back to article You should install smart meters even if they're dumb, says flack

The UK’s controversial smart meter programme will only succeed in saving consumers cash if people are made aware of the benefits, says Rob Smith, head of policy and public affairs at Smart Energy GB. Some 53 million smart meters are due to be installed in residences and small businesses by the end of 2020, at an estimated cost …

  1. JetSetJim Silver badge
    FAIL

    > The UK’s controversial smart meter programme will only succeed in saving consumers cash if people are made aware of the benefits, says mouthpiece

    They've been bleating about this for ages, but I've yet to actually see anyone mention what the benefits (to me) are. Letting me know that my house is consuming xWatts at time T is not a benefit - it's just another readout I can do very little about.

    Remote meter reading is about the only thing that could credibly be touted as a benefit - but even that is a bit marginal seeing as my supplier will let me upload a photo of the meter as a reading - all through their "app" (all very trendy).

    1. Rich 2

      Pointless

      Completely agree I can't see any advantage to me at all in having one of these except possibly a time-related pricing scheme. Butt such a scheme is never going to save much (because the leccy company wouldn't want that) and who wants to have their washing machine rattling away in the middle of the night anyway? (yea ok - some people do).

      As for all the rubbish about doing away with estimated bills, you can send meter reading in on-line now anyway (as previously mentioned).

      I seriously question who (if anyone, including the leccy companies) will benefit from this?

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Pointless

        I seriously question who (if anyone, including the leccy companies) will benefit from this?

        The meter manufacturers and the fitting companies will do very well out of this thank you very much, as for domestic customers, not much.

        Non-domestic industrial, public and commercial customers however have had these for a while and as long as the data is accurate and of high enough resolution (at least half hour reading) they really can make a big difference to high consumption users.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pointless

        A truly 'smart' meter, acting in the consumer's interest, would be one that monitors all their changing tariffs and automatically switches supplier to the best deal every few minutes.

      3. Secman

        Re: Pointless

        > Butt [sic] such a scheme [time-related pricing] is never going to save much...

        New Zealand calling. I have a dumb meter. My dishwasher does dishes at about 25c/KWh.

        My son has a smart meter. He does his dishes at 4c/KWh.

        I'd say that's a decent saving, wouldn't you?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Pointless

          New Zealand calling. I have a dumb meter. My dishwasher does dishes at about 25c/KWh.

          My son has a smart meter. He does his dishes at 4c/KWh.

          I'd say that's a decent saving, wouldn't you?

          Yes and no! Whilst your son is saving money (not that I would be grumbling if it were me), there is no change in the amount of energy consumed and thus no substantive change in lifestyle - even though I suspect your son is now running his dishwasher at some odd time of day.

          Which given a big factor in all this is climate change and our massive dependency on fossil fuels, has to be concerning...

        2. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Pointless

          My son has a smart meter. He does his dishes at 4c/KWh.

          I have SWMBO. I have no idea how much she costs per KWhr, but I'd rather have sex with her than an electric dishwasher :-)

          NB The Git does most of the cooking, grows the vegetables, provides the firewood for the cookstove/space heater and used to provide the meat as well, but we no longer keep sheep.

    2. Paul 25

      I want one, but only because our meters are in an awkward spot

      I'd like to never have to dig about in the under-stairs cupboard to take a meter reading, but that's the only real benefit I can see.

      In reality most people have limited scope for significantly reducing their electricity consumption unless they pointlessly leave everything turned on, and they clearly are not that bothered if they've not done the obvious.

      We've changed all the bulbs we can for LEDs, don't leave kit on when it's not used, and so on. I can't really see what else we can do. It's not as if I can heat the oven more efficiently.

      Even standby modes on modern kit is much better than it used to be.

      The silly amounts spent on this project could have gone on the solar feed in tarriff for a few more years and had far more effect on our energy supply.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Downvoted

        for even suggesting that solar power UK-style would have any effect other than siphoning money into peoples pockets.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Downvoted

          Probably the same numpty who downvoted a post from yesterday that suggested the PV arrays should be made compulsory for all new build houses.

          I'd really like to know their reasons why this is a bad idea. With new builds, the exta cost would be less than 2% on the sale price. Possibly even less. Over the lifetime of a mortgage it is pennies a month.

          1. Graham Cobb

            Re: Downvoted

            Of course it is a bad idea to make it compulsory. Location plays a big factor in whether solar is feasible/useful for any particular house, as well as the design and orientation of the roof. Personally I think it is likely to be of marginal benefit in most UK locations (especially taking into account ongoing costs such as maintenance, cleaning, etc).

            If you had said "make it compulsory to do an assessment for PV", that would be fine. It wouldn't be sensible to make it compulsory to actually install even if we were living in California!

          2. JetSetJim Silver badge

            Re: Downvoted pv panels

            Yes, you can get them cheap, but the feed in tariff doesn't seem economic any more.

            http://info.cat.org.uk/solarcalculator/

            The couple of times I've put info in here I get a payback time of longer than the expected lifespan of the array. What a waste of money

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Downvoted pv panels

              Yes, a waste of money in your case, you are unfortunate and frankly, too late.

              Assuming you have fair to good location, the gravy train pulled out at the beginning of the year. Its only southern UK south facing unshaded locations have any likelihood of generating a fair return now.

              1. JetSetJim Silver badge

                Re: Downvoted pv panels

                > the gravy train pulled out at the beginning of the year

                it was at least two years ago when the FIT dropped from lucrative to marginal

                1. handle

                  Re: Downvoted pv panels

                  "(especially taking into account ongoing costs such as maintenance, cleaning, etc)."

                  They don't need regular maintenance or cleaning or "etc", whatever that might be. I've had solar PV for 5 years now with no cleaning or maintenance whatsoever, no noticeable drop-off in performance, and my non ideally-situated 2.75kWp installation has generated more than 12MWh. From what I read, the capacitors in the inverter might die eventually, but so far so good.

                  1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                    Re: Downvoted pv panels

                    They don't need regular maintenance or cleaning or "etc", whatever that might be.

                    Not much in the way of bird life where you live then? Or are they just scared shitless? From the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy maintenance manual:

                    The most common maintenance task for solar modules is the cleaning of the glass area of the module

                    to remove excessive dirt.

                    ....

                    when working on roofs there is always the risk of falling. NEVER climb onto a roof to perform any service on the solar modules (eg. clean them) unless there is a barrier (eg. scaffolding) to prevent you from falling

                    I can understand you not wanting to climb on the roof, or spend on renting scaff, but not needing to I find a little difficult to believe.

                    Apropos the inverter, it should be good for 15 years, about 10 years less than the panels, but if one of your panels fails, don't think you can mix and match panels. A replacement panel in 10 years' time will likely need its own inverter.

                    1. handle

                      Re: Downvoted pv panels

                      Perhaps it's because I don't live in Australia that I never have to clean my solar panels, Pompous Git. Find it hard to believe by all means, but confirmation bias is a powerful thing, and judging by the unnecessary advice about working on roofs, it's not hard to guess your opinion on solar PV.

                      A replacement panel will have its own micro-inverter. They are a better than stringing panels in series because partial shading has a lesser effect, but 5 years ago they were not economical. The faulty panel can just be taken out of the string and and the existing inverter will work just fine with the remaining ones.

                      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                        Re: Downvoted pv panels

                        Find it hard to believe by all means, but confirmation bias is a powerful thing, and judging by the unnecessary advice about working on roofs, it's not hard to guess your opinion on solar PV.

                        Call it confirmation bias if you wish, but when the Gillard government was in power, there was a very high subsidy for installing solar PV so I had a quote prepared by one of the top three suppliers. In order to achieve the cost savings they claimed, the panels would need to have generated 140% of their rated output at our location. When I queried this with the supplier the silence was deafening, though they continued to send me their sales lit.

                        I did my own sums based on easily obtained information on the interwebs and came up with a time to payback of ~18 years. Choice's figure was ~16 years, but that was for Australia as a whole, not specifically southern Tasmania. Since then, the subsidy has shrunk and FITs have fallen so making them more costly to purchase and less economical to run. IOW time to break even is even closer to the anticipated 25 years of useful life.

                        You might consider the advice regarding safety on the roof "unnecessary", but your missus might disagree if you fail to take precautions and invalidate your insurance.

                        The panels with a built-in inverter were eyewateringly expensive when I did my sums and had a time to payback exceeding their anticipated lifespan. Nice to know the price has dropped.

                        Solar PV has a place, but not in an ordinary suburban setting.* I have a friend in rural New South Wales who was quoted ~AU40,000 to be connected to the grid. He installed solar PV and I think that was an entirely rational economic decision. Purchasing solar PV for The House of Steel was not economically rational.

                        I note that our electricity consumption is about 50% of what the supplier tells us is average for a household of our size. It's extremely well insulated and we use firewood for cooking, hot water and space heating. We consume about 9kg of LPG for cookery during hot weather.

                        * Voltage control of local supply of all electricity consumers is distorted by solar PV; the control systems are the other side of the local transformers. The issue has been discussed in publications aimed at electricians and electrical engineers who warned the government before the heavy subsidies distorted the market. This has led to the early demise of any number of electrical appliance: refrigerators, freezers, TV sets etc. The cost of replacing these is for some odd reason never factored in. Frankly, I'd be pretty pissed off if I had to replace my appliances far more frequently than necessary because my neighbour was stupid enough to believe the bullshit.

                        1. handle

                          Australia vs UK

                          @Pompous Git: I see that the base interest rate in Australia is currently 1.5%; in the UK it's 0.25%, making PV a correspondingly better investment compared with sticking your savings in a bank. And of course the tariff models are separate. But I didn't get PV just for financial reasons.

                          You also dis the technology on the grounds that it can raise your neighbours' voltage and blow their appliances. Yes, that might happen if there are two of you on the end of a long piece of damp string, but in my suburban setting it has no noticeable effect at all on the voltage, which I monitor at the most sensitive point - the inverter, as I have a low impedance supply. So you can't generalise, especially considering that the maximum power it has ever generated is about 3.5kW, which is scarcely more than a kettle. Putting on a kettle will reduce the voltage the same amount as full sun (with clouds around it, i.e. momentarily) will increase it. In addition, IIRC the distribution company has the right to refuse permission for you to connect if it thinks there is enough installed capacity in the area to cause an issue, but I would be interested to know how often this has happened, if ever.

                          You may not be aware that in the EU a simple fudge was made to harmonise the UK/IRL 240V with 220V elsewhere by mandating that all appliances must operate at 230V+6%-10%; this would not have happened if things would be upset too easily.

                          PS "MIssus"? How presumptuous!

                          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                            Re: Australia vs UK

                            @ handle

                            Putting money into the bank for a 1.5% return when investing in property returns between 10 and 20% is, to put it mildly, insane. Hint: I may be crazy, but I'm not insane ;-)

                            It's not so much The Git dissing the technology, but electrical engineers. The Git reads and draws conclusions. As I understand this, the solar PV arrays generate their maximum output when there's sod all consumption and the voltage for everyone in the vicinity rises. Appliances that are connected all the time, such as freezers and refrigerators, suffer a shortened life. Presumably this is the "smarts" part of modern appliances; motors tend to suffer from low rather than high voltage.

                            There are ever so many places in Australia (according to the journals aimed at engineers) that are no longer granting permits for solar PV for the very reason I cite.

                            I was not aware of the EU mandate, but would note that "being able to operate" isn't saying very much. There's a question of longevity. The Git was brought up to consider such things. There's a cost to purchase and ever so many people focus on that alone, but the real cost is the annualised cost over the lifetime of the purchase.

                            Then there's the embodied energy in the system. Solar PV is manufactured, not with renewable energy, but good old fashioned fossil fuels or nuclear. Since the electricity The Git consumes is generated by hydro-electric plant, installing solar PV would have increased his carbon footprint rather than decreasing it. As you say, you shouldn't generalise, but that doesn't stop people doing so. The Gillard government subsidised Tasmanians to increase their carbon footprint as a carbon emissions reduction measure and somehow that's "saving the planet"? Ya gotta laff!

                            Sorry for the presumption regarding the missus. Most blokes seem to have one though I notice that some of them are male.

                  2. PNGuinn
                    Flame

                    Re: Downvoted pv panels

                    "the capacitors in the inverter might die eventually"

                    Ooh, that might be fun!

                    See icon>>

                    1. handle

                      Exploding capacitors

                      @PNGuinn: Ooh, that might be fun!

                      Probably not. The inverter is in a steel case with a very chunky aluminium heat sink on the front, so it would require quite a major conflagration for it to get out. And the capacitors are quite likely just to fail to capacitate, rather than go out in a blaze of glory.

                2. Pompous Git Silver badge

                  Re: Downvoted pv panels

                  it was at least two years ago when the FIT dropped from lucrative to marginal

                  And there's further to go yet. Spain Approves 'Sun Tax,' Discriminates Against Solar PV

                  President Obama has frequently told us that Spain should be a model for America in green technology and presumably the ROTW.

                  1. Chris G Silver badge

                    Re: Downvoted pv panels

                    @Mr Git. The two main power suppliers in Spain have had successive governments in their pockets for decades, as soon as any alternative power generation that wasn't theirs became a reality, they want it taxed or banned.

                    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                      Re: Downvoted pv panels

                      The two main power suppliers in Spain have had successive governments in their pockets for decades

                      And as I pointed out, Barack Obama finds this admirable. I don't.

              2. P. Lee Silver badge

                Re: Downvoted pv panels

                >Its only southern UK south facing unshaded locations have any likelihood of generating a fair return now.

                Possibly not even that. I understand that in Queensland, Oz, where solar seems makes sense, the power companies put up prices to compensate for the loss of revenue to solar.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Downvoted

            > I'd really like to know their reasons why this is a bad idea.

            Because when you take away the subsidies (which are paid by other consumers), they don't generate enough in their lifespan to pay for their purchase and installation cost.

            And when they're ubiquitous, those subsidies WILL get taken away.

            > With new builds, the exta cost would be less than 2% on the sale price.

            So you're saying I should pay extra money (which will never be earned back in the lifetime of the installation) because you think it's a good idea, rather than looking at the actual economics?

          4. AndrewDu

            Re: Downvoted

            PV arrays should not be installed on new build houses in the UK because they're useless at our latitudes.

            It doesn't matter how cheap the panels themselves get, the cost of the inverter gear, the problems of cleanliness and maintenance, and the hopelessly intermittent nature of the output (sunshine at night, anybody? Or any time between November and February?) means they will never be anything except a cost overall - though of course a nice little earner for the rich people in big houses who already installed them before the government woke up and cut the feed-in tarriffs.

            1. Pompous Git Silver badge

              Re: Downvoted

              sunshine at night, anybody?

              Definitely! The Spaniards had a solar power plant generating electrickery 24 hours a day.

              Spanish newspaper El Mundo found that between November and January, 4500 megawatt hours (MWh) of solar energy were sold to the electricity grid between midnight and seven in the morning.

              It has been suggested that some plants in the regions of Castilla-La-Mancha, Canarias and Andalucía have been using diesel generators connected to their solar panel arrays to illegally benefit from government subsidies.

              Spanish nighttime solar energy fraud

              Definitely a nice little earner for the rich people...

        2. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Downvoted

          Solar power UK style COULD be effective, PROVIDED you do NOT have a smart meter (they have a different feed in tariff that favours the energy company). A standard twisty wheel with pointers meter will run backward during feed-in. The digital readout electromech. meters won't, sadly.

          1. handle

            Backwards-running meters

            @Martin-73: "A standard twisty wheel with pointers meter will run backward during feed-in."

            A standard twisty wheel with pointers meter which doesn't have a ratchet will run backwards, but as soon as you register your PV installation (which you have to if you want any generation tariff), your electricity company will be very keen to change it for an electronic one.

            Incidentally, these dumb meters (or the one I have anyway) indicate on their displays if they have ever experienced reverse energy flow, presumably to detect fraud. The LED that flashes for every fraction of a kWh consumed also comes on steadily during periods of reverse energy flow.

