back to article Rollout of smart meters continues at a snail's pace

Looking back over a turbulent year, some things remained reassuringly constant. England lost the football, Julian Assange stayed vitamin D deprived, and Blighty's smart meter rollout continued at a snail's pace. According to the latest government figures (PDF), there are now 4.9 million smart meters operating across homes and …

  1. dom_f

    I wonder how many are already unused. Bought a new house with a smart meter provided by British Gas. Changed supplier 3 months later and so it stops working..... Waste of time and money.

    1. Known Hero

      Came here to say the same, My meter came with a monitor that kept on spazzing out and every now and then said I was using £56~ per hour, dutifully I complained, and promptly told, "nothing we can do that meter is no longer supported, you will need to replace the entire system to get a working monitor"

      Well that was fun whilst it lasted ......

      1. C_H

        The IHD on your LAN may not be supportable but the CU meter is still able to communicate with the WAN (be it custom collect net or having moved to DCC or not yet). The IHD is only to provide a perceived value of smart metering for the consumer, it has no value to the supplier to maintain.

        My elec/gas supplier OVO don't use DCC/Crapita yet but will, so have agreed to limit WAN data collection to monthly summary while I retain near real-time consumption data over LAN to the IHD.

        My water supplier Yorkshire Water have and intend to maintain their own WAN collection network and only monitors usage with frequency appropriate for billing.

        In both instances they were adamant the smart meters could not be removed once installed, but ultimately agreed they could not prevent the legal installation of Faraday cages, then they were willing to escalate enquiries, provide detail on how they use and compromise.

        1. Known Hero

          I'm not really sure it does communicate back, as we live in a rather dead zone for mobile signal, and we have never got a smart meter bill, they keep asking us to read the meter ......

  2. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Sometimes, just sometimes ...

    capitalism can benefit the little man.

    In this case, the desperate behind the scenes "you pay for it" "no you pay for it" between the various profit-oriented players has meant such a woeful investment that failure was the *only* option. Coupled with the desire of the manufacturers to try and make everything proprietary and disincentives open standards.

    (I will admit that I have no evidence for that last statement But I bet it's true anyway).

    For some reason I am reminded of the really crappy music/sat-nav system in my Citroen, which they wanted £800 for, and which is out performed by a basic Moto G.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sometimes, just sometimes ...

      Coupled with the desire of the manufacturers to try and make everything proprietary and disincentives open standards.

      In this particular context you're wrong. The energy suppliers are obliged by law to install the meters of a specified standard (and as an energy supplier employee, I can assure you there's precious little upside for us, and big, big downsides).

      There's two reasons why the current crop of smart meters won't work when you change suppliers. The first is that government incompetence led to an initial incompatible specifcation (SMETS1) being issued as a stop gap. Rather than do the job properly, the usual pell-mell panic over climate change meant the fuckwits of DECC required suppliers to install smart meters before the current, supposedly final specification SMETS2 was completed. But, that wasn't enough. DECC used such a cack-handed approach to the exchange of meter data that the "Data Communications Company" simply didn't exist to move the data between meters and suppliers - and that's before the involvement of Crapita.

      The sad thing is that there never was a case for the rushed roll out of smart meters, nor their complicated specification. This will run and run, because the one thing that politicians and their civil service lackeys will never, ever admit is being wrong. In this case they were wrong, they are still wrong, they always will be wrong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sometimes, just sometimes ...

        SMETS#3 on the way?

  3. JimmyPage Silver badge

    I know it's El Reg

    but I dislike your choice of words ... hence at least one downvote.

    If you are Merkin, be aware that Cerebral Palsy is the correct term for the illness in the 51st state.

