back to article Smart meters in UK homes will only save folks a lousy £26 a year

Smart meters are only going to save people around two per cent on their bills, but will cost each home or business £215 over five years to roll out, MPs have warned. The Public Accounts Committee said that the cost of installing 53 million smart meters would be paid for by customers in their energy bills, but they would only …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and what could possibly go wrong?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've an old style meter in my house, it was installed in the 1950's long before I was born and will continue to work long after I have died. How long do they expect the smart meters to work considering the software will be stored in flash memory whose retention is typically guaranteed to last only 10 years?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. joeldillon

        Why must it be stored in flash memory? Good old-fashioned ROMs still exist.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          To allow updates.

          The firmware will contain bugs, and even if it didn't, the encryption scheme will need new keys and/or a new algorithm from time to time as they get lost, stolen or broken.

  2. johnB

    Irrelevant

    Don't want one, don't need one, won't use one.

    1. Shady

      Re: Irrelevant

      You will. You will be made to. And if you continue to resist, your name will be added to the official list of dissenters.

      1. Matt 21

        Re: Irrelevant

        I can't see how you'd save even 2%. Most people aren't bothered so won't do anything different and those who are, already turn off the lights when they're not in the room etc.

        It just seems one massive waste of money and rather than helping the environment is going to harm it.

        There seems to be the bizarre idea that we all leave the electric oven on each day and that smart meters will mean we're suddenly aware of it.

        1. ilmari

          Re: Irrelevant

          Most people have absolutely no idea of how much energy different devices use.

          Not that having a real time display will help, short higgh power use vs 24/7 low level use isnt something most people can work out in their head either.

          1. The First Dave

            Re: Irrelevant

            Even if we do all reduce our leccy usage by 2%, or even 5%, it won't make a blind bit of difference to our bills, since the providers costs won't drop by a penny.

        2. John Tserkezis

          Long rant warning:

          "There seems to be the bizarre idea that we all leave the electric oven on each day and that smart meters will mean we're suddenly aware of it."

          But we do, and that's what they don't like. Higher energy appliances like washers/dryers, ovens, aircons etc are only ever used during the day, because, well, we're awake. Problem is, everyone else has the same idea, meaning a chunk of the power generation plants that would LIKE to run at full capacity 24/7, can't, and are forced to run full in the middle of the day only, thus taking much longer to make their money. They charge on the energy they put into the grid, so it's in their best interest if you were to "spread" your energy useage evenly over the 24 hour day period.

          Smart meters are not designed to save the consumer money - so let's cut that bullshit right now. Their job is to force consurmers to shape (or re-shape) their energy usage to more evenly spread over the 24 hour day. They do that by (at least here in Oz) charging 3-4 times the usual tariff rate for onpeak, compared to regular old skool meters, and a tiny fraction for overnight offpeak use.

          This has the potential to make power generation more efficient, because you don't have plants running at bare minimum baseline overnight, and only full bore in the middle of the day when aircons are on. (yes I know that's exaggerated, but you get the idea) And while that's great, there might be a couple of downsides to this. Firstly, the consumer has to spread their heavy energy consumption to overnight. That means, no aircon at all (here in Oz you only run it during the day when it's friggin' hot), and you have to stay up into the offpeak period changover to do your washing, drying and cooking. And this might be a little bit of an inconvenience to general consumers, because society dictates you operate 9-5, which leaves your offpeak time to, well, sleep.

          Don't even start me on lighting. It is by far at the opposite end of your majority energy use, and it's mostly used overnight (offpeak) ANYWAY. And my rant wouldn't be complete without stating I'm happy the "standby power" bullshit myth doomsdayers have gone by the wayside. Good friggin' riddance to them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Smart meter vs dual-tariff (Off Peak) meter ?

            "Smart meters are not designed to save the consumer money - so let's cut that bullshit right now. Their job is to force consurmers to shape (or re-shape) their energy usage to more evenly spread over the 24 hour day."

            You can do that with an ordinary clockwork-style meter with two counters, one for on-peak and one for off-peak. In fact that's what used to happen maybe forty years or so ago when off peak domestic tariffs were introduced in the UK.

            This is *not* the reason the UK is introducing the kind of smartmeters being rolled out over here.

            1. veti Silver badge

              Re: Smart meter vs dual-tariff (Off Peak) meter ?

              An old-fashioned dual-register meter has its peak and offpeak timing basically hard-wired, which means the definition of "peak" in your 40-year-old meter is now 40 years out of date.

              Modern smart meters allow utilities to rewrite those definitions whenever they like, and also to introduce more categories ("shoulder" is a popular designation, also separate rates for weekends/public holidays that are neither "peak" nor "offpeak"), and also to monitor "demand" (i.e. the highest amount you ever draw in a given single half-hour), which is a big thing for them.

              Not saying this is inherently good, just that the functionality is a lot greater.

              Incidentally, they do also give cost savings even if you never change your electricity usage. It costs money to send a guy round to read a conventional meter every couple months, and that cost is multiplied manyfold if they have to make repeat visits, go out-of-hours etc (because no-one was there to let them in), then bill on estimates, with the added risk that entails... Smart meters put an end to all that, and they sharply reduce the cost of reading meters.

              For comparison: in Victoria, Australia, where smart meters are now near-as-dammit universal, customers used to be charged about $25 to get a meter read when you move into a new house. Now the charge is about $5, which of course is still far more than it actually costs (approximately nothing, with a smart meter), but unarguably better for the consumer, and less error-prone.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Smart meter vs dual-tariff (Off Peak) meter ?

                "An old-fashioned dual-register meter has its peak and offpeak timing basically hard-wired, which means the definition of "peak" in your 40-year-old meter is now 40 years out of date."

                Jeez don't you folks in Oz know anything?

                It's entirely possible for the switching times on a "clockwork" meter to be adjustable.

                It can be programmed in advance for the season, with adjustable timers (like they used to be originally), or "on demand" (as was trialled, not sure if it was ever rolled out). The "on demand" way of doing it in the UK used to use the Light Programme on 1500m Long Wave, at least in principle.

                The same "on demand" result, with less risk of "interference", could be achieved using ripple control - low frequency signals modulated down the mains.

                Still no need for "smart" meters that can cut you off.

                I certainly don't see the attraction of smart meters just so I can save $20 every time I move house.

              2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                Unhappy

                Re: Smart meter vs dual-tariff (Off Peak) meter ?

                "For comparison: in Victoria, Australia, where smart meters are now near-as-dammit universal, customers used to be charged about $25 to get a meter read when you move into a new house. Now the charge is about $5, which of course is still far more than it actually costs (approximately nothing, with a smart meter), but unarguably better for the consumer, and less error-prone."

                Or you could just send your meter readings over the internet?

                It's funny how utility companies "estimated" bills always end up being higher.

            2. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Smart meter vs dual-tariff (Off Peak) meter ?

              The AC (above) who refered to Off-peak use in Australia;

              "They do that by (at least here in Oz) charging 3-4 times the usual tariff rate for onpeak, compared to regular old skool meters, and a tiny fraction for overnight offpeak use."

              has higlighted the problem, there and in the UK.

              Once you switch to that system you have to be using vast amounts of night electricity to cover the high cost of the day time use. But generally we don't do many things that need to use electricity during the night. The things we do use electricity for are either day time activities, or 24 hour ones like the freezer. There aren't many things that can be switched.

              To get people to choose a day/night time tarrif it has to be economic for them. Which means that normal daytime usage still has to be more or less normal price and night usage noticably cheaper. Then we can use washing machines, immersion heaters etc at night and save a few quid.

              1. Wicked Witch

                Re: Smart meter vs dual-tariff (Off Peak) meter ?

                Electric cars and, especially in Oz, solar panels, will cause a big shakeup over the next decade+

          2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            My new washing machine and dishwasher (10 months) can both be set to delayed start and I do use the facility. I can spread the load. But then, if I was a seriously green toffu knitter, I would be down at the beck with two stones and cleaning my dishes with sand.

      2. Someone Else Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: Irrelevant

        And if you continue to resist, your name will be added to the official list of dissenters.

        Starting to think that may not be such a bad place to be. I'm also starting to think that I would be in good company on such a list, and also that such a list might get rather long rather quickly.

      3. staplethat

        Re: Irrelevant

        And you will probably be charged for the meter-reader to come to your home, even though you presently fill in the meter reading on a card and post it to the company. It seems the companies will tolerate that arrangement for a year or so. Then you'll be start getting letters threatening to charge you thousands of dollars ($50,000 is one example from Toronto) if you don't agree to a smart meter.

