back to article Watt the f... Dim smart meters caught simply making up readings

Some smart meters might more accurately be described as fake meters because they present false readings about energy consumption. A recent study from researchers at University of Twente (UT) and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) has found that three-phase static (electronic) energy meters, which are replacing …

  1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Errrmmm....

    I thought the point of 'smart' meters was to do things like allow remote reading, clever monitoring etc. Why do they need to use a completely different method of measuring usage? Surely you just need to add a little module that reads the traditional meter?

    Or am I being naive?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Errrmmm....

      It's "alternative billing".

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Errrmmm....

      "Or am I being naive?"

      Of course you are. They're digital devices. They must be right - it's all there in numbers on the display and we always trust measuring devices with numbers.

      1. John G Imrie Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Errrmmm....

        People have gone to Jail over numbers, see the Post Office Horizon Scandle

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: Errrmmm....

      "...three-phase static (electronic) energy meters, which are replacing traditional electromechanical meters, can exaggerate energy consumption by as much as 582 per cent".

      Now we know exactly why suppliers, at any rate, are so keen to install those things.

      1. druck Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Errrmmm....

        Before anyone gets too worked up; all UK domestic supply is single phase, and won't be using these 3 phase meters.

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: Errrmmm....

          Before anyone gets too worked up; all UK domestic supply is single phase, and won't be using these 3 phase meters.

          Right, so at worst they'll only exaggerate energy consumption by 194 per cent, tops.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Errrmmm....

            You didn't correct for RMS.

        2. Dave Stevenson

          Re: Errrmmm....

          "Before anyone gets too worked up; all UK domestic supply is single phase, and won't be using these 3 phase meters."

          Nope. I have 3-phase at home.

          A previous owner had a swimming pool with a 3 phase heater (and presumably a huge energy bill!).

          Needing more than 24kW (100A single phase) is rare in a domestic situation, but not impossible. A friend is also looking at it - adding up electric car charging (7kW), induction hob (8kW), and air-air heat pumps (7kW) he's getting pretty close to the limit. Don't go boiling the kettle at the same time.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Errrmmm....

          It doesn't matter, it's the same on single phase meters.

          And it's not JUST smart meters. It's any meter using an electronic pickup circuit of the type mentioned, and some of those models are 20+ years old.

          The 2 meters which under reported were the only 2 meters using Hall Effect sensors

    4. Paranoid android

      Re: Errrmmm....

      Analog meters are inherently more correct than digital meters. Ask any electricity teacher.

      Analog meters work on direct electromagnetism effects (integrating them over time), whereas digital meters perform sampling of voltage measurements over some circuitry (performing linear curve fitting and integrating that).

    5. bangus

      Add a module to the traditional meter

      As the traditional meter had a small rotating disc, it would have been very simple to add a module that would simply count the rotations. I really have no idea whether the old meters were more or less accurate than the new electronic meters.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Working as intended

    "Two reported about 32 per cent less usage than actually occurred."

    So there were two faulty meters. The rest were working as intended.

    1. Sampler
      Boffin

      Re: Working as intended

      The real question is, if electric usage is on average 3% less with smart meters, how much is actual reduced usage (and therefore worthwhile the roll out of said meters) and how much is under reporting by faulty meters meaning that a switch in meter types makes a negligible affect on users energy consumption?

      I mean, it was in the interest of the meter makers that the outcome of testing users with new meters that reported electrical usage was down and therefore they get government mandated sales...

      1. DJ Smiley

        Re: Working as intended

        I believe - don't quote me - that the reduced usage comes from 'awareness' of how much power you're using. The smart meters allow readings every 30 minutes (it's never been clear to me why you can't get a minute/second accurate reading locally). Due to this, people tend to 'watch' the figures more - become more aware of usage and generally use less.

        Same thing is well documented with water metering...

        1. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: Working as intended

          As I have mentioned before, I am quite well aware of how much power I am using. On the one hand, I tend to notice what is switched on and what isn't. On the other hand, I also have my Owl meter which shows me from moment to moment how much electricity we are using. (483 watts at the moment, occasionally changing to 10 kw when someone has a shower or switches on all the white goods at once).

          On the gripping hand, it's entirely and only my business.

        2. Richard 51

          Re: Working as intended

          In theory meters can measure by the second but it was felt that this would give too much information about peoples private lives so measurement will usually be once per day. The utilities have to ask if they want to request more detailed information and even then they will probably not measure more often than once per hour as the message load on the network becomes significant.

        3. Dave 15

          Re: Working as intended

          Working in favour of higher profit for those sponsoring the mps in the eu-uk etc who voted to install these new meters.

          As for people monitoring use... you can do this today with the mechanical meters, watch how fast the disk spins... just as good and doesn't cost billions in change over costs (for meters largely made in China).

          And for those sad gits who do monitor use then good luck to you, personally if I want to put the washing machine on to wash my clothes then I put it on, I can't put it on 'slowly' to save energy or anything. If the damned thing could fillup with water from my gas heated hot water system like the old one 30 years ago managed then I could save some money but someone managed to squash that idea (apparently using gas to boil water in a far off electric plant, use that boiled water to generate electric, lose a load of electric down the wires and then use that to boil water in my washing machine is environmentally more friendly???? More profitable for the same sponsors of meps I think).

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Working as intended

            If the damned thing could fillup with water from my gas heated hot water system like the old one 30 years ago managed then I could save some money but someone managed to squash that idea

            I had the same thought when I could only find cold-fill machines. The explanation I was given is that modern machines use so little water on a fill compared to older ones that in most cases the valve would shut off before the water had started to run hot. It sounds plausible.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge

              Re: Working as intended

              The explanation I was given is that modern machines use so little water on a fill compared to older ones that in most cases the valve would shut off before the water had started to run hot. It sounds plausible.

              Eh what? There'd be all of a litre or two in the pipes, whereas the machine would be using at least 20 litres.. That's based on my experience of NZ homes, where most have the water heater in a cupboard in the laundry, often with the washing machine right next to it (so only a metre or so of pipe). Best home I was in had this stuff planned centrally, so kitchen sink, laundry and shower were all quite close to the heater. Having a shower take 2-seconds to get to the good stuff on a cold winter's morn was great!

              That said, do you need to do a hot wash very often? I've found most washing powders available here are at least as good with cold water, and I only sometimes need to do a hot wash when I have a bad oil or grease stain from an engine.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Working as intended

                the machine would be using at least 20 litres.

                Modern machines use ~ 6 litres per kilo total, and maybe less than half that is hot water. In my case, with hot water tank many metres away in a garage I need to run 3-4 litres before I get really hot water.

                most washing powders available here are at least as good with cold water

                For dirt, yes. One interesting (in a scientific sense) problem that hotels are having is a resurgence in bedbug infestations. Cool washes don't kill insect eggs, you need at least 50C to do that.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Working as intended

                "That said, do you need to do a hot wash very often? "

                if you don't hot wash regularly you'll get a nasty biofilm buildup inside your machine and things start to _smell_. Those of us with skin conditions often get them aggravated by such things, especially when compounded by the lack of outdoor drying facilities in dense urban settings (Also, if you happened to live in central Wellington in the 1980s and were near the motorway, putting your clothes out to dry would frequently result in them coming in covered in sooty flakes. The same applies lots of other places)

                Besides, if you wash at 30-40c with a cold powder you can use less than half as much. The overall impact of generating the hotwater is lower than that of the extra detergent in your waste stream.

          2. Kiwi Silver badge

            Re: Working as intended

            (apparently using gas to boil water in a far off electric plant, use that boiled water to generate electric, lose a load of electric down the wires and then use that to boil water in my washing machine is environmentally more friendly???? More profitable for the same sponsors of meps I think).

            Ah yes.. That wonderful "green energy" stuff.. Electric cars are one of my bigger concerns here in NZ,as in, if enough people adopt them then our mothballed coal and gas plants would suddenly be getting all hot under the collar so-to-speak :) And of course there'd be the required upgrades to transmission lines, street transformers etc, probably a lot of places would have to switch in extra phases (see post above re single phase limits) - a lot of costs and construction required if electric cars were to become more common (I am all for reducing waste, increasing efficiency and protecting the environment, but I try to make sure that something sold as "green" doesn't need a couple of extra coal power stations and a few billion hectares of deforestation to support it - that stuff's shit brown, not green!)

            Question though... Do you guys over there not have washing powders that work at least as well in cold water as they do in hot? I find that except for oil/grease from someone's engine, I don't have a need to do a hot wash. And if you do need the heat, can't you swap the in-feed to something from your water heater? Back in the old wringer-washer days we had a rubber hose we would push onto the tap we wanted to use. When mum finally got an automatic machine (actually sometime in the late 80's, when her 30+yr old machine finally packed up) she just used the same hose for the times she wanted a hot wash, saved money on changing all the fittings in the laundry by only changing the cold tap.

