back to article Hated smart meters likely to be 'a costly failure' – MPs

The government's hated smart meter programme – which will slap consumers with a bill of £10.9bn – is in danger of becoming a "costly failure", a government report has said. The report by the Energy and Climate Change Committee said it does "not believe" plans to install 53 million devices in homes and businesses by 2020 will …

  1. RyokuMas

    In other news...

    The government have stuffed up a major tech programme which is likely to cost the taxpayer millions.

    In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet.

    1. tony2heads

      Re: In other news...



      1. Craigness

        Re: In other news...

        @tony I think they were referring to the per-capita cost.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They keep failing.. but at the end of the day, they get the money.. will wonders never cease...

    1. dogged

      Re: Crapita

      Yep. I was confused until this line happened -

      > Capita, which runs the Data Communications Company (DCC) responsible for rolling out the programme

      And suddenly everything made absolute sense.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the news over the weekend...

    Don't recall who said this (representative body, I think) "We've doing this because of the overwhelming demand from the consumer...". Hmm...

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: In the news over the weekend...

      >"We've doing this because of the overwhelming demand from the consumer..."

      S'true. It's just that you're not the consumer they mean.

    2. Refugee from Windows

      Re: In the news over the weekend...

      Possibly as the consumer's demands are simply being ignored. Is smart metering only in the interests of the supplier? I'd say it is. I don't see any advantage of them to me, it's not going to change my power consumtion habits by much, and it'd no doubt be out of date by the time it's installed. If my supplier insists, I'll simply change supplier.

      That's leaving aside any privacy and security matters of course.

      1. Julz

        Re: In the news over the weekend...

        If you want to know how much juice you using then use something like this:

        Now what's advantage to me do smart meters have..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: In the news over the weekend...

          "If you want to know how much juice you using then use something like this:"

          Have one of those Owl monitors. It only gives a very crude estimate of consumption at any time. You can switch something large on/off and it doesn't register for quite a while. Not sure what criteria it uses to update readings.

          Bought a Belkin device that will measure the power consumption of anything plugged into its socket. Works quite well. Surprising that some "blob" adapters register nothing - even though it is obvious they are supplying significant power to their device. Is that something to do with their power factor not being corrected? Are they getting "free" electricity? Is there a difference in the way old style meters and digital ones measure consumption when the power factor of a device is out of range?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: In the news over the weekend...

            check out, they can do down to the circuit monitoring and costs in virtually real time

          2. Killing Time

            Re: In the news over the weekend...

            @ AC with the Owl and then the Belkin toys...

            As with all measurement there is an associated factor of uncertainty. With modern and standards compliant metering this will be in the region of 2% for both applications.

            Therefore, in the case of the Owl which measures the incomer to the domestic fusebox, this could be up to 300W. In the case of the Belkin in the 13A socket outlet this could be up to 60W as an acceptable discrepancy.

            It all depends on what you consider a significant amount of power.

            Power factor has little effect unless you have large inductive loads, not something you would normally have in a domestic setting.

            Old and new style metering use the exactly the same sensor method, its the transformer, a current transformer to be specific. This technology hasn't changed in many decades.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: In the news over the weekend...

              Most modern PSUs (chargers etc) are quite capacitive and so have a low power factor in the other direction.

              It's all pretty silly anyway, as after I got rid of my electric shower I've not used more than 400kWh in any given month, it's usually closer to 300kWh.

              So even in a bad month, my mean (24hour) consumption is under 560W - or 1700W for 8-hour days - which means the error bars are rather significant.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: In the news over the weekend...

          "If you want to know how much juice you using then use something like this:"

          Even simpler - just read the specs of the stuff you've plugged in.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: In the news over the weekend...

          "If you want to know how much juice you using then use something like this:"


      2. Equitas

        Re: In the news over the weekend...

        Smart meters COULD be in the interests of the customer, in situations where the meter is in a lockfast location and it is difficult or inconvenient for the customer to arrange access for meter reading. But in the present set-up, if the customer changes supplier, the former supplier can -- and British Gas does -- refuse remote access to the data.

    3. Mike Smith

      Re: In the news over the weekend...

