back to article Northern UK smart meter rollout is too slow, snarls MPs' committee

The British government is "sugar coating" its smart meter project and pretending that "everything will turn out alright in the end", according to Parliament's Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS). In a statement, Labour MP Rachel Reeves, chairwoman of the BEIS Committee, accused the government of being " …

  1. J.Smith

    Stupid gimmick from the start

    All seems a waste of money to me. That money could be much better spent (or contributing to the cost of) insulating homes to make them more energy-efficient, something Scandinavian countries do routinely, or rather, they build homes right in the first place. That would save energy costs hugely.

    Or aswell, or alternatively, regulate the energy companies more appropriately.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

      Only a gimmick if you think the purpose was to reduce energy costs.

      If you think the purpose was to give companies more ways to bill, to make money from people and government you will see it as a major success and one being done around the world.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

        I thought it meant the utility companies didn't need to send someone to take a meter reading (Although I do admit most are done by the reseidents of the property with a check once in a blue moon), so could reduce their head count.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

          I thought it meant the utility companies didn't need to send someone to take a meter reading (Although I do admit most are done by the reseidents of the property with a check once in a blue moon), so could reduce their head count.

          That is a small saving. But do the maths - guess the cost a meter reader and van, work out how many reads they can do a day allowing for the practicalities, and you'll find that the savings are about five quid a year. Even then the meter owner has to have some form of routine inspection criteria to prove they meet H&S criteria, so every few years somebody will want to come and poke the meter and check it is working and unbroken.

          All of the smart meter roll out (which industry didn't ask for, and suppliers didn't want to do) is founded on the UK government's obsession with saving us from carbon emissions. Meter makers like it. The companies (often large financial investors like Maquarie) also think it is great. But for energy suppliers, the whole thing is a costly, problematic mess, imposed by government. Only because there's the prospect of huge fines are suppliers trying to force them down customers throats.

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

            Or you could, y'know, ask someone.

            Here in New Zealand, it costs about $6 to get a routine manual meter read - that is to say, one where the reader just stops by on his usual daily round. (Out of cycle reads cost more like $20-25.) That compares with the cost of a smart meter, which is about $4/month more than a dumb one, so there's an immediate saving there.

            But more importantly, there's a much bigger saving in reducing uncertainty. Because if the meter reader can't get at your meter one visit (for whatever reason - hey, it happens all the time) - then it's going to be a full month before he gets round there again. If he misses two, three in a row, the errors in estimation stack up surprisingly quickly. With a smart meter you get a read every day, so there's much less uncertainty bumming around.

            Yes, meter makers and owners love it, of course they do. Customers don't appreciate it so much. But you know what customers really hate? Estimated bills. If you don't have smart meters, you need to employ a whole department whose job is to do nothing all day but listen sympathetically to customers whinging about how their bills are 'wrong". It's worth it just to shut those fuckers up.

            1. JimboSmith Silver badge

              Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

              Wow you have your meters read every month? As in 12 times a year by an actual person employed to do this? That never happens in the UK as far as I know. Things sure are different South of the Equator.

              Here in Blighty I get asked to provide a meter reading (by the people who charge me for energy) every quarter by SMS. This isn't too hard to do and I haven't yet had a bill that was wide of the mark. If people find it too hard to do four readings a year then getting them to change their energy use thanks to a smart meter is highly unlikely.

          2. david 12 Bronze badge

            Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

            Around here, the electricity COMPANIES needed to replace their End-Of-Life meters. and when they said that, they wanted to add a small flashing light that could be read by a meter-reading device, so that the person didn't have to squint at the dials to get a reading. The GOVERNMENT told them, that if they were going to invest all that capital (and charge people for it), they all needed to go the whole hog and include modern remote-reading capability. Then the WELFARE lobby submitted that if they were going to get remote reading, and charge people for the capital, they need to provide a way for USERS to read the meter and see what they were getting charged for.

            Sucks to be a user, because my billing area has never implemented the Bluetooth/WiFi/whatever end-user interface. It's in the meter. We all paid for it. But they've decided that the technology they installed in our region isn't secure/encrypted/authorised enough to actually let end users use it. I can't see how much I'm using except by going outside and watching the numbers. Instead, I can go to a website and see how much I used yesterday.

            1. Mips
              Childcatcher

              Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

              Too right.

              I wouldn’t have one in my house.

              Why do you need something to tell you to turn it off? Just turn it off stupid.

      2. ma1010 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

        If you think the purpose was to give companies more ways to bill, to make money from people and government...

        Indeed! I live in California and we have "smart" electrical meters in my town. So the electric company saves money by not having meter readers go around. Just recently they announced they're going to bill us extra for electricity used during certain hours. Smart meters, like most "smart" things are primarily there to find new and innovative ways to screw the customers. If you have a choice, just say NO.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

          If you think the purpose was to give companies more ways to bill, to make money from people and government...

          I live in Canada and we got smart meters because when it is sunny in California they can sell our organic-eco-green electricity to California for more than we are paying retail.