      4. CommanderGalaxian

        Re: Irrelevant

        >>Re: Irrelevant

        >>You will. You will be made to. And if you continue to resist, your name will be added to the official list of dissenters.

        Vote YES. September 18th.

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Irrelevant

          @ Commander Galaxian

          Even if everyone voted yes, you'd still be added to the official list of dissenters. Except that now you will be forced to eat a plate of haggis in repentence!!

  3. Blank-Reg
    Mushroom

    Have been offered them twice. Both answered "No". Don't need one, especially if, as I have read they lack security and provides an insidious way for entities to monitor your usage.

  4. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Big Brother

    Smart meters?

    Or "kill switches" in the event of a power shortage?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smart meters?

      How true. It will be the only way that they can keep the lights on for some people in the winter when there is little or no sun and wind and the STORE diesel generators haven't cut in or run up to speed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smart meters?

        " the STORE diesel generators haven't cut in or run up to speed."

        Unexplained response from Short Term Operating REserve was one of the findings of the investigation into the unexpectedly large impact of the Sizewell/Longannet outage back in 2008 [1].

        I don't know whether there have been any further developments in that investigation since then; be interesting to hear if there have been.

        Obviously Gridco turning what used to be a crisis-response mechanism (interruptible contracts) into a routine weekday peak-lopping mechanism, with no planned replacement crisis response mechanism visible last time I looked, is one visible development, not really a good sign though.

        What's the Scottish situation with respect to electricity supply in.the UK? Net importer? Net exporter? Guess we'll find out in a few days.

        [1] https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/ofgem-publications/41426/nationalgrid-systemeventsof27mayfordswg16july.pdf

        (lots of acronyms but not all that technical)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart meters?

          Interesting that they used voltage reduction for demand control, as today there are very few loads left where that will work and the presentation simply assumed it did back in 2008.

          "Greening" of connected plant can easily result in that technique becoming counterproductive while the contracts permitting it remain in place.

          I'm sure I've seen National Grid papers concerned that it won't work - SMPs and VFDs will simply draw more current.

          (Badly proofread though - frequency isn't measured in MW!)

    2. John Tserkezis

      Re: Smart meters?

      "Or "kill switches" in the event of a power shortage?"

      You don't need smart meters to do that. This is part of normal operation of the grid, and happens on a not-so-regular-basis to ensure service to critical areas (like corporates in the city centre) when there is high usage for whatever reason (usually aircons on hot part of the day).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smart meters aren't about the display, for gods sake, it's about regular communications with the utility helping the utility better manage the delivery.

    26/215 ~= 0.12

    Seems to me they'll easily pay off in the long run. So, why the hemming and hawing? Oh, wait, because something better might come along in the future that they can hem and haw on because something better might happen.

    If there's anything to question, it's the estimated reductions in consumption.

    1. edge_e
      Facepalm

      Let's do the maths properly

      215/26 =8.27

      ie over 8 years of savings are required to pay for the device.

      Does anyone here think they'll last more than 8 years?

      1. JP19

        "ie over 8 years of savings are required to pay for the device."

        Except those savings are based on the ridiculous assumption that people will use so much less electricity if only they knew how much they were using.

        Well done The Public Accounts Committee for stating the bleeding obvious, shame you are 3 or 4 years too late. Not that it would make any difference because as I stated here nearly 3 years ago the reason we are getting smart meters is...

        The technically illiterate eco green willy waving tossers running the country find the idea of forcing us to pay for personal energy guilt meters irresistible.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Not sure

          that smarty meters help. When the guy at the top says it"'ll help the utility provider manage supplies I can't see how. They already know how much electricity they're supplying to the grid, it really doesn't help them to know that number 14s just put his phone on charge.

          So, that just leaves them remotely turning my stuff off. Sorry, I don't leave things on which I want someone else turning off.

          1. Dan Paul

            Re: Not sure (I know)

            As I've said before, the only "savings" will come from the jobs lost by the meter readers.

            1. Ommerson

              Re: Not sure (I know)

              .. and a vast number of back room administrative stuff and customer services representatives dealign with the fallout of estimated bills.

              1. Craigness

                Re: Not sure (I know)

                There won't be estimated bills - there will be multiple readings per day.

        2. John Tserkezis

          "Except those savings are based on the ridiculous assumption that people will use so much less electricity if only they knew how much they were using."

          But as per my Long Rant, this isn't about using LESS, it's about smoothing your usage over the 24 hour day, so you don't have huge consumption over some of the day, and minimal over others.

          Trust me on this, in the (albeit unlikely) event that we all started using using the same power, evenly over a 24 hour period, then started consuming much more, trust me, they will only be more than thrilled to bits to install extra power stations to take up the load.

          What they DON'T like, is to install a power station that only gets used 4 hours a day because you feel hot and want to turn your aircon on. Mainly because you're not the only one who's doing this.

          1. Zog_but_not_the_first

            But...

            I thought that private power suppliers responded to their customers' demands in the spirit of free market economics.

            "Reshaping peoples' behaviour" sounds like something much more sinister.

        3. Terry 6 Silver badge

          JP19

          They're not doing it because they are "ECO" minded. They do know though that there is a problem (Global Warming) and that Something Must be Done, . And as often quoted from Yes Minister, "This is Something Therefore It Must Be Done".

        4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "Well done The Public Accounts Committee for stating the bleeding obvious, shame you are 3 or 4 years too late. Not that it would make any difference because as I stated here nearly 3 years ago the reason we are getting smart meters is..."

          No shame on the "Honorable Member" of the HoL for trousering a large stipend to get it included in the relevant "Green" legislation.

      2. James Micallef Silver badge

        Well, the non-smart meters last 20, 30 years or more. No reason they shouldn't function properly for that amount of time. The real question isn't whether they will still work but whether they will become obsolete as networks change around them.

        If* the whole infrastructure was properly designed in the first place it would have taken into account that any upgrades/updates in the utilities' infrastructure for the next 20 years would need to be backward compatible with the current smart meters.

        *That's a big 'if', I know

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Well, the non-smart meters last 20, 30 years or more.

          They have to be replaced after 30 years - the leccy board came round my house earlier this year to replace ours telling us it was a mandatory legal requirement. With another old-style meter that will no doubt be replaced again in the next five years. So much for thinking ahead.

          1. John Tserkezis

            "They have to be replaced after 30 years - the leccy board came round my house earlier this year to replace ours telling us it was a mandatory legal requirement."

            Or, at some houses here in Australia where they were forced^H^H^H^H^H convinced it's a great idea to "upgrade" to a smart meter, they get replaced every few months due to fire "faults".

            Whether the fires were caused by actual faults, or the end user lighting them up because he was that pissed off, was still up for debate last I heard...

          2. IsJustabloke

            legal requirement

            Yeah, I was gonna say this... mine was replaced just recently too. A non smart but didgital replacement for the dial and pointer meter that was originally fitted.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Well, the non-smart meters last 20, 30 years or more.

          It would be nice to think that way, but it seems current in the field experience puts the lifespan in the 12~15 year bracket. Additionally, I suspect that if smart tariffs do take off (ie. tariffs that can only be reasonably applied if a smart meter with smart communications is fitted) we will find that the current generation of smart meters (that are being deployed) aren't up to the job...

          Actually from my experience isn't so much whether they still work but what happens when they go wrong. Currently if your smart meter fails the utility will try and bill you for the period between their last reading and when they replaced the meter based on their estimate. You may think that sounds reasonable, until you discover that the majors currently only read the smart meter on the same periodicity as the normal meter ie. every six months, and the fact you were abroad (and can prove this was so) for a significant part of that time is irrelevant...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No, proper maths cares about the proportional savings, not "number of years to pay back", because this is about electricity pricing, and savings, not cash flow.

        And yes, they last more than 8 years. Even tin-foil-hat-wearing opponents of smart meters say 10 years.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      RE: So, why the hemming and hawing?

      Because the purpose is to allow the electricity board to charge more - and then charge you £200 to fit the means to charge you more.

      They installed them here to allow for "dynamic market rate adjustment" - so if its a hot day and there is a big demand for AC in the city they can just put up the price of your power for a few hours. Or if the market rate means that your local windpower could be sold as "green tariff" power in Germany for more than you are currently paying they can increase your price to the market rate.

    3. John Tserkezis

      "it's about regular communications with the utility helping the utility better manage the delivery."

      That sounds like utility PR bullshit. You know, code for "we're going to force you to bend to our needs, while making it sound like we're helping you, because we're good guys in all this".

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WOFTAM

    Lets hope this is put a stop to it before they start putting them in.

    How much to put all the old meters in landfill ?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "Lets hope this is put a stop to it before they start putting them in."