            But yeah, a lot of "green" stuff looks great at a glance but when you sit down and do the math... I was a fan of wind farms till I went to use the numbers to prove to someone how great they are, and found out they aren't.

            To those who wish to downvote based on my recent dislike of wind : Do the math yourself before downvoting, factor in backup generators, all costs of construction including transport of stuff to the site, developing/preparing the site (inc same for backup generators), replacement and disposal when the turbines fail at the end of their (often rather short) lifespan etc, and compare with modern nuke or hydro (very expensive build but very cheap for the next 100 years; we have stations in NZ that're in the 100yr region and several over 50yrs, that've maybe had turbine replacements and upgrades but no major work. One of the world's oldest hydro generators is still in use today on Mt Taranaki (in place since 1935 but built around 1901 and used elsewhere). Do some math, prove how great (or bad) wind is.

            Sorry, should've got more sleep last night...

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Working as intended

          "Same thing is well documented with water metering..."

          No no no its not the same thing at all. -> [FAIL] Icon.

          With water its metered vs flat rate billing, where metered tends to be more expensive because the flat rate assumed consumption tends to be less that the actual, therefore metered billing tends to get people to reduce their usage due to the higher bills on an ongoing basis.

          With electricity, its metered vs metered. It has been documented that after a short honeymoon people the consumer tends to stop paying attention to the 'smart' meter, which means that any benefits from alterered behavior are only gained in the short term.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Working as intended

          "Due to this, people tend to 'watch' the figures more - become more aware of usage and generally use less."

          For at least a couple of weeks. Until the novelty value wears off.

    2. KR Caddis

      Re: Working as intended

      No,that means that ALL of the others might be OVER REPORTING or, perhaps correct. More likely, in fact as they ALL may be incorrect (except in laboratory testing) and ONLY two were UNDER REPORTING. Sounds like a Precedent we have here. If there's money to be had, or people to be had, they MUST deserve it.

  3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    What's the world coming to...

    ...when Kirchhoff wants his mark-up on all current flowing in and out of a node.

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Angel

    The original ones were too good

    What's the point of a meter that will run reliably for decades without any maintenance. How can the makers profiteer offer a decent service like that?

    1. Loud Speaker

      Re: The original ones were too good

      How can the makers offer a decent service like that?

      Bribing politicians is a tried and tested solution to this.

    2. bitmap animal
      Facepalm

      Re: The original ones were too good

      Because it's far better to replace something reliable and well understood with the equivalent of an Agile Java app because it's new & shiny. ( /s obviously )

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The original ones were too good

      Just as countries with 'Democratic' in their name rarely are, same with products that are 'smart'.

  5. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    > As a Rogowski coil results in a time-derivative of the measured

    > current, the measured voltage has to be integrated

    That's completely doomed if there is any significant DC component in the load, e.g. if there are devices with half-wave rectifiers, or full-wave rectifiers that are asymetric in some way.

    To be fair they do have significant advantages over current transformers, i.e. linearity. And a good electronic meter should be more accurate than a mechanical one. But a cost-reduced electronic meter can clearly be crap.

    1. Maverick

      this solution has NOTHING to benefit consumers, they can do one for me!

      the WHOLE point is reduce the ability to swap suppliers easily

      1. Electron Shepherd

        There's more to it that that...

        "the WHOLE point is reduce the ability to swap suppliers easily"

        I don't think that's the real rationale, although I'm sure the suppliers are working on making it hard to "switch meters".

        I think the real reason is to introduce time- and demand- based billing, something that's impossible with the present meters, since all you get is a total usage over a number of months.

        1. Smooth Newt
          Meh

          Re: There's more to it that that...

          I think the real reason is to introduce time- and demand- based billing, something that's impossible with the present meters, since all you get is a total usage over a number of months.

          If the devices displayed the electricity price in real-time, and made it available via some network protocol too, then there would be some small scope for time- and demand- based metering, but the British ones don't do that.

          It is only a small scope because people need to use electricity at particular times regardless of cost - they are hardly likely to get up at 3 am to boil the kettle for breakfast because electricity is particularly cheap then.

          1. DJ Smiley

            Re: There's more to it that that...

            Maybe, but your washing machine/tumble drier/dishwasher all have selectable 'wait X hours' modes which do allow for this kind of usage.

            1. Archtech Silver badge

              Re: There's more to it that that...

              Although the manufacturers of the dishwasher and washing machine do warn you explicitly not to leave their machines running unattended.

            2. The First Dave

              Re: There's more to it that that...

              And when the supplier decides to 'shed load' through my smart meter, the washing machine will forget the schedule, and remain powered down. Possibly with a drum full of water that will rush out all over my floor the next time its opened.

              1. KR Caddis

                Re: There's more to it that that...

                The three gallons in the bottom of my front loader wouldn't leak out after an outage except during a VERY LARGE earthquake.

            3. Dave 15

              Re: There's more to it that that...

              And when my washing machine will hang the washing out, put the next load in or even transfer it to the tumble drier above at 3am then great I will use its time function. I work during the week and only have sat/sun to do the beds, lights and darks... 3 loads usually (God I am a domesticated bloke aren't I?) I did try getting a wife to do this but she went to work instead to help pay the inflated bills created by the idiot politicians on the take

              1. Kiwi Silver badge

                Re: There's more to it that that...

                to do the beds, lights and darks... 3 loads usually

                Now I can understand this way back in the 1950's when washing machines were new and washing powders weren't so science as "lets throw some caustic chemical powders in a box and slap a catchy name and bright colours on the label", but in this day and age? Sure, separate out delicate things maybe, but everything else can go in the same load a lot of the time. I might not put woolens in when I do a hot wash (which is quite rare, and I'd rather wash only that which really needs it on low water rather than a full load on full water). The only time I do more than one load is when I can't reasonably get stuff in one load.

                Are you sure you can't get away with 2 loads, like putting lights and darks in at the same time? Preferably while the wife is at work, what she don't know won't hurt you....

                'Course, being a bloke, I don't have a collection of daintys and unmentionables that need super special powders and settings, toss it all in one load and hit the go button. If I was to be encumbered with a missus (or a she-kind flatmate) I might have to change. Even brand new jeans go in with other stuff, but then most of my clothing is of a blue or black persuasion anyway... The dyes on clothing today and the powders tend to conspire together to make sure that colours don't run.

                1. Mark 65 Silver badge

                  Re: There's more to it that that...

                  Put lights and darks in at the same time and I guarantee you'll end up with grey "whites".

              2. KR Caddis

                Re:There's more to it that that...

                We manage to do one load each evening, no problem. We could manage it before dinner if we wanted to and maybe will, now that you mention it. Why wait until 2 or 3? Beds take 2-3 minutes. We rotate 2 sets of sheets, and have a back up set for y rare ostomy catastrophes. Where's the problem if you aren't away from home 18 hours a day? If I defer laundry I can do 3 loads in two hours while making beds, cooking dinner, watching TV, reading email, and returning phone calls during commercials. 235 channels- nothing to see, spam email, and an automatic washer don't take much attention. I even get the clothes folded and put away. Granted, all of those things happen at home. A trip to the laundromat takes a dedicated hour, even with take away dinner, but they do have WiFi....

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: There's more to it that that...

                And when my washing machine will hang the washing out, put the next load in or even transfer it to the tumble drier above at 3am...

                OK, we get it, you're not married.

            4. Steve Gill

              Re: There's more to it that that...

              >> Maybe, but your washing machine/tumble drier/dishwasher all have selectable 'wait X hours' modes which do allow for this kind of usage.

              Yours may have but my ten year old washing machine and tumble drier definitely don't unless I use an alarm clock to tell me to go down and press the start button

          2. KR Caddis

            Re: There's more to it that that...

            Ahh, but a Smart freezer, electric car chargers,most residential lighting, heating appliances, home air conditioning (where people work days), dishwashers, washers, electric dryers, water well pumping, etc. can run at night at lower rates, rather than the high-demand daytime hours. Most, but not all commercial loads are bound to daytime use.

            Our County government took advantage of low night time rates for 100 % of the its offices' daytime air conditioning needs through a eutectic ice storage system, saving more at least 0.30 USD/kWH. And there were any other energy saving devices integrated into gas, electric and water utility systems. Most had a three year,or less, payback. The ice storage took less than ten, and it's still going strong after twenty.

        2. Hans 1 Silver badge

          Re: There's more to it that that...