          Of course somehow they will manage to make a loss on charging us more and selling it - but it's the thought that counts.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

      From the old Smart Energy GB website FAQ page https://www.smartenergygb.org/en/faqs

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

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

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

      Well the advertising standards authority thought so and banned people suggesting smart meters were free https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/10/26/adverts-governments-smart-meter-roll-banned-claiming-devices/

      A bloke called Nick Hunn has also found a 'few' problems with the advertised savings.

      http://www.nickhunn.com/smart-meters-and-fake-headlines/

      Also from the FAQ page

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

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

      So from that can I deduce that there won't be a provision in the meter to cut off the supply remotely? Well no I can't because it doesn't mention anything (technical or otherwise) about the ability of the people I pay for my energy (or some nefarious player) to remotely disconnect my supply. When the supply goes dead to a house maybe because of a Fat Finger Incident or worse, consumers can rest easy as they shiver waiting for the supply to be switched back on. They'll know that the protection remains as strong with smart meters as it is with traditional meters where someone would most likely have had to gain entry to their house to do that rather than by remote control. Does this mean that Electrickery companies are going to have someone there 24/7 just in case something goes wrong out of hours (unlikely) or will UK Power Networks who serve London be able to switch you back on (even more unlikely)?

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

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

      The initial security on the project was crap and that's putting it mildly. GCHQ were not involved in designing the thing from the ground up. However we can thank GCHQ for beefing up the security as they looked at the initial plans and recoiled in horror. Some bright spark wanted to use the same decryption key for all the meters and I think most of us (though clearly not all) know that's asking for trouble. It was done apparently to save money so that's okay then. This according to an article on the inquirer.net (I couldn't find it on El Reg) showing the original plans for the meters had one single decryption key for all the meters.

      Now I may not be a top security boffin or even boffing a top security boffin but I do know that's not a really good idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

      So everyone is clear now on the exact health and safety tests after reading that? No BS there at all, not one mention of British Standards.

      As they're not compulsory I won't be touching them with a barge pole. See here to confirm this:

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

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

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

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

        So you're satisfied with the dumb meters that you have currently.

        Are you sure about that?

        Just asking.

        No, I haven't got any smart meters.

        In other news (BBC online), government advisers just called for gas to be banned. So what do I do about lights then? :-)

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Stupid gimmick from the start

          So you're satisfied with the dumb meters that you have currently.

          If your question was (indeed a question and) aimed at me then the answers yes. I don't see what's wrong with my dumb meter. I can see plenty of things wrong with a smart meter though. If it does become compulsory to have one I'll just turn the utilities cupboard into a Faraday cage. The one thing I do know is there's two good earth points in there.

          One of the selling points of a smart meter is so you can find out what is using the most energy in your home. Personally I can do that by looking at the item concerned. My cooker To reduce energy consumption in my house I'd need to just not use things. Having a smart meter isn't going to:

          Make me need to switch on the lights less,

          Make me drink less hot beverages,

          Make me need the heating less,

          Etc.

          There's very little in the house that uses serious amounts of power that isn't contained in the kitchen/utility area and so easy to spot. I guess there's the hair drier but I think it's unlikely anyone will leave that on as it's too noisy (no immersion heater as no water tank). We're on Economy 7 and do use the washing machine/dryer/dishwasher etc. overnight so no savings there. I also don't have a problem with phoning in/sending in meter readings once a quarter (four times a year - is that really such a struggle for people?) and don't get estimated bills as a result.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Now, now, everything is fine

    Have no fear, Mrs Reeves, tthis will turn out to be the second greatest clusterkluck since the update of the NHS

    Just you wait and see.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Now, now, everything is fine

      Have no fear, Mrs Reeves, tthis will turn out to be the second greatest clusterkluck since the update of the NHS

      But the morons of parliament and civil service already know, and don't care. There's been a revolving door of energy ministers for the past two decades, not one has been competent, technically mind, or understood the slightest thing about energy. Claire Perry is another Oxbridge qualified geography graduate. And the same applies for their opposition counterparts. Take Ms Reeves - yet another PPE qualified idiot.

      It'll be the energy suppliers who are blamed and fined, and it'll be either their shareholders (eg your pension fund) or customers taking the hit. The cretinous regulator Ofgem boast about how "they" are delivering this magical, miracle technology programme, but when it turns to dust, then as usual they'll blame everybody but themselves and the incompetent bunglers of DECC & BEIS.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Change supplier

    The great thing about being able to switch energy supplier is that if they ever start talking about installing a smart meter you can quickly move to another supplier.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Change supplier

      The great thing about being able to switch energy supplier is that if they ever start talking about installing a smart meter you can quickly move to another supplier.

      Or just say no thanks as they're not compulsory.

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

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

      1. micheal

        Re: Change supplier

        EON tried hard to convince my late mother-in-law (was 86) she HAD to have one, it's the law they told her over the phone....everyone else in your street has one.

        Three times I opened the door to the fitter and told him "go away" much to her horror about being dragged from the house as a criminal.

        It wasnt until I accidentally answered the phone to EON rep and told them I was recording the call, can they send me proof of the new legislation that they left her alone

        much like the energy switching door knockers who frighten old people

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Change supplier

          much like the energy switching door knockers who frighten old people

          One new showroom took a call about their energy contract from a cold call. The caller said that it was imperative that they came off the emergency tariff ASAP. They then offered a contract that wasn't needed as we already had one. I had to call the actual supplier and stop any transfer taking place. These people just look up businesses that have moved and then cold call them. Bunch of low lives.....

          After that another employer of mine had a contract change where we discovered one of our telecoms contracts had a new package on it. When I enquired who had authorised this I found out it was a junior member of staff. They had no authority to do this from either our end or theirs. I asked when had this person had been given permission to make changes to our account. The response was "Oh sorry you're right they haven't......" I then had to have discussions about dropping the expensive package (for cheaper international calls) and getting a quite large refund for the cost of the package minus the calls we'd actually made. The woman who had actually taken the call said she'd not been aware she was changing anything. She thought she had agreed for them to send her some literature to get them off the phone. She was just far too polite to just put the phone down on them.

