MP editorials? Does this mean that the Register has now hit the proper mainstream? Congratulations.
It's about time technology publications were treated seriously outside technology circles.
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew how much your gas and electricity were costing you minute by minute by looking at a smartphone app, visiting a website or glancing at a wall display? You’d be in a much stronger position to reduce your energy bills and switch suppliers if you could. Thankfully, this data will soon be accessible …
WTF.... I thought this was a joke until I got half way down the article....and this is the sort of twat that is running the country? I kept waiting for phrases like and "soon our boffins expect to come up with marvellous new devices called horseless carriages...spiffing." Jesus...unfuckingbelievable. How old are these people?
Then I realised it was a joke...PHEW!!!
Please tell me this is a joke..please
I'm still not convinced smart meters will really help. I take energy usage seriously but I wouldn't gain much from such an app. By being interested in energy saving(*) I already know how to determine which appliances are the worst offenders(**). Those not interested will probably ignore the display anyway.
And when all's said and done what is anyone supposed to do with the knowledge that their fridge is the biggest consumer? Go into the kitchen and give it a good talking to? Spend several hundred pounds replacing it with a newer model in order to save a quid a month?
Does anyone really leave energy hogging appliances running excessively long without realising it? Would such people pay any attention anyway?
I suppose that if the HID glows bright red and flashes with a 'whoop, whoop' siren when household consumption goes above some chosen limit that might trigger a response. But I suspect the likely response will be to throw the HID in the bin or a soundproof drawer rather than to turn off the appliances causing the problem.
(*)More a hobby as a result of a lifetime of being a resource concious programmer.
(**)Hint - the warmer it gets, the more power it consumes.
It's not all about cost. I'm just about to replace an old inherited freezer with a new model purely on efficiency grounds, but not because of the cost. Because of the CO2 emissions.
Why is it so unpalatable to talk about CO2 savings these days? Why must everything be framed in terms of financial benefits alone?
1. Why save CO2? Atmospheric CO2 has been rising steadily these past 17 years, but global temperature has remained static. We've been misled that there is a definitive link.
2. The £billions in cost of all the renewables foisted upon us is simply the cost some have calculated as being the 'lesser' cost of the hypothetical 'cost' of doing 'something', when in fact doing 'nothing' is the least cost solution.
> Atmospheric CO2 has been rising steadily these past 17 years, but global temperature has remained static. We've been misled that there is a definitive link.
Atmospheric CO2 has been rising since the 1800s (that's the industrial revolution - entirely coincidentally, I'm sure). How's the global temperature trending on that scale, do you think?
> in fact doing 'nothing' is the least cost solution.
If you only care about costs over the next 17 years, perhaps. Me, I'd like to try and avoid the possibility of dramatic climate shifts; in my lifetime or my descendants'. Not preparing for large changes tends to be very costly - individually, and to society/civilisation as a whole.
How's the temp trending over a century and a half?
It's risen by nearly 0.9 degrees centigrade.
If you graph it in whole degrees rather than the more impressive 1/10, it produces a nice flat line. As if mercury thermos' are that accurate anyway.
" Me, I'd like to try and avoid the possibility of dramatic climate shifts; in my lifetime or my descendants'"
How do you know these climate shifts will
a. happen at all
b. be dramatic
c. be a 'bad thing'
Just asking because I can find no convincing answer to any of these questions.
I'd like to try and avoid the possibility of dramatic climate shifts; in my lifetime or my descendants
Why? They've happened many times in the past, for a variety of reasons, and it's directly because of some of them that we're here at all. By preventing them you could be condemning your descendants to a life of stagnation and failure.
That's only half tongue-in-cheek, we really have no idea of whether they'll happen, or what they'll do. I'm all in favour of not wasting finite natural resources like fossil fuels, which have other valuable uses than simply burning them, but we need some perspective here, looking at the whole picture and not relying on knee-jerk reactions to only one of many related issues.
>We've been misled that there is a definitive link.
You have been misled that your short-term thinking is worth a damn, in the face of mountains of contrary data.
>when in fact doing 'nothing' is the least cost solution
Go ahead. Do nothing. Don't drive, don't heat your home, don't eat. That is certainly the least cost solution.