      2. timnich

        Re: I want one, but only because our meters are in an awkward spot

        I used to be able to read the meter under the stairs by opening the door, bending slightly, and peering in. Now I have to get down on my knees, shuffle up to the meter and press a button 4 times.

        Aparently this is progress.

        Installing meters under the stairs, in the centre of properties in marginal mobile reception areas is to coin a phrase, an omnishambles.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: I want one, but only because our meters are in an awkward spot

          "Installing meters under the stairs, in the centre of properties in marginal mobile reception areas is to coin a phrase, an omnishambles."

          Installing a remote display, outside, where the meter reader doesn't even need to knock, is more sensible.

      3. MrJOD
        Facepalm

        Re: I want one, but only because our meters are in an awkward spot

        You could always cook and eat your Sunday Roast at 3am.

    3. Chris 125

      But isn't the "fail" part there you, for failing to do anything about information given to you?

      I have my little readout thing visible - not in my face, but it's on a shelf and I can glance at it. If the light is red and the little graph is cranked around to the right, then I have a look what's been left on and turn it off. I'm maybe saving a few quid a week doing that as normally it's the 3KW immersion heater, as the switch is in a cupboard. Kids turn it on for a bath, then forget. I can also see the difference between using the gas water heating for 2 hours per day, vs the immersion for 30 mins.

      I'd be surprised if I don't save money by reacting to it in a timely manner rather than waiting for the bills to arrive, and looking at what my DD is for pervious years vs what I can see it using each day, it should be a decent three figure amount.

      Ironically, I don't even agree about the remote meter reading - mainly because for six months after the meter was installed, we still got requests for a manual read. Apparently npower have to set this up manually. That was the only PITA bit of the installation.....

      1. Pedigree-Pete
        FAIL

        "readout thingy"

        Pleased to hear you got one. We've had a smart meter for about 8 months and in spite of numerous chases, still haven't received something that tells us what the smart meter is doing. PP

      2. JetSetJim Silver badge

        > But isn't the "fail" part there you, for failing to do anything about information given to you?

        Failing to? There's nothing that I can realistically do that will reduce my bill by any non-trivial amount:

        a) all my lighting is LED, and I still switch it off when I leave the room (hopefully not contributing to deterioration of lifetime of the LEDs)

        b) perhaps I can save a little turning off a few standby devices, but they're usually in the low numbers of W per hour anyway

        c) the main users of it in my house is the heating and hot water, which is driven by a heatpump and is already rather efficient and timed, combined with uber-insulation there is not much I can do there apart from shivering when I turn the room thermostats down (all living rooms individually controlled)

        d) I could conceivably turn off my wifi at night - but the only way to do that for me means my phones stop working. Arguable whether I need them, I suppose, but I don't think I'd use more than 1-2 kW in the whole night on those appliances.

        e) will not turn off fridge-freezer! All other appliances are at least A** rated (except a naughty tumble drier, which is a B I think). Not going to use them any less, and running a night-time cycle is impractical and will keep me awake with the noise

        Agreed, mileage may vary for different users with different appliances and usage patterns - I am in the fortunate position to have built my house recently, and it's very efficient overall. But I'd still contend that a "Smart meter" doesn't really tell you all that much that will help you save all that much money - particularly when compared to the cost of making and installing that smart meter.

        Personally, I think the energy industry would be better served by offering a service to analyse your usage and suggest ways of improving your consumption/reducing waste - in theory what the EPC/SAP stuff could do but doesn't very well. For example, tweak your heating settings, which is probably what would give me the biggest benefit if I'd left them on the default.

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Failing to? There's nothing that I can realistically do that will reduce my bill by any non-trivial amount...

          c) the main users of it in my house is the heating and hot water, which is driven by a heatpump and is already rather efficient and timed...

          I think this shows a lack of imagination and of familiarity than anything else. When I first moved in with my now wife in a tower block we cut our leccy bills by 20% doing nothing more than changing the heating to run 5:30-6:00 instead of 6:00-6:30 every morning. That was nothing more than old fashioned Economy 7. When widely roles out and differential pricing is widely adopted the possibilities escalate. So you don't want your washing machine running in the middle of the night? What about at lunchtime when you are not at home and electricity is dirt cheap thanks to low demand and high production thanks to all those solar panels?

          The opportunities are there when the entire system - meters, network, tariffs and appliances - is in place to support it. Focussing simply on the meter by itself is missing the point.

          1. Emperor Zarg
            Flame

            Some important fire safety advice

            I wouldn't normally take the role of fire warden, but... never leave your washing machine or tumble dryer running unattended or running overnight. They are one of the leading causes of domestic fires.

            I fear that any potential savings from smart meters could be easily offset by a significant increase in fires caused by people setting appliances to run when they are not in the house - or worse - when they are asleep.

            1. Tim Jenkins

              Re: Some important fire safety advice

              We are on economy 7 too, and do run the washing machine overnight. Quite agree with you about tumbledriers though; a 3 kilowatt heater full of lint is basically a time-fuse...

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Some important fire safety advice

                Unless you sit and watch the tumble dryer, by the time you smell burning from another room a properly placed smoke alarm would be screeching away anyway.

                Generally find the lint from the current clothes being dried is pretty wet when using condensor dryers.

                Agree though that to go down the pub whilst the machine is on is probably not the best thing.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Some important fire safety advice

              You're not going to sit and watch a washing machine, just put a smoke alarm above it.

              I'm not sure about flooding though, although I haven't had a washing machine flood on me for years.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Are your WiFi devices built using old valve tech? (if they are, send me the circuit diagram, KTHX!)

          Holy crap! Your WiFi uses 1 - 2 kW of electricity in 1 night?

          That's..... let me get this right unless I've lost the plot.

          Your WiFi devices use between 1000 (ONE THOUSAND) to 2000 (TWO THOUSAND) WATTS of electricity in 1 (ONE) night??

          Even a 100W incandescent light bulb would only just chew through 1kW if you left it running on all night!

          (Hours of use may vary, but average hours of darkness at this time of year is between 8PM and 6AM)

          Shurely Shome Mishtake?

          1. handle

            Re: Are your WiFi devices built using old valve tech?

            Shurely the worse mistake is not to know the difference between power (kW) and energy (kWh).

          2. JetSetJim Silver badge

            Re: Are your WiFi devices built using old valve tech? (if they are, send he circuit diagram, KTHX!)

            Just not bothered to try and accurately add it up. 2 wifi ap's, 1 femto cell, 2 dependent switches, 3 dect phones, 1 nas. All on low numbers of watts over the night, so I just rolled that up and rounded gratuitously and probably didn't state units well. Even if I used 1kWh in the entire night for all that, that's 15p

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Are your WiFi devices built using old valve tech? (if they are, send he circuit diagram, KTHX!)

              "Even if I used 1kWh in the entire night for all that, that's 15p"

              Exactly! Most people really can't save much when all the standby devices consume, per night, the equivalent of the price difference of a single litre of fuel bought at a motorway services compared to the local filling station or supermarket.

        3. Martin an gof Silver badge
          Boffin

          a) all my lighting is LED, and I still switch it off when I leave the room (hopefully not contributing to deterioration of lifetime of the LEDs)

          It's not the LEDs you have to worry about - it's the power supplies crammed into tiny spaces. We have hundreds of the things at work and it's almost guaranteed that the PSU will give out way before the LED itself, and it's pot luck whether any particular lamp lasts longer left on, or turned off when not needed.

          I don't think I'd use more than 1-2 kW in the whole night on [WiFi]

          Assuming an access point rated at 25W, if you switch it off between (say) midnight and 8am you will save 8*25W = 200Wh (0.2kWh) of electricity, i.e. two tenths of a "unit". If you pay 15p per unit, that's a total saving of 3p per night. In reality 25W is likely to be a maximum; in-use average will be lower, and overnight when it's quiet average consumption may be a half that. YMMV of course.

          M.

        4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          WTF?

          " the main users of it in my house is the heating and hot water,"

          Indeed.

          As "Alternative energy without the hot air" pointed out solar water heating is one of the few things that always help in the UK, because it takes a lot of energy to heat water and solar water heating panels usually trap enough sunlight (and are insulated enough) to give some benefit.

          BTW wasn't this an EU thing?

          Brexit --> No mandatory smart meter installation ?

        5. Simon Harris Silver badge

          "I could conceivably turn off my wifi at night - but the only way to do that for me means my phones stop working. Arguable whether I need them, I suppose, but I don't think I'd use more than 1-2 kW in the whole night on those appliances."

          Sorry, but downvoted for confusing power with energy.

          Assuming you actually mean 1-2kWh, (120-240W assuming you have an 8-hour night), are you sure you're not providing wifi for the whole town?

          For comparison, the current highest speed Virgin hub requires a 12V 1.5A power supply, so allowing for inefficiencies in the converter, probably about 20-25W at the wall (that's 0.2kWh over night).

      3. JimboSmith Silver badge

        I had a power display from a clip on sensor to my incoming mains cable which British Gas sent me. It was interesting for a while to see what the difference was if I switched this off or that off but that novelty soon wore off. It could even tell me the cost of the electricity we'd used which again was nice for a while but the novelty didn't last. There's very little in the house that uses serious amounts of power that isn't contained in the kitchen/utility area and so easy to spot. I guess there's the hair drier but I think it's unlikely to leave that on as it's too noisy (no immersion heater as no water tank). We're on Economy 7 and do use the washing machine overnight so no savings there. I also don't have a problem with phoning in/sending in meter readings once a quarter (four times a year - is that really such a struggle for people?) and don't get estimated bills as a result.

        If I did succumb to the dark side and get one of these meters I can't really see any benefit and only the downside of having one.

        They're not Compulsory and for anyone who wants to double check that they're not 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 mentioned above) 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 think it's big or clever as it was them 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.

        1. John Sager

          Engineers say no

          Reading the comments, which being from a sample of Reg readers, will be by and large of an engineering bent & discipline, they are almost universally negative. Being 'little people' govt won't listen to us unless we became a big, organised angry but articulate mob, which won't happen. So we rely on engineers who have a track record of being listened to by govt to articulate our negative views. What? You mean to say there aren't any? The only ones who get listened to have been captured by the system? Quelle surprise!

          I guess the classic example is David Nutt - tell us what we want to hear or you're toast. So unfortunately all the venting here & elsewhere will have precisely no effect. All we can do is to insulate ourselves personally from this madness & hope we can avoid the worst effects. I've had a diesel gen set for a *long* time. It was bought during an era of flaky countryside 11kV distribution but I've kept it for future flakiness further up the chain:(

        2. nijam

          > We're on Economy 7 and do use the washing machine overnight so no savings there.

          It's worth remembering that a tumble drier will typically use 2 or 3 times the energy to dry the load as the washing machine did to wash it.

      4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        it's the 3KW immersion heater, as the switch is in a cupboard. Kids turn it on for a bath, then forget.

        So fit a 30-minute push button timer. Cheaper than a smart meter and much more effective since it saves you the trouble of even having to look at it and react.

      5. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "I'm maybe saving a few quid a week doing that as normally it's the 3KW immersion heater, as the switch is in a cupboard. Kids turn it on for a bath, then forget."

        You'd save a shitload more by dumping it and installing an on-demand heater.

        1. Chris 125

          Hmmmm, had a quote for £3k for a new combi boiler and associated work.

          Running costs for the old gravity fed heating system have been £120 on a new fan over the past five years. Immersion has cost nothing to maintain.

          Not going to go into the maths of it, but I'd be very surprised if I'd recoup that £3k in reduced energy costs in my lifespan, let alone the 5 years or so I expect to be in this house.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Combi boilers are the spawn of the devil

            You can still get the traditional kind of boiler which feeds radiators and a hot water cylinder. For some reason there seems to be a lot of emphasis on supplying you the more expensive product - the modern equivalent of a gas multipoint water heater, aka geyser.

            Does anywhere outside the UK also have this obsession with combi boilers?

          2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            had a quote for £3k for a new combi boiler and associated work

            Well there's part of your problem - don't FFS get a combi, except for a few uses they are the spawn of the devil. But installers lurve them because they are easy to install, and builders/developers lurve them because it means they can shave about 1 square yard off the size of a house by doing away with the cylinder and cupboard. But for most users, they are "a poor choice" - especially for a family with a bath !

            Gas takes much longer, if I have it on for an hour then ...

            Right, so you are using it wrongly.

            I don't however know what the cost of the gas is vs the approx 24p of electric used in that half hour.

            Almost certainly less than the lecky - unless you are on LPG from a tank in the garden. Mains gas is typically around 1/4 the cost of mains lecky for a unit of heat. Even if your existing boiler is old and inefficient, I bet it's cheaper (by a good margin) to run than the immersion heater.

            Suggested steps to take :

            1) If there isn't one, get a cylinder stat fitted and wired into the heating system. This will be able to run the boiler when the cylinder needs heat, and turn the boiler off again afterwards (unless the heating is also demanding heat).

            2) Set the time controls to allow the boiler to heat the cylinder for a decent amount of time each day. In practical terms, there isn't really a reason not to allow the cylinder to be set for 24 hours - the boiler does not run on the timer, it runs on the cylinder stat and will not run if the cylinder is already hot.

            3) Make sure you have a good room stat for the heating and use it. Don't be like SWMBO who treats the room stat as a switch.

            4) The boiler controls need to be set such that the boiler does not shut down on it's own stat before the room and cylinder stats are satisfied. Boiler cycling is very common (usually because the clueless plumber set things up wrong) and is very expensive.

            5) At some point (consider it when either the existing cylinder and/or boiler are giving problems) consider upgrading to a modern fully pumped system with "fast recovery" high capacity coil and a condensing (but not combi) boiler. You'll get much better cylinder reheat times and it'll be more efficient - IF the system is setup right (most aren't as "plumbers" are often completely clueless).

            And for a few more bits. When (not if) people tell you that it's wasteful to store a tank full of hot water, and mutter about standing losses, ignore them as ignorant idiots ! Provided you've taken measures (like the above) to make the controls work for you AND you have it well lagged, then the losses are low. Plus, unless the airing cupboard is outside of the house, then the losses aren't wasted as they'll be contributing to heating the house. I actually did side-by-side comparisons of a thermal store I'd just installed in one property with the combi next door - the combi had higher losses with no demand than the store (about twice in fact). Combi boilers have significant standing losses because they fire up at intervals to keep the heat exchanger hot so as to avoid the "turn on hot tap, wait a minute or two while the boiler obliges with hot water" problem they are so famous for - and this repeated firing is very wasteful. That's one of the "dirty secrets" about combi boilers that their supporters will never mention.

            So TL;DR version.

            You are being wasteful, almost certainly not using your systems to best advantage, and having a smart meter won't help with that. You can get a much better saving by using what you have correctly, without the "remote turn off" facility and without handing over a lot of detailed information into a massive database where it's almost certainly going to leak.

            And the "spot when the lecky use is high because the immersion is on" bit doesn't even need a smart meter - a slip on energy monitor for a fraction of the price* will tell you that.

            * Don't believe the outright lies that these meter are "at no extra cost". You might not get a bill itemising it, but you, and I, and everyone else here paying lecky and gas bills, is paying for it - to the tune of (current estimates) 11 BILLION quid on our bills during the next few years. It works out at around £200/meter.

          3. Roland6 Silver badge

            Hmmmm, had a quote for £3k for a new combi boiler and associated work.

            Running costs for the old gravity fed heating system have been £120 on a new fan over the past five years.

            Well that's effectively £3k for a complete replacement to your existing system! Unless you need the space being used by the existing boiler and immersion (hot water) tank and can live with running the hot tap for several minutes to get the boiler to run and so produce hot water, I wouldn't bother with a combi. Also for condensing boilers to actually achieve their claimed efficiencies they need to be used in the right way, namely allowed to run hot so that they spend most of their time in condensing mode, combi boilers seem a good idea but because of the way they heat water they actually spend most of their time getting hot!; in this mode are broadly as efficient as a 2000~2005 non-condensing boiler...