      We've doing this because of the overwhelming demand from the consumer..."

      ... for us to keep our snouts out of their lives, stop shoving unwanted technology on them and just supply gas, water and electricity in a cost-effective manner and not expect all and sundry to happily pay for yet another Crapita screw-up.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: In the news over the weekend...

        pointless to me too. I only use what I need to use anyway, I don't leave the tumble drier on because im bored or like the sound of it. Likewise I leave the PC on if it is doing something, same for the TV etc. Lights are LEDs now, cooker is gas etc. This day and age people are naturally switching things off because the leccy costs so damn much...

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: In the news over the weekend...

          @ Danny 14

          "This day and age people are naturally switching things off because the leccy costs so damn much..."

          Unfortunately I know a family who doesnt turn stuff off then complains that all their money disappears. I have explained it so many times and have to follow them around my house when they visit just to turn off lights and devices. I dont think even a smart meter could help them. Certainly no use to me as I turn off things I dont need running like any sensible person

    4. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: In the news over the weekend...

      You don't own the meter at your property, the electricity company does. May be there is an "overwhelming demand from the consumer".

    5. James Pickett

      Re: In the news over the weekend...

      " the overwhelming demand from the consumer"

      Or possibly the overwhelming demand from a consumer.

  4. Anonymous Coward 101

    How can this possibly cost so much?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Infrastructure, swapping over the meters etc?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      UK market specifics

      UK has gone for 3 level deregulation of the market which is a UK specific rank lunatic idiocy, the rest of the world has gone for 2.

      In a 3 level environment you have grid, local franchise and retail. In a 2 level you have gird and local franchise + retail (one company). As a result everyone else who has deployed SM can use the local substation to collect data from the meters, UK cannot - the substation and the retail are different companies which cannot see eye to eye. This is additionally complicated by the fact that most retail is also utterly incompetent in the metering area because it has outsourced the meters to a lease company (so that they do not sit as fixed assets on the books and spoil the numbers) and the collection of the results to the like of Siemens services.

      This rather idiotic technical and buisiness landscape necessitates an alternative communications solution. Due to a long list of reasons very few of which are technical there was no chosen UK comms supplier (from proper comms companies). So as a result the rollout has to include a 10 year comms contract using whatever hodge-podge means are available (usually mobile) for individual meters and this is laundered through an outsourcing provider.

      In addition to that from the very beginning UK tried to include gas meters into the smart equation which nearly doubles the on-premises costs and imposes a variety of siginificant technical failures.

      Further costs were also added when the goverment tried to hide the fact that the primary goal of the programme is to shut off consumers when they do not pay and shut off at-will when the government has decided so for load-shedding purposes. Like it or not, the business case for SM worldwide is based on killing grannies who do not pay by freezing them to death in winter. The only country to try to hide that is UK. The solution for burrying bad news was to add to the spec a display component which shows you your greenery sins in semi-real time making an in-house comms solution an essential part of the equation. That is more money.

      And so on. More money, more money, more money at every step. In the meantime most Eu countries which operate two level deregulation have already deployed them. You can see them even Eastern Europe nowdays.

      All in all it is a very British mess (anon - as I worked on some of this early on).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: UK market specifics

        I'm loosely involved in a new build project. The planners want to have smart meters, smart bins, etc. All will communicate back to base via GSM. Only one small problem: There's no mobile phone signal in the area and the mobile operators don't seem to be interested in providing any signal. (The planners have even offered free land for the operators to lure them in)

        If we're having these problems with our small development, what chance is there of 100% smart meter coverage when there's nowhere near 100% mobile coverage?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: UK market specifics

        I'm not convinced by the "Primary goal of the project is to be able to cut people off who haven't paid their bill" is this really the primary goal? Is the government really going to back a plan and see spending of £BN's just to be able to cut people off? Seems like a lot of money to spend just to be able to cut off a tiny amount of people who haven't paid a bill. I mean how many people in the UK fail to pay their bill to a sustainable amount and are cut off every year? I don't know but I'm kinda thinking its a few 10's thousand if that. I can see from the suppliers point of few it would be a nice to have but the primary reason, bolloxs.