" Why save CO2? Atmospheric CO2 has been rising steadily these past 17 years, but global temperature has remained static. We've been misled that there is a definitive link."
A friend of mine is doing climate research for Imperial College. He said a few years ago that the way the media has presented the concepts behind Climate Change is wrong and has simplified the problem too much. CO2 is apparently far from the only cause of Climate Change. Our weather system, along with many others in Nature, is incredibly complex. As such, IMO, it's entirely possible that the CO2 is too high, but that the system is compensating in some way.
Because if your old freezer is still functional, by consuming a new one you are burdening the environment with the costs of: manufacturing a new one, disposing of the old one (depending how old, any chloroflurocarbons therein, working fluid or in the insulation, needs to be contained), and transportation to and from your house.
"But I suspect the likely response will be to throw the HID in the bin or a soundproof drawer rather than to turn off the appliances causing the problem."
Too true of human nature with something inconvenient. In the past early steam engines often had a brick on their safety valve. Then there were the people who solved the problem of a wire fuse regularly blowing - by replacing it with a nail. The list is endless - and the Darwin prize regularly adds new examples.
"I'm still not convinced smart meters will really help. I take energy usage seriously but I wouldn't gain much from such an app. By being interested in energy saving(*) I already know how to determine which appliances are the worst offenders(**). Those not interested will probably ignore the display anyway."
And which ones have you used?
Determining which appliance is a heavy user of electricity is not the same as seeing a real time energy use figure.
(*)Then you should be delighted to see the introduction of a meter for both gas and electricity. You can track it all. Run experiments on different lighting, verify that the fridge door is closed, or that the light is not left on in the bathroom.
(**) Like when you don't close it properly, or it is mostly cooling air, and you briefly open it, or when you turn it up too high, and it stops refrigerating, and starts freezing?
Those not interested will not be interested, and hey.. water is wet.. SURPRISE..
"And when all's said and done what is anyone supposed to do with the knowledge that their fridge is the biggest consumer? Go into the kitchen and give it a good talking to? Spend several hundred pounds replacing it with a newer model in order to save a quid a month?"
Umm... you haven't bought a fridge in a long time.. have you?
But what will real time awareness change?
I had one for a few months when I was part of a beta test for a different product, and they used a little clamp meter to measure my electricity consumption before and after the tested item was fitted. The real time awareness alters behaviour.
Turning the kettle on less often, turning the lights out when not in use. Not having the telly on when nobody is watching. Only using the oven when unavoidable..
"Does anyone really leave energy hogging appliances running excessively long without realising it? Would such people pay any attention anyway?"
Yes. I did. An extra 10 minutes or so preheating the oven.. No big deal..Right? And for heating up a frozen pizza. perfectly economical.. Right? And surely a flat screen TV doesn’t use that much leccy.. does it? And the kitchen light is a fluorescent.. low power.. innit.
From experience, rather than contrarian conjecture.. When you have an up to the minute indication of how much electricity you are using right now,, It is surprising how often you think twice about starting the kettle boiling a second time, because you had to futz about with something for two minutes, or letting something defrost on the counter in it's own time, instead of sticking it in the microwave.
But hey.. I'm sure you will use more power in protest.. Right?
From experience.. It does indeed make a difference. From a high horse. many things are difficult to see.
The whole "helping you monotor your usage so you can save money" is a trojan horse to get the meters in your house. The idea that there is any altruism here is laughable.
The real intention behind smart meters is time-sensitive charging, so the energy cartels can charge you more when energy use is high.
In other words: if you're hungry at 6pm and want your dinner, you better be prepared to pay extra for cooking it when everyone else is doing the same.
There are two groups of people who think Smart Metering/IoT is great:
(A) Those that are going to make huge money out of it - regardless of whether it works or not. Big engineering companies smell the gravy.
(B) Those that want to be seen to be part of setting up impressive (to the unwashed) clever sounding tech like Smart Meters, Smart Grids etc. These are mostly the politicians who want to be seen to be doing something.
People that actually sit down and analyse this stuff soon realise that we're trying to use a tech hammer to beat something that is not really a tech problem.
The biggest argument behind Smart Metering is that the leccy price will change with demand. The customers will know what the current price is and thus modify their usage to reduce consumption.