          >"the WHOLE point is reduce the ability to swap suppliers easily"

          WTF, we do not have to switch meters in France when we switch suppliers ... they all pump their current into the grid and we take from that. It would just be silly if the different suppliers used different incompatible meters ... who thought that one out ??????

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: There's more to it that that...

            "WTF, we do not have to switch meters in France when we switch suppliers"

            No, well, not at the moment maybe. But you'll soon get the Linky and you have no right of refusal (only the mayor for the entire commune, if (s)he's even aware).

            1. KR Caddis

              Re: There's more to it that that...

              We don't get to choose meters or suppliers. public utility monopoly. I see now I have to pay extra for the privilege of generating more than I use through my solar panels, on top of the $25 USD/mo, for the privilege of simply having the utility connected to my house for nighttime use. Last I recall, that minimum charge for service in Hawaii, a chain of volcanoes using virtually no geothermal, we were paying $65 five years ago. That's a monopoly State wide. Although there is a TOKEN bit of wind power (and with tradewinds available, besides!), it's mandated charge is the same $0.65/kwh min., last I looked. No incentive to develop the local resources tolerated, just pay the same as to import fossil fuels by ship. Pretty inefficient where there is lots of sun, lots of wind, unlimited geothermal, all extremely low cost generators, albeit there is NO WAY to use it. Some few do go completely off grid. Likely they'll assess a fee and install meters on that soon, too, should it occurs to HELCO.

          2. earl grey Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: There's more to it that that...

            Thought? Whoa now. Let's not be insulting them.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: There's more to it that that...

            we do not have to switch meters in France when we switch suppliers ... they all pump their current into the grid and we take from that. It would just be silly if the different suppliers used different incompatible meters

            The UK meters don't change, but the in-house displays are provided by the suppliers and are (intentionally?) not compatible with each other. If you switch supplier you lose the ability to see your real-time consumption unless you pay for a new display.

          4. Kiwi Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: There's more to it that that...

            WTF, we do not have to switch meters in France when we switch suppliers ... they all pump their current into the grid and we take from that. It would just be silly if the different suppliers used different incompatible meters ... who thought that one out ??????

            Same here in NZ. The billing company is a billing company, they do stuff all with the actual power supply. All they do is "buy" power from the generator, slap some admin charges and markup on top, and send you the bill. Would be great if I could get stuff wholesale instead, but can't do that because "freemarket is cheaper" (read the same as "freedom is slavery" etc)

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There's more to it that that...

          "I think the real reason is to introduce time- and demand- based billing"

          What about the 'economy-7' meter, which switches between billing bands at certain times of day? They've been around for decades.

          I just moved out of a house which had one, where some idiot had removed the timer unit - causing it to permanently read on the 'peak' meter.

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Re: WHOLE point is reduce the ability to swap suppliers easily

        No, that's reason #2

        Reason #1 is to remotely disconnect you either because they THINK you didn't pay or because they need to shed load.

        1. Mark 65 Silver badge

          Re: WHOLE point is reduce the ability to swap suppliers easily

          No, that's reason #2

          Reason #1 is to remotely disconnect you either because they THINK you didn't pay or because they need to shed load.

          Load shedding is definitely something headed the UK's way. With only 5% excess capacity in the network over demand at peak times things are not looking good. Add in large amounts of intermittent wind supply which burdens the network with requirements for base-load backup in the form of gas turbines which are more expensive to run and you can see where you are headed - high price, unreliable supply.

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Aren't all transformer-based measurment methods providing a time-derivative ? I seem to recall that the induced current is proportional to the rate of change of flux in the core.

    3. Tac Eht Xilef

      >> As a Rogowski coil results in a time-derivative of the measured

      >> current, the measured voltage has to be integrated

      >That's completely doomed if there is any significant DC component

      >in the load, e.g. if there are devices with half-wave rectifiers, or

      >full-wave rectifiers that are asymetric in some way.

      Well, yeah, but in that case since the whole point of a Rogowski coil is to respond to the rate of change of the current (dI/dT) they'll tend to _under_estimate the current in the presence of a DC component.

      The flip side of that is the integrator (needed to convert the output to something proportional to current) needs a bandwidth-limited response, otherwise it'll tend towards infinite gain at DC & read all sorts of hash as load current at higher frequencies...

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        The flip side of that is the integrator (needed to convert the output to something proportional to current) needs a bandwidth-limited response, otherwise it'll tend towards infinite gain at DC & read all sorts of hash as load current at higher frequencies...

        The numbers quoted sound like there is no circuit level integration. It is digital and the differences between the meters come from the differences in the sampling frequency and the measurement algorithm.

      2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
        Boffin

        Crap meter design

        Back in the nineties I had a hand in designing a energy logger. Used Current transformers to measure the current, and measured the voltage signal from the mains plug.

        There was no theoretical phase lag on the CT (obviously a little due to non-idealness), so we could measure real power by on-the-fly multiplying the sampled current with the sampled voltage.

        We used a sample rate of about 10kHz, which seemed to be enough to catch most curous current waveforms, and allowed all the filtering to be digital (therefore no drifting, etc).

        With modern mixed-signal micros being pennies, there's no excuse for doing this badly.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "Current transformers..and measured the voltage signal from the mains plug."

          And with a 10KHz sample frequency that would give a system able to accept a component up to 5Khz or 100x nominal base line UK mains frequency.

          Which sounds like it should be able to cope with a very nasty load indeed.

          But.

          Analog design is hard and y'know actually paying for a good analogue designer who knows WTF they are doing....

    4. boltar Silver badge

      @Phil Endecott

      "That's completely doomed if there is any significant DC component in the load, e.g. if there are devices with half-wave rectifiers, or full-wave rectifiers that are asymetric in some way."

      One would assume they'd be smart enough to put it through a high pass filter first that would remove any DC artifacts before any measurements were taken. Though I suppose if each meter needs to be built for tuppence in china then who knows how well the circuit is designed. Or not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: built for tuppence

        "built for tuppence in china then who knows how well the circuit is designed. Or not."

        What makes people think that what's delivered on the boat from out East matches the design submitted to the manufacturers? As others have noted already, it's dead simple to leave out decoupling capacitors, protection components, etc, and the item will still "work", after a fashion, for a while.

        The story of the Raspberry Pi manufacturing initially coming back to the UK because of mysterious cost-reducing substitutions in Chinese factories has been reasonably and authoritatively documented, e.g. the network connector should have had integrated magnetics for reasons including EMC, but then they started arriving with the slightly cheaper variant without the integrated magnetics, and Bad Things happened, not just when RS/Farnell had them CE tested. Other manufacturers with other products may be less public with their details.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: built for tuppence

          "The story of the Raspberry Pi manufacturing initially coming back to the UK because of mysterious cost-reducing substitutions in Chinese factories has been reasonably and authoritatively documented,"

          I have limited sympathy frankly. The Pi was extolled as being some british computer success story, wave the flag, god save the queen etc, but it seems that didn't extend to actually using british workers in british factories to manufacture at least some of them. Well you get what you pay for.

          1. druck Silver badge

            Re: built for tuppence

            @boltar: The Raspberry Pi is built in the Britain, but world wide demand was so high, they had to open a second source in China.

      2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: @Phil Endecott

        Any "DC" component is a result of a fault in the integration circuit - a small offset there could cause issues but since the construction of the coil has no direct connection to the incoming wiring I don't see any way that this could be caused by the way that power is consumed (unlike the old meters).

        My guess is that it's a cheap integration circuit at fault.

      3. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: @Phil Endecott

        "One would assume they'd be smart enough to put it through a high pass filter first..."

        Why would one assume that?

  6. IsJustabloke Silver badge
    FAIL

    pah....

    they'll need a court order to attach one to my supply.

    1. Steve Crook

      Re: pah....

      How much of a premium are you prepared to pay to not have one? You can bet that as soon as they can, they'll start to really sting those who chose not to switch to encourage them to change their minds.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: pah....

        Have they worked out a way to use a smart meter with the new supplier when you change suppliers? Or is that an option to turn a smart metier into a dumb meter? This doesn't get around the issue of a smart meter potentially over charging you, but it might get around the snooping. Unless it still reports back to the original supplier.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "Have they worked out a way to use a smart meter with the new supplier when you change suppliers?"

          I'm guessing they all use a standard (and not very secure) protocol

          You can bet that not changing the meter every time you switch supplier was high on the design brief.

          A key feature (to the electricity companies) was ending meter readings by meatsacks.

        2. DJ Smiley

          Re: pah....

          All meter readings are available to all suppliers.

          Source -- used to work at a supplier.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            "All meter readings are available to all suppliers."

            Thought it was something like this.

            Although presumably only when they are nominated as the customers supplier, and not all customers, all the time.