            Not sure about a gravity fed heating system, but back in the 70's and early 80's many systems had gravity fed hot water systems, using the pump only for the central heating. If your's is one of these then your bills will be significantly higher than necessary.

            I would get a local professional in, rather than someone from a major, and get them to fit a regular boiler (direct replacement for your existing boiler) and put both hot water tank and central heating on to a pumped circuit. A pro installer will also install the important but necessary extra's like: hot water tank with 2-inches or more of foam insulation, sludge filters, thermostatic radiator valves, lag the internal hot pipes (heat goes where you want it quicker and doesn't leak out making bedrooms more comfortable in summer) and route the condensation drain pipe so that it doesn't freeze in winter... Additionally, by using a local pro, the quote should still be less than the one you already possess...

            1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

              Also for condensing boilers to actually achieve their claimed efficiencies they need to be used in the right way, namely allowed to run hot so that they spend most of their time in condensing mode ...

              A correction on that.

              Non-condensing boiler have to run hot (return above about 55˚C*) as condensation will kill them quickly.

              A condensing boiler works best when the return temperature is below about 55˚C* and they can recover the extra energy from condensing much of the water vapour in the exhaust.

              As you say, many condensing boilers are installed and gain nothing over the old reliable one they replaced - simply because the system isn't set up properly to allow them to work. Combi's make this worse due to the need to grossly oversize the boiler (to give something approximating to an adequate hot water supply) relative to the size needed for efficient space heating.

              * 55˚C (or thereabouts) is down to the chemistry of the gas burning.

      6. Martin an gof Silver badge
        Boffin

        I have a look what's been left on and turn it off. I'm maybe saving a few quid a week doing that as normally it's the 3KW immersion heater, as the switch is in a cupboard

        • You have gas heating. Use it, it's cheaper, and probably quicker at heating the water too
        • Immersions have thermostats. Make sure yours is set correctly and when the cylinder is up to temperature it will turn itself off, just coming on now and then to make up for losses. If your immersion doesn't have its own 'stat, one can probably be added, or a new immersion with a thermostat is hardly expensive
        • Make sure the cylinder is lagged properly to reduce the standing losses
        • Fit a boost switch instead of a simple switch. If you need to use the immersion, this will turn it off automatically after a set time

        I'd pretty much guarantee that the above will save more money more easily than the offchance that you spot the thing is on when it shouldn't be from a little display on the mantlepiece

        M.

        1. Chris 125

          Strangely, all the info I've had is that the immersion is cheaper - if it's used to heat the water to the same temperature.

          Gas takes much longer, if I have it on for an hour then I can run it directly into the bath and just use that. I can have the immersion on for half that time, and have to add a load of cold to it to bring it down to temperature - hence there's water left for washing up etc.

          I don't however know what the cost of the gas is vs the approx 24p of electric used in that half hour.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Strangely, all the info I've had is that the immersion is cheaper...

            Check your bills. Last time I looked (UK), electricity was somewhere between three and four times the price of gas per kWh.

            Your boiler can put more energy into the water in the cylinder more quickly than an immersion heater; the latter is usually 3kW while even an old back boiler could potentially output 12 or 15kW. A modern boiler can usually supply more than that, with a typical "system" boiler capable of 25 or 30kW.

            Several factors in play here:

            • the boiler coil may not be able to handle all the heat the boiler can supply, though even a standard coil should manage more than 3kW - the normally-quoted "recovery time" (time to re-heat the cylinder from cold) is around 30 mintues. A "fast recovery" coil will handle more, and heat quicker.
            • An immersion heater (as usually installed in an otherwise gas-heated system) heats only the top 1/3rd or so of the cylinder (maybe a half), and the water underneath will remain cold, while the boiler coil is right at the bottom and heats the whole lot. Not sure if this link will work, but here's a picture.
            • Your coil may be furred-up if you have hard water, or haven't maintained proper levels of inhibitor in the boiler water - how well do your radiators work?
            • This is the big one: they are controlled by separate thermostats. The immersion heater has a built-in thermostat that is usually factory-set to 60C, with a safety cutout thermostat set to 80C (I think). If the water heated by the immersion is scaldingly hot it may be that the main thermostat has failed, and you are heating water to 80C on the safety 'stat.
            • The boiler will be controlled (usually) by two thermostats. The first sets the temperature of the water leaving the boiler, and is usually set to around 80C, which is the temperature at which the recovery time (and a radiator's output) is calculated. There is also a thermostat strapped on to the outside of the tank (more modern tanks have these inserted into the tank). This should be set to 60C because that is considered a "safe" temperature to avoid bacterial growth and not too dangerous if you happen to hold your hands under the tap. However, strap-on thermostats are exposed and vulnerable and (depending on design) can be knocked off-temperature quite easily.

            So it's possible that the cylinder thermostat controlling the boiler could be set to (say) 50C, against the 60C of the immersion. It's also possible that the flow temperature from the boiler is set low for some reason - this is unlikely, but possible. Obviously, if the boiler is set to (say) 50C, it won't be able to heat the cylinder beyond that, however high the cylinder 'stat is set, and as the cylinder approaches 50C the rate of heat transfer will slow down.

            Does this help?

            Point 1 - gas is about a quarter the price of electricity per kWh

            Point 2 - the boiler is heating the whole cylinder, while the immersion is only heating a third or so

            Point 3 - there are at least two separate controlling thermostats, and they may not be set the same

            M.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > I don't however know what the cost of the gas is vs the approx 24p of electric used in that half hour.

            Check on your gas and electricity bills: gas bills should now give the price per kWh so it's directly comparable. You will find that the price of gas per kWh is about 1/4 or 1/5 of the price of electricity. Even if your boiler is only 80% efficient, heating that cylinder by gas will be a fraction of the cost of heating it by electricity.

            However you're right that the gas system will have maintenance costs, particularly the annual boiler service, which needs to be taken into account. However, having a purely electric system is unlikely to be cheaper overall if you have a family (i.e. lots of baths and showers).

            It may be workable if you use Economy 7 and can survive on one hot tank of water per day, or perhaps in combination with solar water heating (not solar PV panels!)

      7. Blatant Coward Bronze badge

        @chris 125

        We have gas for heating because it's vastly cheaper than using electric.

        If your kids are turning on the immersion then just use your boiler programmer to ensure the tank is hot before they need it and take the fuse out of the immersion heater so it can't be used. Maybe just have your HW on constant throughout the day? The boiler will heat the tank faster than the immersion and be vastly cheaper.

        It looks like your failing to utilise the correct water heating technology to minimise your bills, smart meter or not. If you believe your boiler uses more fuel to heat your water than your immersion then there is something seriously wrong with your setup that you need to get checked out.

      8. TeeCee Gold badge
        WTF?

        ... as normally it's the 3KW immersion heater...

        WTF? You claim to actually give a rat's arse about your consumption, yet you actually use an immersion heater??

        <Head explodes>

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I wanted a smart meter, so I could track my energy usage by time and shift things into the cheaper rates,They couldn't get a mobile signal so I was out of luck! I will be on a dumb meter until they fix mobile coverage!

      1. timnich

        If the meters were really smart, they would provide all the real time info without requiring the backhaul connection.

        I therefore conclude that the meters are simply dumb units capable of remote interrogation (backhaul connection permitting), with all the smartness residing in a data centre somewhere.

      2. PNGuinn
        Coat

        Mobile signal?

        Would they EVER be able to get a mobile signal through my nice faraday screened meter cupboard?

        Ok, it's not screened at the moment, but that's on the list of must do projects if there's any chance of this daft idea coming anywhere near me!

        You can't be too careful.

        Can you get a meter sized tinfoil hat on fleabay?

        On a more serious note, have the numpties with this bright idea considered the possibilities of selective time based screening / signal blocking to turn variable tariff pricing to crimminal advantage?

        ... No, m'lud - not guilty. My smart fridge and smart toaster have conspired to 'ack into it via a vunmerebility in me smart tv. Honest gov. ...

        Thanks - it's the one the the 5l tin of electro conductive paint in the pocketses.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mobile signal?

          "Would they EVER be able to get a mobile signal through my nice faraday screened meter cupboard?"

          If I was designing this system (be grateful I'm not), continued supply of electricity would be dependent on some kind of keepalive signal from HQ to meter. It doesn't have to be obvious/explicit, just something detectable by the remote cutoff gadget, and if not detected, off goes the power.

          Now what're you going to do with your Faraday cage :)

    5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Remote meter reading is about the only thing that could credibly be touted as a benefit

      The actual benefit and use case in the original white paper very carefully edited by all the usual energy suspects is turning off grannies' supply and freezing them without having a human involved. See, machine did it, we are had no clue it will do it.

      There is _NO_ other benefit. If the benefit is "remote metering", then can we have a regulatory mandate the smart meters not to include a power cut-off function of any type (local or remote). Can we? Asking once... twice.. thrice... Nope, do not think so, suddenly there is a silence from the industry.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Remote power cut off would be regarded by myself as a fault, and I'd simply bypass the meter till they came to fix it :)

    6. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      > They've been bleating about this for ages

      I had a call from Siemens (on behalf of my energy company) about this.. I vented slightly to the poor bloke at the other end of the phone (poor security, no benefit to me etc etc).

      At the end of my rantette he said words to the effect of "so, when do you want it installed then?"

      My reply was fairly short and to the point ("Never") which, I think, miffed him slightly. I wonder if he was on commission..

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        I got a letter *telling* me there were coming to fit a smart meter!

        I phoned them up, said I didn't want one - they asked why, I said that they weren't secure. He made a note and that was that.

        However, if I hadn't already known they weren't compulsory there was nothing in the letter to indicate this - quite the opposite in fact - very shady.

        1. PatientOne

          I got a letter saying I needed to arrange for the meter to be fitted as they were required to install them.

          I didn't bother responding.

          A friend, however, did, and took a day out to await for the meter to be fitted. They never turned up.

          So one more reason to refuse: Even if you do want the meter, you may wind up wasting your time waiting for them to turn up.

          Strangely, I was asked, not too long ago, if I'd consider swapping to a rival supplier, who informed me they *don't* do smart meters. Which is good to know if my current supplier pushes for me to have one.

    7. nematoad Silver badge
      Happy

      It is to laugh.

      "...my supplier will let me upload a photo of the meter as a reading..."

      Hmm, I'd love to see my supplier do that. The piddling little box that they fitted when they found out that there was no possibility of fitting a smart meter (piss poor mobile coverage) means that you practically have to use a magnifying glass to see what the damned thing is reading.

      I don't miss the "magic box" as I agree that I can see no benefit to me of the thing, just reduced costs for the supplier.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: It is to laugh.

        >Hmm, I'd love to see my supplier do that.

        Mine is EDF

    8. VinceH Silver badge

      "Remote meter reading is about the only thing that could credibly be touted as a benefit - but even that is a bit marginal seeing as my supplier will let me upload a photo of the meter as a reading - all through their "app" (all very trendy)."

      Mine doesn't do that - and if that's an app that runs on a phone, I'd probably be unwilling to install it anyway. However, I can upload meter readings through their website, and they usually send an email asking for one when the bill is about to be prepared.

      I've just had a bill, and did indeed get that email as usual - but I decided not to upload readings because the meter was actually read by an actual real meter reading person about two weeks previously - so I figured an estimate for those final couple of weeks wouldn't be too far out.

      And the electricity one wasn't. It shows the actual reading from the last bill, the actual reading by the actual real meter reading person, then a final estimated amount that was close to what my meter said when I checked it after receiving the bill.

      The gas one, though, estimates that between the meter actually being read by the actual real meter reading person and the bill being prepared, I somehow pumped 2000 cubic feet back into the system.

      WTF?

      Needless to say, checking the actual reading suggests that, in fact, I used some more gas since the meter was read.

      As it happens I'm a small amount in credit, and a back of envelope calculation suggests the amount roughly tallies with the actual gas used, so I've left it at that.

    9. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Benefits

      You would have thought, with 3.5m of the things installed there would be plenty of hard evidence of the real savings being made. The fact that Rob Smith doesn't mention any is sufficient evidence to conclude there aren't savings to be had by consumers.

      I seem to remember reading somewhere (El Reg?) that the energy consumption savings achieved todate through the smart meter rollout amount to 2%.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Benefits

        > energy consumption savings achieved todate through the smart meter rollout amount to 2%

        2% of what though? 2% of household electricity and gas consumption? Across all households, or just for those 3.5m people who had the meters installed?

        It annoys me intensely when politicians say (for example) "we are generating 5% of our energy via renewables" when actually they means that we are generating 5% of our *electricity* from renewables. Since electricity only accounts for about 1/6th of the country's total energy usage, the correct figure would be more like 1%.

        A 2% usage reduction in total household gas and electricity use, when only 10% of households so far have smart meters, would be quite staggering, and I don't believe it.

        A 2% usage reduction in gas and electricity use across only those who have the smart meters would still be moderately significant - although household gas and electricity use is still only a small fraction of total energy use, excluding industry, transport etc. Whether it justifies £17bn is another matter.

        Being a cynic, I would expect the gas and electricity companies will just increase their prices for smart meter users by 2% to compensate for any reduced usage. They will achieve this by following the model of mobile phone operators, with massively complex price schemes where you will be encouraged to buy a "bundle" of more than you need, because the out-of-bundle usage will be horrendously expensive.

    10. Mage Silver badge

      Benefits?

      Mainly to the suppliers, to be able to load shed more precisely.

    11. cyberdemon
      Devil

      The benefit:

      Is to be able to be remotely switched off. When the electricity company feels like it. Ostensibly so that they can make their renewable plans work without needing to buy any expensive (and inefficient) energy storage devices like Electric Mountain, or (heaven forbid) actual baseload generation capacity (ie their job). Also it comes in very handy when you haven't paid your bill on time.

      When the majority of people have "smart" meters then they can implement this plan, and give cheaper tariffs (read: a massive price hike for nearly everybody) to people who don't mind being switched off every now and then (i.e. in the middle of EastEnders, or when the sun goes behind a cloud). If you moan about being switched off then well you should have paid extra, and you shouldn't be watching that drivel anyway, or you should be streaming it on your ipad on 3G.

      So in summary, WHAT exactly are YOU doing that needs such a reliable and therefore WASTEFUL energy supply? Washing your clothes you say? Only rich people wash their clothes - you can afford to pay the premium. Perhaps you'd like to buy an energy efficient kettle?

      It really is a sorry state of affairs, privatised electricity generation in the UK. We should've stuck with the Ministry of Power, and invested in research into newer, cleaner, cheaper nuclear power, rather than cancelling all the programmes and building privately run coal and gas plants.

      Meanwhile we have regulated the pants off of nuclear, making it ridiculously expensive and making everyone scared of it (meanwhile more radioactivity is pumped out by coal plants than nuclear, never mind all the rest of the shite that fossil fuels dump into the air, and vastly more people are killed by wind farms, despite the tiny fraction of energy generation that they currently provide!)

      The only people who benefit (aside from the energy companies as above) are the likes of Siemens who make the infernal things, and charge a fortune and make a fortune, knowing that they are subsidised by both the bill-payer and the tax-payer, i.e. you and me and me and you!

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: The benefit:

        Is to be able to be remotely switched off.

        "Switched off" being a euphemism for executed I presume. The Git recalls The Big Freeze of 1962-3 and pensioners and the poor dying from the cold because they couldn't afford fuel to stay warm.

        Fuel poverty campaigners reckon the number of excess winter deaths surged last winter to 49,260, of which around 14,780 were due to people living in cold homes.

        Story Here

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The benefit:

        I'm with you apart from wind farms killing a lot of people (relatively to fossil fuels?). What have I missed?

        Thanks in advance.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The benefit:

        I'm with you apart from wind farms killing a lot of people (relative to fossil fuels?). What have I missed?