        1. Mike Shepherd

          Re: UK market specifics

          Since load management can save a lot of money (for suppliers), it's more important to be able to cut you off (whether or not you've paid your bill) when demand exceeds supply. With smart meters, you're in the dark while the little old lady next door can still run her dialysis machine. This fine-grained control wasn't possible before e.g. in the early 1970s, when you could avoid the power cuts by living close to a hospital.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: UK market specifics

          " I mean how many people in the UK fail to pay their bill to a sustainable amount and are cut off every year?"

          Unfortunately many UK policies and laws are being driven by single-issue campaigners. The idea of proportional risks and costs has gone out of the window. The Law of Diminishing Returns does not appear to have registered for many people with fingers on the levers of power..

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: UK market specifics

          really at least 3 people (down votes) think that the reason to spend £BN's is to cut a few people off every year!?

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: UK market specifics

            I suppose as far as reducing costs go it's more about not having to send people around and read meters and no need to issue estimated bills more than anything else.

            Also there'll be fantastic new tariff opportunities where the price you pay changes hourly.

        4. SImon Hobson

          Re: UK market specifics

          > I'm not convinced by the "Primary goal of the project is to be able to cut people off who haven't paid their bill" is this really the primary goal?

          Actually, that's the secondary goal. The primary goal is still cutting people off - but for a different reason.

          Thanks to decades of "kicking the ball into the long grass for someone else to deal with" - ie leaving the difficult decisions till after the next election, and politicians pandering to the "nucular is bad, can't have any of it" brigade, and don't even get me started on the renewables farce, we are facing a situation over the next few years where it's "not certain" that we'll always have enough power to satisfy peak loads.

          There are two ways to do this, and traditionally we've gone down the route of simply building enough dispatchable power stations to be able to meet all reasonable demands. There's always been a small element of load-side control, but primarily it's been about generating what people use. "Economy 7" and similar tariffs are part of that load side management - and were designed primarily to allow the base load to be kept up overnight and keep the "cheap"* nuclear stations running flat out and minimise the diurnal rundown of the other big thermal (ie coal) stations.

          As the antis love to point out, nuclear power stations take a long time to build (here at least, the Chinese can do it on time and on budget). So there's little chance of the new build plants being online before the brown stuff hits the fan. We've something in the order of 8GW of wind capacity - which is to all intents useless when there's a lovely static high pressure system over the whole of northern Europe for a week or so, ie when demand is at it's highest because it's ****ing freezing !

          Of course, if relations with Russia degrade much more, then we also have to factor the risk of them turning the gas tap off at an awkward moment - and thus shutting down another chunk of capacity.

          SO what we're left with is smart metering who's primary function is to ration electricity. Perhaps it doesn't match the dictionary definition, but the end result is that when demand outstrips supply then the price will rocket. The rich will ignore it, the poor will sit and freeze - and wait till 2am to have their tea when they can afford to cook it. If that doesn't alter demand enough, then remote turn off is there specifically to cut off people and so reduce their consumption by force.

          Think about the rolling power cuts of the 70s, but on a more granular scale.

          All the other bollocks is just fancy dressing to try and pretend it's for our own good and something we should want. Oh yes, and lets not forget that these will store and transmit your usage - every half hour of every day, all going into a big database that we don't need to worry about because a) it's secure and b) it's not allowed to be used for anything but billing. Yeah, we all believe those promises don't we !

          * In relative terms. Much of the "expense" is in dealing with the "it must be a lot lot lot lot lot safer than any other risk we accept every day" approach to risk.

      3. Craigness

        Re: UK market specifics

        "This is additionally complicated by the fact that most retail is also utterly incompetent in the metering area because it has outsourced the meters to a lease company"

        The meters are not owned, rented or controlled by the retailers. Think what it would mean when you switch supplier, if the ownership or rental contract for the meter had to be transferred as well! And if you wanted to move your meter you'd have to get permission from both National Grid and the retailer, both of whom would have to check the work was done to standard. Most of retail doesn't do the metering either, they outsource it to competent parties. So, contrary to your opinion, they are not even in the metering area and are not in a position to outsource meters.