      Still possible IIRC. Write to your local MP now and tell them that flushing £10Bn of cash to the USA (where most of these meters are coming from IIRC) is a complete wast of money.

      IIRC this is not an EU requirement. countries can say no if its not economically viable.

      And frankly it's not.

      This has nothing to do with lowering electricity bills (where do you think the £215/meter is coming from, a UK govt grant?) and everything to do with giving utility companies the ability to a)Change tariffs on the fly (naturally you wont' be able to switch suppliers as fast as they can jack their charges up) and

      b) Remote kill switch for non paying customers/ customers who don't have an assured supply contract with them and the ongoing b**locks about deciding when and if new power stations (proper ones that can run 90+% of the time, not the 6-30% of windmills)

      All delivered using the same kind of s**t that US cybersecurity researches have already found plenty of exploits in.

      1. David Beck

        Re: "Lets hope this is put a stop to it before they start putting them in."

        I think you'll find that "UK Govt Grant" comes out of your pocket too.

        And as I understand it, the energy retailer is supplying and fitting the meter so if you change to a different retailer they may require a new (read different) meter fitted. It's as if someone said," the energy industry is pretty f**ked up, how can we f**k is up some more?"

  7. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    They're a bit OTT

    I fitted one of the little boxes that gives an approx measurement of current usage on a display in the house. Very useful at first, and encouraged me to go round switching things off. Haven't got round to changing the batteries recently!

    Bod came to fits smartmeter some months ago as old one due for replacement, got it all done - and it couldn't get a phone signal (well, I could have told him that). Thought it might be faulty. Came back a week later with another. Still didn't work. Had to remove it and fit old style one. Ho hum, what a waste of money.

    Really a bit wasteful - existing meters work fine (particularly if separate monitor installed).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They're a bit OTT

      Strangely enough, i can guarantee thats what going to happen to mine because of this:

      http://www.globalgadgetuk.com/rx90.html

      Placed 5 feet away on a remote switch so i can activate and de-activate at my whim...

      Told em no, now i'll enforce MY choice to not have one.

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith

        Re: They're a bit OTT

        Oh I hope I get your house coming up on warrant to change the meter then.

        That's something that'll change with smart meters - no more arse customers getting cute about their meter fiddles. Of course, I won't be there, and nor will a rep, it'll just be some guy in a call centre toggling your power to persuade you to pay up.

        That's actually one of the issues - without coming round and looking, how do 'we' know you haven't stuck a bit of wire over the terminals? Or you aren't a quadriplegic who can't get to the top up shop?

        But it will save billions because the jobs on the ground will go and the rest can go to India or Scotland for a third of the money they'd have to pay in the UK. (Oo! Politics!)

  8. Anthony 13

    How do these thing save money?

    Serious question, how will these things save anybody any money? They consume energy themselves, so if anything, my bill would microscopically go up. If you want to save money, don't use electricity/gas, right?

    1. esucmn

      Re: How do these thing save money?

      They don't - they cost you money. About £80/yr in fact (assuming a 5 year obsolescence which seems likely due to the inevitable security issues)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How do these thing save money?

      "If you want to save money, don't use electricity/gas, right?"

      This isn't about saving money, it about saving the planet, in the minds of the EU, and you are lucky to be allowed to pay for it. You have to bear in mind that smartmeters are mandated to be offered to all consumers by 2020 under EU directive, now written into UK statute by the bunglers of DECC and the criminals of Westminster.

      The authors of this policy have committed to it on the basis that (a) they have re-engineered government to a war-footing to fight "climate change", and (b) they earnestly believe that the paltry savings will add up. But you have also to be aware that smart meters enable half-hourly metering, which means potentially different charges based on when you use electricity. Anybody can see that this will be confusing and customer-unfriendly, but half hourly metering is already in the process of being foisted on small businesses. In the short term half hourly metering says nothing about the tariff structure, in practice the tariff follows, and it is the regulator's expectation that the two will be linked (search on Ofgem, P272, filetype:pdf). There's an important underlying hypothesis here that shifting demand around during the day will have a big impact on emissions, and that's wholly unproven.

      OFGEM are forever whining that the electricity market "doesn't work" (and it's true it often doesn't but usually because of them), but they are hoping to see energy suppliers experiment with time of use tariffs before smartmeters are universal, and then it will be open season on consumers. As usual the poor will be hardest hit, but I was rather amused to read in a DECC commissioned report that a mitigation strategy for consumers facing higher peak electricity charges that they could cook their evening meals later (like 10pm) to avoid higher peak charges in winter.

      Unfortunately, all of this policy ignores the problem that the EU/DECC renewable strategy means that in future years we will have unpredictable generation, so that the prevailing logic of peak demand driving prices will fall apart, and prices will be driven by the random interaction between the vast build out of wind and solar power (again, your expense) and demand.

      EU and UK energy policy (including smartmeters) is a despicable, tree-hugger inspired mess. Industry projections are that energy policy will cause electricity prices to double by 2022, and all of the three main political parties have the same position - blame suppliers for the cost of electricity, whilst throwing more and more of your money at subsidies and bad ideas like smart-metering.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How do these thing save money?

        I agree that this policy (signed off by our government and MEPs) is a bit nuts. And typically the UK takes it to extremes. I'm currently living abroad and can have a smart meter if I want one, in the UK it looks like you'll be made to have one and pay for the privilege.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How do these thing save money?

          " in the UK it looks like you'll be made to have one and pay for the privilege."

          Yes and no, respectively. Energy suppliers are required to have installed smart meters at all suitable metering points by 2020, or to have offered to do so. You are at liberty to refuse a smart meter, but I would expect that sooner or later DECC will change the rules to permit suppliers to install smart meters without your say so.

          However, as the total programme costs are recovered through the normal energy tariffs, everybody pays for smart meters, not merely those who elect to have them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How do these thing save money?

            Or even "no and yes respectively".

          2. Swiss Anton

            Re: How do these thing save money?

            And of course the energy co's can coerce you into having a smart meter fitted simply by charging you more if you don't want one. Just as they currently do to "encourage" you to use direct debit when paying for your electricity.

      2. ilmari

        Re: How do these thing save money?

        UK could have saved a bit by not adding on requirement for energy use display.

      3. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: How do these thing save money?

        It's not about tree hugging. It's just another corporate scam using tree hugging as the reason.

        It's called "astroturfing".

    3. Mad Chaz

      Re: How do these thing save money?

      They save money for the utilities, because they no longer have to pay someone to go read it.

      Don't expect it to show on your bill however.

      1. veti Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: How do these thing save money?

        Correct: meter reading becomes basically free. If you believe in competition, which the government claims to, then it follows that that cost saving will eventually be passed on to consumers.

        There's a lot more benefits to the utility, too. For instance, it means they never again have to bill on estimates. That eliminates a lot of risk to them.

        I completely understand the suspicion, but since I've worked in this sector, I understand the reasoning behind it. It's unarguable that smart meters will make the electricity supply industry considerably more efficient.

        "Who exactly will reap the benefit of that" - well, that's another question, to be thrashed out between you, your utility, other utilities, the National Grid, the politicians, and probably several other stakeholders I haven't even thought of. But unless UK consumer groups are way more incompetent than I remember them as, you should be able to claw back at least some of the savings.

  9. TWB

    Why not a smart reading device?

    That clips onto your meter and using OCR 'reads' the meter and sends the info back - surely if mass produced would be much cheaper to build and fit (clip on) and would save the waste of the current meters - would also get around the issue of the "kill switch" - I couldn't care if the energy companies monitor my usage more closely - they already do albeit in very coarse way.

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: Why not a smart reading device?

      Why don't they train special mice to run into everyone's homes in an area and read the meters, then they get flown back to HQ by carrier pigeons where they then gnaw holes in cards which are then fed into a 1960's era mainframe?

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Why not a smart reading device?

        Hey, I like that. When can they start?

    2. YetAnotherLocksmith

      Re: Why not a smart reading device?

      People have spent years working out hacks to get free electric. If it was as simple as holding up a photo of your meter last month to 'prove' to the device your consumption this month, it'd be a disaster.

      There are some really neat fiddles out there. Everything from vanishing coins in the old coin meters through electromagnetic pulses, to the latest hacked payment keys for the latest systems. All get discovered eventually.

  10. MrNed
    Flame

    not smart

    The problem with this (and so many other things that have a "smart" prefix bolted on to their names) is trust. Since the Snowden revelations I have none. No trust in government, no trust in MPs, no trust in the police, no trust in corporations, no trust in technology.

    In the event of power shortages, whose electricity will be switched-off first via one of these "smart" meters? Corporations and government offices? Or yours and mine? Precisely.