        Thanks in advance.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The benefit:

          I'm with you apart from wind farms killing a lot of people (relative to fossil fuels?). What have I missed?

          Let me explain what you've missed: The costs of our "save the planet" energy policies have thus far added something of the order of £150bn to consumer energy bills, (with at least another £50bn in the pipeline, even before policy costs rise further to achieve the 5th Carbon Budget recently rubber stamped by this government).

          We then see the same politicians who approved these policies wringing their hands about high energy costs, fuel poverty, and excess winter deaths and then blaming the suppliers for this. These suppliers are required by the terms of their licences and by the market structures invented by government and regulator to recover all the policy costs. And we expect to see retail energy costs to continue to rise over the next few years (and possibly through until the mid 2030s), reflecting nothing more than the policy costs imposed by government.

          Unless you dispute the official line on climate change, fuel poverty and excess winter deaths, then it is a simple matter of fact that all the eco-bling of wind turbines and PV saves polar bears, but kills pensioners.

          1. handle

            Dying pensioners

            @ledswinger: "Unless you dispute the official line on climate change, fuel poverty and excess winter deaths, then it is a simple matter of fact that all the eco-bling of wind turbines and PV saves polar bears, but kills pensioners."

            Very smug little argument, but ignores the fact that the brokenness of the energy market means vastly inflated prices unless you religiously change supplier every year, which is just the sort of thing that the poor pensioners you are using as your emotional pawns are not going to do (just as they are not likely to take up green incentives such as insulation grants). Direct your ire at the big six rather than microgeneration, which they hate as it undermines their monopoly.

            Still, I'm glad that you think it saves polar bears.

      4. PNGuinn
        FAIL

        Re: The benefit:

        "When the majority of people have "smart" meters then they can implement this plan"

        Yup, that's the REAL reason.

        What what nobody "up there" has yet cottoned on to is that if the network can do it anyone can. Especially with the apparent no security as a design IOT mentality that appears to accompany the whole idea.

        ... So, Eric, this is what I want you to do. At 0800 hours next friday, switch off two thirds of London.

        Give it five minutes or so and then switch 'en all back on again. Then do Birmingham. Make it 2 mins this time. ...

        Or something. Wickeder minds than mine can refine the idea.

      5. PNGuinn

        Re: The benefit: @ cyberd

        Q lots and lots of nice smelly, smokey, noisy. gennys in back gardens and on flat balconies.

        Sounds so green and safe to me .... Think I'll store my petrol under the stairs ....

        Just remember - lots of CO in the bedroom helps you sleep soundly.

    12. Mycho Silver badge

      Interestingly, for telling how much energy it takes to cook an egg or whatever, I gained a lot of experience in that skill at university simply using a prepayment meter. It was 3p for an egg btw. Low energy lightbulbs were my best investment ever.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Low energy lightbulbs were my best investment ever.

        They have been my worst. CFLs have cost me an order of magnitude more. Haven't had one last longer than about 9 months. LED replacements for my QH downlights over my kitchen workbench were nowhere near bright enough and one of them died after less than a month. My last ordinary incandescent is now at least 13 years old. It lights up the entry to the house automatically when SWMBO arrives home from work in the winter months.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Low energy lightbulbs were my best investment ever.

          They have been my worst. CFLs have cost me an order of magnitude more. Haven't had one last longer than about 9 months

          I have had a few fail early, but the majority of CFLs I've had have lasted at least as long as the incandescents they replaced. I know this because I write on the lamp the date of installation. One lamp used in the hall (so was on quite a lot) survived three house moves and about 15 years of use, if I remember correctly.

          Let's not get into the argument about illunimation "quality" or speed of startup.

          CFLs are quite cheap now, even the "good" brands. Don't buy Asda or B&Q own-brand (B&Q don't sell anything except own-brand these days) - pop over to TLC or even Screwfix and buy a Sylvania or Philips or Osram.

          LEDs I'm a bit more ambivalent about. They are maturing at an incredible pace, but they still have a little way to go. For example, I recently needed to replace an R63 lamp (reflector) at my mum's - the original was 60W and there's a 45W Halogen available that is acceptable (it's a similar brightness and colour) but has a lifespan of under 2,000 hours (by experience). The LED equivalents I found were all about 5W and noticeably dimmer than the lamp to be replaced. Experience at work is also that they don't last as long as it says on the packet, but mainly due to their power supplies failing rather than the LEDs themselves burning out. Oh, and LEDs also reduce in brightness over their lifespan.

          To get the most out of low-energy lighting, you really need to start from scratch and design the lighting installation with the foibles of the new technologies in mind. Unfortunately this isn't always practical, as in the case of mum's R63.

          That said, I have an old DIY book from the 1920s (IIRC) and in the part where it is discussing the installation of electric lighting it states that a 25W standard or table lamp would be perfectly adequate as a reading lamp. By modern standards, and considering that incandescents were even less efficient back then than they are now, that's a pretty dim reading lamp!

          M.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Always buy quality LEDs, not the junk you get from supermarkets or DIY stores (including the pretty 'orrible Phillips devices). Buying the junk and getting a bad experience is what puts most people off LEDs as they believe that they are (relatively) expensive but very dim whereas the reality of decent LEDs is that they are still relatively expensive, but can be far brighter than the "equivalent" incandescent (mainly halogen these days) or CFL units. The halogens tend to blow within a short period of time and the CFLs cannot be dimmed (good LEDs can, but need good dimmers and careful planning) and the CFLs tend to be slow to start and pretty random colours.

            1. Pompous Git Silver badge

              the reality of decent LEDs is that they are still relatively expensive, but can be far brighter than the "equivalent" incandescent (mainly halogen these days) or CFL units. The halogens tend to blow within a short period of time

              Not according to my supplier, a specialist supplier of (quality) light fittings and globes. The LEDs I purchased from him were the largest and brightest drop-in replacements for my 35W 630 lumens halogen downlights. The 6 W LEDs are rated for 370 lumens, but I believe that falls to 260 lumens over time. Not really enough light when it's illuminating a workspace where very sharp knives are used.

              I agree that halogens have a lamentably short life (~1,000 hrs), but then when I purchased the lighting system for the home I completed 13 years ago, incandescents were on the hit list by the government. I priced the cost of LEDs, but $AU60,000 seemed a little bit OTT.

              Both sealed halogens and LEDs rely on 12 volt transformers. I have recently replaced most of them for the third time at a cost so far of more than $AU300. Mind you, the last lot cost very little since I purchased cheap as chips trannies from China just to see how they compared to the ones that were costing me $AU15 each.

              I identified the main problem here several years ago when I borrowed an APC UPS that allowed me to monitor the electricity supply. While the nominal voltage is 240, it spikes at 260 V and there are many long periods of over and undervoltage. The supplier only guarantees an average of 240 V over a 24 hour period.

            2. Graham Dawson

              @Nick Ryan

              I have found that the best source of LED lighting is aliexpress. I've got my whole house lit with a bunch of next-gen LED bulbs from there. They're a fraction of the cost of buying the poorly made, overly expensive and annoyingly dim crap available here, and they don't appear to suffer much in the way of heating issues.

              One downside though: they're universally Edison screw, so you will have to stock up on suitable fixtures or get adapters.

              These videos by Big Clive convinced me to go for it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfJKq-igxJI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nme8T2yLhL0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gcYAFPxeug

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: @Nick Ryan

                "One downside though: they're universally Edison screw, so you will have to stock up on suitable fixtures or get adapters."

                I went with LEDHut. At the time they were about the only UK supplier with a decent range of UK standard fittings types and included dimmable LED bulbs (so long as you use the correct type of dimmer switch). The only downside is the range of the dimmer is a lot less than I'd like, ie you can only dim down to about half brightness.

        2. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: early death of LED/CFLs

          The lifespan of these devices DOES seem to vary randomly. I have a couple of 3w LED GU10 lamps from poundland (I bought them because for that price, why not) that have been running about a year, with no issues. But I have seen expensive name brand ones drop dead after a few months... The quality DOES seem to be improving. If you're ever doing a new set of lights, I'd recommend daxlite... as they have a 5 yr warranty :)

        3. Carrot007

          > nowhere near bright enough

          Sucks to be you buying underpowered bulbs.

          Moved house last year so all bulbs here are now LED (excepting 1 CFL I had left that I used for one of the lights i put in the loft).

          A 6 or 7.5 watt led is much brighter that old bulbs were. And a 4 watt GU10 seems a much better repalcement for all the 50 watt halogen gu10's that came with the multi light fitting i put up and all the halogen gu10's dies within 6 months as usual. The leds are still running and have had no problems.

          And FWIW all my LED's are ASDA branded.However I do look to see who made them and only grab if it's a good one/ Maybe some of the cheap ones are not. I guess some people cannot cope with the fact that a led bulb cost more that old bulbs used to and buys low watt or crap.

          Not to mention leds come in any colour range you want.

        4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "My last ordinary incandescent is now at least 13 years old. It lights up the entry to the house automatically when SWMBO arrives home from work in the winter months."

          That's not really surprising for a lightbulb that gets used for maybe 10-15 minutes per day :-)

          You're spot on with the CFLs though. Worst idea ever. The early ones took ages to "warm up" to full brightness and even the newer ones seem to have significantly shorter actual lifetimes than predicted. We changed everything to CFL and the running cost might well be cheaper in term of electricity used by the consumer, but the extra production costs and the short lifespans of many of them probably far outweighs the usage savings both for the world as a whole and the end user consumer who has to pay 10 times the cost fopr something that at best last twice as long as incandescent.

          We've since gone all LED a few years ago, none have failed so far and have already paid for themselves in terms of both incandescent and CFL

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            That's not really surprising for a lightbulb that gets used for maybe 10-15 minutes per day :-)

            Probably more than that; it's on a motion detector. It's intially on for 15 minutes before turning itself off. Then triggered by wildlife or SWMBO's arrival and if she doesn't turn it off, it keeps being randomly triggered until the following day. This is precisely the condition that kills CFLs.

            While you can leave your CFL on constantly to achieve the rated lifespan, the fire service recommend turning them off when leaving a room as they occasionally catch fire.

            Yes, I would have gone LED as I said in an earlier post, but $AU60,000 seemed a bit OTT. The double glazed windows only cost $AU30,000!

    13. Allan 1

      The ONLY people who will benefit from these meters in the long run, are the power companies. Time based pricing organized to cost the most when you use the most, no need for meter readers, etc.

  2. Red Bren

    Smart Meter Mis-selling

    "Smart meters are being touted as a means of allowing consumers to switch providers and help people to reduce their energy consumption and switch their usage away from peak times."

    But they don't.

    If you want to switch supplier, you sign up with a new one and they instigate the switch. You can't go to your smart meter and press a button marked "switch me to the cheapest supplier" and immediately get the benefit. The best that a smart meter can provide is a reading on the day of the switch.

    They don't help you reduce your consumption, unless you're prepared to forego things like cooked meals and clean clothes.

    They don't offer any benefit for shifting your consumption as most suppliers only offer a standard unit price regardless of the time of day.

    The benefits are all gained by the energy industry with no direct benefit to the consumer

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Smart Meter Mis-selling

      I assume when they're commonplace, there will appear mixed rate tariffs using them, similar to Economy-7, but more flexible, meaning knob head neighbours will save money by running their washing machine at 2am.

      1. Red Bren

        Re: Smart Meter Mis-selling

        If everyone starts doing their laundry at 2am, the peak will shift anyway and the differential in pricing will reduce.

        1. Mike Shepherd
          Meh

          Re: Smart Meter Mis-selling

          The peak will never shift, because not "everyone" will start "doing their laundry at 2am". Most of us will still do our laundry when the machine gets full of dirty clothes or when we realise there's something in there that we need this afternoon.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Smart Meter Mis-selling

            The peak will never shift

            The peak will shift! However, expect it to be much more dynamic. Thus currently ad breaks aren't peak so consumers get to put their kettles on and the grid has to suffer. With a smart grid, ad breaks could become peak!

            Yes I know for this to happen would require either a higher frequency of meter reading or logging by the meter (meter takes readings every 30 secs, but only reports every day), which is most probably beyond the capability of the UK smartmeter deployment, but once you have a system that permits higher frequency of readings etc. then charging can become much more granular...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smart Meter Mis-selling

      I'm maybe a little biased in this area, but I'd say that until time machines are invented it's impossible to know what your cheapest tariff is going to be.

      Tariffs are already and are more likely in the future to be based on all sorts factors that will influence "how cheap" your energy is.

      For example, where standing charges are levied (an Ofgem mandation at the moment I believe) if you're currently using a low amount of energy then you want a product with a low standing charge, at the cost of a higher unit rate. However, should the winter be especially cold or your personal circumstances change (a baby, an illness, a new power hungry virtual reality PC) then your low standing charge/high unit rate product would no longer be the cheapest. Now maybe you know if you're due a new arrival (I'm referring to the PC now), but your energy company and your meter don't.

      When you roll in time of use tariffs, this becomes an even more difficult question to answer correctly.

      I have Smart Meters and do think they've helped my save some money. I'm less interested in what energy I'm using at a point in time, but leave the display showing how much energy it predicts I'll have used by the end of month, and compares it to the same month last year. It's far from perfect (again weather predictions/conditions and circumstances can't be factored in) but gives me a target. I wan't to beat last year - by using less of course. At the end of the month, we're no longer talking predictions, but facts.

      Now it may not be sustainable year on year to significantly save once I've implemented every energy saving measure I can find, but it does remind me to *think* about what I'm using. It based on real prices and real consumption and it is in "real time".

      Obviously it does encourage me to spend more dark winter evenings in the pub, which overall isn't saving me money, but it might be helping the planet a little.

      1. IsJustabloke Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Smart Meter Mis-selling

        My energy company offer me exactly that same functionality , that is to say, I can see a graph predicting my use for the coming month based on the last reading I gave them ( takes 5 mins once a week) and it compares it same month last year.

        No need for a smart meter.

        They offer the consumer nothing that isn't already available and certainly not "an end to estimated bills" My bill is never estimated because I give them the readings.

        It's neither onerous or difficult.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart Meter Mis-selling

          "My bill is never estimated because I give them the readings."

          EON send me an email when it is time to supply them with an electricity meter reading online. About once a year they tell me it is not needed as a meter reader will call.

          British Gas on the other hand never tell me when a gas meter reading is needed - so they always use estimates. When I complained about this - they told me they now only read the meter manually once every two years.

          1. Blatant Coward Bronze badge

            Re: Smart Meter Mis-selling

            Nothing to stop you reading the gas meter when you read the leccey one though is there?

            Maybe smart consumers are needed, not smart meters?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart Meter Mis-selling

          Neither is in front of your or your families face.

  3. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The only thing that makes a smart meter of any use to anyone

    is a pi-zero with camera so you can OCR the price on the meter and use that to work out when to work out to turn on your various heavy usage items automatically without having to get up a 2am to stick your head in the cupboard to find out what the rate is. In any sensible world that facility would have been built in.

    One would almost imagine that the unseemly rush to get these things installed was partly to avoid this kind of thing happening - apart from the stupid problems of having supplier specific meters.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: The only thing that makes a smart meter of any use to anyone

      In any sensible world that facility would have been built in.

      It will, you've just described an IoT use case...

    2. cyberdemon
      Devil

      Re: The only thing that makes a smart meter of any use to anyone

      FYI You are the last person in the queue for the data from your smart-meter. In front of you are:

      • Your electricity supplier (who want to charge you more if you put your kettle on when they are struggling to meet the load, because they pocketed too much of your bills instead of building the required capacity)
      • Your council (who will be able to profile the number of people living in your dwelling-house to make sure you are paying the proper rate of council tax)
      • Your insurance company (because they will use any scrap of evidence to blame you for overloading your circuits when your house burns down, and thus avoid paying out)
      • The BBC (who will be able to profile repeated tiny spikes during popular TV programmes and thus detect if you are dodging the license fee)
      • Data-mining companies (who will pay good money for any sufficiently-large high-quality dataset about anything)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The only thing that makes a smart meter of any use to anyone

        "Your council (who will be able to profile the number of people living in your dwelling-house to make sure you are paying the proper rate of council tax)"

        I think you may be confusing Council Tax based on the value of the property with the now defunct Community Charge, aka Poll Tax which was a per person charge.