Is anyone really going to turn off their appliances when the electricity rate go up a bit?
No, I won't watch TV at 7pm. I'll wake up at 2am and watch then when the leccy is cheaper. Oh, and dinner's going to be at midnight. And I'll skip charging the leccy car tonight... Really?
Most of our electricty usage is very hard to defer without seriously disrupting our day-to-day lives. We want it now - not in a few hours time.
About the only load that is really easy to move in time is water heating. That's been handled - well - by ripple control for at least 30 years.
We all shake our heads at the $100M IT refit projects that don't stack up. Smart Metering is going to be worse.
You can already get devices that clip onto the existing mains cable that give a pretty good idea of what power you are using. Here in Australia the local council went round issuing them for all households along with some other bits and bobs for $50. I believe they're actually from a UK company more to the point. Therefore these solutions exist. The smart meter is just there to fleece the customer for fitting it and to allow the power company to fuck them forever more.
"Why can’t we switch supplier within the hour with our meter reading?"
That will be because of the data transfer catalogue (DTC) and the amount of messages that need to go between the new and old supplier plus mop (meter operator), dc (data collector) and the da (data agragator).
There isn't even a common field standard where economy7 meter readings are kept (even at the same electric supplier)! So it ain't so simple.....
Classic example, from memory a DTC 'D69' message is a 'confirmation of an objection rejection removal' message, there are bloody hundreds of the things.... (A bog standard transfer involves about 40 DTC messages though).
Good article. I must be getting old when I find myself agreeing with the Conservative member for Windsor.
Thanks Steve Medway, hadn't realised quite how Byzantine the switching process was behind the scenes. Assuming this could be simplified it would certainly be more worthwhile than a rip-and-replace on everyone's meter.
"If these meters were truely smart they would automatically switched to the cheapest supplier on a second by second basis, directly paying for the electricity as I used it."
If you had automated switching it'd actually be on half hourly metering periods, because that's how the market conducts balancing and settlement. Automating switching to the cheapest tariff is conceptually simple.
But the role of suppliers is not merely sending you a bill, it is primarily contracting generation, hedging, balancing and settling energy accounts, and settling all the related systems charges, then offering that as a bundled flat rate tariff. Whilst sending the bills is the most visible activity it is also the least significant thing energy suppliers do. If the whole market is on automatic switching, then the suppliers can't contract generation ahead (because they'd go bust as soon as they found themselves out of balance, with take or pay contracts but no customers to sell to). What that means is that if you have automatic switching of tariff, then you're asking to participate in the wholesale electricity market. In theory the suppliers could operate in the spot market on customers behalf, but it's still a race to see who goes bust first, a bit like demanding that Tesco should sell to you at the price it pays wholesalers.
Lets' assume you want those peachy wholesale energy prices, that at face value look to be about half of retail electricity costs. But government need to raise about a billion quid a year to fritter on their beloved social obligations, so that'd gravitate to a new tax on energy supplied, or higher income tax. Then you've got the problem that wholesale power prices vary all day and all year round. Forward contract prices vary by a factor of three summer through to winter, and in winter you use three times as much leccy, so your December electricity bill will be around ten times your August bill (and without suppliers there's no monthly direct debit on offer). But even that variation assumes you contract your demand profile with a generator (because those are forward not spot prices). In that case if you use more than you;ve contracted in any half hour then you are "out of balance" and you would be hit for penalty payments because you want power beyond what you've contracted to buy. That means as much as 100x charges for the out of balance power, because in practical terms you're the person paying for all opex and capex on a generator that only runs for three hours a year. All of this risk and complexity is why we have electricity suppliers.
And even with that potential world of complexity and pain, as you've eliminated the supplier role, you need to rent your meter from somebody (or buy your own, and agree a service and assurance contract with somebody so that the meter can participate in the market. Oh, and lastly, unless you buy a separate hedging contract, then you're exposed to swings in wholesale energy prices over and above the normal daily and seasonal variations. You'll also need to pay feed in tariff subsidies to all the pensioners with solar PV on their bungalows.