    2. Paul Shirley

      Re: Change supplier

      Try switching and you'll quickly discover they'll only accept you on the decent contracts if you accept a smart meter. No they can't force you to have one but you can't force them to take you if you don't.

    3. Valerion

      Re: Change supplier

      About 3 years back I had a supposedly impossible problem with my old dumb meter (the digital display had completely reset to zero leading to all sorts of hilarity trying to get the issue acknowledged and dealt with by British Gas).

      They eventually agreed it was knackered and fitted a smart meter. A week later I switched supplier and it became dumb again. Utter waste of time and money...

  4. Matt Ryan

    According to the numbers in The Telegraph (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/11/23/smart-meter-roll-could-cost-households-extra-100-means-homeowners/) the roll out costs £374 per household and provides for savings of £18 per annum.

    Or to put it another way, a 20 year ROI assuming that the costs don't escalate and the savings materialise.

    Sure, you can add on the impact of fewer unicorns farting CO2 rainbows into the atmosphere but any benefit attributable to this would have been better with a simple carbon tax as proposed by the Stern review.

    That however didn't provide enough opportunity for the prodnoses in government to spunk away taxpayers money so wasn't taken up.

    1. Jon 37

      For comparison, you can buy add-on gadgets for £70 that will let you track your gas and electricity usage online in real time. You can fit them yourself. So if customers are actually going to reduce usage, the customer could get the £70 add-on kit and have the same effect as the £370 smart meter. So the government solution is £300 more expensive than it needs to be.

      But, as has been mentioned elsewhere, the main goal has to be the ability to remotely turn off the power at the meter. That allows blackouts to be targeted at poor people, by simply raising the price of electricity at peak times to more than the poor people can afford. The poor people will either set up their account to cut them off automatically at that time, or will check the price and reduce consumption, or will accidentally run up a huge bill and then be cut off for non-payment. Rich people who lobby MPs, and the MPs who are on a good salary and an expense account, won't be affected.

      The ability to turn the power off remotely will also be "fun" when people hack the systems. Are you a teenager who's just lost a computer game? Rather than SWATting someone, simply increase their meter reading, giving them a huge unpaid balance and have their electricity cut off for months while they try to fix the error in the "unhackable" system. Just want your 15 minutes of fame? Turn off the power across the entire country!

      1. A.P. Veening

        How about hacking the system and cutting of MPs? How about cutting of 10, 11 and 12 Downing Street? And how about making the houses of Parliament dependent on coal fires for heating again?

        1. Toni the terrible

          They wont have smart meters, or if they do they will actually be secure - not like yours

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Jon 37. I was with you, more or less, for your first two paragraphs but the last one is a bit of a flight of fancy. GCHQ was involved with the security model for SMETS2 and there are a number of checks, etc. to prevent mass black-outs. I can't find the link at the moment but the information is out there in reasonably human-readable form.

        I'm still not having one, mind you, but that's because I'm a pig-headed, stubborn old b*stard. (And I don't like the speculative and unconvincing - yet still appalling - ROI).

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          GCHQ was involved with the security model for SMETS2

          GCHQ were only involved after the initial designs were produced. Thank goodness they were because the initial design used the same decryption key for every meter.

        2. JimboSmith Silver badge

          The SMETS 2 spec can be downloaded from here:

          PDF version

        3. Jon 37

          We haven't yet managed to produce a secure computer program. Ever. There's no reason to think this is the first one.

          Just look at the huge number of security advisories every year for Windows, Linux, iOS, MacOS, Firefox, and Chrome.

          And the history of security of embedded devices is especially woeful. There may not even be a way to do a remote software update to fix the bugs; and if there is then software update mechanisms themselves have proven to be a fertile source of security bugs too. And sending out an engineer to patch isn't practical.

          Even if the security between the meters and head office was perfect, people will hack the head office systems, which are going to be (indirectly, I hope) connected to the Internet so people can see online bills.

          (I know that those head office systems are Internet-connected today, but disconnecting the power today requires an engineer visit and either me letting the engineer in or the power company applying to court for a warrant, which takes time and has lots of humans involved, which gives opportunity for errors to be spotted. That's very different from a computer automatically sending a disconnect command to the meter).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They (smart meters) save you NOTHING, NADA, NOUGHT

        getting your partner and kids to turn lights off, close doors, dont run the shower until you finish updating twitter, dont fill a kettle to bursting just for one cup of tea etc.....that (if a smart meter could ever do it) WILL save you energy.

        Until it's legal to batter your family into remembering these rules, you ain't saving diddly

    2. Plastivore

      Oh, and the gas meter runs on a battery that is estimated to run for 10 years. No one realy knows what happens when it runs out. Or at least the guy who installed my smart meters believes that the meter will simply be swapped for another one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh, and the gas meter runs on a battery that is estimated to run for 10 years. No one realy knows what happens when it runs out.

        I work in the industry, and I know: Most "smart" meters will disconnect the gas supply when the battery fails (a quick search also confirms this outcome for a range of companies in addition to my own).

        The batteries are supposedly ten year life, I know of instances where they've failed after eighteen months. And due to poor design, most then need a complete replacement meter.

        Smart meters: Utter shite - I wouldn't have one. The only scenarios they work for is where it is very difficult to get meter readings, or for pre-payment customers, where a PP smart meter gives a much better customer experience than the old style key operated payment meters.