        PS I still upvoted you anyway :-)

  4. m0rt Silver badge

    Just thinking aloud...

    Maybe, if there was a top up feature that meant I could buy my electricity or gas from anyone on the market, in a more pay as you go style, they would be useful. But then we have the added complexity of differing prices at differing times. So ok, we introduce two types. Peak and off peak. Like a rail ticket.

    So I can go out and buy one megawatt of peak, and a megawatt of off peak, and apply those units to my meter. Obviously, if this is done without a physical top up card, then the whole connected thing is important. But that is not reliable, and I do not trust the meters to be safe.

    But why not stay with a physical card that we can top up energy in this manner? We do this with bank cards that contain 'money' so the tech exists.

    Then you need to think about the management of meters. So you end up with a two tier system, a little like Railtrack and the operators.

    Which is possibly not a good model to think about. However, having a percentage to to a standard meter/infrastructure maintainer isn't the worst idea.

    Seems sensible. Seems a way of ensuring that power suppliers have to compete effectivley in the market at a consumer level.

    But somehow, I can't help but feel greed and silliness would get in the way.

    On second thoughts, screw it. I don't trust the government or the power companies to instigate something so logical.

    I am going to stick with my non-smart meter. If they ever make it compulsory, I can damn well guarantee I will be playing around with small faraday cages.

    1. MrTuK

      Re: Just thinking aloud...

      "I am going to stick with my non-smart meter. If they ever make it compulsory, I can damn well guarantee I will be playing around with small faraday cages" - reading through all these comments and this is the one comment I have been waiting for :)

      I would like to know if they will make it illegal to install a faraday cage around the smart meter, its just a question !

      Also if everyone started to do this then will they have to re-employ staff to come around and read said meters, will they they charge the owner for blocking the oh so encrypted wifi signal ?

      What happens if they wifi is somehow blocked by some other wifi signal or radio interference like an electric drill, microwave oven etc would you then be charge for blocking signal and a human have to spend time to come around to read the smart meter manually ?

      Some of these questions I would really like to know the answers to but some were sarcastic, I'll let you guess which were which :)

      Whatever all I know is that I too would install a faraday cage around said stupid meter !

    2. Carrot007

      Re: Just thinking aloud...

      Not multi supplier but sort of what you are asking for:

      https://www.npowerjobs.com/blog/rwe-npower-gets-set-to-deliver-britains-first-online-energy-shop-blog-53384917506

  5. Empty1

    It was damn cold

    "I'd like to never have to dig about in the under-stairs cupboard to take a meter reading, but that's the only real benefit I can see."

    I've just changed supplier and have to go back to grovelling in the cupboard. Worse than before as the gas meter LCD has a narrow field of view so I have to lay on the floor to see it. The remote display widget has lost all its costings for usage and units since I changed and the Gas display is in KWh whereas the supplier and meter talk in cubic meters.

    <gripe> after replacing the gas meter the bloke could not get the old boiler fired up so condemned it and sealed off the gas . Nice - try getting an old gravity boiler replaced with a condensing thing in a wintry December </gripe>

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: It was damn cold

      Gas meter LCD

      A nice big mechanical analogue readout is nice & easy to see on my gas meter (which is also in an under stairs cupboard).

      No chance of smart gas meter in our house as no chance of signal where meter is sited

      No need for smart electric meter as electric meter is outdoors (in a leccy board box)

      Power usage mainly driven by vagaries of the weather so knowing "live" consumption / cost fairly pointless as not really optional (be that amount of heating needed or whether to do extra spin in washing machine to get stuff drier as raining outside so clothes line a no go)

      e.g. Putting washing machine on at silly o clock in morning might save a tiny fraction of cash but non financial cost will be disturbed sleep / angry neighbours when loud spin noise kicks in

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It was damn cold

        "No need for smart electric meter as electric meter is outdoors (in a leccy board box)"

        I paid British Gas to move my gas meter outside a few years ago - so I wouldn't keep getting estimated bills.

        Now they only read the meter once every two years - and never tell me when I should send them my own reading. So all my bills are again estimated.

      2. MrXavia

        Re: It was damn cold

        Get a better washing machine if its so loud it wakes the neighbours!

        I never wake to my washing machine and I run it around 2-3 am usually...

      3. Carrot007

        Re: It was damn cold

        > No chance of smart gas meter in our house as no chance of signal where meter is sited

        The gas meter not having power (running off battery for obvious reasons) is slaved to the electric and sends the electric the reading every minute or so.

        So unless your gas meter is in a faraday cage you should be ok.

    2. Leeroy Bronze badge
      Mushroom

      Re: It was damn cold

      Same gripe here. They spent 10 minutes trying to relight my boiler and wearing out the igniter. When they finally let me do it... one push twist hold and click ta da done cue some sheepish faces hahahahahaha.

      Don't even get me started on the cooker inspection ! That apparently involves trying to pull it off the wall and ruining the surround to check that it had a chain on the back :/

    3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: It was damn cold

      the gas meter LCD has a narrow field of view so I have to lay on the floor to see it

      My late father solved that simply. Take a stick of wood, a couple of small mirrors, mount the mirrors on the stick so that when held in front of the meter you can read it from above. It needs two mirrors so the digits are right way up and right way round.

      He also mounted a magnifying glass and a small torch on another stick for reading the water meter in it's hole outside.

      after replacing the gas meter the bloke could not get the old boiler fired up so condemned it and sealed off the gas

      Was it actually faulty, or did he just do a "scare a granny" British Gas job on it ? Note: Not calling you a granny, it's the nick-name in the plumbing trade for BGs tactics in getting their service engineers to sell new boilers by declaring the old one dangerous and scaring a granny into having it replaced - they did that to my Mum, but I had her cancel the order, got a local in who found it to be perfectly safe, but as it was getting on scheduled a new boiler install for half of what BG wanted.

      If it wasn't faulty then you should have got a third party engineer to come and sort it - and then complain to trading standards about it. Complaining to Gas Safe is a waste of time - firstly they won't do anything unless you leave it as it was until the come and look at it in a few weeks time, and secondly there's naff all they can actually do anyway.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Our role in terms of consumer engagement, people are still getting the benefit of the smart meter. It will still be the right decision for a consumer to take a smart meter"

    I'm not sure what this bit of verbal compost was supposed to mean but it gives me a sneaking suspicion that his terms of engagement are that he keep the numbers up so that for him its the right decision. Am I being over cynical?

  7. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

    It would help if the meters were actually designed for real-world applications

    I live in an old terraced house. Lots of people do, and these houses were originally designed without most modern services. Water supply was someone with a bucket, and the toilet was in the back yard and given where I live, was probably made by Duckett's of Burnley.

    Over the years modern services have been added, usually by the easiest route open to the new suppliers. Thus the gas meter is in the cellar, and the electricity meter is in an awkward cupboard on the other side of the house. Both are sited for the convenience of the installer, not for the convenience of anyone reading them, or for the convenience of the smart meter that would quite like to see a mobile signal, any mobile signal at all...

    Many houses are like this. Many houses are thus wholly unsuitable for the current "made to the cheapest design possible" smart meters, because absolutely none of these things allow for a remote comms antenna to be wired into them. The mobile communications would work perfectly if a remote antenna could be placed high up on a house wall and wired into a socket on the meter, but unfortunately such trivial things did not occur to the muppets who design such things.

    I therefore look forwards to many rounds of hairy-arsed engineers arriving at my place to discover like all previous engineers that no, there really isn't a mobile signal where the meter is and no, I don't want to pay for major building work for their convenience.

  8. MR J

    Why Wireless?

    Here is what I don't get... Why are these going to use a "Wireless" signal. Wouldn't it be smarter to just build the signal into the grid and have the DNO's collect the data?... I do understand that there's actually about three transmitters/receivers (modules) involved here. The "hub" unit on the electricity meter will talk to the gas meter, talk to the in-home monitoring stuff, and also upload the data over cell network. It is the cell wireless I don't understand. My electric car point has this too (but just like the "Smart" meters, I cant see my usage!).

    And from some of the documents I have seen, the battery in the gas "Smart" meters are only going to last about 4 years, but the hope is they will last 10. My gas regulator (on a 14~ year old meter) was recalled over safety issues, but my DNO will not replace it because "if it hasn't caused an explosion by now then it is probably okay"... I agree with them on the face of it, but it was recalled!.. If they cant make it out to change a explosion hazard that's 4/5 years past when it should be replaced, then what is the chance they are going to be happy changing a battery out every 4 years!

    If they install meters in every home that needs a new battery every 4 years then the cost there is going to be HUGE. These type of jobs will probably "charge" £100-£150 per call out to get the battery changed. I hope I am wrong on that, but If I am not then someone is going to be rolling in the money later.

    So far the only thing I have seen that will count towards customers "Saving" money is the fact that G4S or some other meter reader will now not need to make a phone call to me so I can read my meter over the phone to them. Every time I used to make a meter reading directly to my supplier (previous Npower), they would get G4S to verify my readings so they knew I wasn't "Stealing" electricity. But G4S would just phone me and I would tell them, how much of a cost was that- who knows. I guess I wouldn't lie to them twice in a row?

    What we will see is more crap deals for customers, like BG offering "Free" Sat or Sun Electricity usage. So now they can start billing us by the hour, day, or whatever. It also opens up new options in the future. Is there high demand in your area - 20% surcharge from 5-7pm..

    The boxes are also closed off, they are tied to the number of modules installed. So if you have no gas meter then its tied to 2 MAC addresses (Elec + Display), Gas is 3, (Elec + Display + Gas). So this means users cant actually log their data usage in any easy way. Your still left with the same complicated options you had "before" we moved to this digital revolution. Customer data is held back away from the Customer.

    It is a crap system. End of.

    Great Idea, but it fails at doing anything other than costing money.

    1. MrTuK

      Re: Why Wireless?

      "What we will see is more crap deals for customers, like BG offering "Free" Sat or Sun Electricity usage. So now they can start billing us by the hour, day, or whatever. It also opens up new options in the future. Is there high demand in your area - 20% surcharge from 5-7pm.."

      This is exactly what I envisage, atm they are trying to get people to have a smart meter installed and offering free leccy (using the carrot method) between certain times over the weekend - I wonder how long this will continue and how will they recoup the freely given away leccy ?

      When they have reached a certain amount of installed smart meters then they will change tact, maybe by increasing standard charges or rates to persons not having a a smart meter !

      But like the person mention above (first paragraph) they will recoup their money - either by increasing tariffs to smart meter users at certain peak usage times (They can't do this to dumb meters as they only record usage and not at what time) so that will encourage them to do the washing at 2am etc or pay the higher peak time tariff (The stick method)!

      So said smart meters will only penalize people with smart meters as I believe leccy companies can only increase at the rate or thereabouts relative to inflation I believe !

      So basically the smart thing to do is stick with a dumb meter as far as I can see or use a smart meter with a faraday cage :)

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Why Wireless?

      Wouldn't it be smarter to just build the signal into the grid and have the DNO's collect the data?

      Data over power lines. Yes it works, well sort of, if you ignore the huge amount of radiated interference that takes out anything else using radio - broadcast FM, licensed bands like radio amateurs, even the CAA has expressed concerns that newer Powerline Ethernet devices could start interfering with aircraft radio.

      OK, this wouldn't be in the same league as high data rate ethernet over power lines, but they were looking at something similar for internet - and it was fairly quickly abandoned as they realised it was fundamentally impossible to avoid massive amounts of interference by sending radio signals down what looks very much line a long wire antenna to them.

      While it's not quite comparable, you can read a lot here :

      http://www.ban-plt.org.uk

      Essentially the problems are the same.

  9. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Boffin

    The other alternative

    would be to build more power stations ?

    1. Spoobistle

      Re: The other alternative

      Not a chance - that's the whole idea of smart meters: to get National Grid out of having to supply more electricity:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37220703

      This is what happens when you put bean-counters in charge of infrastructure. The noughties zeitgeist isn't about more capacity, it's about sweating the assets harder till you've moved on and the replacement bill is someone else's nasty surprise. See motorways, rail, NHS, telecommunications, schools, housing... practically anything that requires men with shovels because they cost real money.

      Next step is rationing. It'll be called "choice" though, as in you can "choose" to have a hot bath today, or you can "choose" go to work smelly and claim it's for the environment rather than because you're skint.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The other alternative

        the whole idea of smart meters: to get National Grid out of having to supply more electricity:

        In fact the National Grid has very little say about the amount of electricity available or even its wholesale cost. Those were taken out of its hands by the Climate Change Act which mandates that 'renewable energy' must be bought first and real energy is used as top up.

        The main use of the 'smart meter' is to switch off sections of the community when the wind and solar energy isn't supplying enough and the real energy plants have all closed.

        The country does not need smart meters it needs a smart energy minister that has big enough balls to stand up to the green lobby and have more gas fired generators built and brought on line.

        If wind and solar are free energy why does their product cost four times more than the energy produced by coal, gas or nuclear plants and why does the public have to pat subsidies to the renewable industry through our taxes?

      2. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: The other alternative

        @ Spoobistle

        "This is what happens when you put bean-counters in charge of infrastructure. The noughties zeitgeist isn't about more capacity, it's about sweating the assets harder till you've moved on and the replacement bill is someone else's nasty surprise."

        Another explanation is that this is the result of a nasty surprise from people who assumed they could use idealism over science. The wonderful green initiative shown by various parties trying to get elected has brought us less power at higher cost without the reliability, and not only does the cost of energy go up to the customer but the gov also subsidised the technology. Taxpayer shafted from both ends. It started well intentioned with lightbulbs but some idiot decided to subsidise the lower power version while the LED one was about to come into practicality. So people bought a rubbish bulb which dies quickly to then buy more expensive LED. But the move to LED was not a bad thing and has its worthwhile benefits.

        Then of course we had to look at saving the worlds dogs from drowning by running power lines all over and big monuments to a sky god. An embarrassment which we have the pleasure of paying for but is less use than sacrificing a few virgins. Solar being a promising effort but originally only suited to sunny countries to be worth it. Increased efficiency and such making this more useful and even practical.

        But of course we continue having to pay more for less. The spare capacity falls and we look to France to provide nuclear which seems to be cheaper than wind farms anyway and reliable.

        I do feel for power companies somewhat. Yes they could be better but they are forced to charge more by the gov only to then be blamed by the gov for charging more. If the gov doesnt shut down the working power stations we have the spare capacity and cheaper energy. But doesnt win the green vote.

        The bad thing is new power stations would cost money. And the best way to save on costs would be to scrap the failed experiments. But then that means owning up to wasting a lot of tax payer money for some time and upsetting people who now believe these ideological monuments actually do good.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: The other alternative

          "The spare capacity falls and we look to France to provide nuclear which seems to be cheaper than wind farms anyway and reliable."

          At some point that tactic ceases to work because

          1: the french don't have all that much spare capacity and

          2: the crosschannel interconnector is only 2GW

          The "got you by the short and curlies" result will be that we'll need emergency buildouts of gas stations as coal ones close down but that's still a lot of carbon and reticulated gas will have to be slashed to meet carbon targets - which in turn means that we should be getting on with building more nuke plants.

          WRT china's interest in Hinkley Point. Look at a topographic map of southern china. Work out what happens if sea level rises by 10 feet. 400+ million people aren't going to be happy about needing to grow webbed feet.

  10. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Massively beneficial ...

    I'll save money because when I turned the kettle on I found it was one of the largest consumers of wobbly-amps so I'll only use that at 2am.