        Cutting people off is already possible, and not difficult. They make you use a pre-pay meter and it takes care of itself.

        "property of transco"

        1. Lamont Cranston

          Re: "not owned by the retailers"

          I changed supplier shortly after smart meters were fitted at my property. I had to twist the arm of my old suppliers to get them to extract readings from the smart meters, and my new supplier has never read them (they use a different model of smart meters). It's a fantastic system - I still have to read my meters every month, but now it's slightly more difficult than it was previously!

          Overwhelming consumer demand, my arse.

      4. cantankerous swineherd

        Re: UK market specifics

        in addition to freezing grannies to death they've also given bored teenagers the equivalent of a neutron bomb - bricking the nation's leccy meters? I'm almost tempted to have a go myself.

        wasn't aware of the crapita angle though, must keep reading El reg!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: UK market specifics

          "wasn't aware of the crapita angle though"

          i would have been safe to assume it, however.

          1. jonathanb Silver badge

            Re: UK market specifics

            There are other companies that have experience in messing up government IT contracts, eg EDS, Crap Gemmini, Assenter and Serco.

    3. jason 7

      Well it's like the contract to refund people who bought a UK ID card their £30 back.

      Worked out at (IIRC) £30000 per £30 refunded. Value for money I'm sure you agree.

      I really admire how these private companies can totally ream the govt authorities. I really need to work out how to grow the balls to charge my customers £300000 to wipe off some adware from their £300 laptop...and get them to willingly pay it.

      You'd think it was all a scam...

    4. hplasm

      Re "How can this possibly cost so much?"

      The price of Yachts goes ever upwards.

      1. jason 7

        Re: Re "How can this possibly cost so much?"


        Not to mention the cost of re-leading the roof of the old ancestral pile.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    failure or not

    The taxpayers will be paying for it in the end, one way or the other.

    1. Richard 81

      Re: failure or not

      On top of what they'll be paying on their bills.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: failure or not

        Well, I just assumed (my mistake) that consumers would be paying for what energy they used. I meant that they would also be paying the entire cost of the program, hardware, software, profit, and don't forget waste and graft.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: failure or not

      "The taxpayers will be paying for it in the end, one way or the other."

      And non-taxpayers. It will be anybody paying a leccy bill, not just those people rich enough to pay tax.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: failure or not

        Even if you don't pay tax, unless no-one charges you VAT on your purchases, you are still paying tax

  6. Steve Crook

    Hated smart meters likely to be 'a costly failure'

    Hated smart meters certain to be 'a costly failure'

    There, fixed it for you.

    1. Warm Braw

      Re: Hated smart meters likely to be 'a costly failure'

      Unfortunately, I suspect that's better than them being a costly success.

      All this kit was designed when worries about security were supposedly reserved for the paranoid. If it is ever deployed it will be a hackers' paradise [PDF]- spoofing readings and remotely disconnecting supplies.

      And given that meters seem to be replaced every 7-10 years, the current generation of meters will be swapped out long before appliances come on the market in any volume that can react to "smart" signalling.

      So, roll on failure, I say,

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Hated smart meters likely to be 'a costly failure'

        "All this kit was designed when worries about security were supposedly reserved for the paranoid. If it is ever deployed it will be a hackers' paradise [PDF]- spoofing readings and remotely disconnecting supplies."

        And note the first paragraph in the report.

        "The European Parliament mandated the replacement of electricity meters with

        new ‘smart’ meters by 2022, except in Member States who certify this year that it would be uneconomic. "

        Which I think includes Germany.

        Smart Meter Bitte?

        Nein danke.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I don't think they are replace every 7-10yr's I still have an old mechanical one which has just gone around the clock, we've had it since God was a boy! The whole smart meter thing has been a bit of a fiasco, actually the whole how meters are installed\maintained etc is a fiasco. I've had a few cockups in the last 5 years with meters.