        1. BrownishMonstr

          Funny this article was published today, on the day I answered a call from Sheffield. With the bloke on the other end trying to get me to switch from my dumb meter that's paid by direct debit to a pre paid smart meter. I remember the crappy ones at university were quite expensive to run, so I can't imagine being better off with his offer.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          'The only scenarios they work for is where it is very difficult to get meter readings, or for pre-payment customers, where a PP smart meter gives a much better customer experience than the old style key operated payment meters.'

          Try telling my elderly neighbours that, a door knocker fed them the 'you must have one, it's the law' so they went from a key/card prepay to a smart prepay, come the snows, the system failed, they couldn't get the gas meter to accept the fact that they'd topped up the account by £40. After a day of trying, they got some sort of code over the phone from a human, it didn't work, three days later they had someone look at the meter and finally fixed it.

          So, no gas for 5 days (despite being £40 in credit), no gas central heating during a cold spell, two pensioners...

          I got this story from their daughter who was visiting them the day our prepay card gas meter failed and she saw we had the engineer fixing it, (this was about a week after they'd fixed her parents meter - ours was a battery fault - easily field replaceable - taken out by extended extreme cold temperatures, so I'll assume it was a similar problem with theirs), we got to talking, she was not amused by two things, the first being that our meter was fixed the day we reported the fault, the second, and more important, was that her parents had been lied to about having to have the smart meters fitted in the first place.

          I've been told that since by one of their sons that they've had ongoing issues with 'topping up' the meters, with the gas one being the most problematic...

    3. Andy629

      My recently installed (as a replacement) non smart meter (apparently “smart capable” - probably the smart functions are enabled by replacing it) has an expected life of “at least 10 years” so suspect 20 years is ambitious...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        10 years, pah

        I have one of those lovely old meters with the counter rotating dials, quite possibly lasted 50+ years already :-)

    4. veti Silver badge

      That rollout cost is - not very well audited, I think would be the polite way to put it.

      The actual meter costs well under £100. The only way to get to £374 is to include the cost of calibrating, testing, installing and certifying it. But the thing is - you'd have to do that with a dumb meter as well, if you were replacing it, and meters do have to be replaced every so often anyway - so it's more than a little dishonest to count all that money as "the cost of a smart meter'.

      1. localzuk

        So there is zero infrastructure for running the smart meters then? They're not connected to some form of network sending data back to some form of server infrastructure? Or, are you saying all that stuff was free to the suppliers, and runs for free without any ongoing costs too?

        Or, you can realise that most meters aren't due for replacement already, and are being replaced before the end of their working lives at an extra cost on top of what would ordinarily have been paid.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If smart electricity meters can save electricity,

    then let's have smart water meters and save water.

    Remember: the only advantage that has ever been touted for the consumer about "smart" meters is they can somehow (yeah, let's not ask too deeply) save you energy. Which rather overlooks the fact that if they ever did show any signs of persuading consumers to use less electricity, the power companies would simply up their tariffs - thus wiping out any savings.

    Until it can be proved otherwise, I remain of the mind that the sole reason for wanting the UK on smart meters is to allow demand-side control so that profits can remain high and not be wasted on silly stuff like building more power stations. I also look forward to the remote disconnection feature being implemented.

    1. A.P. Veening

      Re: If smart electricity meters can save electricity,

      Second reason: Power consumption tells a lot about occupancy, especially if it is monitored in 15 minute segments (or even more frequent). This will give the PTB another instrument to spy on the people.

      The additional disadvantage is that, with some hacking, the guild of the rogue will also have that information, making burglaries while residents are on holiday relatively more frequent.

    2. Steve Kerr

      Re: If smart electricity meters can save electricity,

      Oddly you mention smart water meters - I've just had one put in as part of a initial test scheme.

      I had no say in this as technically speaking, the installation is outside of my property - had a letter through saying it was being done with no opt out.

      I will need to query if that means I can now get up to the second water usage from my incumbent supplier (Thames Water)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If smart electricity meters can save electricity,

        Oddly you mention smart water meters - I've just had one put in as part of a initial test scheme. I had no say in this as technically speaking, the installation is outside of my property - had a letter through saying it was being done with no opt out.

        I've worked at length in both sectors. Because electricity storage has always been (and remains) expensive and wasteful, electricity costs have a very big time component. But water systems HAVE to be built with significant storage in the system, so water costs don't. Potentially your "water smart meter" is just a remote reading meter, and they've been around for a while, but given that the government are never spending their money, it is always possible that the water company have put in some fancy device that hands over excessive usage data as part of a regulator-encouraged trial in the dreamy hope of cutting carbon emissions.

        If you fell strongly enough about your involuntary trial and the sharing of data without consent, well..... I'd be at a loss to recommend anything. But I would note that vandalism has always been a problem with water meters, when somebody wacks a steel pole or som't like that through them.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If smart electricity meters can save electricity,

        Some random but plausible hearsay reason for water meters is to cut down Thames' fines paid to ofwat for leaks. Thames are convinced that a substantial number of the leaks they get hit for are on the customer's side of the stopcock. So they meter the big pipe at the end of the road and meter each customer feed. If they are about equal then "no leaks in my network Mr ofwat so shove your fine" On te upside when I was working with them they would tell the customer if the meter was reading constant use which normally means a leak downstream of the meter.

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: If smart electricity meters can save electricity,

      Well you can save energy by not plugging in the stupid eletric and gas monitor (By default they are set to be on most of the day, although I do amit it'll probably save a few p per year).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If smart electricity meters can save electricity,

      Remember: the only advantage that has ever been touted for the consumer about "smart" meters is they can somehow (yeah, let's not ask too deeply) save you energy.

