350m** per week to the EU not per year. Unfortunately 7.2 months makes your subhead a little less dramatic although it still demonstrates that HM Gubbermint is perfectly capable of pissing tax payer money up the wall on crap projects like smart meters all of its own accord (and it aces this when IT is involved).

    [**I'm not keen to open the whole Brexit debate here but it's worth also noting £350m is our gross contribution to the EU (before our rebate is deducted) and doesn't take into account money that comes back to the UK from the EU budget in things like CFP subsidies - full calc].

  16. terven
    FAIL

    "Smart" meters

    a solution STILL looking for a problem!

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: "Smart" meters

      No need for a problem. The requirement is for someone to pay for them. If something has value, people will buy it. If something is pointless, businesses will buy it and pass the costs on to customers. If it is a broken money sucking disaster, governments will buy it with tax payers' money.

  17. dcluley

    Industrial Users Only

    I can see some sense in having smart meters for industrial and commercial users who can sensibly organise their workloads. It seems nonsense to install smart meters for domestic consumers. Every report I have seen on electricity generating peaks mentions the classic cases of kettle being switched on at strategic times such as advert breaks or the end of a Cup Final or Coronation Street or whatever. No amount of smart meters is going to help with that.

    1. MrTuK

      Re: Industrial Users Only

      They will probably expect you to make a cuppa when is low demand and then put it into a thermos flask and drink it when its high demand - rofl !!!

      What happens when you want a 2nd cuppa !!!

  18. Down not across Silver badge

    21st century life

    "The roll-out of smart meters is the one of the most significant upgrades to Britain’s energy infrastructure making it fit for 21st century life.

    I would've thought sufficient energy generation capability would be more useful infrastructure than "smart" meters.

  19. OurAl

    It only has one purpose

    Once the brownouts begin it will allow them disconnect just the proles, so as to keep everything working for the elite.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Once the brownouts begin"

      It's 2016. Brownouts (voltage reductions) as such have become pointless. The electricity is either off, or on.

      Have a look around you. Can you see any significant load anywhere whose power consumption averaged over a few minutes depends on mains voltage?

      Heating (incl kettles etc): if it's thermostatically controlled, and the voltage is reduced, the instantaneous power demand will decrease, but the heating will stay on for longer.

      Lots of stuff with electronic power control (modern consumer electronics, multi-horsepower motor control, etc): anything powered by a switched mode power supply, such as almost any consumer electronics from recent years, and a great deal of other stuff too. If the voltage goes down the appliance draws the same power, the current demand goes *up*, inherent in the design of a switched mode power supply.

      The only possible solution is disconnections in volume. Wide area disconnections (as per the 2008 Sizewell/Longannet incident where they happened across the country in an unplanned way albeit only briefly) will not be acceptable to "the authorities". There will be emergency legislation to legitimise the use of smart meter remote power disconnect for a purpose always intended but not previously admitted or authorised.. Why does consumption monitoring or tariff change need a remote disconnect, especially when it adds complexity, cost, and size to the "smart meter"?

      Interesting times ahead.

      Sizewell/Longannet 2008 background:

      Public: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7423169.stm

      Supply industry: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/sites/default/files/docs/2008/07/national_grid_-_system_events_of_27_may_for_dswg_16_july.pdf

  20. David Pollard

    Electric vehicles

    One of the reasons behind the introduction of these meters may be a misguided response to the problem that electric vehicles presents. Political and executive decision makers don't always get things right.

    Dealing with a million kettles being turned on during the break in Coronation Street is one thing. The prospect of a million cars all turning on their chargers at midnight is another.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Electric vehicles

      "The prospect of a million cars all turning on their chargers at midnight is another."

      A million electric cars is a long way from reality, as is them all turning on their chargers at midnight.

      Yes there are real challenges to address. Two of them are:

      1) Is there enough generation capacity at grid level. .

      2) Is there enough distribution capacity at local level.

      Both of these are problems with relatively simple answers (mostly yes, and sometimes no, respectively). MyElectricAvenue (look it up) addresses (2).

      A somewhat greater challenge is the disruptive influence of a high level of PV in a particular locality, which (depending on local demand) can result in overvoltages on the local network unless deliberately mitigated (e.g. by rather wastefully turning off some or all of the PV). And when the sun suddenly goes in, transient undervoltages may result.

  21. Peter Galbavy

    The "Smart Grid" and all the associated gubbins is the biggest trough in recent public spending history with the obvious exceptions of anti-terrorism and general military budgets. This'll make the BT sell off and subsequent non-exec directorships look like small favours for the school fete organising committee.

  22. hoola Bronze badge

    What is behind this?

    What is missed here is that the entire scheme is a result of industry lobbying of various government departments the greens and OFGEN. The touted benefits in terms of a reduction in energy use and easier meter reading and mere footnotes.

    That is the most important thing?