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: pah....

        You can bet that as soon as they can, they'll start to really sting those who chose not to switch to encourage them to change their minds.

        That happened with my water meter. When I moved into my current house the unmetered water bill was based on the old rateable value, and was stupidly high. We got a water meter and promptly cut the bill by ~75%. I fully expect dumb metered electricity tariffs to start ratcheting up in cost against smart meter ones in the next few years.

      3. Halfmad

        Re: pah....

        You assume they have an inventory that shows who has and who hasn't had one. I've twice been told to check my smart meter, I don't have one. I've also had quotes from my own supplier "based on my smart meter readings" via the post if I were to stay with them - after deciding to change.

        They don't know, it's a complete mess and frankly that means I'll probably be considered to have one for decades to come despite having the old mechanical type.

        1. Dave 15

          Re: pah....

          They will go down the same line as the tv licence people... assume one way or the other then hassle and threaten.

          The tv licence assumes you have a tv. They send a threatening letter once a fortnight to try and scare you. Then once every few months send a person to try and trick their way in the front door so you can 'prove' you dont have a tv (overturning the idea of innocent until they prove you guilty). Eventually they run out of patience and get court orders to force their way onto the guilty persons premises. Of course this is considered ok for something as trivial as a tv so why wont it be the same for meters?

          1. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: pah....

            Then once every few months send a person to try and trick their way in the front door so you can 'prove' you dont have a tv (overturning the idea of innocent until they prove you guilty).

            At which point you threaten them with a restraining order for harassment. It is surprisingly effective when you fire back with a legal instrument.

            Eventually they run out of patience and get court orders to force their way onto the guilty persons premises.

            See above. Believe me... Capita has *never* tried to intimidate me again after I threatened them with a restraining order. It wouldn't have cost me much. I put my neighbours and my landlord at the time on notice that this had happened and that they were under no circumstances to allow access to Capita staff working for TV Licensing. The letters stopped after a very apologetic letter from their head of licensing.

            Of course this is considered ok for something as trivial as a tv so why wont it be the same for meters?

            Legally, electricity and gas meters must be read at least once a year by the organisation (the supplier or a nominated party by the supplier, such as a contractor like Clancy Docwra) that it is provided by. So yes, by denying access to a legally-mandated meter reader, you are breaking the law. TV Licensing is different in that they have to prove that you are watching TV illegally. And with the latest updates to the legalese, watching TV over iPlayer is now also verboten without a TV licence.

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: pah....

              The last run in I had with the TV licensing folk was when I received a blunt/rude threatening letter about not having a licence because I bought some video kit that was capable of receiving TV signals under my name and the TV licence was under my partner's name (same address). They demanded that I provide evidence that we had a TV licence. I wrote back to them informing that they must know about the TV licence we had because that is what their TV adverts stated on their very clever systems and therefore they should check their records first before sending rude threatening letters. I didn't exactly get an apology, more something along the lines of "in this instance we are letting you off for forcing us to do our job properly".

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: pah....

        "How much of a premium are you prepared to pay to not have one?"

        It depends. The premium might be less than the overcharging.

        You can also try playing one supplier off against another. Unless it's made compulsory someone might have the wit not to charge a premium and make it a USP.

  7. Richard Jones 1
    WTF?

    Perhaps They Need a Name Change

    Call them 'lottery meters' they generate random numbers that you can use to lose on the lottery. A double success, overpay and lose your stake - time for a stake, straight through the heart of this pile of agricultural effluent.

  8. Dwarf Silver badge

    Marketing again

    1. Sell fuzzy story about customer benefits

    2. Get meters fitted

    3. Profit !!!

    I thought that standards were supposed to ensure that an Amp measured by one person is comparable to an Amp measured by another.

    So, presumably making up the numbers is called fraud ?

    How long do you think it will be until the rebates come back to the overcharged customers ?

    Answers on a post card to the usual address.

  9. Jeff Power
    Trollface

    Meter smarts

    Those are gas meters, not electrical meters in the accompanying photo.

    1. Dwarf Silver badge

      Re: Meter smarts

      Those are gas meters, not electrical meters in the accompanying photo.

      Since when did El Reg pictures in the articles have anything to do with the article. At least these are 50% right as they are meters.

      1. cosymart
        Boffin

        Re: Meter smarts

        No, they are 200% wrong as there are 2 of them thus compounding the error :-)

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Meter smarts

      "Those are gas meters, not electrical meters in the accompanying photo."

      Don't get started on those...

  10. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery

    Way back a long time ago, the backs of magazines used to sell plans for changing the power factor of appliances and even entire homes. The idea is to change the phase between alternating voltage and current so that it's measured incorrectly; exploiting the difference between sum(volts * amps) and sum(volts) * sum(amps). They used to be scams but it sounds like they could work now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery

      "They used to be scams but it sounds like they could work now."

      A comment on another article the other day suggested that the power factor does not affect domestic metering devices.

      1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery

        This article is about some new meters not measuring current transients correctly, so power factor does matter. If I'm reading it correctly, inductive pickup is measuring the derivative of the current and it's being digitally integrated with some component of error. Put the errors in the right place and you can alter your bill.

      2. Brenda McViking
        Boffin

        Re: Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery

        That comment on power factor you quote was mine. And I made the implicit assumption that the metering devices accurately measure current, voltage and phase angle at the supply to correctly calculate kWh. Power factor does affect domestic metering devices but they take it into consideration to produce your kWh units.

        I've ready the full text of the study as I have an IEEE subscription. Domestic single phase electronic meters (the ones your energy supplier will install in your home) were tested and the following conclusion reached: The results can be summarized in one sentence: no deviation beyond the specification could be observed; no influence of interference due to interfering or distorted voltage, and no influence caused by interfering currents were observed. Thus, home smart meters do not exhibit the effects described in the article. Dang.

        The study is instead looking at commercial premises 3-phase meters, and the influence of sites with non-linear, fast switching devices causing high levels of electromagnetic interference, the example given was a farm with a large solar array plus some motors using drives. For these 3-phase meters, they did not fare well under certain specific conditions, with the Hall-effect sensors under-reading and the Rogowski sensors over-reading. They did not fully identify the root cause but believe it was due to the test-setup causing current saturation in the sensor, which occured if sufficiently fast current pulses were fed to the meter.

        So yeah, makes for great headlines, and indeed highlights a problem, but not one that affects the general public at large.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery

          Household loads are becoming increasingly non-linear with really awful harmonics.

          For example, most LED lamps draw a huge surge partway up the rise, then snap off partway down the fall.

          Then there are the electronic motor drives in modern washing machines etc, and the turn-on surfes of the SMPs in all the household equipment.

          The only linear loads in my home are the kettle, coffe maker and electric oven. Everything else is an SMP or a motor drive.

          This is only going to get worse, of course.

          1. Paul Kinsler

            Re: Household loads are becoming increasingly non-linear

            Note that the single phase meters tested showed "no deviation beyond the specification could be observed; no influence of interference due to interfering or distorted voltage, and no influence caused by interfering currents were observed"

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery

            "Household loads are becoming increasingly non-linear with really awful harmonics."

            OK, but properly enforced EMC regulations would significantly reduce that, surely?

            You know, a CE mark where the Declaration of Conformity was in some way connected to reality, and where kit which isn't CE compliant is blocked at the importers.

            Instead, our leaders offer us "bonfire of the red tape" (and worse).

            "The only linear loads in my home are the kettle, coffe maker and electric oven. Everything else is an SMP or a motor drive."

            There's a lot of it about. Significantly fewer classically resistive loads means voltage reductions don't reduce electricity demand like they used to. Who can remind readers why "smart **meters**" need a remotely controllable off switch? Apparently Andrew Wright at Ofgem can:

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/11/britain-facing-energy-crisis-could-could-see-families-pay-extra/

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery

              "Household loads are becoming increasingly non-linear with really awful harmonics."

              OK, but properly enforced EMC regulations would significantly reduce that, surely?

              The devices which Richard described are those which we're being encouraged to use - LED lamps, more efficient washing machines etc. If they're inherently non-linear TPTB are going to have to make some tough choices about conflicting policies.

            2. Mage Silver badge

              Re: CE mark ... in some way connected to reality,

              I've seen PC PSUs with the filter caps all left out and filter coil / chokes all replace by wire links.

              Also phone chargers and CFL ballasts with the filter components missing.

              They get mark and then leave out components to save money. Most governments only test if a lot of consumers complain. Most governments have no interest in pro-active enforcement of consumer rights or approval marks (c.f. SOGA, sale prices, equipment in retail for a different market etc).