And since you're in the wholesale market, you'll need to pay separately for electricity transmission systems costs, balancing system costs, and distribution costs. Distribution costs in particular at a bu99er, because they have a fixed charge, a maximum capacity element, unit charges that vary across three different times of day, and extra for reactive power (with so much domestic demand from CFL lighting, LED lights and displays, and refridgerant compressors you can expect to be hit for these).
You could of course contract an energy generator to do all this for you, and cut out the supplier.....except that they are then your supplier. The underlying cost structure and complexity of the industry won't change, so it'd be no different to how things are today (although worth noting that the spotty lawyers who populate OFGEM earnestly believe that integration between suppliers and generators is a problem).
So yes, it can be done, but just be careful what you wish for.
If the complexity is the problem, then they should rip up the established procedures and start again. Keep It Simple and cut out the hidden costs. I don't in principle have an issue buying a service contract to cover the meter & distribution, & pay separately for my billing & then separately again for social contributions and green levies, if overall it is cheaper. I'd look to piece together a portfolio of cheap components to build and satisfy my energy supply needs.
"If the complexity is the problem, then they should rip up the established procedures and start again. Keep It Simple and cut out the hidden costs."
The complexity is driven by unfortunate hard reality, and the outcome wouldn't be any different if you ran your own power generating set. Electricity involves capital assets, it cannot be stored, and therefore you have some assets that are used only infrequently, meaning that the cost varies. If you need one extra GW of plant to serve demand for ten hours in the winter, that's a £250m asset that will have a load factor of 0.1%. The cost of capital doesn't change on lower utilisation, and unfortunately even that low utilisation won't make it last any longer. The same concept exists for distribution, in that capacity costs are divided according to when you use power. And when you contract to buy electricity, because it can't be stored (cheaply or efficiently) you have to commit on a near take or pay basis.
All the complexity follows from these simple concepts. If you want it simpler, then rather than industry "ripping up established procedures", you need to change your demand to a load profile that matches somebody's generation asset - either by turning things on and off as the wind blows, or by creating completely flat demand that suits nuclear.
If it's that simple, set up your own power cooperative. Borrow to buy a package spark ignition generator, and see how you get on "off grid". If you run the genset to follow a domestic load profile you'll very rarely be running at optimal efficiency, and you'll have a double the number of breakdowns due to the thermal and mechanical stresses (my company has tried this, we know). And because your genset has to cover winter peak demand (all the lights, fan heaters, tellies, hair dryers, cookers all on at the same time) you'll have to buy one that's too large for 99% of your use, making it both expensive and inefficient.
The only simple solution is to live without electricity.
Where maybe thre is only ONE energy supplier, so all the competition nonsense is stripped out. Its run for the benefit of consumers, so all the dividends are stripped out. And the company would choose a balanced mix of sources commensurate with economy,emissions and energy security. That company is called British Energy, a nationalised, combined Conglomerate.
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The problem isn't so much the DTC and the change of supply process (which is long, convoluted and designed for an era of overnight batch processing). That can be overcome (at a massive cost to suppliers and customers). A more significant barrier is billing. You can't switch in an hour if it takes days for direct debits and bank authorisations to be set up. One way to go would be to centralise payments through a separate company (like prepayment meter payments are handled at the moment), but there are huge problems in that area that would need resolving first.
All accounts should be registered with OfGem and the accounts and billing data sent from OfGem to your chosen provider at the mutual pre arranged schedule. There should be less changes required for changing provider and OfGem have all the data to check if the market is working properly and if people are paying over the odds.
Why do you need to? You're buying power as a retail customer, not a day trader.
When I switched suppliers (EDF to Ovo), it took me ten minutes on the phone to arrange for my supplier to change at the end of the month. At the end of the month I entered my meter reading on their website and my final bills got calculated automatically.
It was two weeks between me making the phone call and the switch happening, but setting it up only took a week and I personally only had to make one phone call.
The reason you need a smart meter is so that the people who make smart meters can sell them.
And the people who make appliances can use the information as a marketing tool to persuade us to replace perfectly functional things with newer versions.
And never forget of course that the government can increase taxes to pay for this (and prolly 'forget' to lower them later when it's complete) in order to protect the environment and future generations.
Oh dear. My cynicism seems to be showing :-/
"And the companies can have MP's on the board, if not owning them!"