    1. moiety

      Re: I know it's El Reg

      And you get a downvote also. Not for taking offence (although this being the Reg, if you take offence at something that isn't all that offensive be prepared to get your arse handed to you shortly thereafter); nor is it for standing up for the underdog (nothing wrong with that). Your downvote is for being wrong...spazzed is short for spastic which is to be affected by spasms. While the word can be offensively used to describe sufferers of Cerebral Palsy; there are a wide variety of other things (and disease/poison/cold/etc sufferers that spasm), including Mr. Hero's meter, it would seem. So nothing at all to do with what you're offended about.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: I know it's El Reg

        Precision in language is important, have a +1

        In fact, I dunno about Cerebral Palsy, but when I were a young ElReglet the term 'spastic' was most usually applied to those poor sods who were partially crippled from childhood polio, and had to wear a metal leg caliper. There was a bloke in my year in school with the problem. And who remembers the large collecting boxes for 'The Spastic Society' that stood on pavements, and were shaped like a boy wearing a leg caliper?

      2. RedCardinal

        Re: I know it's El Reg

        Except that "spastic" clearly is regarded as the offensive term for cerebal palsy. Trying to claim that it applies to anyone who is affected by any kind of spasm is pretty feeble...

  4. Baldrickk Silver badge

    Replacement Power Supply

    I recently received a new power supply for my smart meter.

    Aparrently, the original one was defective and subject to a recall, so needed replacing.

    Upon checking, I found that the original power supply was indeed defective, and did not work at all, as it neither it or the meter even exist!

    I followed the instructions and sent the original power supply back to the power company in the prepaid package supplied for that purpose.

    It makes you question just how smart these things are when they can't tell if you have one or not...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Replacement Power Supply

      Your supplier seems to have been about as smart as your meter.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Replacement Power Supply

      "neither [the smartmeter] or the meter even exist!"

      Of course they exist. They're just temporarily invisible to you because you're in a parallel universe disconnected from reality. It's almost infinitely improbable that the people making and implementing the industry rules are disconnected from reality.

      How unlikely is it that "your" smart meter does exist in this universe and is currently metering someone else's electricity?

      On a related note, happy new year to all, especially Andrew Wright, senior partner at Ofgem, who like another Wright I remember in senior position in a different authority, seems to have let a cat out of the bag somewhat prematurely:

  5. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Look on the bright side, they might never arrive

    Suits me.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Neil Hamilton supports them!

    I kid you not, this non-resident ex-fraudster UKIP member of the Welsh Assembly has come out strongly in favour of smart meters. Someone must have slipped him a brown paper bag of used fivers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Neil Hamilton supports them!

      Nah, Neil Hamilton is now down to 50p in brown bags, the days of dirty fivers are long behind him. He's having to grub about for just about anything he can.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We had a man come round to fit one for us, The t'other half said yes without checking with the IT Director (me), however since she is Chief Executive, Chief Financial office and Head of Security, I demurred.

    The bloke turned up, went to the corner of our kitchen. We live in a nice Georgian house in SE London, shoved his mobile signal detector under the cupboards next to the big electrical board and annouced there was no mobile signal there. I forget the provider they used but it wasn't EE or O2 (I'm GiffGaff). I put my phone down in that part of the kitchen and could get reception, but clearly not their provider. I said just use another SIM for another provider. Sharp intake of breath, nope, not designed to work like that. Not allowed, more than my jobs worth.

    I asked what we did now, he said nothing they could do, no signal, no smart meter, no point worrying about it. He was booked in for two hours, so I said he could stay, we chatted about this and that, he used our wifi to check some emails and he left two hours and a couple of cups of coffee later.

    No idea what the company will do as there is no reception in that corner. I suspect its on the edge of the mobile cell and the wonderfully thick Georgian stone walls just cut the signal off enough. Our mobiles work as their cells are closer.

    So far, its cost the company the call out charge, form filling and hassle and the benefit so far to them is precisely zero.

    I suspect lifes pretty shit for this part of Crapita at the moment. That gives me a warm wholesome glow (am I a bad person for feeling like that).

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Full marks for being nice to a bloke given a thankless task.