              Power socket networking gear SMPSUs are well filtered as otherwise they'd not work. They pass EMI/RFI by only being plugged in and also not being used with data.

              Also the domestic wiring setup for CE testing isn't realistic. The lighting circuits only have live to wall switch, so they even more than socket wiring act as aerials.

              Contrary to popular belief the main fuse box / meter provides no significant filtering for mains networking or SMPSU/Electronic ballast noise.

              1. adam 40

                Re: China Export mark ... in some way connected to reality,

                I had to take the common mode choke out of my washing machine controller PCB because the windings blew. Saved me 50 quid for a new PCB, and it's worked fine since for 5 years.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: China Export mark ... in some way connected to reality,

                  "take the common mode choke out of my washing machine controller PCB because the windings blew. Saved me 50 quid for a new PCB, and it's worked fine since for 5 years."

                  Meanwhile, DSL broadband in the neighbourhood (and any other service dependent on a clean RF environment) has experienced unexplained dropouts for the last five years, every time certain modes of your washing machine operate. (It *could*, and in some cases it *will*. But some people will be lucky, and it won't affect their particular setup).

          3. Mage Silver badge
            Flame

            Re: most LED lamps draw

            Most LED lamps are SMPSU giving a low voltage. Most CFL use a SMPSU that is called an Electronic ballast, which replaces the passive iron cored choke.

            The problems are that the circuits take current spikes at the peak of the sinewave and generate RFI. Also life is short due to the electrolytic capacitors drying out.

            I like the new filament string LED (typically 28 LEDs and 110V per filament, but 220V/240V models may use longer "filaments" or pairs). Virtually no RFI, though they still only take current over part of the cycle as they have a rectifier and capacitor, though no pesky SMPSU in ones I've looked at.

            Some SMPSUs will blow up or go on fire or trip the "fuse box" during a "brown out" as they take more current to maintain output power and voltage.

        2. Arthur the cat Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery

          @ Brenda McViking

          Thanks for a much appreciated rational and informative comment.

          What on earth are you doing in El Reg's comment section? :-)

        3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "study is instead looking at commercial premises 3-phase meters, "

          So not home meters at all.

          However.

          There are plenty of small(ish) UK businesses that are quite big electricity users whose electricity bills would absolutely destroy them if they rose 5x.

          Incidentally since this is an EU requirement and since it is optional (IE the Germans aren't forcing this) perhaps it's time for UK Reg readers to call "Bul***hit" on the business and write to their MP's and suggest this is a huge waste of money. Mandated by the govt it offers a very small (and shrinking) benefit to consumers, a big charge to the consumer (you can be the foreign owned utility companies will claw every f**king penny of their cost out of consumer bills) and now a potentially fatal electricity bill for some UK (mostly mfg) companies to boot.

          And while we're at it isnt' the UK leaving the EU?

        4. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery

          I have a University-based institutional subscription to the IEEE journal, and I can confirm that the observed inaccuracies are ONLY seen with three-phase meters, and then only in circumstances where large photovoltaic arrays are feeding power back into the grid via Active In-feed Converters (AICs). It seems that these AICs are not subject to proper regulation regarding how much electromagnetic interference (EMI) they may generate, and thus having been built to the lowest possible standard many of these AICs generate quite a lot of EMI.

          The dodgy photovoltaic converters weren't the only EMI emitters seen; the drive systems for fans in one farm's barns were also very noisy indeed. Reading between the lines, I would think that quite a lot of electrical equipment on farms especially is going to be very noisy in EMI terms, partly through age and partly because with the old mechanical three-phase meters, it didn't matter a jot.

          Having discovered all of this and built a specially EMI-noisy measuring rig, the researchers then went on to test the single-phase meters that pretty much all domestic situations will have. They found no deviation from the specification, and no influence from interference, EMI noise or distorted voltages could be detected.

          TL,DR: No problem detected for household meters.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery

        The old rotating wheel meters were immune to power factor changes and read true power.

        The scam was that you'd measure the VA figure, get a bill based on actual power and think you'd been clever.

        Power factor is a _big_ issue for supply networks. They want it at less than 0.95 and as a large commercial customer if you're less than 0.9 they'll start charging you penalty multipliers.

  11. DougS Silver badge

    Maybe they need to build an old school meter into the "smart" ones

    There's a sanity check that isn't vulnerable to EMI interference. The way to sell it to the utility is to suggest "what if hackers found a way to cause it to under-read, don't you want to be able to verify customers aren't stealing power?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Maybe they need to build an old school meter into the "smart" ones

      When they hack, not if.

      1. 0765794e08
        Happy

        Re: Maybe they need to build an old school meter into the "smart" ones

        Not just hackers, I can see potential for a whole host of shenanigans….

        The past: kids knocking on people’s front doors and then running away! What fun!

        The near future: kids using smartphones to remotely disable or otherwise mess with people’s energy supply, using ‘smarty’ exploits found on the internet, and then running away! Even better fun!

  12. Alister Silver badge

    Not just in the US

    Smart meter billing problems have also been documented in the US.

    And in the UK:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39169313

    From the BBC story...

    A spokesperson for the department for business, energy and industrial strategy, said: "Smart meters are a vital upgrade to Britain's energy system."

    "The technology will bring an end to estimated billing, and give consumers real-time information about their energy use to enable them to make more efficient energy choices."

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just in the US

      "Smart meters are a vital upgrade to Britain's energy system."

      The pictures in the BBC article show ordinary householders with smart meters showing £33k - for one day.

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: Not just in the US

        This is my main point of concern. Not the fact that they measured £33k worth of usage in one day: that's easily denied. But what if the same meter was overcharging by 10% a day?

        No-one is going to dispute that and neither are they going to audit the usage accurately.

  13. Sureo

    "Two reported about 32 per cent less usage than actually occurred."

    I would keep quiet about that.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even if you don't want an electricity smart meter - you still get an electronic one as a replacement for the old mechanical one. So any sensor problems are just as likely to be in those too.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I would keep quiet about that."

    Many, many years ago a radio club had a shed in a field that was used for HF competitions. The visits were therefore very infrequent - although several kilowatts were then used for equipment and lighting. A one kilowatt bulb on a pole in a field was an amazing sight.

    Given the intermittent use no one noticed that the electricity bills were only a fraction of what might be expected. The treasurer just paid them - anyone looking back through the records would see the totals were consistent. Then the electricity board changed the meter - apparently the old one was close to stalling completely.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Remote sites

      Some remote sites and street lights are not metered (in Ireland anyway). The Electricity provider simply bills based on an agreed usage (like a mobile base station power consumption only changes if the equipment is changed).

  16. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    campaigners pdeudoscience

    Too much technical policy in Britain is decided by campaigners with limited scientific knowledge but who have the ear of our arts graduate civil servants.

    Not only is the campaigners' knowledge limited but their scientific judgement is zero. They should be called technicians, not scientists.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: campaigners pdeudoscience

      "They should be called technicians, not scientists."

      Stop it. Technicians have a valuable role. PPE graduates (which is where the problem largely lies in Westminster, and I mean *lies*) should board the Z ark at the earliest possible opportunity.

      Nil illegitimorum carborundum, as they say.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: campaigners pdeudoscience

        @AC

        > Nil illegitimorum carborundum, as they say.

        Your knowledge of Greek marks you out as an Arts graduate. ;-)

        1. Swarthy Silver badge

          Re: campaigners pdeudoscience

          *Twitch*

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: campaigners pdeudoscience

      I'm not sure it's not decided by beancounters based purely on the "bottom line" or "control".

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    THis is no accident

    Isnt it blatantly obvious that the only reason for these metere sis to implement variable pricing.. eg during peak demand times , prices will be higher. this will be tough to implement, but they might start by offering discounts for overnight use, then once people accept that maybe everyone gets a basic fuel allowance @ low price but anythinh more is charged significantly higher? And of coutrse you will be able to sell your allowance or part thereof. There is no other justification

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: THis is no accident

      "[...] but they might start by offering discounts for overnight use, [...]"

      British gas are offering Smart Meter users free electricity between 09:00 and 17:00 on either a Saturday or Sunday .

    2. Dave 15

      Re: THis is no accident ... back to economy 7

      This was managed in the 70s with no smart meters and gave cheap overnight electric

      The idea that everyone will have appliances switching on and off randomly part way through cooking Christmas dinner or washing the clothes just to try and catch the cheap electric is bonkers. As soon as you have this then the cheap electric will trigger all the backed up demand and the price will rise, the machines will stop and the price will fall... a mess.