    Or in the event of a dispute with your supplier, how easy for them to just switch-off your power if you don't go along with their bullshit? It'll be a flick of a switch rather than a visit by an engineer.

    And don't forget that your power usage will become just another thread of highly personal data that will be hoovered-up and analysed by the stasi-esque spysters.

    IMO these things are yet another scheme designed to ebb power and control away from individuals and place it in the hands of those who seek to enslave us.

    Am I going to willingly allow such a scheme, concocted between utterly untrustworthy bodies and agents, to come anywhere near my home?

    Not on your fucking life.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: not smart

      Your utility company already knows how much power you use. What aspect of your private life are they violating by knowing you use more at 5pm than 4am?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not smart

        They don't know what power I use and at what time, all the now is substation X is drawing Y power at Z time. They also don't know what is using the electricity in my house.

        So in answer to your point, they are intruding a lot.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: not smart

          "They don't know what power I use and at what time, all the now is substation X is drawing Y power at Z time. They also don't know what is using the electricity in my house.

          So in answer to your point, they are intruding a lot."

          Firstly, how does a smart meter "know what is using the electricity in my house"?

          Secondly, how is knowing when you're using the energy an intrusion? That's like saying your ISP and mobile phone provider are intruding because they know exactly how many Kb you are downloading/uploading each second, or that BT are intruding because they itemise exactly when you make each phone call, and how long it lasts.

          It's almost like all the privacy-freaks haven't really thought this through before getting all hot and bothered. Seeing a 2min spike in your energy use at 5:17pm is surely far less intrusive than knowing you phoned your mum at 7:13pm for 5 minutes and 4 seconds?

          The only thing that's "serious scary" is how uninformed supposedly well-educated, tech-savvy people are, and how little they think before jumping on a bandwagon.

          1. YetAnotherLocksmith

            Re: not smart

            Ah yes, but unlike the phone companies or your ISP, which are small companies like BT and Sky, the power companies are big, like e.on and British Gas.

            Oh, wait.

            If they read the power every 30 minutes, they won't have any idea what you were actually doing. No company is really going to waste money reading your electric meter continuously, & not across millions of households! They do still have to pay for the mobile bandwidth you know.

            And if a 3 letter agency really wants a per millisecond power draw reading, they'll fit a monitor on your line to do it.

      2. Mad Chaz

        Re: not smart

        have a look at just how MUCH information they are able to get from a smart reader. It can even go down to what movie you are watching by being able to analyse the fluctuations in usage from your TV.

        It's seriously scary stuff.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: not smart

          >It's seriously scary stuff.

          But look on the bright side(!) your smart meter will support your alibi that you were watching Strictly Come Dancing - provided you remembered to set the time switch to operate the kettle etc. to co-inside with programming breaks.

        2. Craigness

          Re: not smart

          I've worked on a smart meter system. They don't know when you watch TV but they can disconnect you remotely.

          The power company does currently know what power you use. That's how they bill you.

    2. Turtle

      Re: not smart

      "Am I going to willingly allow such a scheme, concocted between utterly untrustworthy bodies and agents, to come anywhere near my home?"

      That's why they are making it mandatory.

      "Outsmarted" again.

      Sorry.

    3. John Tserkezis

      Re: not smart

      "In the event of power shortages, whose electricity will be switched-off first via one of these "smart" meters? Corporations and government offices? Or yours and mine? Precisely."

      Smart meters don't have the facility to switch mains on and off. That's +60amps on and off at possibly regular intervals. That's asking a lot of a switch, and significantly increases the per-unit cost.

      However, substations do, they have huge switches that can do this, and are designed for the purpose.

      But your statement still stands, who (or more correctly, which area) gets to go dark first? Your guess is very probably the right one.

      1. mourner

        Re: not smart

        The ability to cut the mains within the meter itself is an already solved issue. Credit meters have been doing this reliably for many many years very reliably.

        Credit hits zero ~THUNK~ power disconnected. Add credit to meter ~THUNK~ power reconnected. Fairly trivial contactor setup.

  11. msknight

    Too late, but for other reasons

    People have been made aware for years now about energy consumption in the home. Seven years ago, when I bought new white goods, I was going for A, A+ and A++ ratings where I could get them.

    A chunk of people won't convert because either...

    a) They can't afford to put more money behind better performing equipment (some people can't even afford food, for crying out loud)

    b) They don't give a damn and will throw the money at the energy companies anyway.

    My meter went end of life and was replaced just a few months ago, and it was replaced with ... another bog standard meter with no smart display. I did cock my head and ponder why they did this. I wasn't there for the actual installation.

    If they want to do anything, then they need to be researching/pursuing equipment that will do the jobs more effectively, like the oft-cited commercial breaks during soaps when everyone switches on their kettles.

    Simply pointing out to people how much they are using, without having affordable alternatives available, is just political numbskullery IMHO.

    But what do I know? - ... having said that, I'm going to do a search to see if there is a more efficient kettle somwhere, or at least something that doesn't require some kindling and matches...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Re: Too late, but for other reasons

      My meter was replaced about 4 months ago.

      The guy rocked up, checked his sheet. Came back later and fitted a normal one. Aparenttly I wasn't down for a smart meter, so he had to go back and get a standard one. When I asked why I didn't get one, his response was "I have no idea, seems it's totally random to me"

  12. Robinson

    Minister?

    This was according to the Minister for Being an Idiot, Ed Davey, was it?

  13. 0laf Silver badge

    Shiny thing make everything all better says politician

    I don't need a bloody smart meter to tell me to save energy. The feckin big bill every quarter does that.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Shiny thing make everything all better says politician

      And everyone else is just like you, right?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shiny thing make everything all better says politician

        those who notice a relationship between the total on the bill with the total they have left in their pocket once they paid the bill, yeah, these people are just like him.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Shiny thing make everything all better says politician

          The fact you think everyone is that smart suggests you yourself are far less smart than you like to think.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Shiny thing make everything all better says politician

            Relationship between consumption and cost.

            Hmm. Given the number of drivers who accelerate up to a red traffic light then brake hard and throw away the energy I'd say there's an issue here.

  14. terd

    Poor reporting (and maths above).

    Its £26 per year net - i.e. after taking off costs associated with purchase and install (over 10 years I believe)

    1. bigtimehustler

      Indeed your right, and not many people are interested in waiting 10 years to start saving about £25, particularly when inflation will make the saving even less.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      and where does this mysterious £26+costs come from if you already use electricity efficiently?

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        And where does it come from if you don't give a damn about your electricity usage?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My Electricity supplier

    Well thet refuse to bill me for my electric usage.

    They bill my gas, but have flat out blank refused to agree that my meter exists !!

    I gave up trying to convince them after 4 months. some day im going to get a bill I suppose, but the money is better off in my pocket for now.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: My Electricity supplier

      Be afraid. Be very afraid. Once they finally realize that you DO in fact have a meter, they are going to back date the bill.

      Your only recourse will be to fight them in court.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: My Electricity supplier

        Be prepared to see a bill of the form:

        Usage from n years back to the most recent price increase: 1 kWh

        Usage since last price increase to date: 9999 kWh

        And because you didn't have a supply contract these will be at their standard non-contract rate.

        Note your meter readings will count for nothing, only the meter readings made by their contracted meter reader will be taken into consideration...

        I know this because I'm still in dispute with my utility over four different bills they sent me at various times that covered the same metering period last year...

        1. YetAnotherLocksmith

          Re: My Electricity supplier

          Force it to a warrant action and it'll get resolved. Or at least threaten that to the call centre when you talk to them.

          They will take action when they realise that you know what you are talking about.

          Mind you, it depends on your supplier - some are incredibly bad and cut people off, while others try their best not to.

          If it does go to warrant you'll get a Human Rights letter so you know when to go to court, & you should get at least two visits from a rep before that too. That costs the power company, so they tend to get things sorted before that if they can.

    2. Grandad

      Re: My Electricity supplier

      I believe they can't charge you for more than 12 months usage if you have requested a bill and they have not sent one. There is a code of practice from 2006 on this.

  16. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Arts graduate nonsense

    "Smart meters" are another piece of stupidity foisted upon us by innumerate and unscientific arts graduates. Stuff them!

  17. Gordon861

    £215 over 5 years to pay for them?

    Why not just buy every household OWL meters which can be fitted in a few minutes. They retail for less than £100 and if you said you want a few million I would bet they would do a deal on the price.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Cost

      "£215 over 5 years to pay for them?"