    Then the oven is a real problem. Again that uses wobblies by the pound so I'll not use it until 3am which is handy as I'll be up to do my washing - again the washing machine sucks lots of wobbly amps because it, along with most others, no longer has a hot feed (for efficiency reasons) which my waste-wood-fired heating system could have delivered ... so I'll be using that at 2am, unloading it at 3am to put the next load in and get the tumble drier going until 6am ... meanwhile my dinner will be cooked just ready for me to get up and go to work ...

    Someone hasn't thought this through.

    1. You aint sin me, roit

      Re: Massively beneficial ...

      My ex-electricity supplier provided me with a free induction loop reader that you put round your mains input cable, coupled wirelessly to a little screen that showed the usage. From which I "learnt" that if I switched the TV on, or boiled a kettle of water, or used the oven, or did the washing, then my usage would go up accordingly. Given my rudimentary understanding of how electricity works I had already suspected that this might be the case...

      Saving energy is a matter of commonsense (don't leave lights on in empty rooms; don't tumble dry individual socks). Saving on costs is a matter of knowing your tariff, and only using the vacuum cleaner between the hours of 2 and 4am.

      Smart metering is just an added expense.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Massively beneficial ...

        re: induction loop reader

        I had one of these and I suggest that for the typical user they will get just as much useful information on their energy usage from one of these as they will get from a smart meter.

        I found it useful to put the reader on to my high consumption appliances such as freezer, tumble dryer, central heating and so get some granularity on the total figure. But once I had the data and made my lifestyle decisions the unit rapidly became redundant, particularly as my annual consumption has been stable over many years now, with the exceptions being wholly attributable to the UK weather...

      2. VinceH Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Massively beneficial ...

        don't tumble dry individual socks

        * Cancels plans to have wall to wall tumble dryers in one room for this very purpose.

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re: Massively beneficial ...

          One is always tumble drying individual socks, even when they go into the laundry in pairs.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Massively beneficial ...

        "My ex-electricity supplier provided me with a free induction loop reader that you put round your mains input cable,"

        I discovered that the last electrical upgrade to the house used two cables in parallel between the meter and the fusebox - presumably as they are more flexible. The free induction probe for remote readings could only measure the current through one cable. Fortunately a local charity shop had an unused one going cheap - and the design allowed for up to three probes to be attached for a combined reading.

        Unfortunately the remote readings lag a long way behind a device's on/off usage - and the fridge-freezer compressors often confuse the issue.

        A Belkin device that plugs between a mains point and a device gave a much better idea of what each was using in real-time. It did report some low power switching psu "blobs" as having no consumption - presumably owing to the power factor.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Massively beneficial ...

          I discovered that the last electrical upgrade to the house used two cables in parallel between the meter and the fusebox - presumably as they are more flexible. The free induction probe for remote readings could only measure the current through one cable

          Assuming you are in the UK, this is normal. They are what is known as "singles"; one is "live" and the other "neutral". You only measure what is in the "live" wire. (Electricians have different names for these). How do you tell the two apart? The live comes via the main fuse, the neutral is a direct connection.

          The current in both wires is (unless there's a fault) exactly the same.

          some low power switching psu "blobs" as having no consumption - presumably owing to the power factor.

          Or the fact that even the plug-in types have a certain error and a certain minimum they can measure reliably? If an item is only drawing 1 or 2 W (and a phone charger plugged in but not charging a phone will probably draw a lot less than that) it simply might not register. All the plug-in monitors I've seen actually take account of PF and offer you "Watts" (assumes resistive, hence PF=1) and "Volt-Amps" (takes account of PF) as separate readings.

          M.

      4. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: Massively beneficial ...

        "don't tumble dry individual socks"

        I have definitely done that, but it was a case of packing enough socks to last 3 weeks working away from home.

        "only using the vacuum cleaner between the hours of 2 and 4am"

        Having had a neighbour who actually did that, don't be surprised if court orders start landing on your doormat :-(

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Massively beneficial ...

      " it, along with most others, no longer has a hot feed (for efficiency reasons) "

      It's not hard to plumb in a mixer valve upstream of the washer.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Massively beneficial ...

        It's not hard to plumb in a mixer valve upstream of the washer.

        No, not at all difficult. Just illegal where I live [sigh].

    3. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Massively beneficial ...

      Someone hasn't thought this through.

      And why does this surprise you? 'Course you could always give up working and go on the dole. I'm quite sure that would please the water melons who seem to despise business.

  11. dcluley

    It won;t help

    The suggested advantages of a smart meter for domestic consumers are illusory. All the programs on TV I have ever seen about our energy supplies focus on peak demand. In the case of electricity the programs always show the controller with her hand on the switch to turn on the pumped storage facility it Dinorwic to cope with the surge created by switching kettles on at the end of a popular TV program. No amount of smart meters is going to cure that problem. More generally domestic demand is going to peak at specific times. People will still want breakfast before going to school or work; and a meal when they return home. Compared to these peaks I suspect that staggering the times of the odd washing machine is going to be insignificant.

    I can accept that there is a case in the industrial sector where hard-headed managers might be persuaded to schedule machine/work times to cheaper rate periods but I cannot believe that the cost of installing smart meters in domestic cases will ever pay for itself unless there is a hidden plan to introduce swingeing tariffs for peak usage times.

    I worry too about the possibility of hacking the meter wireless traffic; the downsides of the whole idea seem to outweigh the possible benefits by several degrees of magnitude.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: It won;t help

      > In the case of electricity the programs always show the controller with her hand on the switch to turn on the pumped storage facility it Dinorwic to cope with the surge created by switching kettles on at the end of a popular TV program.

      Simple solution there - cease all broadcast tv and make it on demand only (it's probably the end-result of TV services anyway). To prevent any surges in power at the end of a popular show (e.g. Deadenders) if an episode is made available at a scheduled time, rate limit incoming connection requests so that the end times of the unwashed masses watching the show are smeared out.

      Live streaming events will probably not be solved this way, though...

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: It won;t help

        Live streaming events will probably not be solved this way, though...

        But a live stream isn't live! In my house we watched the Olympics on Freeview broadcast TV and on live streams. It was interesting that the 'live' streams on the iPad and Xbox were seconds apart, and these in turn, were out of sync by tens of seconds with what was being displayed on the TV...

        So I expect there already is a degree of smearing going on with live streams.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It won;t help

      That's what's so wrong about this scam. The likely saving during your normal daily activities will be very minor unless you're a complete muppet about wasting energy. To actually gain anything noticeable as a consumer you'll need to disrupt your normal schedule but there's no credible saving worth more than the lost sleep in the hypothetical 2am scenario. Not even free electricity.

      All the inconvenience, almost none of the benefits. The usual big business&government vs people deal.

      Spend the money on kick starting improved storage on the grid, you know, that stuff we need anyway, not smart meter window dressing.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: It won;t help

        Perhaps we seriously underestimated the number of muppets?

        But it is a self causing problem. Fail to educate people, then fail to correct the errors left behind by this.

      2. Aurelian2

        Re: It won;t help

        Being retired and reclusive, I'm free to timeshift my day. In winter 2008/9, I did this to see how much money I could save.

        My all-electric house is on the Economy 7 tariff so I got up at 1am, lunched at 7am and went to bed at 5pm. The novelty soon palled, though I did still get to be awake during the daylight hours.

        I won't weary you with the details of every pettifogging economy I used, but I pretty much halved my bills. Mostly this was down to using the juice during the seven-hour period in which the cheap night rate applied.

        The moral is that extreme economising is no fun and you don't need a smart meter for it.

        I run an Excel workbook that records my meter readings, analyses them for usage and pricing trends, and predicts my bills to the penny. That's the only tool I need.

    3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: It won;t help

      ... unless there is a hidden plan to introduce swingeing tariffs for peak usage times

      Funny you should say that, because that IS the primary function of these meters - price based rationing. The whole point is that at peak times, the cost will go up - and so, the theory goes, people will voluntarily change their patterns to use lecky when it's cheap. As the ever so witty comment above suggests, it'll be getting up at 1am to cook lunch and stuff like that that creates the cost savings - but no actual energy savings.

      Eventually, the idea is that you'll buy washing machines and tumble dryers that can "talk" to the hub and will automatically run themselves when the lecky is cheap. However, as also pointed out above, look forward to the anti-social behaviour injunctions when you try doing that in anything but a fully detached house !

      IF the cost rationing doesn't lop enough off peak demand, then the next step will be familiar to those of us old enough to remember the 70s. The only difference is that the power cuts will be more granular.

      Of course, it won't be as simple as "delay cooking dinner till 10 pm" since the cost will depend on how the wind is doing. There's no enough wind generation nominal capacity in the UK that it's making keeping alternative *backup) plant open very expensive, but without that backup plant we don't have enough if the wind isn't blowing. I know the eco terrorists behind wind will claim this is all lies, but the facts are that we do have spells when it's really cold, demand is high, and there's flip-all wind for days on end. December 2010 was a good example - we managed (just) then, but we don't have the capacity now to deal with another period like that fortnight.

      So when you get home from work, on a cold December night (it's night, so that solar PV is doing nothing), there's a frost on the ground, and clear skies. The snow is falling down quietly as there's no wind. You'll get home looking forward to a nice hot dinner - only to find you can't afford to cook it as the price rationing has kicked in.

      THAT is what is behind smart meters. No they don't talk about it, all those adverts are outright lies, but that is the one and only function of these things - control demand (to match supply) by "pricing pressure" and if that doesn't work to turn people off. The wealthy will moan but carry on regardless, the poor (who will be poorer because they are paying for all this expensive and unreliable renewables carp) will sit in the dark and shiver while they starve to death.

  12. Bob Rocket

    Proper Smart Meter

    They have the cart before the horse.

    I don't want a contract with one supplier, I want to buy my energy at the moment I'm using it from the cheapest supplier in the marketplace at that time and a truly smart meter could do that.

    Only then will I see any benefit.

    I don't have a contract with my grocery supplier, my petrol supplier or my hoover bag supplier, why do I need one with my energy supplier when there are plenty to choose from.

    1. Alumoi

      Re: Proper Smart Meter

      One word: captive market.

      OK, it's 2 words, but you get my drift :P

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Rob Smith

    When are you and the rest of The Cure, going to play in Manchester again?

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Rob Smith

      When are you and the rest of The Cure, going to play in Manchester again?

      Or Hobart? Ever!

  14. ideapete
    Facepalm

    Smart meters by Dumb people

    Monty Python did it better

  15. Justicesays
    FAIL

    There would be a saving

    "The UK’s controversial smart meter programme will only succeed in saving consumers cash if people are made aware of the benefits, says Rob Smith, head of policy and public affairs at Smart Energy GB."

    So, if we were made aware the benefits would be non-existent, we could save consumers the price of these new meters by stopping the roll out now? Sounds fair.

    This nob-end is in the same league as Nicola Shaw (head of the National Grid), who is convinced that Smart Meters (and presumably fairy dust) , not a sensible policy of replacing aging power stations, will prevent brown outs.

    Then she suggests moving dishwashers, tumble dryers and washing machines to run at night, in the "cheap tariffs"

    Presumably not aware that these devices are not supposed to be run unattended due to fire risks (as we all discovered during the dryer recall last year).

    I guess we can keep warm at night using the energy of nearby burning houses.

    1. NonSSL-Login
      Alert

      Re: There would be a saving

      Using the washing machine in the early hours of the morning when living in flats will have neighbours at each others throats and an increase in police and noise pollution officers to sort issue out during the night.

      The energy companies make more money from peak time charging and the tax payers foot the bill for the problems off-peak time. They will be laughing all the way to the bank.

  16. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    Hmmm

    The bad news: Just checked my half-cellar. A surprisingly strong signal there!

    However..

    Purely in the interest of saving energy, maybe I should insulate the walls and floor above. There's that nice double layer foil stuff you can get these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmm

      I had the pleasure of working for a business where the meter was in the basement and there was no mobile or any other radio signal down there as tests proved. We did however need to get the meter changed according to the supplier and the bloke turned up on the appointed day and time (before 9am) to do this. The building is empty except for the two of us and I only turned lights on where necessary which didn't help lift the atmosphere. He enquires where the meter was and I showed him down into the dark and nasty regions where nobody goes. He looks at the installed meter, the cabling going to & from it and then tries to make a phone call to his office on his mobile.

      Him: "I don't seem to be able to get a signal on my phone"

      Me: "What down here? You'll be lucky nothing really gets through down here, you can scream your lungs out and no one will hear you"

      Him: "Er yes can we go back to where there is a signal please"

      Me: "Yep no worries"

      I came back to him a few minutes later to hear this:

      Him (on phone): "No signal at all anywhere near it so the [Model Number] I've got for the job isn't going to work. Whadya want me to do?"

      Him (to me): "Sorry I don't have the right meter to be able to install in your premises, we'll have to re-schedule the job for another appointment"

      Me: "At the same time, as I can't have the power off during the working day?"

      Him: "I'll not be the one making the appointment-"

      Me: "What was wrong with the meter location?"

      Him: "It needs a signal and you can't get one down there so we'll have to give you a different one"

      Me: "Is it better than the one we've got because that was replaced about a year and a half ago"

      Him: "It'll be the same model and if it's only a year or so old at the moment we don't need to replace it. Sorry to have bothered you"

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having a smart meter saved nothing in my house as there was no button my desk / phone to kill the shower / tumble dryer that my kids were abusing at any given time.

    Plus the display had to be powered to make the data visible. The irony of this was met with a shrug of the shoulder from the guy that installed it.

    And when I switched supplier it went back to being in a dumb mode that seemingly requires a magic sequence of button presses and hopping on one leg to get it to display a reading.

  18. Nifty

    Omnishambles

    1. Short term, we could put smart plugs (or lust a plain old time plug) in washers, driers, dishwashers so they come on during a cheap window, that window being governed by the smart meter. It will know how many hours of cheap vs expensive power you used.

    2. Longer term, the much vaunted smart fridge or oven that can turn itself off momentarily for minutes at a time when instructed to by the Grid, to avoid an overpeak of consumption.

    1 will not work having till we are offered SMETS2 meters that allow a switch of supplier and the meter stays smart.

    2 will not work with the currently mandated 30 minute sampling - so I suppose even type 2 meters are already obsolete before they arrive.

    Pity as the above if all used could save the UK a power station or 2.

    That mobile signal issue though - what's so hard about using WiFi?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Omnishambles

      "[...] what's so hard about using WiFi?"

      My wifi router gets switched off when I'm not at home - and overnight - to save energy.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
        Pint

        Re: Omnishambles

        My wifi router has a power supply brick rated at 12V and 1A. I presume the unit itself doesn't actually draw that much power. That's about 1kWh (about 10p?) every three days or so. If you've really optimised your home energy use so that this is a meaningful saving, then I'm impressed. Treat yourself to a pint to celebrate, every few months or so.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Omnishambles

        "My wifi router gets switched off when I'm not at home - and overnight - to save energy."

        And with the amount of money you save by doing that you can buy half a banana in a year's time.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Omnishambles

          And with the amount of money you save by doing that you can buy half a banana in a year's time.

          But think of all that nasty radioactive potassium in that banana!

  19. Paul Smith

    There is only one benifit to smart meters

    The only benefit that I have been able to identify for smart meters is the remote application of variable tariffs. Instead of just a flat rate, or the current 'night rate' (which requires the fitting of a separate meter) suppliers can apply actual hourly rated or worse (better?) variably rated tariffs. If anyone here is old enough to remember the pre-mobile phone era and paper phone bills, then they may remember the massive change caused to teenagers lives by the introduction of itemized phone bills. I suspect the electricity consumer market may be in for a similar awakening.

  20. Mr Dogshit
    FAIL

    Hey, Smith

    1. What benefits?

    2. If your job is convincing us that £19bn is money well spent, what are you doing in China?

  21. Killing Time

    Haters gonna hate...