  18. kain preacher Silver badge

    The reason why the bills are so high is do to fraud. The dumb meters measures your daily total usage. These new smart meter takes a snap shot of the highest peak usage in 15 minutes increments. It works like this between 1:00pm-1:15pm you use 30 watts of power. Now the company says you used 30 watts for that hour. Now lets say for the next 23 hours you use one watt. You would expect to pay 23+30 watts. You will be wrong thats were that 15 minute snap shot comes in. They assume you used 30 watts per hour for 24 hours. So instead of paying for the 53 watts you actually use , you pay 24x30 or 720 watts.

    Any think that creates a surge starts the snap shot process over again. It's looking for the highest snap shot to bill you for.

    This is being done in Oklahoma. any other industry would be done in for fraud. Hell even the bankers did not screw you like this.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      If that's true, then it sounds like there is a market for fitting your own meter inside the "firewall" to compare with the supplied one.

  19. Herby Silver badge

    On meters for electricity...

    Having been in the business of just that (just before "smart" meters appeared on the scene), There are lots of things some people might not understand. Those rotating dial meters that frequented homes for the last century are pretty accurate. While it HAS taken a while, over time they have become better at their job. The first "smart" meters (I had one) that had separate registers for various times of day, were simple detectors of the rotation of the disc that was driven by voltage on one side, and current on the other. So, if the mechanical meter was "wrong" (or "right") it would continue to be, it just was counted a bit differently.

    The typical meter on the side of a house (here in the USA) was a "Class 200" one that was good up to 200 amps at 240 volts (we commonly use a center tap to get to 120 volts). The relevant standard of accuracy (ANSI C-12, if you want to look it up) was to have 1% accuracy at 1% of full scale, so you needed ti be accurate at about 20ma of current, which isn't that much.

    What made things more fun was that if you want higher currents in your house (are you powering a VAX??) you could ask for more and bigger conductors and a higher class meter were put in place. These higher class meters typically used current transformers to take the max (say 320 amps) down to something more reasonable (like 3.2 amps) in a 100:1 ratio coil. The fun begins when said current transformer gets a DC current impressed upon it and saturates. A simple way of doing this is to have a nice fat diode in series with a space heater, and you turn it on, and watch the meter come to a screeching halt. I suspect that the metering method that needs to integrate to get the current signal will have the same problem, but can be fooled wither way. A large spike in the wrong direction for a brief instant (very easily done with a spark or three) will really foul things up.

    Metering electricity is pretty tricky, and can be subject to all sorts of ailments. One old trick was to squirt sugar water near the meter and wait for ants to get into the inside of the meter and foul up the spinning wheel (it doesn't take much!). This was solved when insecticide was put inside the breathing hold cloth spacer to thwart such things. So, people can become VERY inventive when it comes to absconding with power, and sometimes to just doesn't work out. You need to test for LOTS of possibilities. Any metering company that hasn't is asking for trouble!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We accept the most basic lies!

    I am sick of hearing the idea that if you know how much you are paying, then you use less.

    I ALREADY KNOW how much my bills are because i pay them. If i think "my leccy bill seems high this winter" then i might look at what heating i am using (often electric so more expensive), how many lights / TVs etc are on in empty rooms... y'know the basic stuff.

    Alternatively, if i am a mum of several children and i use the washing machine and dryer twice a day, I am going to think "Hey, nothing i can do, kids gotta have clean clothes", then they alter to afford the costs.

    By the minute information on usage will just change people from concurrent usage to sequential... "the meter doesn't flash red when i do the laundry first and cook afterwards".

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: We accept the most basic lies!

      By the minute information on usage will just change people from concurrent usage to sequential... "the meter doesn't flash red when i do the laundry first and cook afterwards".

      Which is good as far as the grid is concerned. A major problem is not how much electricity people use in total, but the fact that it's bunched up into a couple of peaks. If usage were spread out so the peaks reduce it would put less stress on the grid carrying capacity, and would mean we didn't have to use the more expensive generators to keep up with instantaneous demand. Add time of use pricing to penalise peak consumption and reward off peak consumption, and yes, your bills would go down if you spread out your usage.

  21. Adam 1 Silver badge

    bigger problems

    The biggest problem is that there will be some hard coded telnet password for a root session on these things, and once remotely exploited, miscreants are going to do serious damage to the grid by cutting gigawatts of demand within seconds.

  22. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "...over charge homes..."

    "OMG! OVER-CHARGING A HOME MIGHT CAUSE A FIRE, OR AN EXPLOSION. OMG!! A SAMSUNG EXPLODING HOME. ARGHHHHHHH!

    Author meant "over charge" as in billing, invoicing, money. Not voltage.

    "OH, OKAY THEN..."

  23. ecofeco Silver badge

    Scam

    Many here said this was going to be a scam and so it is.

  24. EveryTime Silver badge

    First a comment about the study. The story notes that it's about three phase meters. That's common for industrial users, but extremely rare for residential use. (Unless you have a nice shop with production-size machine tools, and aren't using an inverter.)

    Rogowski coils are all the rage for power metering, and are replacing traditional current transformers (CT). They have a big advantage in rejecting external magnetic fields, and thus are mostly immune to traditional meter tampering using a big magnet stuck to the side of the meter (which saturates the iron core of a CT, reducing the response). They also cover a wider current range with good linearity, and aren't as affected by temperature extremes.

    They sound wonderful, eliminating all of the complexities current transformers, where you pay a substantial premium for certified 'revenue grade' ones and still have to compensate for temperature and non-linearity at the high and low ends of the range.

    But Rogowski coils aren't trivial to design with. You can't stick them in place of a traditional current transformer and use the same circuit. They need an integrator and pass higher frequencies, which results in some load waveforms building up a persistent error. And if you try to naively compensate, you've just made the circuit more susceptible to some other waveform.

    1. Loud Speaker

      I think you will find it is a fundamental law of nature that, if you want to measure something, you measure something else and apply some kind of conversion method, there will always be some "edge cases" where the conversion method give the wrong answer.

      If you want to know something accurately, you have to measure that thing and not the thing next door.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    buyer beware!

    "Trump" brand meters, in particular, were found to be just making shit up. However, readings from these particular meters were so outlandish that they were easily distinguished from reality. Unfortunately, however, they cannot be completely disregarded, once installed, due to their significant impact on the bottom line.

  26. itzman
    Coat

    Well there is a simple answer to all of this

    WE were assured back in the day that electricity from nuclear fusion would be too cheap to meter.

    I'll get my coat...

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Well there is a simple answer to all of this @itzman

      Well, electricity from nuclear fusion may be too cheap to meter in the future, but we're still stuck with fission, unfortunately.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Well there is a simple answer to all of this

      Yes but the supply charge is steep.

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Well there is a simple answer to all of this

      Energy from nuclear fusion is here today:* just stick a couple of solar panels on your roof.

      *Although, not tonight.

  27. Doug Elliot

    Sounds like the combi boiler fiasco again. Replace an item that has run flawlessly for decades with a digital device that need replacing every two years at great expense.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      1: My condensing Combi boiler's been in service for 13 years and never missed a beat - not even a clogged heat exchanger and I live in a high lime area (*). Just because some uk makers *ahem*potterton*ahem produced steaming piles of dingo kidneys doesn't mean they all did.

      2: The reason for pushing Combis isn't efficiency. It's NOX. Over half the NOX measured in urban areas is from boiler systems, not cars - and the worst offenders are quite old (often high CO-emitting flow through systems). As of 2003, there are NOX limits for boilers which mean that pretty much only combi boilers will comply.

      (*) No, I don't have any of the magic anti-liming thingies. They're almost all snake oil except for the ion exchange ones.

      The secret is _design_. Mains water isn't fed through the flame unit heat exchanger. Water from the heating loop is: and when a tap is turned on, the loop is diverted to a secondary water-water heat exchanger to give hot water. As the mains water is never heated up past 70C, lime wont change its chemical structure and as a result you only have to deal with the same rates of formation seen on cold lines. The same maker (Bosch) also make sure their circuits aren't static sensitive or touchy about power cleanliness and from the look of it every board has a good layer of conformal coating too.

      It's pretty clear that Potterton and friends inherited the same slap-dash designers that made British Leyland such a staggering world success.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In Norway...

    They are rolling out smart meters, supposed to be done for the whole country in the next year or so. People have been seeing increases in usage since they have been installed. The response to it has been, your old analogue one was incorrect then.

    Appears it may not have been then. Also if the old one was incorrect, what about all the incorrect billing that has gone on then, if some have reported less then other must have over billed, are all these people going to get their money back, as the old ones were the faulty ones? I think not.

  29. ForthIsNotDead

    Two meters

    I told Scottish Gas (who I get my electricity from, go figure) that they could put in a smart meter AS LONG AS they left the old analogue meter in place. You know, connect them in series. I can see no reason why this can't be done.