    Free money by effectively taxing the poor consumer so that the likes of Crapita and the energy companies can make more profit. Anyone who really cares will already have a clamp smart usage thing on electricity and to be honest, most probably don't care about gas. It is rarely the killer bill.

    This should be canned before any further money is wasted but that is simply never going to happen. Even if it did you can bet that there will be plenty of clauses that mean everyone gets paid anyway.

  23. unbrokenman

    It must be Rant O'Clock

    Lots of comment as usual from leapers to assumptions. It doesn't help that El Reg hasn't done much to scotch the assumption that the project is pointless and incompetent. For example, if Alexander has gone so far as to report a headline from the 2014 Impact Assessment, why not mention the other headlines from the report, like the one that says there'll be a net benefit of over £6 beellion ? Or perhaps he doesn't believe that headline - in which case, maybe the £11bn cost isn't to be believed either.

    Come on guys. Yes, it's a complex project, hampered from the off by a politically-inspired byzantine industry structure and poorly led initially by the donkeys at Ofgem. But DECC's done a much better job after taking it back from Ofgem, and the team is intact within DBEIS. There's a detailed spec in place (not that anyone here's bothered to read it, I suspect). We all expect poor results from Capita, perhaps with good reason, but we're only talking about a one month delay at this point - is that really worth all this emotion ?!

    <Dons shield>

    <Flame proof undies in place>

    <Ready for the trolling...>

    1. PirateRoberts

      Re: It must be Rant O'Clock

      I guess the market will decide and time will tell.

      Today, suppliers are either not proactively supporting the DCC/SMETS2 or instead the "smart" ones are rolling out the much more successful "interim" (read permanent) SMETS 1 variant. By the time the "donkeys" get the DCC up and running we could see half of UK households running incompatible meters!

      But wait, it gets better, the programme knew this was likely to happen so they mandated that the DCC "enroll" these incompatible meters once they were ready - this was to allow suppliers to continue the rollout and for consumers to get the benefits of smart even if the inevitable happened with respect to the delivery - well it has!

      In layman's speak, the donkeys are fast running out of time (money and the patience of others) and the longer they dawdle the lower their ROI - as they have a smaller addressable market. The original estimates of <1m SMETS 1 meters has ballooned to well over 10x and its anyone's guess as to when this steam roller stops wrecking their business plan.

      But enough about generalities, to your main points:

      > but we're only talking about a one month delay at this point !!!

      Are you crazy? You may be new to this but the delays have been going on for years.

      > there'll be a net benefit of over £6 billion !!!

      The benefits case has been debated since the beginning and folks (not on the gravy train) pointing out the gross assumptions. A good background read is available on the parliamentary website, search Alex Henney on parliament.uk - bear in mind this was written some time ago (2013) and things have got much worse since then.

      > is that really worth all this emotion

      No, a 1 month would be good ... its the other years that got lost, the descoped functionality, the 13B spent, the 60m/year in marketing a system that doesn't work, and the fact it still doesn't that causes eyebrows to be raised - apart from this, yes we can take a 1 month slip.

  24. Adrian Tawse

    But I have a smart meter already.

    I can log onto my supplier's web site and view latest and historical readings, read automatically. It has cost me not a penny extra. Why on earth would anyone think a central database is a good idea - Oh sorry, anything to increase the complexity and thus the bill from Crapita.

  25. Last gasp

    New MD at Capita asks "Are skills shortages delaying the adoption of new tech?

    You can see it in the report Adam Jarvis, this month's MD at Capita co-authored along with Cisco on Capita's website.

    Read it and weep! Jarvis tells a good tale in this report and it plainly applies at Capita owned DDT...oh sorry DCC. They appear not to have a clue about how to implement IoT, even for £11bn of our hard earned! Jarvis obviously seems to feel he's an expert so perhaps he'll show them the way? Time will tell.

    The report covers other new technologies too so there are going to be openings for some highly skilled people to help company's implement this stuff. Just the kind of thing Capita think they do!

    In the meantime it seems several Capita IT services staff have just been made redundant and more have been advised that their jobs are at risk. Again!!

    Surely Mr Jarvis could retrain these highly skilled engineers and then sell their skills to the types of company identified in his report as not having much of a clue about why they might need this tech, let alone how to justify the cost or implement it!

    Or perhaps his brief is altogether different?

  26. Jake Maverick

    This is great news! Any delay is good news....it needs to be scrapped but doubtful that it will be.

    Who in their right mind would govt perps and anybody else with a little technical know how and the right equipment to watch and record everything you do in your own home in full 3D holo porn? THIS IS THE REASON WHY THEY'RE DOING IT!

    Then there are the health implications. Not to mention the fact that it is genocide as it destroys eggs and ovaries....anybody who is unfamiliar as to why they're actually doing it, never mind the health implications, really should look up a geezer called Barrie Trower.

    1. Jake Maverick

      jesus, it seems any pervert can do it now even without a smart metre :-(

      http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/tools/a22371/new-3d-sensor-walabot-vayyar/

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