      That's 5 for the meter, 50 for the installer and 165 "internal administration charges"

      http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/DD862-Type-single-phase-active-watt_1465261195.html

      http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/DDS5558-electric-smart-meter_1535421756.html

      1. Craigness

        Re: Cost

        The admin is mostly external: cellphone data and a big software back-end for the comms.

  18. nemesislxxi

    Underlying Infrastructure

    Lets not forget the millions being spent by the suppliers on the many servers which are needed to underpin this solution. I am fairly confident that the solution is based on AIX and each provider needs approx 4-5 P790 class systems per 10% of the market they hold.

  19. Conor Turton

    British Gas tried to get me to have one

    British Gas tried to get me to have one with the bribe of free weekend electricity which turned out to be free on a Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm when nobody uses it in my house. They said it would cut my bills. I said that I'd had one of their realtime monitors before, the type with the clip on sensor that goes on the main wire going into the meter. "Did it save you any money?" the lady asked all excited. "No it just sat there being intrusive and eating electric. Yes I did know what I was using, no it didn't make me alter my usage."

    They then did a cost check based on my annual consumption and when they came back saying this amazing deal would cost me 12% more than I currently pay even with free weekend electricity I politely declined.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: British Gas tried to get me to have one

      "They then did a cost check based on my annual consumption and when they came back saying this amazing deal would cost me 12% more than I currently pay even with free weekend electricity I politely declined."

      I work in the industry, and we had a look at British Gas' offer and concluded that "free electricity Saturday" is a bit like Economy 7: In both cases you have to shift at least one third of your total 'leccy use into the cheap/free zone to make up for higher costs at other times. In practice this approximates to the scenarios that unless you've got electric storage heaters and immersion heaters as your only heating sources you shouldn't be on E7, and likewise you shouldn't touch the "free Saturday" offer unless you have a medium to large family and you're prepared to run all of you washing and tumble drying needs for the entire week on Saturday, and to shift any other loads like Friday's dishwasher to Saturday.

      DECC are desperate to confront users with the costs of peak demand, but on a system wide level the average costs aren't that great. Instead of making things work the bozos should work to get prices down, instead of working energetically to push them.

      Incidentally I was at an industry forum where some beard-and-sandal lawyer from OFGEM was quacking away about how great time of use tariffs would be when we've all got smart meters. I asked him how that complexity and lack of transparency matched up to OFGEM's view (enforced through licence conditions) that consumers must not be offered a choice of more than four single-rate-plus-standing-charge tariffs because greater choice was too confusing (including an effective ban on any tariff that didn't have a standing charge). I didn't get a credible answer, but his face was a picture, like man trying to shit a hedgehog.

      1. Craigness

        Re: British Gas tried to get me to have one

        The IHD is interesting for a few minutes but anyone with a mental age of more than 6 knows it will be put in a drawer the same day it's taken out of the box. What's the mental age of a politician?

  20. Bob Dunlop

    Meter adjustment

    You just know that all these new meters capable of high accuracy will be calibrated on the knife edge of the old +-3% accuracy allowance. And we know in whose favour the edge chosen is gonna be on, it for sure won't be the consumer.

    ps. My current meter displays gnuplot graphs in X-windows on my phone. Bet the new one won't be that smart.

  21. AndrewDu

    Missing the point

    Nothing to do with saving electricity, or the planet (!) or anything else with the possible exception of DECC's bacon.

    Everything to do with cutting you off remotely when someone more important (pols, celebs) needs the electricity and the wind isn't blowing hard enough (or is blowing too hard). And before long all new appliances will have to have a gizmo fitted which talks to the SmartMeter and tells it what appliance it is and how much juice it's using, so that they can monitor you even better. For your own good, of course.

    We had one fitted while my back was turned (better half agreed to it without asking!) and it does nothing for us at all. No displays, no information or data available anywhere I can see.

    No doubt it does plenty for the gubbmint though - it's just that we don't know exactly what.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Missing the point

      They are simply a DRM layer for the utility and perform the same function as DRM on intellectual property - i.e. ensuring that the customer has as little freedom and control as possible and that the provider retains all control and ability to unilaterally enforce any changes to the terms and conditions (including charges) that it may see fit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Missing the point

        "ensuring that the customer has as little freedom and control as possible and that the provider retains all control and ability to unilaterally enforce any changes to the terms and conditions (including charges) that it may see fit."

        For a rare change mate you're wrong. The regulations governing what a supplier must do and how they must do it run to thousands of pages, and they can't unilaterally do anything without giving you notice and the opportunity to take your business elsewhere. Suppliers won't have their hands on the "auxiliary load switch" that can dump shed-able loads, that will rest (most likely) with either National Grid of the local distribution company. The detail data from smart meters can't even be shared with your electricity supplier without your explicit consent, and DECC are in the process of painfully establishing their own Data Communications Company who will warehouse the data from all smart meters. With government's track record in IT, energy policy, and commerce, what could possibly go wrong?

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Missing the point

          "For a rare change mate you're wrong. The regulations governing what a supplier must do and how they must do it run to thousands of pages, and they can't unilaterally do anything without giving you notice and the opportunity to take your business elsewhere. "

          While technically your are correct, has this EVER stopped ANY industry from screwing its small customers?

          Ever?

          Where I live, the power company routinely overcharges it residential customers for 5-10 years and like clockwork, it is eventually forced to refund the overcharges, but it does so only in the form of reduced electric bills for a few months and then they go right back to it for the next 5-10 years.

          Cycle repeats for decades.

          This is NOT uncommon in all industries.

          Eventfully it becomes fait accompli and regulations are adjusted to allow it.

        2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: Missing the point

          Yes, I'm well aware of the existence of regulation. There are other industries regulated to the same or larger extent but they always look for and find ways to work around them. Regulators are ALWAYS reactive, chasing the industry who always has the initiative. For each case of a breach or manipulation uncovered there will be maybe 10 cases of the perpetrators getting away with it. The regulators are either unable to detect them or lack funds and resources or simply have no political will to pursue.

          All heard about the Libor scandal, but similar manipulations have been going on in the Brent and Urals markets for years, a cartel operated in Germany to fix prices for "Druzhba" pipeline oil from Russia until a few years ago and nobody cared.

          So, smartmeters or DRMs - they are technological tools that give further initiative to the industry so that they can use them first in a fait accompli and let people complain later.

  22. AndrewDu

    Nothing to do with saving electricity, or the planet (!) or anything else with the possible exception of DECC's bacon.

    Everything to do with cutting you off remotely when someone more important (pols, celebs) needs the electricity and the wind isn't blowing hard enough (or is blowing too hard). And before long all new appliances will have to have a gizmo fitted which talks to the SmartMeter and tells it what appliance it is and how much juice it's using, so that they can monitor you even better. For your own good, of course.

    We had one fitted while my back was turned (better half agreed to it without asking!) and it does nothing for us at all. No displays, no information or data available anywhere I can see.

    No doubt it does plenty for the gubbmint though - it's just that we don't know exactly what.

  23. John 156
    Big Brother

    Problems are best addressed at source

    What we need is smart energy generation for which we need smart politicians to remove us from the EU preferably before the the latter starts a war with Russia.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Problems are best addressed at source

      I'm with you @John_156 on smart energy generation. Maybe copy the French nuclear power plants? Certainly wean ourselves off Russian gas.

      You got a little UKIP-y towards the end, but it takes a thousand flowers to make a meadow. And life would be dull if we were all the same.

  24. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Smart people can manage quite welll enough with dumb meters. Dumb people can't manage whatever you give/sell them.

  25. Graham Marsden
    Facepalm

    Cui bono?

    A few years ago I switched energy suppliers and got a free electricity monitor.

    I connected it up and looked at the reading, then went around switching every unnecessary device, charger, tv on standby etc and came back and, lo and behold...

    ... the bloody reading hadn't changed because I already do that anyway!

    So these "Smart Meters" won't save me any money because I'm a Smart Customer!

    Meanwhile I have no doubt that a few people in Government have been promised nice little Directorships which will pay them a million quid a year for doing about 12 hours work...

    Cui bono? Not us!

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Cui bono?

      We have the winner.

  26. Caaaptaaaain kick arse

    It'll save money ...

    For the supply companies, when they lay off the meter readers who come round from time to time.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: It'll save money ...

      From time to time is relative.

      I didn't see one for 5 years then he showed up 3 months running.

  27. Connor

    Future Boy

    I have one and they are fantastic! Eon had fitted one to a house I moved into and from that day I didn't have to give them meter readings and they don't have to send anyone out, which was handy. They also send out a bill with a nice breakdown of your usage, which is quite handy. But then a year ago I changed suppliers to someone cheaper and lo and behold, I no longer have a smart meter. It is still there, but apparently my new provider is unable to access it as it is Eon's meter. I have changed supplier again since and same story.