      Crapita, on the other hand...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So far, its cost the company the call out charge, form filling and hassle and the benefit so far to them is precisely zero.

      Speaking unofficially for a supplier tasked with installing these, this is pretty common. As suppliers face huge fines if they can't show that they tried to install smart meters, it makes more sense to fit them, find they don't work, then remove them. Using a cheap test performed by the customer to show that they won't work is not sufficient for the hostile bureaucrats at Ofgem.

      1. leexgx

        he used a mobile signal detector (not his or customer mobile phone) as the device reported no signal no point in installing the smart meter and is logged as no mobile coverage where meter is (so he has saved the company 2 call outs one to install it and one to remove it if necessary)

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ya, about the same here in NorCal. I've had one for several years, and did not notice any savings myself, but I also did not incur any extra charges. It is generally not a bother, so it looks like it works okay for those of us who really don't care about such things. As long as it is generally secure to operate, saves time in gathering the meter data for billing, and does not let the animals out the side gate, I am for it. The one thing I can say is that the LCD display is still working despite being out in the direct sunlight for a few years now. Must have a nice UV protective coating on it, or the glass cover does this. No complaints, other than it could be a bit slimmer, so I can maneuver the trash can around it, or a bit larger so the cats can sit on it.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        "As long as it is generally secure to operate"

        ah, about that ...

    2. Colin Ritchie

      Blighty calls that Economy 7.

      Here in the UK we have had cheaper offpeak electricity tariffs since 1978. Named Economy 7, it gives very cheap electric for 7 hours a night, ideal for heating water tanks and electric storage heaters. The "smart" meter has a radio teleswitch to tell the spinning dial which mechanical numbers to move as it spins. Take a good look at exactly how smart it appears to be:

      Use a dishwasher or washing machine with programmable delay and all your stuff gets done for cheap. It ain't broke, not fixing it.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Blighty calls that Economy 7.

        Downside of Economy 7 is that the daytime charges are highter than they would be otherwise.

        Plus all those house fires from faulty appliances with chunky heating elements. I hope nobody is using this to run their Hotpoint tumble drier.

        Flames because....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blighty calls that Economy 7.

        Here in the UK we have had cheaper offpeak electricity tariffs since 1978. Named Economy 7,

        Which made sense in the 1970s when the vast majority of power was generated by big coal power stations, and you needed sufficient of them to meet peak demand, meaning that they spent all night twiddling their thumbs.

        Now, having pissed hundreds of billions of pounds on renewables, we're no longer int eh situation of having a comfortable excess of baseload-capable generation. And moving forward, the overnight dip in demand will start to disappear when electric vehicles get taken up en masse (which they will, given a range of government interventions to make sure of that outcome).

        So you're OK for a good few years yet. But eventually the idea of "off peak" electricity will disappear as short term (<48 hour) price arbitrage gets ironed out.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      " I'm not sure how much benefit the utility is getting from the resulting load smoothing but it can't hurt."

      It's the load smoothing by switching you off that you need to worry about.

  9. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Hm. Duke Energy replaced 160,000 meters with smart[1] meters in the Carolinas & Florida in 2013[2], and it cost them less than $100 million[3]

    I gotta say "good god, people..."

    [1] By "smart" I mean new meters that can be read via radio signal by a utility truck rolling down the street, as opposed to someone having to physically read dials on the side of a house - I don't if that's different

    [2] It actually took 5 calendar quarters

    [3] The $100m also funded electric vehicle charging stations. couldn't find a breakdown

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "[1] By "smart" I mean new meters that can be read via radio signal by a utility truck rolling down the street, as opposed to someone having to physically read dials on the side of a house - I don't if that's different"

      It is. That option has been mooted about for at least 20 years but few seem to have bothered with it. All it does is offer the chance to slightly reduce costs in meter reading. "Smart" meters are supposed be capable of live, as you use it, cost data to your and their monitoring systems, have the potential to charge different rates at different times of day, have a remote "kill" switch and the potential to limit power to certain "smart" appliances at certain times of the day. All for the projected savings of a £11 per year (about $14 I think).