Let's not forget the reason this item is included in legislation is someone bunged a Lord to include it in the relevant legislation.
There is no EU mandate for it if it's too difficult (or expansive) for the country to do it.
> Even more astounding, he's a member of a political party and he managed to keep his brain.
"When in that house MPs divide,
If they've a brain and cerebellum too,
They've got to leave that brain outside
And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to".
(WS Gilbert, "Iolanthe", 1882)
If possible, we should look for a less expensive solution that gets the same job done. For example, rather than seeing your energy use on a wall unit, why shouldn’t you be able to view it online or through a mobile app instead? This would save us the estimated £228m cost of installing in-home display units (IHDs). Rather than installing a whole new meter, why can’t we just stick a small camera or reading device onto your existing meter which can regularly record and transcribe the current meter reading? And why can’t we just use an approved smartphone app for ad hoc readings today? This is now perfectly feasible and these readings should be accepted by the energy suppliers.
I'm shocked. Some sense finally. Replacing perfectly good working meters is pure insanity, not to mention the various issues should the meter be remotely controllable.
The simplest solution to instant readings for power companies (and far cheaper than new meter) would be using the existing induction pickups coupled with a small GSM (or other radio) that would periodically send updates.
Reading the meter optically is another (and perhaps more reliable) method and has already been done many times at hobbyist level. That dot on the wheel is rather easy to pick up (and saves trying to OCR the digits).
Also should you change suppliers, new supplier can provide their kit (or new SIM for GSM etc).
But then the meter-makers-installers would be minus several billions. Better they have the money rather than us. Like the man said: Follow The Money. Whenever a gov decides we need to spend tens of billions, to no reasonable gain, check the companies directors/owners against who's-who. Then look around for a hedge fund.
I honestly can't see a point in fitting smart meters. For the vast majority of people I think it will work like this:
Monday: Meter fitted
Tuesday: "Bloody hell I'm using a lot of electricity" - sound of rushing around the house switching everything off.
Wednesday: ...a quiet day...
Thursday: Everything is back to how it was Monday after they discover switching off a wall wart makes no difference other than they have to keep bending down to switch it on.
Anyone who actually really cares about saving energy will almost certainly have already done all the simple things to save power and none of them require you to see your meter reading in real time. I sat down one time and did the calculations for the break even if we replaced our fridge with a more economical model. The new fridge would need to last about 10 years but considering the old one still has some life in it replacement would actually cost us money.
I actually thought about building an automated meter reader. We have an electricity meter with a flashing light and it would be easy to just count the flashes. I'm sure someone with EE skills could build a device that cost peanuts and ran on goodwill.
I actually thought about building an automated meter reader. We have an electricity meter with a flashing light and it would be easy to just count the flashes. I'm sure someone with EE skills could build a device that cost peanuts and ran on goodwill.
Indeed it has. Many times.
"I actually thought about building an automated meter reader. We have an electricity meter with a flashing light and it would be easy to just count the flashes. I'm sure someone with EE skills could build a device that cost peanuts and ran on goodwill."
The units themselves will be no more expensive than the ageing mechanical meters they replace (possibly much cheaper in volume). The main cost driver is the relatively precipitate replacement programme that has been mandated by the EU, and that means prices go up as supply and fitting skills are constrained, and it means higher write off costs for the mechanical meters.
We have some sort of meter on the wall that tots up the kWhrs we use. Once every three months, say, a chap comes round and looks at the number, and calculates a bill based on that amount. This bill is written on a piece of paper which drops on the doormat a few days later; the householder instructs his bank to make a payment.
The onus should be on the supplier to measure the usage. Not estimate it; measure it. Requiring the householder to measure it, whether it's by looking at the meter or by using a smartphone application (hmm, wonder how many security holes will be baked in?) is the wrong approach entirely.
Do away with smart meters. They're a waste of space, time, and money.
If people can't work out that leaving the oven or the heating or twenty-seven halogen lights on is costing them a fortune, they're not going to make any changes just because a little light tells them to.
This is an overcomplicated solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
I tend to agree that smart meters are a waste because the REAL reason is that power companies are looking for a way to get rid of those nice folks that come to your house and read the "dumb" meter.
One less "union man" equals more dosh in a greedy power supplier's pocket.
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