    So I had one for all of three months and they are a complete waste of time if they no longer work when you change providers. I also never had the display, that was taken by the previous owners of the house (or never existed - I am not sure- either way Eon refused to send me one). So even though I have one of the hi-tech smart meters I still have to give them my meter readings and I have no usage display just like everyone else. I assume that I also paid extra at some point for this 'privilege'.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Future Boy

      But then a year ago I changed suppliers to someone cheaper and lo and behold, I no longer have a smart meter. It is still there, but apparently my new provider is unable to access it as it is Eon's meter. I have changed supplier again since and same story.

      This is one of the more baffling aspects of the whole "smart" meters. Not very smart are they.

      As I pointed out before in this thread, it would make much more sense (if monitoring is all they're after as they claim) to add a sender that reads consumption by induction pickup, reading the wheel or blinking LED depending in the existing meter, and sen that over via GSM. In that case changing supplier should only require change of SIM or worst case change of the monitoring unit rather than replace whole meter.

  28. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    FAIL

    Its all

    about preparing for the various nuclear/coal fired power stations to go end of life.

    Once you've go everyone installed with smart meters , its a doddle to turn off individual houses to reduce demand on the power generation infrastructure. especially during winter when it wont be able to cope.

    Gonna be fun when you jump on your spiffy new HS2 train for a jaunt upto Birmingham and be told "Due to power restrictions this train will be limited to 40 mph"... or the more fun to be had at 2am when the power comes back on and everyones washing machines/dishwashers start up.....

    But then you got to look at the government decisions and wonder what the f*** are these people on?

    Smart meters cost 10 billion quid to deploy over 10 years, or buying 2 off the shelf french nuclear power stations for the same amount over 10 years and not having to need smart meters......

  29. myhandler

    Yes, but think how useful they will be for people to make comparative tests on their old (evil) high power vacuum cleaner against a new low power one.

    We can then go round the house, using the finger wipe test, to see how much dust is left behind versus power consumed and time taken and then moan at the EU for banning the sale of high power machines.

    Have they calculated how many nuclear power stations of energy (nuckergs) it will take to manufacture these things?

  30. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Yet another invasion of privacy for GCHQ and Plod to peep into your life

    A 'smartmeter' benefits, in the main, power utilities as they can lay off thousands of meter readers.

    Since these damn things can take readings every minute, Plod could determine every time you take an overnight 'tinkle', get up and boil the kettle and anything else that sucks power.

    Worst of all, there is no permanent record of consumption - unless the supplier chooses the mechanical meter option - with the use consumption being held in memory. Of course, memory is unreliable and do you really trust a utility company to tell you the truth in case of device failure?

    Think about 'estimated' bills and how inaccurate they are. NOT!

    Had one in a rental property I own in Ontario, Canada, but with a little Faraday engineering the power company surrendered and returned to a good old mechanical meter. Some meters transmit/forward up to 10,000 bursts a minute if located near a system terminal.

    Still, the meter MESH system can be hacked and used for unofficial transmission purposes.

  31. i like crisps
    Holmes

    CATCH 22

    If you cut your usage of Gas and Electric, then those utilities companys profits go DOWN. To counteract this they put their prices UP to make up the shortfall in lost revenue. Until the utilities, Gas, Electric and Water are brought back under 'State' control or are made into Not-For-Profit organisations, we are going to be ripped off.

    ....oh yeah, FUCK your Smart Meters.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: CATCH 22

      It's called "supply side" economics. Championed by St. Reagan and Thatcher.

      Voodoo, er, supply side economics means that prices are raised for high demand, claiming scarcity of product and then raised again when demand drops, claiming scarcity of profits.

      "Heads" they win, "tails" you lose.

      The other part was the championing of "privatization" by again, guess who? All in the name of "efficiency" that would lead to lower cost.

      Anyone seen the cost of any previous government service go down in their life?

  32. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Flame

    Idiots

    Not strictly about smart meters, but part of the same idiocy.

    Following the highly-questionable ban on high-powered vacuum cleaners, it's been announced that there will be future power restrictions on, among other things, kettles. This seems idiotic.

    The electric power required to heat a litre of water to boiling point is the same whether you use a 3 kW kettle or a 1 kW one. The energy lost during the heating process is a function of the temperature of the kettle and time. If the kettle takes twice as long to boil, then it spends twice as long at each temperature from its starting point to boiling, so it will lose twice as much energy to the surrounding air. It follows that a low-powered kettle uses more energy than a high-powered one.

    No doubt the more scientifically literate will be able to tell me if I'm right or wrong.

    1. Dan Paul

      Re: Idiots (You are correct Kubla)

      A BTU is a BTU and it takes the same number of kW to produce a BTU

      Power is power only the time to boiling will change. It's called "Conservation of Energy" (physics, not political correctness gone mad)

    2. John Tserkezis

      Re: Idiots

      "so it will lose twice as much energy to the surrounding air. It follows that a low-powered kettle uses more energy than a high-powered one. No doubt the more scientifically literate will be able to tell me if I'm right or wrong."

      You're right, but total consumption is not their concern. It's that you're using bucketloads of it at the same time every morning, same as everyone else, at the same time. THAT'S their concern.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Idiots

      Rocket stove. (google search for nice ones, but a camping model is the way to go)

      Or a portable butane stove. These are DIRT cheap.

      The sooner people get off the grid any way they can, the better off they will be.

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Idiots

      > If the kettle takes twice as long to boil, then it spends twice as long at each temperature from its starting point to boiling, so it will lose twice as much energy to the surrounding air. It follows that a low-powered kettle uses more energy than a high-powered one.

      But only if you're using a normal kettle... If on the other hand you were using an insulated kettle (eg. Zojirushi Micom Water Boiler) and so minimising heat loss you can get away with a slightly lower powered kettle.

      The best way to save energy is to use a smaller kettle (eg. one cup), but whilst these are readily available in many hotel rooms I've not seen them on the high street.

      1. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: Idiots

        about 10 seconds will find you a ton of them on Amazon.

      2. Grandad

        Re: Idiots

        Or put less water in a standard one

  33. my fingers stuck
    Linux

    we make millions but you pay for us to do it

    in all the hullabaloo thats being shouted by all, the most important thing has been overlooked,

    for many years now the utility greedymiesters have been reducing the work force that knocks on your door to read the meter, now they have the means to totally eliminate them, thus making them extinct, this will save them quadrillions of £'s and we will pay for them to install the devices in our homes that will achieve it, but will we get any of the money they save, more chance of finding rocking horse shit.

    spelling misteaks are deliberate...

    1. beast666

      Re: we make millions but you pay for us to do it

      I have a pre-payment meter. All electronic has a 'smart' key that you load up with credit and plug into the meter. No need for anyone to come round to my gaff and 'read' the meter right?

      Wrong. I still get a call every quarter from a bloke to 'read' the meter.

      The same thing will happen with smart meters. You'll still be required to provide access to it so they can check you aren't a nerd and hacking it.

      Sheesh.

  34. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I think they want to use to have these to stop us having really smart meters.

    By which I mean ones that could interface with your (spare) hot water tank (say) and use the excess wind/solar power to give you pretty much free hot water (and storage heating).

    This may sound mad to you but round here they are refusing to accept new renewable installations because they cant send the power out of the county and are starting to turn these things off when it gets windy/sunny. Now wouldn't it make more sense to sell the power much more cheaply locally rather than pay the producer to sit there earning wonga with his equipment switched off?

    I'd gladly pop out to the brewery and knock up a couple of extra brews when its windy, and drying grain etc always seems to need to be done when its wet windy and rather some cheap electric that great diesel burners.