      Personally, what I suspect will happen, is that flat rate "dumb" meter prices will rise more than "smart" meter variable tariffs. We'll all pay more but those with "smart" meters will pay a bit less more.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We'll all pay more but those with "smart" meters will pay a bit less more.

        Probably true. But in the UK that will be because the government bureaucrats who conjured up the idea want that to be so. But note that with very detailed energy use, it is feasible that smart meter customers with very expensive demand profiles might find themselves on higher and very unattractive offers - it doesn't follow that all smart meter offers will be cheaper than flat rate! Things that (as an energy supplier) I'd be looking to attach a high cost to would include erratic demand profiles, high use in peak periods, or high maximum loads, as all of those push the wholesale costs up. And with a smart meter they'll know who these customers are.

        Evidence to date is very sketchy that time of use tariffs can actually reliably shift much load. There's some studies from very different markets that say they can (often markets of dubious comparability), but imagine you're at home of a cold winter's night when there's peak load pricing - what loads would you be able and willing to shift, and how much difference would that make?

        Even Economy 7 exists only because builder's installed storage heaters, not through real customer choice - if you took away the "forced" use, there would be a handful of perhaps 2% of customers who would take part. Absent much load shifting, there's no case for smart meters, the tens of billions being spent push system costs up, but those are smeared across all customers, including those who don't want smart meters.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "erratic demand profiles, high use in peak periods, or high maximum loads, as all of those push the wholesale costs up."

          Did you forget to mention paying extra for reliable electricity, as large customers already do (though interruptible contracts for large users were historically marketed as a discount for going off-grid voluntarily)?

          If small-scale smart meters were just remotely accessible usage monitors they wouldn't need an expensive remotely controllable off switch to the outgoing supply. But they do, and now Andrew Wright, Ofgem senior partner and former acting Chief Executive, has let the cat out of the bag, though Ofgem spinners later tried to undo the damage Wright had done:

          (also reported in other places from FT to Yahoo to

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      "By "smart" I mean new meters that can be read via radio signal by a utility truck rolling down the street"

      That's the method "smart" water meters use - at least the Yorkshire Water ones that I'm responsible (as a customer) for. Van drives past, sends out a signal that wakes up the meter, it pings back the current reading and an identity reference. I'm not sure where the power comes from, there's no battery, it could be from the water flow or could be resonsance set up from the wake-up signal.

  10. bazza Silver badge


    As I read these comments a spam email from my provider has arrived plugging the benefits of a smart meter!


    Been ignoring them for months now. Some of my neighbours have had them installed, seems like the fitters have taken the opportunity to suggest lots of expensive and entirely unnecessary remedial work on the houses' electrics. 1990 houses. Not ancient at all, no rubber insulated wires here, etc. Con.

  11. Graham Marsden

    I recently changed my energy supplier to BG...

    ... because they were giving me the best offer for my gas and electricity.

    As part of the switch, they sent me a letter telling me that I had been "specially selected" to have a Smart Meter installed and all I had to do was to book an appointment for them to come round and install it.


    When the government passes legislation allowing the energy companies to break down my door and forcibly install a Smart Meter against my will, *then* I'll have one, but not until!

  12. ridley


    How do they come up with that figure, with a population of 65 million that seems an awful lot even allowing for business ones etc.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Snail's Pace

    When I'm doing something stupid, I like to do it as quickly as possible.

    Because: Milestones! Metrics! Raises!

  14. RedCardinal

    A year or two ago a guy came around from my gas provider to check that I would be able to have a gas smart meter installed and having made several checks, the guy said "nope you won't get a decent wifi signal here". And thats been that.

POST COMMENT House rules

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

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019