    For a site supposedly frequented by intelligent IT savvy people there is an alarming lack of vision about any potentially positive advantages to the end user. Just paranoia about remote isolation. Please, anyone who has actually got a smart meter confirm that this is part of the spec (these are not pay as you go meters ) so I don’t believe it is, or whining about running appliances keeping everyone up at night.

    Not everyone is in the same position and some may find greater advantage than others, however more accurate consumption information permits informed decisions and potentially, monetary savings. We all use energy, it’s like taxes, you can’t get away from it. If you don’t wish to make energy savings and want to pay more than your fair share of the CCL, thereby lining the pockets of those fortunate enough to be renewables adopters then go ahead, carry on hating. Personally, I don’t want to pay any more tax than I need to, I would rather take the information and make it work for me ( isn't that the fundamental goal of Information Technology?) I have far better uses for my money than to give it away when I don't have to.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Haters gonna hate...

      however more accurate consumption information permits informed decisions and potentially, monetary savings

      How about this accurate consumption info: powered on devices consume energy.

      Power them off when you don't use them!

    2. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Haters gonna hate...

      @Killing Time

      I'm sure you are right that "accurate consumption information permits informed decisions and potentially, monetary savings" but you also say "I have far better uses for my money than to give it away when I don't have to"

      Given the latter, you will have to make a net saving. A 20B project for 30M households is about 600-700 quid per meter. Most of the information to which you refer would be available from a cheap induction loop device.

      1. Killing Time

        Re: Haters gonna hate...

        @ John H Woods

        'Given the latter, you will have to make a net saving.'

        I won't have to make the 'saving', installation is 'free', supposedly at no cost to me.

        In reality though the project is being financed through CCL / energy taxes with the highest consumers proportionally paying the highest cost. This being the case, the less energy I use, the less tax I pay and the less I contribute to financing the project.

        I don't disagree that currently a cheap induction loop device would provide valuable information, however when fine grained tariffs fully arrive, (note that BG are just now sticking their toe in the water with free weekend electricity deals) then remotely accessible metering will be a requirement to give your supplier confidence that they can accurately track or profile your consumption in fairly real time and trade their Grid import/export balance effectively.

        You have to remember that there is at least one intermediate distribution company between you and your energy supplier therefore the better data your supplier has regarding its energy balance at any one time, the better deals they are likely to offer as they can control their losses and 'hedging' more effectively.

        Again, its Information Technology...

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Haters gonna hate...

          Erm you can also see it as BG having to give energy away to get customers to have a smart Meter installed presumably because take up has been low. Just a thought.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Haters gonna hate...

        Most induction loop devices don't seem to work on the gas in my house. Not sure why.

    3. Robin Bradshaw

      Re: Haters gonna hate...

      Killing Time here is the SMETS2 smart meter technical specs draft:

      https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/381535/SMIP_E2E_SMETS2.pdf

      I would draw your attention to section 5.5.7:

      "ESME shall be capable of operating in Credit Mode and Prepayment Mode and of being remotely switched from one mode to the other."

      And just above it section 5.5.6 Load Limiting, which to my eye seems a particularly weasel worded section, that I take to mean they can set a power usage threshold that if you exceed it they switch you off for a bit, now I know traditional meters have this feature too but that is at about 60 or 80 Amps when your main fuse blows, I doubt they will be so generous with this load limiting feature.

      Something along the lines of "of course if you want to draw more than 3KW you'll have to pay for our premium electricity service"

      1. Killing Time

        Re: Haters gonna hate...

        @ Robin Bradshaw

        Thanks, an interesting read, a 126 page specification including required functionality, cryptographic algorithms and private /public key requirements, clearly this has been well thought out.

        Yes, it appears remote isolation functionality is a requirement of the specification, specifically tied to prepayment mode emergency credit settings and functionality (page 43 point v.) however as I read it this is a specific feature of the prepayment mode it must support, alongside credit mode. Probably along the lines of existing prepaid meters. Of course, you do have to agree to the installation of a prepayment meter and I would expect a similar and robust process as that in place currently to apply in allowing your energy provider to set this mode on the meter. In short, if your credit history and performance is reasonable I wouldn't expect any issue.

        Your issue regarding Load Limiting reads to me as perhaps a little simplistic. The specified requirement is quite specific that certain conditions have to be met to disable supply and then a time condition to enable resupply . I can see a more benign application for this, such as a user running their supply close to the design maximum but below the threshold of the fuses. This would heat the incoming supply wiring,wiring joints,and equipment significantly, increasing the risk of an electrical fire considerably. This Load Limiting functionality could manage this situation as you would need to shed load to ensure a persistent supply. Again though, this load limit is definable and I would expect a reasonable and robust process to be in place to agree this setting with your energy supplier or DNO. I don't see it unreasonable to enter into a pre agreed peak power limit with your providers.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] the surge created by switching kettles on at the end of a popular TV program. No amount of smart meters is going to cure that problem."

    Thermos flasks and hay boxes would stagger energy use and be more efficient.

    Room temperatures below 19C promote the body to create "healthy" brown fat that burns extra calories as heat - thus also helping to solve the obesity crisis. That only happens if you don't add extra clothes - so go naked and that will also save on clothes washing energy. Going naked also promotes stable odourless skin bacteria populations, That means showering is not needed so often - which otherwise disrupts the odourless stability.

  23. Peter Prof Fox

    Flexible pricing

    Means you'll have to suddenly pay more at peak times. No Economy7 but a fancy tariff. A bit like the train fares. You may be able to benefit from a cheapo if it suits the supplier but otherwise you're stuffed with nowhere else to go. Thus the suppliers cream-off the profitable bits of the market.

  24. rh16181618190224

    Not very smart though

    Moved house - new house had British Gas smart meter. The last bill was estimated. WTF? New supplier is Ovo. Ovo cannot use the same smart meter. WTF? This has not been well thought out. And fiddling around with LCD displays that only read after you press a button a number of times is not well thought out.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Not very smart though

      > Ovo cannot use the same smart meter. WTF?

      This got covered in the last round of stories.

      The "smart meters" that the companies have been flogging over the last few years are not the same as the standardised meters which are supposed to be rolled out from here on in.

      I still don't want 'em. As most have said, this is about being able to charge higher rates to consumers and if they're equippped with cutoff relays, do rolling blackouts.

  25. Dieter Haussmann

    Seeing that a cup of tea uses 3.1Kw for 90 seconds won't save anything unless I forgo the cup of tea.

    That is not a saving, that is poverty.

    These meters are not for the consumer, they are an AaaS (Austerity as a Service) device that allow remote cutting of power, snooping, tariff-shaping, rationing and other such nasties that will come in the post-democratic-era.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re Cup of tea

      I've got PV - when its proper sunny I do things that need a lot of hot water - like brewing and cleaning my brewing equipment, or as I have a large garden cook shitloads of jam and chutneys, or just heating my hot water etc. All for free. Now with a truly smart meter that lets me know when electricity is cheap I can, with very little automation do the washing, tumble drying (when the weather is shit), heat the hot water all for whatever the lowest overnight price is - or if it doesnt go down to the required value I can program it to run or not if its urgent.

      As I said earlier this will have to be achieved by my own induction loop and raspberryPi OCR of the smart meter and a few switches and solenoids. For around about £250 I'm guestimating it will pay for itself in a year - I saved over £500 a year by using PV 'intelligently'. I've even got a low power kettle for low light days!

      These meters are not for the consumer but by christ we should do everything to make sure they dont get away with this crap. Though I do wonder if they will 'advise' the government that all white goods need to be made manual only!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Previous DCC Employee

    I used to work here (so anonymous), they never really explained the benefits of the meters and where the savings came from.

    They said there was some in the collection and ability to remotely control, personally I always thought it was in the ability to track down theft. If they know absolutely which lines the meters are on on they can tell which street is drawing more power than is getting billed and find the thieves. DCC studiously denied this was an intended benefit (though I'm not sure why)

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Previous DCC Employee

      Probably because they can already track down power theft pretty accurately.

      All the substations have accurate metering, and they know the expected load given what's attached to it. It's not rocket science to spot a substation that's supplying more than the expected load.

      While in theory more accurate metering might help, it'd take extremely high penetration >90% or more before it could begin to offer anything they don't already have.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Previous DCC Employee

        "While in theory more accurate metering might help"

        It won't help as much as an infrared camera.

        All that stolen energy tends to show up pretty brightly.

  27. Scott Broukell
    Meh

    So basically . . .

    If you are too effing thick to comprehend / manage / control / understand your domestic energy consumption, then you need a lot more than a crappy 'smart' meter.

  28. RyszrdG

    Smart?

    What is 'Smart' about Smart Metering? Zip, nada nothing. If we all called it what it really is - remote monitoring and control, the sooner this nonsense will be exposed for the con trick by the energy companies and government that it really is. The classic boiling frogs experiment - the general public do not care that they are paying for an obsolete technical infrastructure of questionable benefit to the consumer and indeed appear not to care anyway.

  29. getHandle

    I agreed to smart meters

    Simply to avoid having to read them myself. Shame the clueless gimp from Lowri Beck failed to commission the gas meter, then said company failed to uphold a subsequent appointment and, finally after 2 1/2 months, they sorted it.

    Ultimate irony is that the energy company is telling me that if I change supplier then the new one might not be able to work with the meters and they will effectively revert to being dumb!

    You couldn't make it up... Money well spent? Definitely not! Glad it didn't cost me anything (directly)!

  30. MrTuK

    Well, its nice to see we have intelligent people here :)

    Finally something most of us are in agreement with - smart meters are for dumb people, dumb meters are for smart people :)

    It just reminds me of two previous things the UK Gov has done in the past !

    1.) Encourage people to migrate from Leaded petrol to unleaded by making unleaded petrol taxation cheaper and then when enough had migrated they stopped selling leaded petrol.

    2.) Diesel taxation was cheaper that petrol taxation so making diesel cheaper for the consumer until demand increased so they then increased to diesel taxation to reduce diesel consumption.

    1.) I think the encouragement to migrate from leaded petrol was a good one as we don't want children's brains damaged with the excessive lead content in the air.

    2.) playing with the taxation for Diesel to encourage car manufacturers to develop cleaner/higher performance diesel engines without being aware of the harmful effects of sulphur dioxide was ill thought out, the same can be said for the smart meters - ill thought out and will cost the consumer more than than any benefits or savings can be made.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Well, its nice to see we have intelligent people here :)

      I think the encouragement to migrate from leaded petrol was a good one as we don't want children's brains damaged with the excessive lead content in the air.

      We would much prefer it if they contract cancer instead:

      Identification of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in unleaded petrol and diesel exhaust emission

  31. Instinct46

    I like them

    I got a smart meter 2 years ago and it was very informative. You can look at your usage in every half an hour for the past 24hours. Noticed a bunch of tech was randomly turning on a certain times... I'd say the actual ability to view usage as accurately as it does is more than enough of a benefit.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: I like them

      You're aware you don't need a smart meter to do that aren't you?

      Basic version

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/geo-Minim-Electricity-Energy-Monitor/dp/B00JIMQP6Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473465910&sr=8-1&keywords=energy+monitor

      More advanced which you can view via an app, your PC, away from home etc.

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Efergy-Technologies-ENGAGE-HUB-1-1/dp/B00G5DZK8I/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1473465910&sr=8-6&keywords=energy+monitor

      Please tell us you didn't have a smart meter installed just for the energy monitor.

      1. Wiltshire

        Re: I like them

        Looks good, but I'm not sure about paying them to hold my personal data and having it served back to me via a web app.

        Has anyone found an Energy-Monitor that just lets you log to local storage?

        A CSV/Text file/whatever would do nicely.

        Then import to Excel/whatever to shape the data and get the pretty graphs, when it suits me, not crawling under the stairs.

        And another thing ... why is it that these Energy-Monitor thingummies need batteries? FFS, what's the point of a system that's broken as soon as the batteries inevitably need recharging/replacing? What's wrong with powering them from the mains electricity anyway? Oh, it would make the power consumption increase? Oh dear, umm, what can we turn off to decrease our carbon footprint? Aha! the Energy-Monitor.

        1. Gerry 3

          Re: I like them

          @ Wiltshire

          There's seldom a 13A outlet close to the meter, that's why. However, the displays are usually mains powered.

          Battery operation isn't a drawback because it's easy to change or recharge them, and a charge lasts a long time.

          1. Wiltshire

            Re: I like them

            @Gerry3

            Perhaps you missed the point. if the batteries are flat, there's no data being transmitted = system failure.

            Anyway, what's wrong with an induction coil being used to power the device? If it's good enough to provide enough power to charge mobile phones, it's good enough for this.

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

            There's even a standard for doing just that.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi_(inductive_power_standard)

            1. Gerry 3
              Coat

              Re: I like them

              @ Wiltshire

              >Perhaps you missed the point. if the batteries are flat, there's no data being transmitted = system failure.

              No, I didn't. My Energy Monitor gives a low battery warning for at least a week or two. I don't think it's ever failed to display the correct usage, even when I've been slow to charge the batteries.

              >Anyway, what's wrong with an induction coil being used to power the device?

              Unfortunately you'd need a direct metallic connection to power the inductive loop charger, and if you had a direct connection available near the meter you wouldn't need inductive charging in the first place !

              In any case, getting grannies to splice large Scotchlock connectors on to live cables doesn't seem a good idea...

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: I like them

                Unfortunately you'd need a direct metallic connection to power the inductive loop charger

                Are you certain of that assertion? My electric toothbrush charges quite nicely without any direct electrical connection.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I like them

          "Has anyone found an Energy-Monitor that just lets you log to local storage?"

          In principle something like the Owl will let you do that; it's the usual clip-on sensor and remote wireless display. The display unit can come with a USB interface (fake serial) and a Windows app which is a bit weird and allegedly can export a history to CSV.

          In practice the display unit works OK but the local database export is (to put it politely) unreliable in my experience. I've used the same display on 2 different PCs (XP and Win7). It took some time to get it right on the first. Then on changing to the Win7 box it seems to have a scaling issue; the exported consumption doesn't match the box display; there seems to be some constant factor relating the two.

          Sound in principle, disappointing in practice.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: OWL

            In summary, the OWLs are not what they seem.

            Damn fine coffee.

            (sorry, missed the edit deadline)

        3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: I like them

          Has anyone found an Energy-Monitor that just lets you log to local storage?

          How into DIY are you ? WOuld Open Energy Monitor be of any interest ? There are other even ore DIY projects, one I've fancied having a go at is a 16 channel one (meaning you can monitor each circuit in the "fuse" board) which is very DIY.

          But to re-iterate - there is nothing that the smart meter does AND which is of benefit to the end user which needs a smart meter.

      2. Carrot007

        Re: I like them

        > Please tell us you didn't have a smart meter installed just for the energy monitor.

        No one cares about the monitor after 5 minutes.

        And you are aware that the clip on monitors and really shit at low usage levels? A real smart meter is not, but even then you unpluf the unit after a day or so.

    2. Gerry 3

      Re: I like them

      You don't need a massively expensive smart meter (professionally installed when you take a day off work) to monitor your consumption. As the name suggests, an Energy Monitor will do exactly that. They are orders of magnitude cheaper; mine was given to me free of charge under some energy efficiency programme. So simple to fit that your grandmother could do it.

      The problem is that unless you've always been a complete muppet that's left the windows wide open in winter with the lights and heating on 24/7, or you become nocturnal, the scope for savings will be relatively small.

      The truth is what they don't tell you - smart metering is all about rationing, firstly by making it prohibitively expensive to run cookers, washing machines and dryers in daylight or to use lightbulbs after dark, and secondly by compulsory personal power cuts if you don't comply.

      As the Remainians found out to their cost, you really can't fool all the people all the time !

      Whoops - JimboSmith beat me to it. Must be telepathy... have an upvote !

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: I like them

        Great minds and all that have an upvote back.

      2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge
        Happy

        So simple to fit that your grandmother could do it.