  35. flearider

    I prepay .. glad there not doing mine .. :) I know what I use how much it costs .. simple ..

    has'nt changed really in 4 yrs .. well maybe £1 or 2

  36. psychonaut

    you dont have to have one until 2020 - you can refuse

    i wont have one anyway, becuase, you know, i look at my bills. if somethings on, and it doesnt need to be, guess what, i turn it off. amazing that! because i pay the fucking bill.

    youd have to be some kind of total retard not to know this, and if you are, then frankly bollox to you. you have to pay the bill at the end of the day.

    more so, if youve got solar panels, you dont want a new smart meter. because they dont go backwards. when my panels overproduce, not only do i get free electricity for what im using, get paid for what i produce (regardless of what i use) and get paid for feeding back to the grid (regardless of what i use), it makes MY OLD STYLE SPINNING METER RUN BACKWARDS. thus undoing electricity ive used before. so i get a quadruple whammy.

    ok, obviously im not a green nutter, and i simply looked at the return i was going to make on the £7.5k investment in panels over 25 years (its about 25% per YEAR). you cant get that anywhere for anything, , not government backed. unless they change their minds of course, but, well, whats that going to do to peoples confidence in their other initiatives? they might do it but i doubt it. theres the risk. also, my panels may get damaged, or my invertor might khark it which will cost a bit. but frankly, i could replace the whole lot 4 or 5 times over and still make money

    its not what the scheme was designed for, like this stupid smart meter scheme, like a lot of other stupid initiatives, but hey, you take the breaks where you get them. thems the rules. they set them, im doing it. theyve nearly paid for themselves in 3 years. ive got 22 years of 20% - 25% return to go on it.

    stupid policy, but hey, its money.

    no way in hell am i having a digital or a smart meter because they dont go backwards.

    theres a Which article about the right to refuse.

    theres loads of other reasons to not have one (lets see, its pointless, will cost a fortune, will be (probably is already) outdated, could be hacked etc etc. just refuse the fucking thing.

    1. Craigness

      Re: you dont have to have one until 2020 - you can refuse

      You'd have a separate meter to measure what gets sent back into the grid. You won't lose out.

      1. psychonaut

        Re: you dont have to have one until 2020 - you can refuse

        Thats not correct. They dont measure what goes back to the grid. They assume 25% of what you generate. Also I would loose out as the digital meters dont go backwards when you overproduce. The old ones do

        1. Craigness

          Re: you dont have to have one until 2020 - you can refuse

          Like I said, you would have a meter for the solar panel. They measure what you produce, they don't estimate it. The meter does not need to go backwards.

          "Import/export energy measurement"

          http://www.smsmetering.co.uk/products/gsmgprs-meters/smart-me382-idis-next-generation-meter/

  37. psychonaut

    here it is

    11bn pounds. what a bunch of fucktards.

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

  38. batfastad

    2%? Optimistic!

    I presume these savings are also assuming that both energy usage and prices stay constant. I don't know about anyone else but each generation of electrical goods and gadgets that I end up with need more power and more frequent charging.

    Presumably we all get a refund when this doesn't work out and the poorly qualified civil servants have to personally foot the bill.

    Since when does a government do anything to save anyone any money, ever. There must be something else to this.

  39. Kernel

    Had a smart meter for a several of years now

    The electricity retailer that I get my supply from fitted smart meters to all their customer's premises in the area several years ago - we, as consumers (not to mention the environment), are saving because they no longer have to employ people to drive around all day reading meters, plus, as a bonus, the electricity company no longer needs to hold a key to my home to get in to read the meter - and, if I have the urge, I can go on line and check my electricity consumption per hour, which has revealed that for about 22/24ths of each day a 1.5kW supply is more than adequate.

    Interestingly, the lines company is now fitting their own smart meters to each point of supply, presumably so they can check that the retailers are owning up to the full amount of leccy they've on-sold to the end user, since there are multiple retailers in the area.

    I'm also getting very close to pulling the trigger that will see the installation of a third smart meter at home - the one that will record the amount of power I've sold back to the retailer from the solar installation I'm considering installing.

    1. psychonaut

      Re: Had a smart meter for a several of years now

      uh, or you could, you know, read your meter and fill in a form online like first utility does.

      no meter bunnie. no smart meter.

  40. psychonaut

    actually, what happens is...

    these fuckers are busy selling energy to themselves.

    so - they set up a company and buy energy at wholesale prices.

    then, that company sells energy to, lets say, southern electric.

    southern electric then sell it to you at a small amount more. then they can claim that they dont make much money per subscriber (oh, we only make £45 per year per subscriber...such bullshit), but actually make tonnes of cash from the first company. we are all being screwed.

    where are the nuclear reactors for fucks sake?

    and thats before weve started on all the green wind farm crap. it costs a ridiculous amount of money to run the power lines from the remote places where wind energy generation actually isnt pointless. but they get massively subsidized by the govt. who owns the companies thatr run the wind farms? is it the friends of the fuckers in govt?

    go find out. you know its true already.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: actually, what happens is...

      The energy industry world wide makes banks look honest.

      Scary, innit?

      1. psychonaut

        Re: actually, what happens is...

        just normal im afraid - which is scarier!

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes I'm convinced

    that people on here just rage against something because it's different. Which is weird, as it's El Reg.

    I have a smart meter. Got it installed last year as part of the Green Homes Cashback scheme. So it didn't cost me a penny and I got a fantastic deal on my boiler, plus loft and wall insulation, plus £300 for extras including LED lightbulbs, etc.

    (I know I got a great deal as I still had a copy of a quote from the same company a year before the scheme started, and I managed to slice over £1,000 off it)

    So my SM sits in the cupboard and ticks happily away giving a fully accurate reading of my usage meaning I don't need to check regularly or keep an eye on how much in credit I am, as I get billed for precisely what I use.

    I also check the digital display in the living room to see what my current costs are, and I can tell you that when I see I'm running at £1.23ph I start re-evaluating what the fuck I'm doing that's costing that much money.

    It's a great device, I'm a big fan of it, and fully support the implementation. As for if and when it becomes obsolete, well, I wont be paying for the replacement - that'll be the energy company (Or the government).

    1. psychonaut

      Re: Sometimes I'm convinced

      it doesnt make any difference - you still use the electricity you use. you still get billed for it. who needs to know how much they use every minute? what difference does it make?

      if you see a light is on, that doesnt need to be, and you cant afford it, turn the fucking thing off!

      if you are in the middle of making a cup of tea, and the 3kw is blowing your budget, guess what? dont make a cup of tea!

      unless you are deliberately fiddling your supplier, it all comes out in the wash at the end of the month

      do you want to be billed every second? if not, every minute? every hour?

      lets settle on a reasonable time frame...every month. which they already do. so what difference does it make?

      NONE.

      except for the cost of the meter, the install, the back end systems to cope with it....

      its at best utterly pointless, at worst (well, realistically) it costs more money.

      except to people who dont understand that turning something off that doesnt need to be on will save them money. if they dont actually grasp that concept already, whats the point? you may as well send them for re-education at the school for fuckwits

      1. Red Bren
        Mushroom

        Re: Sometimes I'm convinced

        "do you want to be billed every second? if not, every minute? every hour? lets settle on a reasonable time frame...every month. which they already do. so what difference does it make?"

        How about half-hourly billing. The technology exists because big energy users have it. When you're using MW/year, timing your heaviest usage to coincide with the cheapest energy prices is worth serious money. So roll out a similar system for domestic customers and that way, they have an incentive to schedule the dishwasher or washing machine for when demand and price is lower and the energy suppliers smooth out the peaks in demand. Even a simple peak/off-peak unit price split would help. You could call it "Economical Eight" or something…

        1. psychonaut

          Re: Sometimes I'm convinced

          fair point, but these are for home users. the majority of which arent in all day until 6pm. do you really think that the home users are going to be able to take a benefit from that? and if a significant proportion of them did, the demand curve would change, meaning that the price curve would change. the energy companies arent philanthropists.

          also, if you ever had storage heaters,or economy 7...yuo know how shit it is.

  42. Red Bren

    3 Questions

    When British Gas tried to persuade me to get one of these things with the argument it would save me money, I asked three questions:

    Q1. Will I be put on a cheaper tariff to reflect the cost saving of sacking their meter readers?

    Q2. Will the meter tell me what the unit prices are throughout the day so I can time my energy use to avoid peaks?

    Q3. Will the meter monitor unit prices from all suppliers and automatically switch me to the cheapest?

    Obviously the answers were:

    A1. No, you will still be on the same tariff (Thanks OFGEM for "simplifying" things!)

    A2. No, the unit price is the same all day (After I explained the concept of Half-Hourly)

    A3. No. (with laughter!)

    So when I asked her to clarify exactly how a smart meter would save me money, she said it would show me how much energy I was using so I could switch off the biggest consumers.

    "Like the oven or washing machine?" I suggested.

    "Yes!" she enthused, delighted I had finally seen the light.

    "So I can eat raw food and wear smelly clothes?" I enquired.

    "No!!!" she laughed, realising the futility of her task.

    "Then I think I'll wait until the meters get a little smarter."

    1. Craigness

      Re: 3 Questions

      You stay on the same tariff and the cost saving from the meter readers is shared by everyone on the tariff. They could change the name of the tariff but they don't want to be condescending.

  43. Someone Else Silver badge
    Megaphone

    So, to sum this up in 25 words or less:

    Boondoggle!