      I hate them, but there is actually another benefit they bring, that your energy supplier should not be sending estimated bills. That should reduce the build up of large credit or debit balances, which is a real problem for some people.

      It doesn't justify the appalling cost and programme fiasco of smart meters, but it is a real customer benefit.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: If smart electricity meters can save electricity,

        I avoid that by reading the meter every few weeks.

        Sadly many energy billing companies have really terrible online meter reading interfaces, and you can't check before signing up...

    5. ivan5

      Re: If smart electricity meters can save electricity,

      AC, you forgot the main reason for them to be able to shut off the supply - demand side control for when the country is getting almost all of its electricity from unreliable renewables and the wind isn't blowing and the sun is obscured. Rolling blackouts will be the norm with fine control because of the 'smart' meters. The country running on unreliables is the aim implied by the 2008 climate change act.

  6. JimboSmith Silver badge

    The fact that a smart meter requires the householder to do something to make the energy savings means large scale savings are unlikely. Also the latest ad campaigns I've seen don't suggest actually reducing your overall energy consumption.Adverts such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmBy74j2vMc&app=desktop They suggest you can use this power for another activity which is an interesting idea given I thought cutting our overall energy use was the top priority.

    1. iron Silver badge

      What device am I supposed to turn off to save / reuse this energy? The fridge? The freezer? The only light in the house that is turned on? (in the room I'm sitting in)

  7. terrythetech
    Facepalm

    so far

    all the adverts I have seen for smart meters keep telling the me how much more energy I can use because of all the energy I've saved. Surely the wrong message :(

  8. silks

    Abort Abort Abort!

    Massive cost, poorly implemented, little benefit! Maybe it's too late...

    1. Cardinal

      Re: Abort Abort Abort!

      @silks

      Lets just leave Brexit out of it eh?

  9. JetSetJim Silver badge
    Boffin

    The answer is in the data

    As a cursory dekstop analysis might indicate, installing these smart meters seems to be a pointless waste of time and money. In practice, can one request a data set for the smart meters currently installed for:

    Column 1 (& 1a): energy usage in the property in the year prior to installation of a smart meter (separated between gas and electricity)

    Column 2 (& 2a): energy usage in the property in the year subsequent to the installation of the smart meter (again, separated by gas & electricity)

    No need to add any personalised information like property address.

    Coarsely, dividing one column by the other can give a rough estimation as to the energy savings of these devices (notwithstanding the possible uncorrelated effects of measures that may influence energy usage in a household, e.g. installing insulation, although it could be argued that some of these may be triggered by the awareness of energy usage).

    The rollout figures are available here:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statistical-release-and-data-smart-meters-great-britain-quarter-2-2018

    They would indicate that up to Q4 2017 there were over 9 million of the blighters, so we should be able to do this sort of thing (even with the added complexity when properties change supplier - could probably discard those and still get a reasonable picture of events)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The answer is in the data

      Downvote only because of the claim that there is no need to add personal information.

      Smart meters, like most data being collected today, is far more valuable with personal information like address, phone, and names.

      Particularly when it comes to getting more money from individuals.

      Personalised information is why smart meters are installed at each home rather than the nearest substation or transformer. Personalised information is a core feature of smart meters, that is where the gold is and suggesting it shouldn't be or won't mined is IMO rather hopeful.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: The answer is in the data

        I would question why personal info would be needed to address the claim that the installation of a smart meter would reduce energy consumption. I don't doubt that someone might be able to find some value in knowing the change in energy consumption habits when correlated against personal information (if there are any), but you don't need it to actually quantify the change

      2. Scott Broukell

        Re: The answer is in the data

        @ Haefen

        But without surrendering your personalised information how are your details going to be entered into the * Big Monthly Prize Draw * - you could be missing out on some snazzy beach towels or a 50 quid M&S voucher! You wouldn't want that would you.

        Then there's the * Big SurPrize Draw *, when you and tens of thousands of other customers, find that some teen hackers have got passed the piss poor data security and leaked said personal information all over the internets!

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: The answer is in the data

          Reminds me of

          "Be government informer, grass up your friends and neighbours, fabulous prizes to be won"

          I'd put a joke icon, but smart meters aren't a joke...

  10. Snowy
    Facepalm

    Smart metres is an EU directive

    Like a lot of EU directives the UK is doing while quite a large part of the rest of the EU just ignores. Germany has only just started and they are only doing it for " large consumers with average annual consumption in excess of 10,000 kWh "

    [quote]

    This threshold will be lowered to 6,000 kWh in 2020, which applies to approximately 15% of electricity consumers. With over 50 million metering endpoints nationwide, this will result in the installation of around 7.5 million smart meters across Germany. The majority of German households will remain unaffected, given average consumption hovers around 3,500 kWh.[/quote]

    Taken from https://www.smart-energy.com/magazine-article/germany-moving-ahead-smart-meter-rollout-plans/

    Given we are leaving the EU we can should not have to install smart metres any more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Given we are leaving the EU we can should not have to install smart metres any more.

      The legistlation is already in place to mandate them. Given how much can-kicking is going on over Brexit, what chance is there of this being "fixed" before we all have them?

    2. LenG

      Re: Smart metres is an EU directive

      You don't have to have a smart meter installed despite what the idiots who phone you about it might say. Even if the only meter available is "smart" you can have installed in dumb mode.

      And of course you can always install a faraday cage around the thing.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Smart metres is an EU directive

        You don't have to have a smart meter installed despite what the idiots who phone you about it might say.