        My grandmother's method of fitting anything was to get me to do the job.

        I in turn was rewarded by her excellent cooking :-)

        Yeah, totally off topic, but good memories ought to be shared.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I like them

      @instinct46

      Sadly mate you are on the wrong forum, this is the one where you will be ridiculed or patronised if you actually have one, draw on direct experience and have the temerity to acknowledge that they can be an asset.

      You need to find some other forum if you think you have a valid point or want a reasoned debate..

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: I like them

        Sadly mate you are on the wrong forum

        I don't very often downvote, but in your case I'm willing to make an exception. Mainly because your remark is patronising...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I like them

          @Pompous Git

          'Mainly because your remark is patronising'

          So you got the point then, downvote? Truly, I am crushed...

  32. John Lilburne Silver badge

    HaHaHa.

    We had E.ON around the other month to install one. Seems they needed a mobile signal connection. Tough you only get mobile signal in our village if you stand on the cistern in the pub's loo. Installer shrugged and beat a retreat.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only went through because of corruption. Huge waste of money attempting to put everyone on smart meters.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/jan/30/lords-energy-bill

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the Netherlands the old meters count backwards when feeding back to the grid. In the olden days nobody did that. But in the days of solar panels it's the most economic way for the customer. You probably can understand why they want smart meters.

  35. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    No "Smart" meter for me, if they need I reading, I provide that online, now whether companies like First Utility can provide an accurate bill, that is a big question, for the last 18 months they have been an EPIC FAIL ! !

  36. Daniel Snowden
    FAIL

    Who's delivering it?!?

    "However, the technical delivery of the national platform behind smart meters – which is the responsibility of the Capita-run Data Communications Company"

    Capita? Now I'm worried!

  37. Slx

    I wonder about this kind of approach.

    Spending money on retrofitting homes with modern levels of insulation, heat recovery ventilation, high insulation windows and sensible levels of insulation in plumbing systems would make more sense.

    The insulation levels found in a lot of buildings in the UK and in Ireland is often really primitive.

    Even something simple like getting rid of "immersion" tanks would make sense. I am not aware of anywhere else in the world that heats water by storing it in a bare copper cylinder, often insolated by a badly fitted fibreglass "jacket" held on with tie strings.

    Elsewhere in the world water heaters are usually highly insulated tanks that suffer from very very little heat loss. There's actually no reason for things like electric showers and instantaneous high wattage water heaters if this stuff is done right. You should be getting your hot water from solar and whatever fuel you are using to heat your radiators and storing it in a super efficiently insulated tank.

    Classic systems in these islands basically blast heat into an "airing cupboard".

    Britian and Ireland need to address the obvious before going to solutions like smart metering.

    A major programme of retrofitting homes would be a less PR-sexy but far more impactful measure.

    We've some degree of this going on in Ireland with grant aid and tax incentives to upgrade things but it really should be scaled up.

  38. NonSSL-Login
    Thumb Down

    The question not asked....

    Will continuing to use my appliances at the times I currently use them, cost me more than it is now? Taking in to consideration inflation similar variables.

    I full suspect that prices will increase for those that do not wish to use their washing machine, Iron, kettle etc at 3am in the morning.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The question not asked....

      Will continuing to use my appliances at the times I currently use them, cost me more than it is now? Taking in to consideration inflation similar variables.

      In theory no. The reason for that is that on the wholesale market power prices vary every half hour of every day, and that's for the "spot" market. Most volume is traded in advance through contracts. What the energy supplier does is then to smooth out all of the variability in the wholesale pricing, the various time of use charges for transmission and distribution systems, and charges you a fixed price.

      So if the time of use charging had minimal additional costs, and was reflective of the underlying costs, then on a variable tarriff you shouldn't be paying extra. If you shifted some of your demand from peak to off peak hours you'd be better off on average, but the actual benefit should be quite small - you still need to recover the transmission and distribution costs of the whole system and they won't really change, you still need to recover the asset and operating cost of generation. And if enough people shifted their demand, then the off peak prices rise anyway.

      Time of use charging is being pushed by the government (DECC, now BEIS) who see this as a way of fixing the huge policy mess they've created, that means that as old thermal plant is decommissioned, nobody wants to build new plant because the market structures won't provide the returns that encourage new build (despite the subsidies of the "capacity market"). If BEIS can avoid the need for more power stations by pricing that forces families to cook their evening meal after 21:00, and send the kids to school in damp clothes, that's an entirely acceptable outcome for civil servants.

    2. Gerry 3

      Re: The question not asked....

      Prices will rocket if your usage pattern remains unchanged, but there will be massive sleight of hand to make it almost impossible to compare competitors' tariffs. There will be all sorts of opportunities for price confusion and hidden 'Ryanair' charges.

      Use energy at peak times? That'll cost you. Exceed a peak kW threshold? That'll cost you. Use more than so many kWh in a month? That'll cost you.

      Don't want you own personal power cuts? Yes sir, peace of mind for you and your family is available with our uninterruptable tariff available for the nominal amount of just £50 per quarter and only 10p extra per unit. Then you'll never be in the dark again (unless there's a power cut across the whole area).

      Dumb People have Smart Meters; Smart People have Dumb Meters.

  39. markowen58

    import/export meters and storage

    Do the current specs for the smart meters incorporate export metering?

    Having a national roll out that would improve the infrastructure to accommodate customers being able to more easily fit PV and storage in the home would make sense. It's the tea drinking that gets us in this country, specifically when Corrie has a break.

    So why not have a small scale energy storage solution that covers that peak, but is charged throughout the day, same for electric showers, evening off the peaks in demand?

    There also seems to be a complete lack of recognition that wind and solar require a similar build out of storage.

    If smart meters were part of a wider co-ordinated programme that incorporated generation at the traditional plant level through to home generation, and co-ordinating a distribution network upgrade that acts as a market place to buy and sell energy, for individuals and companies to generate, store and consume, then it would make sense.

    As is, the smart meter roll out just seems like a marketers/snoopers wet dream, with little to no benefits for the cost we've been asked to pay through our bills.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: import/export meters and storage

      Do the current specs for the smart meters incorporate export metering?

      Yes. SMETS2 compliant smart meters are required to record active export of power.

      However, that's not really material for most people, because the main payments (for older PV contracts) are the generation component (recorded on your PV generation meter), and the export element (a further and much smaller payment) is at present usually guessed at 50% of the generated power. Export metering for domestic users will for the most part merely shift the incidence of those export payments between different PV households to those who don't use as much of their PV output from those who use more. If you can it is generally better to use on site and not to export because the additional export rate is usually much lower than your grid imports.

      Having said that, the whole UK PV scheme has been a misbegotten scam, throwing money at a technology that doesn't help us at all, and puts up evertybody else's bills.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: import/export meters and storage

      It's the tea drinking that gets us in this country, specifically when Corrie has a break.

      There's a kernel of truth in that, but the reality is that the main problem oif the whole system is being able to accomodate peak demand on the three or so peak days. These are usually the coldest weekdays away from public holidays, and reflect full commercial and industrial use, full domestic municipal and transport demands, and the peak is somewhere between 16:00 and 21:00. Being the coldest days, people are using electricity for top up heating, storage heaters are depleted, so those users have them on in non-storage mode, everybody's inside, and every light in the land is on.

      TV schedules have little bearing on that peak demand nowdays.

  40. Moeluk
    FAIL

    Need more than one network...

    To me the idiocy of the scheme comes down to its piss poor planning and implementation. My mother had a chap come down the drive the other month to survey and inform her about the fact they would be coming round to install a smart meter for her electicity....

    Small problem he spotted they couldn't install it because there was no mobile network signal...except, there is....so clearly what he actually means is "you don't have the signal of our chosen network operator"

    Well that's just bloody idiotic, between them all they cover 99.9% of the U.K., surely you'd setup multiple agreements with multiple operators? Or am I just thinking logically here?

    1. Carrot007

      Re: Need more than one network...

      You believe that you can get a mobile signal in 99.9% of the UK.

      I have news for you.....

    2. Doctor Tarr

      Re: Need more than one network...

      Well Telefonica are running the communication services (DCC) in the central and South East areas for the next 15 (+5) years.

      When the first meters were installed they all had the same time set for sending data so swamped the local mast. They also all had the same retry period. Doh.

      This is a pretty simple but fundamental consideration that was overlooked or not implemented. What else have they missed.

  41. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Refrigerator

    17 billion would easily replace about 17 million 20+ year old refrigerators.

    I suspect that would save significantly more electricity than "smart" meters ever will.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Refrigerator

      I suspect that would save significantly more electricity than "smart" meters ever will.

      You do know that you're not supposed to do the sums don't you? Have an upvote before the downvoters descend upon you for heresy.

  42. Natasha Live

    I think they have missed a trick here. A lot of people are complaining about not being able to get them due to poor network coverage. Well, would not smart meters in (nearly) every home be the perfect candidate for a mesh network? Then all you would need is one meter with coverage to provide network for an area? They already say that changes to your tariff may take 24hrs to reach your meter, so speed of connection is not an issue here.

    I have been suing this sort of meter for at least a decade (networked meter that is) in the business I work at. It helps save a lot of money when it was rolled out as we could look at usage patterns and adjust. Of course, businesses saved most of the money from smoothing their usage. Businesses are being charged a "peak demand" fee. If it's higher than you need to are throwing money away, if you cross it you are hit by extra charges. Being able to reduce the peak and spread it out meant we could save on the fixed fee, ensure we did not cross the newer, lower threshold and still run in a very similar manner as before. Net effect was no real difference in total kWh, but lower bills.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's fine, but all of that can be done (and has been done) without the "off switch" and other unnecessary stuff in the current UK residential (and small business?) smart meters. If your electricity demand is big enough to have a "maximum demand" factor in the price, you're in a different ballpark than most homes and small shops/offices/etc.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        If your electricity demand is big enough to have a "maximum demand" factor in the price, you're in a different ballpark ...

        Until that is, they start offering tariffs including a maximum demand element as a way of skimping on the local distribution network.

  43. Flywheel Silver badge

    "whether all locations will have the necessary wireless signal"

    This may be an incentive for the government to give the mobile operators a well-deserved kick to improve their coverage.

    And of course, if a Smart Meter can send a signal it will almost certainly be able to receive a signal, so we can look forward to phased power cuts when we don't pay our bills or the government finally decides not to build new power stations to keep the lights on...

  44. bin

    The king's new clothes

    What I love about the 21st Century is how we are always looking for a hi-tch solution to a lo-tech problem.

    We are using too much power (or rather we cannot generate enough power to meet the demands that we have created with all our electric stuff.)

    So how come every time I watch the news on BBC there are ranks of unused computers with their LED/LCD monitors glowing away using power to create heat to raise the temperature to require air-con to keep the temperature down. Seeing cities at night with millions of lights and computers and god knows what all churning away for nothing makes me boil - in a low energy way of course.

    So what do we do - well it's obviously too hard for anyone who goes to work to actually switch off their computer or the lights so lets jump on consumers at home because they're an easy target.

    Lets put in more computers and servers to run complicated smart meter systems with all the IT infrastructure and meetings and spreadsheets and reports and all the other crap that corporate mumbo-jumbo thrives on rather than actually face the facts.

    If you eat too much you get fat - nothing to do with your genes or your bones - you're just a greedy slob.

    If you consume more power than you can generate (oh and while you're doing it you can destroy in a few hundred years what nature took billions of years to produce (Go Mankind - yaaaaay) then the answer is to consume less.

    If industry and businesses showed a willingness to reduce obvious excessive consumption at night and thereby set an example then maybe folks would get behind other methods of helping reduce consumption. However these days all we want is more gadgets, more machines, more 24/7/365 everything. Well, good luck with that. I'll be dead when the shit hits the fan and the climate goes into meltdown - literally. Many readers here and their children may not be so lucky - but then they'll have a app to tell them how hot it's going to be so they'll be happy - and they can read their smart meter whenever they want - it will help I'm sure.............

  45. PrimaryKey

    Conflict of signals

    We had our smart meters installed last week. I did so because the old ones required me to become a contortionist to read them.

    I noticed a problem with the home wifi almost immediately after the smart meter and in home display were operating. A quick google search confirms that the smart meters use the 2.4GHz Zigbee standard and will clash with home wifi because they use channels that overlap the popular home wifi channels. I have managed to change the channel my Access Point was using but I wonder how many others will be able to do so. Once the rollout reaches a critical mass and the general population start to report wifi problems the mainstream media will no doubt pick this up and the whole thing will then get suspended followed by a public enquiry and more money wasted.

    Why they couldn't have chosen technology that wouldn't interfere is beyond me. Will it make me change my power usage? No. All lighting is either LED or CFL where used for long periods.

  46. ahowlett

    Missing the best bit...

    The real price of electricity in the UK varies every 30 minutes, from (say) £15 per kWh at 5pm on a cold January work day, to pretty much nothing at 2am in August. Right now, almost everyone pays a flat rate of 12-15p/kWh, (which is about the right price), but no consumer can really reduce their bill by moving their consumption times (except through Economy 7, which is bad for most consumers).

    I would like:

    a. Smart meters to show the rough price per kWh we are using, and

    b. Smart meters to record the half-hour consumption data so that consumers can be charged appropriately.

    Thus, people who are financially stretched could save money, and it would be good for the planet too.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Missing the best bit...

      Hard to know if you are being sarcastic or serious ...

      Smart meters to show the rough price per kWh we are using

      That's what the in-home display is for

      Smart meters to record the half-hour consumption data so that ...

      That's what they do

      But the issue is that once the suppliers have the chance, that £15/kWH in the dark winter won't be getting averaged out in the same way. That will get passed onto the users daft enough to have smart meters as a way of "persuading" them to not use lecky then. That's the point, rationing of demand by pricing - so the poor will sit in the dark, shivering while they starve, while the well off can moan but carry on regardless.

  47. Jon Jones 73

    "Smart meters are being touted as a means of allowing consumers to switch providers"

    You can already do that. It's quite simple.

    "and help people to reduce their energy consumption"

    The only way to reduce your energy consumption is to use less energy, no meter can help you do that any better than just looking at your bill.

    "and switch their usage away from peak times"

    What you mean those peak times when people are actually at home rather than at work?

  48. Doctor Tarr

    Almost Compulsory

    Once the rollout starts in earnest they will be pretty much compulsory. Unless you can prove with an 'engineer' visit that you can't get an adequate signal then you'll have to pay a surcharge.

    Obviously it won't be framed like this but if you're not on a smart meter you won't get the 'discount'. You might also be charged for a third party to read the meter.

    The only benefit to consumers would be to allow instant switching or the ability to 'top up' with energy from any supplier (allowing brokers to get bulk discounts for consumers). Granted it's complex but, as there is no advantage to the big 6 in doing this it will never happen.

    Does the £17bn saving include the £12bn that this is costing? It's bullshit anyway 'cos the costs will be much higher and the savings minimal.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Almost Compulsory

      Is this your opinion or do you have something to quarterback that claim about "compulsory"? I will just Faraday cage under the stairs where the meter is if they make them compulsory I know there's a good earth connection under there.

  49. ZippedyDooDah
    Devil

    I can read my own meters

    I am already a smart user. I read my meters monthly to coincide with billing cycles. I submit the readings online and I update my spreadsheet with the readings. I know what my bills are long before I get them by email.

    Can I get a discount by not needing smart meters?

  50. LisaJK

    WTP

    What's the point???

    I am an engineer, I know how much energy everything I use consumes. I use what I need to use. Furthermore, every electricity user is paying via their energy bill for those who have smart meters fitted. I don't want to pay for other people to have them and I have no opt out.

    Even for an idiot, just turning stuff off when you don't need it will do just as well.

    An interconnected meter with variable energy cost is a different matter, i.e. your washing machine washes when energy cost is lowest, etc.

    Finally, I have no mobile signal in my area. A centrally connected smart meter won't work. Why can't they all use PLC???

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