    They declined telling me it was technically impossible. I simply wanted my old meter left in place as a confidence check on the new one.

  30. breakfast

    My dad is a bit of a numbers man and when the electricity bills started showing up a little high he got sceptical about the ( non-smart ) meter in their house. It turned out that one of them didn't understand British Summer Time and was adding an hour when it should subtract one, causing their off-peak usage to be misjudged by two hours in the summer. They replaced it at which point the off-peak and regular charging rates were backwards on the central database of electricity meters ( that is a thing that exists apparently ) so that whenever they complained to the electricity supplier and got them reversed, the central system switched them back to the wrong order the next night.

    That is what can be done with a regular non-smart meter. With more technology in the loop, we can anticipate a whole new degree of trash fire...

  31. Mister F

    We have smart meters here in NZ. At first I saw no real benefit - a week after the event my electricity supplier would send me a detailed histogram noting the exact time I used the max consumption. Completely useless info for me at that stage. But recently I switched to a new supplier, Flick. Instead of charging a flat retail rate per kWH, they charge consumers the wholesale spot rate + a levy of 3 kiwi cents kWH (pre Brexit that would be about 1p).

    An app on your phone lets you check current spot prices and CO2 in realtime. I've only been with them a couple of months but there are obvious patterns to how the prices move in general. With no real effort and no drop in total use we are saving an average of 18% per month on our electricity. It is also giving me a better handle on CO2 emissions. It is easy to avoid using power at times when there are unusually higher emissions (close to 85% of power here is from hydro, geothermal and wind, so you can easily dodge higher fossil fuel generation).

    The greatest extent of my effort has been thinking things like I might hold off starting washing machine 30 mins because it is 6pm on a weeknight (when prices are high) or setting the timer to run at 7am on a Sunday (the cheapest time I've seen it). It's easy to envisage a future where some appliances like fridges and water heaters do this automatically, and you have a smallish battery pack to automatically shift load from human operators. You'd get the savings with zero effort. As a consumer and techie I'd consider that useful smarts.

    1. Citizen99
      Big Brother

      Interesting. You could arrange to maximise the emissions of PlantFoodThatSupportsCarbonBasedLifeOnEarth (aka CO2) for the benefit of the world.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        For the troll:

        Geologically, CO2 spikes go hand-in-hand with Oceanic Anoxic Events, usually seeing a drop of around 50% in atmospheric oxygen levels each time it happens (not really surprising as about half our breathable oxygen comes from the oceans)

        Now figure out the equivalent pressure altitude for 11% oxygen. This is a scenario you may want to avoid, unless you want your descendants to be oxygen-starvation damaged apes. We are _very_ susceptable to oxygen changes and only 2 ethnic groups have genetic adaptions to high altitudes in a way that doesn't result in significantly shortened lifespans.

        . (But it may already be too late as the deepwater anoxic zones are spreading.)

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Trollface

        Interesting. You could arrange to maximise the emissions of PlantFoodThatSupportsCarbonBasedLifeOnEarth (aka CO2) for the benefit of the world.

        Shhh! Must never mention that! CO2 is BAAAAAD and must be BAAAAANED!

        (Read BAAAA as BAA as in like sheep...)

    2. Dave 15

      economy 7

      We used to have a second meter which was used 'off peak' for water heaters and such like (one house I lived in had a huge electric storage heater with fans to waft the air around... a pointless waste of space to be avoided in future). This was managed without smart meters back in the 70s'. And frankly if my fridge or freezer decides that it is good to stay warm and let my food rot after I open the door instead of using 'expensive' electricity I will be a little peeved. And once it is cold is it going to make the most of the cheap electric by getting as close to absolute zero as possible?

      Add to this that in the new perfect world all those solar panels occupying fields that used to grow food (while conspicuously absent from the office roofs) work during the day then are we to run home and put the washing machine on because it is a sunny day? Or perhaps we are now going to fit special trips on the washing machines so they automatically run when the meter says cheap and stop half way through the wash when the price zooms up as everyones machine starts???

      As usual its utter bull, and there are far better ways of solving the energy problems.... such as home working where I would save tons of CO2 by not driving, save money by not having a load of lights above my desk (at home my room has windows with sunlight!!!), using opening windows instead of air conditioning and have the winter heat at a sensible level (not needing to roast everyone so they can wear shorts and tshirts in the office), etc etc etc

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: economy 7

        And frankly if my fridge or freezer decides that it is good to stay warm and let my food rot after I open the door instead of using 'expensive' electricity I will be a little peeved. And once it is cold is it going to make the most of the cheap electric by getting as close to absolute zero as possible?

        Er, the OP did mention a battery system I believe :)

        Here in NZ a couple of months back we had a fairly significant earthquake. You may've heard something about it? My neighbourhood lost power for around (but a little over) 12 hours, IIRC power went out about 12:04am and came back on about 12:30. It wasn't till a day later when I went to put some ice into a drink that I realised something - my container of icecubes weren't stuck together, so the cubes in the freezer (normal fridgefreezer) had not even slightly melted. I attribute this to the fact that I keep the thing full, replacing empty space with bottles of water. My reasoning is when you open the door, the air inside (being colder than the air outside during summer months) will fairly quickly pour out. But if that air is replaced by stuff, then it's less likely to be a problem. Also a load of cooler stuff in there means that when I get home from doing my weekly shopping and load stuff into the freezer, while the water had an initial increased load to freeze it, it makes up for it by taking less effort to freeze newer items.

        Add to this that in the new perfect world all those solar panels occupying fields that used to grow food (while conspicuously absent from the office roofs)

        Another one mentioning stuff you're not supposed to! Don't you know that those solar panels are teh perfect green and remove carbon dioxide from teh airs!!!!!!!!!! Just by their plant-killing sunlight-to-ground-blocking existence they stop all carbon emissions for like billions of miles around them!!!!!!!!! (No, you're not allowed to ask what happens to the CO2 that would've been absorbed by those plants, nor are you allowed to ask about the effect such panels have on desert areas).

        Those wastes of spaces called rooftops would truly be a great place for such things. And although the best possible rooftop arrangement may not cover all the power use of the building, if it's an offset against total power consumption (including manufacturer costs) then it's a good thing. If it's a net sink then which only looks good due to heavy subsidies then that's another matter.

  32. Dwarf Silver badge

    An opportunity arises

    Given that the current in a circuit is constant, then adding a second device to reliability check the first would not be difficult. To simplify installation, a current clamp meter fitted to the meter tail could be used so that Joe Public doesn't fry themselves in the process.

    I wonder what the utilities response would be to others checking their work.

    Obviously the customers own meter would need to be a recognised design and calibrated, but that's not difficult to do if there is going to be a large number of them sold (or rented ??)

    This could generate a whole new world of legal people to chase up the cases when things are proven to be wrong, perhaps this would give them something useful to do for once.

  33. jason 7

    My energy company...

    ...insists I do my own readings and send them in.

    I refuse. It keeps 'a man in his van' in a job when he turns up to do the reading for them instead.

    Just doing my bit for the economy.

  34. JDX Gold badge

    Testing

    All other cynicism about smart meters aside... how the F do such issues not get picked up? he level of testing must be crazy on such things, how do they not have them running side-by-side with conventional meters and other measuring techniques for years before launching them?

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: Testing

      Sadly it is the usual situation where the test are designed around proving something works and not 'What happens if it is used like this?'

      In one the device gets signed off in no time flat, in the other it takes months if not years of modifications to get a reliable piece of kit. Bet you can't guess which one is which :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Testing

        "In one the device gets signed off in no time flat, in the other it takes months if not years of modifications to get a reliable piece of kit. "

        Which one of those is Agile?

        Which one is in use for safety critical purposes at a well known manufacturer of aircraft engines and software (and small nuclear reactors too) in and around Derby?

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Testing

          Yeah but testers are good at testing, they know to think outside the box not blindly follow a test script written by a non-tester. Good ones anyway... and this isn't some random bit of code but a really important thing which must surely have to get through all kinds of government red tape and certification - tests reviewed and ending up hundreds of pages long so you want to kill yourself.

          This is akin to a car with power steering where the steering sometimes doesn't work... the level of testing should be immense.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Testing

            which must surely have to get through all kinds of government red tape and certification

            You'd think, wouldn't ya?

            But more likely...