        You don't have to have a water meter installed either, but my water bill dropped by ~75% when I got a meter.

        Smart meters have 30 minute pricing bands as one of the long term aims is to time shift energy usage away from peak periods, and some companies already have time of use tariffs as an option with (from memory so illustrative, not totally accurate) cost ratios of 35%, 100% and 175% for night time, day off peak, peak periods. Don't want a smart meter? Certainly sir, you can keep your dumb one, but we'll charge you at the 175% rate as you might use it all at peak time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart metres is an EU directive

          You don't have to have a water meter installed either, but my water bill dropped by ~75% when I got a meter.

          That's a non-sequiteur. The reason a water meter dropped your costs is because of the anomalous way that "water rates" were set, as a property tax rather than a consumption charge.

          In the case of smart meters, you're certainly right that they can offer time of use tariffs (TOUT), but the studies of TOUT show that as many people lose out under those as benefit (although most customers persuade themselves they are saving money).

          Two things to consider: Compared to a blended flat rate, if you have cheaper off peak power, then you have have more expensive peak power, so this isn't a one way street to saving money. And second, as the volume of less predictable renewable generation rises, the TOUT only deliver system wide benefits if they are "dynamic" rather than pre-planned, meaning that you'd have to guess when power was cheap, rather than KNOWING.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smart metres is an EU directive

        The EU Directive did not impose Smart Meters in GB (or any other country, for that matter). The Directive only made governments do an economic assessment. Germany's assessment was negative! UK did a number of assessments over the years, mostly these gave positive results. that said, economics is not a exact science :)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smart metres is an EU directive

      "large consumers with average annual consumption in excess of 10,000 kWh "

      Annually, I have had that in 1 month :)

      My average monthly usage is ~5000kWh (I dont live in the UK anymore, northern Norway)

      My power usage has increased since I got a smart meter, around 50% more. So either my old meter was incorrect (doubt it, it wasn't that old) or the smart meter is.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smart metres is an EU directive

      Smart meters may something the EU want but that doesn't mean they forced the absolutely foaming at the mouth crazy scheme we're using in the UK on us.

      The miserable UK Smart Meter system is entirely the fault of the UK government and the big energy suppliers that lobbied for it to be done like this (because they wanted to drive "customer engagement").

      As mentioned in the article, the French have managed their rollout at something like a reasonable cost and they are in the EU too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smart metres is an EU directive

        The miserable UK Smart Meter system is entirely the fault of the UK government and the big energy suppliers that lobbied for it to be done like this (because they wanted to drive "customer engagement").

        The suppliers most certainly did not lobby to install smart meters, we lobbied for any government plan to make them the responsibility of the network or metering systems operators. Energy supply isn't an asset based business, it isn't an installation or logistics business, we have none of the relevant skills or competencies to procure, test, install, and fleet-manage smart meters. We wanted this like a hole in the head. As usual government undertook a consultation, ignored all the views of the experts, and did their own stupid thing.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "are making nearly 4 per cent sustained annual energy savings"

    I guarantee that's not 4% off the bill when you take into account the cost towards it.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Mushroom

      And of course the cherry on the cake is even if you're not stupid enough to fall for the marketting spiel, you're still getting hit by the hidden charge on your bill for installing the damn things in other people's properties.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "are making nearly 4 per cent sustained annual energy savings"

      "are making nearly 4 per cent sustained annual energy savings"

      By switching to SSE

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But you can still hot-wire these new meters, right? (just asking for a friend - who enjoys some sort of esoteric horticultural activity in his loft space).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: But you can still hot-wire these new meters, right?

      Don't. If you want to grow cannabis:

      1) Don't sell any - ever

      2) Don't tell a soul

      3) Get a ****ing carbon filter set up

      (known as "don't sell, don't tell, and don't smell") And pay your bills. (Only break one law at a time).

      A flying visit to your nearest hydroponics store (because there will be one) should convince you that the "war" on drugs has failed dismally as far as cannabis is concerned. In fact all it has done is make Brits quite sought after in the US, as they try to ramp up their legal growing. The UK is a world leader in clandestine cannabis production. Funny it's never reported as a success story ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RE: But you can still hot-wire these new meters, right?

        'The UK is a world leader in clandestine cannabis production. Funny it's never reported as a success story ?'

        I think it's partially due to the fact that the explosion in both quality and volume of production is directly attributable to the sterling work of a large number of (mainly Vietnamese) illegals..

        Anecdotally, I was told by someone a few years ago that so much is being grown that we're actually exporting the stuff..talk about 'interesting times'...

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: RE: But you can still hot-wire these new meters, right?

          Yep - it's always those evil "illegals", isn't it?!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: RE: But you can still hot-wire these new meters, right?

            Never said they were evil, just illegal. Ok, the bosses behind the operation, true to form, are probably all very legitimate businessmen, and therefor naturally evil to the core, the majority of the minions doing the actual farming are smuggled slaves.

            Hey ho!, welcome to 21st century Britain...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I think

          You think wrong then.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I think

            'You think wrong then.'

            I then invite you to google cannabis uk vietnamese, or something similar. (Of course, I could also have imagined the fact that the Vietnamese made up the bulk of the minions that were 'busted' a couple of years ago working in the factory farm on the industrial estate I work on. that operation was large 2,000-2,500 square feet)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But you can still hot-wire these new meters, right?

      Yes, you can hot wire any meter at the risk of being electrocuted or gassed, but the unfortunate thing for the ne'er do wells about a smart meter is that it will record the loss of load or interrupted connection patterns, and the unfeasibly low consumption. The most basic of alogorithms will flag up that meter as faulty or electricity theft risk, triggering a visit from the meter inspection crew.