    1. psychonaut

      Re: So, to sum this up in 25 words or less:

      yes, that sounds like it does indeed sum it up. i have no idea what it actually means though, but i like the sound of the word.

  44. psychonaut

    LED's

    why dont they just give everyone 20 LED lights each? they are much better than the crap energy saving bulbs, they use 3 or 4 watts instead of 11 or 12 for energy savers (that you cant see anything with) and compared to the 60 or 100 watt tungstens they are amazing. i ordered 150 quids worth off of led hut and changed all my 25w halogens to 3 watt leds.

    id be saving a fortune if i didnt now think, well, fuck it, they dont cost anything so i cant be bothered to turn them off....

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: LED's

      Whilst lighting is very visible (no pun intended) and hence a switch from conventional bulbs to energy saving bulbs/LEDs makes a big difference. The problem is that lighting forms only a very small part of my total energy consumption, the vast majority is on hot water and central heating...

      In fact I suspect that for many people simply upgrading their ageing computer would save them more. For the past few years I've been supplying All-in-One desktop systems with a 25w PSU as a replacement for their 300+ w desktops running XP...

      1. psychonaut

        Re: LED's

        yeah, except that a 300watt psu in a pc doesnt run at 300watts, pretty much ever. my quad core and monitor is currently running at 129 watts, even though it has a 550 watt capable psu.

        hot water....get panels on the roof (not pv, but hot water panels)

  45. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    prepaid meters?

    "The committee said it was particularly worried about the impact on low-income households that were using prepaid meters, since there was no requirement on suppliers to give them prepaid smart meters in the rollout."

    WTF? If the meter is so smart, why can't anyone with a smart meter have it as prepay if they want? By definition, it has a GUID so all you need is to pass the number to the PayPoint terminal and load up your account. It ought to be simple and no more need for special prepay meters.

  46. Mr_Pitiful
    Pint

    My Plan

    Is to install a 10Kva UPS in the next couple of weeks. (UPS is here, just need to re-cable house)

    That will totally screw the stats from any smart meter they install wont it?

    We suffer regular power outages, hence i'm up at 4am working due to a 6 hour power outage today.

    Beer because - it doesn't need power and I don't have to work tomorrow

  47. NeilPost Bronze badge

    Dumb meter

    I had a meter swap around 18 months ago - supplier EDF, was swapped over by an EDF engineer as in old East Midlands area.

    Did I get a switch interconnected smart meter, able to give me useful info, and enable me to be empowered ?

    ... nah, just another fecking dumb press the button 3 times for the readings piece of crap, that most of the smaller, newer more nimble players won't touch, as it has Economy 7 electricity on it.

  48. David Pollard

    Indoor greenhouses

    Someone probably told a few MPs and the like that by monitoring usage patterns with smart meters it would be possible to detect when people are going in for bit of home grown.

  49. rhydian

    Hourly pricing is a total non-starter...

    Are the government and the electricity suppliers really expecting me to pay more to cook my dinner at the time I decide to have it (6 pm) just because a rather large proportion of the nation also finishes work at 5pm and lives about 45mins from work?

    My current dumb meter is a traditional rotating disc type, and I can check my energy use "at a glance" already. If the disc is going around slowly, I'm not using much, if I've got the washing machine, hob, oven and immersion heater on, it screws around like a disc cutter.

    I already submit meter readings online to my supplier, and once in a while someone comes to read the physical meter. As I live alone I'm very good at making sure items are turned off when not in use, and I have changed all the bulbs that I can/want to over to CCFLs or LEDs. The only traditional bulbs left are in places where there are no CCFL/LED bulbs that fit or where I need the light to come on immediately.

    Ergo, a smart meter will be of no benefit to me whatsoever.

    Also, what about rural areas where there is mains supply but little/no GSM coverage. How will these meters "phone home"?

  50. Amiga500

    Stealing

    There is no mention of people who steal electricity, you would immediately be able to pinpoint with accuracy any disparity and leakage, it would pretty much wipe out theft. The costs which are already borne by the consumer would be able to go back into the pot.

    Makes you wonder if they have considered this and convieniently ignore it thus more profits for them, it's all win win for the suppiers then.

  51. Chris_B

    Do smart meters work if I have solar cells and feed the energy back into the grid ?

    If they do and they meters then run backbards won't someone sitting infront of a computer in some far flung call centre put a block on my energy because I must have cracked the system.

    Either way let's all just get solar panels and bugger them up roaylly :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      solar panels

      Chris_B we don't all have south facing roof space. Or indeed a roof if you are living in a block of flats.

    2. psychonaut

      old spinny wheel meters go backwards. digital ones dont.

  52. Grandad

    What about gas?

    Scanning through all these interesting comments it seems most folk are only considering smart electricity meters but as I understand it they intend to make gas meters smart too. Does that mean 2 displays and when the heating is on on a cold night it indicates that I should turn the boiler off. My existing gas meter is a mechanical device and a very small pressure drop across it drives the cogs and dials. I guess a smart meter will need an electricity supply which I will have to pay for. If they use batteries they won't last long judging by the number of charges my mobile needs.

    Also what happens when the hackers decide to have fun and turn the power off or screw up the readings. As I understand it the smart meters have little serious security built in.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: What about gas?

      > ...but as I understand it they intend to make gas meters smart too.

      Yes

      > Does that mean 2 displays and when the heating is on on a cold night it indicates that I should turn the boiler off.

      Dunno about 2 displays, but yes I suspect there may be an element of "making" you turn the heating off/down.

      I say "making" as like electricity it's all down to rationing in all but name. As already pointed out, because previous governments (of all colours) failed in their duty to consider the long term rather than what's popular enough to get them re-elected in 5 years time, we have an impending shortage of *reliable* generating capacity. Late 2010 was a warning - demand was high, generation from wind was "not worth mentioning" and pretty well everything we had was running (even diesel generators at times). Over the next few years, a very significant amount of large plant is due to be shutdown - it won't be long before we do not have the capacity to meet the demand seen in 2010. Smart metering is all about being able to hike the price at such times (ie the price will be significantly higher than the tariff you signed up to) to "persuade" people to cut back. Of course, the people who will do that most will be the people most at risk - the ones who are already making the "heat or eat" choices. If that fails, then it allows more fine grained ability to turn off consumers - those of us who are old enough will remember the rolling power cuts of the 70s.

      As for the argument that people will arrange (by wahtever means) to run the washing machine during cheap hours. Well thank you so f***ing much - I really want the neighbour's washing machine chugging away below me/above me/through the wall when I'm trying to sleep. Not to mention the increased risk of deaths from fire when they are run while no-one is around (and awake).

      On the other hand, if they hadn't forced the washing machines to use more electricity (instead of using your cheaper gas-heated water) ...

      > I guess a smart meter will need an electricity supply which I will have to pay for. If they use batteries they won't last long judging by the number of charges my mobile needs.

      Dunno about that, but AFAICT they are talking about batteries - and yes they will need replacing eventually. I've heard mention of a 10 year life, but I too find that hard to believe once you add the mobile phone bit. But at least with gas they can store it, so other than having to size the pipes for peak flow, they don't have the same problems as with lecky.

      > Also what happens when the hackers decide to have fun and turn the power off or screw up the readings.

      We shall see. Might take a while, but how long until a "granny killed by hacked meter" story hits the red tops.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: when the hackers decide to have fun?

      "what happens when the hackers decide to have fun and turn the power off or screw up the readings"

      Prof Ross Anderson, Cambridge University Computer Lab, has some writings on this subject (technology, economics, Westminster politics) from 2012:

      https://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2012/09/17/the-perils-of-smart-metering/

      Maybe terd would like to point out which bits of Anderson's writings are "ill informed rubbish".

  53. terd
    WTF?

    Uninformed rubbish

    There's so much tosh spouted on here I wouldn't even know where to start, you'd have thought IT type people would be less inclined to take the report from an uneducated non-specialised bunch of MPs as gospel truth.

    The PAC report assumes 2% savings, the aggregated savings from over a 100 independent trials of smart meters with home displays has shown an average saving of over 9% over a number of years (with no creeping up usage again).

    You will NOT get 2 home displays, every house will get a smart gas and electric meter, this will send data to a comms hub. One home display will connect to the comms hub (the hub will also send reading data to the supplier too). If you want you will be able to connect other devices to the hub (smart phone, shock! Etc).

    If people actually want to make an informed decision have a read around, don't just assume that because a bunch of art graduate MPs say something it is true...

    On meter life... The gas smart meter will have a battery which will easily last 10 years as it's just doing a zigbee connection to the comms hub. The electricity meter will, surprisingly, be fine since it has, ermm, electricity.

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