            "Hello minister.... Yes, we're aware that there could be some issues with the testing of the smart meters.. Yes, more extensive tests would pick these issues up.. .Well you see, the issue is if we do the extensive tests, you're looking at another 5 or 6 years before we can start truly rolling them out.. Yes, and of course all the ones already installed would have to be recalled as well, no way they're doing their job right..... Yes well, it is possible, and a few people may be killed. But think of the savings to the country, your reputation is on the line here.... Yes but when the public see how much money your pet project has wasted, well I expect you'll have some trouble at the next election... Yes I understand fully sir, I have the "passed" stamp in my hands right now, the new model has just arrived and should be cleared in oh, about 5 minutes".

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't switch supplier in UK and keep smart meter functionality

    We had a smart meter installed in around 2010 and have since switched energy supplier a number of times. None of the new suppliers used the smart meter functionality and I had to enter the readings manually every month.

    I've now switched back to the original supplier who installed the smart meter in the first place and asked them to use the meter to get the readings automatically. Here is their response to my request:

    "As the supply left us to another supplier, this has caused the smart meters to stop working as smart, and this will still be the case, even though the supply has re joined us. Just to let you know all the energy companies are work on a solution so that in the future you will be able to change supplier and not loose the functions of your smart meter, however there is no time scale of this."

    You can't make this stuff up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't switch supplier in UK and keep smart meter functionality

      but but but privatisation competition markets milk honey Littlechild incompetent regulator blah bs

      No. Cartel. Clueless.

  36. Cuddles Silver badge

    Read the study

    "Among the 10 models tested, the issue appears to be a component known as the Rogowski Coil"

    "While the highest deviation between actual energy consumption and reported energy consumption was 582 per cent, some of the meters made errors in favor of the customer. Two reported about 32 per cent less usage than actually occurred."

    From the actual study:

    "the positive deviation for Rogowski coil current sensors and negative deviations for the Hall sensors"

    "The fourth meter, with a current transformer"

    So no, this isn't simply a problem with Rogowski coils, it's a problem with three different kinds of sensors that cause different kinds of errors - over-reading for Rogowski coils, under-reading for Hall sensors, and both for current transformers. In fact, it's actually a problem with four different sensors giving different readings, since the values quoted are relative to an electromechanical meter which is simply assumed to be accurate - while they may well be better than newer meters nothing is perfect, and it would be interesting to see what kind of errors they have themselves.

  37. John H Woods Silver badge

    in 20 years...

    ... You'll be getting phone calls from dodgy solicitors asking if you want to seek compensation for smart meter mis-selling.

  38. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Holmes

    If you're seriously concerned

    It's fairly easy (though unusual), and completely legal, to get an electrician to add a second, mechanical, meter in series with The Electric Company's "smart" digital meter.

    You can buy meters on the open market or on eBay. Old mechanical meters are cheap ($20-$40 on eBay), as the electric companies are ripping them out and replacing them wholesale!

  39. cream wobbly

    Before everyone gets all worked up about this...

    ...oh I see you already have. But anyway.

    ANYWAY.

    I recall a few times—not once or twice, a *few* times—when my Dad had to call up the NEEB to dispute the bill after the little man who came round didn't bother to knock at the door so didn't get to see the meter (which was upstairs) and made up some shit instead.

    So this is nothing new. It's just put some little hitlers out of a job.

    Later on, when posh people started moving in and didn't want horrible little men traipsing in with their smelly boots over their best Axmiddleclass, they'd tell my Dad to get a new meter on the outside wall. He was thinking about taking their advice, but on the first floor. That'd've been a sight—old jobsworth up a ladder.

  40. Glenturret Single Malt

    Slack journalism

    Am I the only person to be disappointed to find that the article is an attempt at sensationalisation of a politically sensitive topic and disappointed that the editors of The Register have allowed themselves to be used in this way?

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The near-rhyme's a stretch, but...

    Fake Joules?

  42. KR Caddis
    Happy

    Trust us...

    ...it all averages out, ∴ it's fair.

  43. Kiwi Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Great timing, thanks!

    Had an email recently by my power company saying my meter was to be replaced and if I wanted to stop if I could contact the replacement company, nothing more need be done. Which I course I did.

    Yesterday I get a call that I let go to voicemail, seems my power co wants to "discuss your desire not to have a smart meter and what options there are".

    At least now I have this study to add to my reasons (don't like the privacy invasion (you can see a person's living patterns quite easily, even with 1/2 hourly measurements), don't like the security issues reported with some models, don't like the (very slight I'm sure) increased fire risk reported on some meters)

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: you can see a person's living patterns quite easily

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-39064526

      I think the overall size of the leccy bill would give the game away, never mind the half-hourly sampling.

  44. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Sheesh...

    I expected much better from the Register. The salient points from the article that got cribbed from were completely missed.

    1: Most of the meters tested WEREN'T smart meters (but the ones that were, were just as inaccurate

    2: the 2 under-reporting meters were the only ones using Hall Effect sensors.

    3: All the rest overreported

    4: The grossly overreporting ones used Rogowski coils

    5: ALL the meters were accurate with purely resistive or reactive loads (capacitance or inductance)

    6: Complex loads are the problem:

    The problem arises when switchmode PSUs comprise most of the load - their spiky current draw (the input side is rectified to DC and fed through into a storage capacitor - current is only drawn when the rectified DC voltage exceeds the capacitor's voltage, leading to current usually only being drawn through the top 10-15% of the voltage curve.

    The meters interpret this as a _much_ bigger equivalent resistive load

    These kinds of current draws are a bigger and bigger problem on grids. They strain distribution transformers (current capacity (ie VA) needs to be larger for any given wattage rating) and frequently cause high currents to flow in the neutral line in 3-phase systems (ie, your street main) and in some cases have caused DC offsets to earth, which _really_ messes up transformers.

    Whilst there have been rules about eliminating this kind of current draw on PCs and other such PSUs for years (mainly because of the problems caused in office buildings by lots of the things - they can trip out ELCBs as one example of nuisance value), smaller domestic kit hasn't been required to have correction circuitry built in - as the majority of domestic load these days is lighting, the tests were done using CFL and LED lamps as the loads to see how accurate the meters were under such conditions. Switchmode PSUs are in everything these days, so it's quite possible the errors are significant in £££ terms (having it indicate you drew 5kWh in lighting over a month isn't a big error on 1kWh given the cost per kWh)

    On the other hand (and not mentioned in the original article) the EU is harmonising rules on all switchmode PSUs requiring their current draw is more-or-less in phase and non-complex, so this problem might go away soon anyway.

  45. veti Silver badge

    Meter accuracy

    All meters used for billing in the UK must be tested and certified in compliance with BS EN 62053-21:2003. I assume the Netherlands has an equivalent requirement.

    And believe it or not, that test and certification is exactly the same for a smart meter as it is for a dumb one.

    So what this test has shown is that either (a) someone is skimping on their compliance, in which case they need prosecuting, or (b) the test is badly written, in which case it needs rewriting, that's what standards bodies are for. And we should be grateful that the test has brought this issue to light, because who knows how long it's been lurking under the radar.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Meter accuracy

      It's the latter. The test is only performed with resistive or reactive loads, not complex ones.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Meter accuracy

      "or (b) the test is badly written, in which case it needs rewriting"

      Presumably these would be similar to the tests for car emissions, or the tests for hoover efficiency; ie. completely useless when it comes to actual use in the real world. It's all very well to say that rewriting such tests is what standards bodies are for, but there are two problems with that. Firstly, the idea is that the body responsible for such tests should spot and fix problems like this long before they become visible as a major issue to the general public. And secondly, if you look at various other tests there seem to be very few cases where tests were fixed even after huge problems with them were found; in the case of hoovers, the standards body explicitly said that while they acknowledged the tests are useless, they can't be bothered to think of a better one solely because the people complaining didn't do their job for them.

      So sure, in a perfect world this would be the kick up the backside some standards body needs to fix the issue. But in said perfect world they wouldn't have needed such a kick in the first place, and history suggests that in the less than perfect world we have this will be no-where near enough of a kick to actually get anything done.

  46. Richard Boyce

    Smart meters and dumb buyers.

    Don't blame the "smarts" if the problem is the quality of the basic measurement circuitry. What's likely happening is that people are taking advantage of the replacement program to sell crap guilded with some shiny IT.

  47. Rogier van Vlissingen

    Harmonics are doing us in.

    Being that I am involved with harmonic filters, I am very aware that harmonic loads are horrible, and in fact we had a meeting with one of the utilities here in the US about this exact topic - how much smart meters would be thrown off by harmonics.

    In the 60ś the typical harmonic losses in a building were 6-7%, nowadays it is 10-25%, so no wonder that these meters are thrown off by harmonics, but it's nice to see somebody did the research.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Harmonics are doing us in.

      I thought a primary rule of comms theory was that if any waveform is to be sampled then a low- or band-pass filter needed to be inserted in circuit before the sampler.

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