      Of the small number of benefits that smart meters do bring, identifying electricity theft is something they can actually do fairly well.

      Worth knowing that it is VERY difficult to disconnect a customer for non-payment, but for electricity theft things are a whole lot easier.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Of the small number of benefits that smart meters do bring, identifying electricity theft is something they can actually do fairly well.

        Worth knowing that it is VERY difficult to disconnect a customer for non-payment, but for electricity theft things are a whole lot easier.

        Ah you mean legally/administratively and physically very difficult to disconnect a customer with a dumb meter. Court orders accessing the supply/meter etc. Once you have a smart meter as far as I know it can quickly and easily be done via the Smart DCC network. No need to visit the property and double check things - so much easier technically to fat finger a disconnection.

        For example I worked for a property firm looking after the utilities at a few properties. One day shortly after I arrived a letter turned up thanking me (dear householder) for switching to British Gas. When I called them and asked who had authorised this transfer they gave me a name and another property firm. Bemused I called this firm and spoke to the person concerned. He was equally puzzled but eventually we worked out what had happened. My property was 16 Gleneagles Street his was 16 Glenbeagles street*. I called British Gas back who insisted no mistake had been made until I pointed out the other person was complaining too. They eventually apologised and said mistakes like these are rare. In another property the meter numbers for the landlord supply and a tenant were transposed. That took longer to fix as no one would acknowledge it had happened or take ownership of the problem.

        *names changed.

  13. TheProf
    Devil

    Smart meters are great!

    My smart meter connects to my phone and it allows me instant access to my meter reading if I'm away from home or find it too difficult to stick my head into the cupboard. Also great is the fact that I can remotely switch all the electricity off when I'm away from home. The advantage of this is I never have to worry about electrical leaks and the hassle of coming home and finding the kitchen knee-deep in electric.

  14. iron Silver badge

    "across the north of the UK"

    "installations in the North Region"

    Dear MPs, where is this North Region? Are you actually talking about the North of England or do you really mean the UK? Because if the later we have a name for the north of the UK, we call it Scotland ya ignorant Sassenachs.

    1. Valeyard

      "Dear MPs, where is this North Region?"

      in what the MPs see as the barbaric wilds beyond the M25

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      The frozen north

      I can tell you that in the northern region of England, at least, repairing the existing dumb metering systems is playing second fiddle to rolling out their replacements. A (planned) power outage resulted in my Economy 7 timer being out by around 8 hours, meaning that the water and storage heaters were operating at an economically unatrractive time of day.

      Putting the clock right is a two minute job, but after six months and a succession of cancelled appointments - because the meter repair team was reassigned to smart meter installations - it still wasn't fixed. I moved house and it still wasn't fixed 6 months after the new residents moved in.

      And at the time, they were still installing the original smart meters, knowing they'd need either upgrading or replacing shortly after.

      Madness.

    3. Nial

      "Dear MPs, where is this North Region? ..... Because if the later we have a name for the north of the UK, we call it Scotland ya ignorant Sassenachs"

      Are you talking Geographically or by population?

      I took it to mean that both the Scots and Northern English have more sense than the southern shandy drinking sausage jockeys.

  15. A.P. Veening

    Just curious

    I am wondering whether these "smart" meters are installed in 10 Downing Street. If so, how much did that save? If not, why not? Maybe a FOI-request? And while we are at it, how about 11 and 12 Downing Street?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just curious

      i suspect the heating bills in those addresses are very low due to all the intrinsically produced hot air. Also, the 'leccy bills will be low too, due to the number of bright sparks in the vicinity.....

  16. codejunky Silver badge

    Ha

    Maybe the northerners are too smart to have them installed. I dont know a lot of people with them.

  17. adnim Silver badge

    I will miss having a chat

    with my meter reader and will wonder what they do now to earn a crust.

  18. scrubber

    Conspiracies abound

    "Capita run..."

    I'm now thinking this is the taxpayer paying to assist a private company in collecting money for the BBC.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let them in

    Let the installers in, show them where the meter is, once they get all of their tools out nonchalantly ask them not to disturb too much asbestos.....

  20. Rhuadh

    Worked in British Gas some years ago before smart meters were even a glint in a politicians eye, and one of the fun things was when any one told me that their meter Gas or Electric was recording too much power being used (funny it was never, ever the other way round) and that their bill was too high.

    The meters had evolved over 100 years, and quite simply, they worked, every bug and problem had been solved. Nearly every trick and criminal action that human ingenuity had used to get power cheaply or free had been recorded and easily recognised. Yes they had to be replaced after 20 years, because it was always worth while running a check (especially with dangerous things like gas (goes boom) or electricity can kill, shocking I know) before being cleaned up and fitted back into someone else's house as a 20 yo replacement.

    Yes, there was a charge for changing a meter and testing (£50 repaid if a fault was found), but the failure rate was something like 1 in a hundred thousand after testing. And Yes, there were occasions when high usage was real, because someone eg: had wired up a block of flats to a single house hold meter, or had a new swimming pool fitted to a house (why anyone had thought heating the pool was free....), or any number of interesting cases but it was nearly always human cock up rather than the meters to blame. (Or the time someone phoned up to request BG supply gas to the house she was just about to move into, and it was discovered that of all 1000 houses in the estate, built 5 years previously, none had ever received a gas bill as Transco had forgotten to register the meters as in use after fitting them. Ooops!)

  21. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    A meter to let anyone, at home, see how their consumption is, fine! (I have a couple of those).

    A "meter" to let the company bill you based on unproven technology and turn off your power remotely? Don't think so.

    So, thanks, but no thanks.

  22. 0laf Silver badge
    Stop

    No, just no.

    I've done everything I practically can to reduce the power consumption in my house.

    On investigating further measures I've found that they are not cost effective. I have solar panels put in by the previosu owner. They cost him £8k and generate Approx £30 a month (paid to me by cheque every quarter). For him these devices would have paid for themselves IN ONLY 22yr whilst at the same time not reducing his energy bills at all. Also 5yr in the inverter has gone and that will be hundreds to fix (the green deal items in any home energy report are even worse none of them make any sense economically).

    Energy meters are just another gimmick that will consume energy in my house not save any.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No, just no.

      Oddly, I know some people with solar panels to generate some lecy. They asked the proposed installers of the Smart Meters would they measure in solar generated power as parrt of the bill - no answer yet.

  23. Steve Jackson

    I was rung by EDF yesterday and they still can't guarantee a SMETS2 meter so I declined until they could. This seems a simple way of putting it off as this was supposed to have stopped (installation of SMETS1) by October 5 last year. Take up must be terrific?

  24. ancient-strider

    Savings? Where?

    I am saving a grand 6 pence a day! Since we had the smarty installed we now turn the computer screen off when no one is sitting at it. We can tell when the heat pump is heating the domestic hot water, but we were using the controls to turn that off when not needed anyway. So we remain at 6 pence per day.

  25. Duffy Moon

    Saving Customer Money

    The only way that smart meters could save the customer's money, is if they had a built-in AI which automagically switched energy supplier every year in order to get the cheapest rate.

    1. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: Saving Customer Money

      And that would only save the customer money not reduce energy consumption.

      Saving on CO2 emissions, and added benefits of reducing staffing costs for meter readings and disconnections were the main drivers.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They have already admitted if you have a timer programmer on your heating and switch off stuff you aren't using you'll basically save very little.

    Even then once the novelty factor has worn off most people will put their smart meter display in a drawer and forget about it.

    Smart meters offer nothing really and consumers realise that V1 versions are STILL being installed and that all versions are likely insecure.

    My worry is that pensioners will die from turning off their heating due to sitting there and fretting about how much it is costing them as they watch the readout all day and worry.

    Add to that the reported fires and massive increase in bills for some (which can't be a fault of the 'smart' meter) I'm happy with old trusted technology.

    Until it is law to have one none will be installed in our house hold.

  27. Cynicalmark
    Mushroom

    Guess what...

    Yup they all have load switch capabilities to cut you off at times of peak demand. They all have a minimum of 2 to 3 tamper switches to tell if you have opened any part of the casing to interfere with comms switching or supply routing.

    Not one will save you a penny as they do not control device switching.

    They will most likely interfere with your network wifi and or zigbee mesh systems.

    The morons in charge of all this are incompetent and greedy. Security is not good and a 10 yr old can give this a good go to cut random people off by denying the network connection. (My apologies to those below 10 who are capable too)

    If you want one to experiment on then just ask a local site demolishing some council homes. They will gladly hand some over if you smile sweetly.

    Saving energy is easier by insulation, modification/modernisation and load shedding. Go look at that tungsten lamp, the immersion heater, poor fitting windows and doors and pipe lagging of the hot water pipes. Clean condensors and evaporators of heat pumps regularly. Replace that old bathroom extraction with modern crossflow exchange unit. Repair everything and keep regular maintenance of your refrigerator and washing machine. Get the boiler annual service and clean (replace the bugger if old atmospheric pile of crap). Most importantly turn it off if not in use.

    The green energy sector is corrupt-they lie about return on investment daily. The energy sector is a for profit coal and gas junkie. Goverments mitigate poor efficiency and CO2 waste by trading carbon credits rather than fixing the issue.

    Fook their meters and tell them to sod off. Yaaay up the revolution.

    Off to take my pills and rock quietly.

  28. PhillW

    payback

    So a smart meter costs about £300 all in.

    Insulating a loft will cost about the same and will save approx £180 a year.

    If you already have loft insulation they could spend about £150 kitting out your whole house with LED bulbs and that will save you about £200 a year.

    If you have loft insulation AND you already got LED bulbs they could offer you:

    A subsidy to get cavity wall insulation saving about £140 a year

    A subsidy to upgrade to a condensing boiler saving £300 a year

    A subsidy to put in solar panels if applicable

    (I fitted a diverter to use excess leccy to heat the hot water (Economy 7) and saw our leccy use drop by 1/3)

    Oh, and on behalf of meter readers everywhere, it also means they get to keep their jobs!

  29. T. USA

    Smart Meters do enable utilities to remotely control your appliances.

    They can be remotely activated when demand is high to help "manage electricity consumption" by making small "adjustments" to the appliance(s).

  30. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    They haven't called in a while,....

    ... but last time, the young lady was keen to point out the Smart Meter came at no cost,.... 'Apart from me having to use a day's leave, you mean?' She ummed and ahhed a bit, tried to tell me it will save me money, and I just stressed the point I'd be using up a precious day off, to get something installed I have no interest in having.

  31. illuminatus

    Perry...

    Well, say no more. It's only because of no-wits like Johnson, Grayling and Hunt that she isn't held up as one of the more talent-free thought-vacuums to inhabit the Conservative government, judging by her previous record in IT and Internet related matters. It really is a government of the no-talents.

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