        I renovated our house 4yr ago it historically had two sets of meters with two supplies and two accounts, but it was one house (gran parents lived one half parents the other). Any road up parents died I inherited the house and wanted just one meter and one account. Clowns from Western Power came to do the job when I was gutting the house, removed the correct meters (two meters as it was a economy 7 tarrif), anyway they bolloxed up the paper work which latter came back to haunt me. God know it was as simple enough job, well you would think! One house two sets of meters, remove one set that's all I wanted. Anyway when I tried to move suppliers about a year after I moved in the move kept failing as according to the meter database I STILL had the economy 7 split tariff meter so couldn't move to a single tariff! Took fecking months to sort it out (I had to do the sorting!) Eventually having spoken to a really nice bloke at the supplier I managed to get the supply number rather than the meter serial number and I gave that to the new supplier and it got sorted. According to the database I still had two supplies but one was marked as de-energised rather than removed and this is what feck everything up.

        I rent out our old property which again has a split tarrif. My tenants got a letter 2yrs ago from EDF telling them their meter was being replaced (it was an old mechanical type), it was but not with a smart meter. Anyway my new tenants want a single tariff meter so EDF are coming to replace the current new meters with another one be interesting to see what they get, I bet it won't be a smart meter. So eventually when we do get one that'll be the 4th meter in probably 10 years.

        1. Warm Braw

          Re: eh?

          Most of the electronic meters seem to have a certification period of 10 years, though some go down to 5. The mechanical ones had a longer service life (up to 40), but I don't know if that was due to their being inherently more reliable or just more expensive to replace.

          I would anticipate smart meters (at least initially) to have limited lifetimes simply because they're new and a whole range of problems are emerging as they're being deployed in the field.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: eh?

            shouldn't be any more expensive to replace a clockwork one than any other type the connections are the same

            1. Warm Braw

              Re: eh?

              >shouldn't be any more expensive to replace a clockwork one than any other type

              The clockwork ones are inherently much more expensive pieces of kit and presumably need their costs amortising over a longer period...

        2. Smitty Werbenjaegermanjensen - he was #1!

          Re: eh?

          Another delightful thing for you to note is that mechanical electricity meters slow down over time. It is very likely that your very old meter is now recording about 10% less than you're actually using. Of course, when your new smart meter is installed it won't suffer that discrepancy...

    2. jason 7

      I'm intrigued by the single downvoter on this topic?

      Please show yourself and give your side of the story?

      We'd love to know.

  7. johnck

    Gov and Capita again

    I don't know if its the gov side, constantly changing what they want or simply not knowing what they want, or the Capita side, not being able to deliver or promising things that are not possible, that is messing this up. But why did Capita even get the contract in the first place when they are a known tax avoider?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Gov and Capita again

      Tax avoidance? I went for a job with them and was informed a large portion of my pay would be off-shore which is evasion if they're still doing it.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Gov and Capita again

      known tax avoider?

      Every company in the UK is a tax avoider.

      Tax evaders are the ones to avoid. If you see what I mean.

    3. Zog_but_not_the_first

      Re: Gov and Capita again

      Why don't they privatise Capita, cut out the deadwood and let the free market deliver value...


      1. cantankerous swineherd

        Re: Gov and Capita again

        bloody good idea, think I'll write to the prime minister.

  8. Bob Wheeler


    I know I'm being a tad dim witted here, but why is the government involved in this at all?

    If the energy supplies think that having smart meters are good for their business, then they should pay to install them, not the customer.

    If the energy companies can convince the customers that this is good for them, then they can offer a CHOISE to the customer to pay to install them.

    So back to my original question, what does this have to do with the government?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Question

      "[...] what does this have to do with the government?"

      In the very old days the energy utilities were private companies. This lead to many disparate standards and non-cooperation. The Electricity (Supply) Act 1926 created the national grid to standardise on 240vac and give a coordinated distribution system. The Electricity Act 1947 nationalised the private companies. Everything was effectively under government control.

      Since re-privatisation the government has to try to maintain the nationwide supplies by incentives to private companies to maintain the required capacity and distribution. That means the cost-effectiveness of the overall system becomes of importance to the government. For any individual company their profit objectives do not necessarily include any wider public good.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Question

      It's an EU directive. The government chose to sign it in to UK law and act on it.

    3. A Known Coward

      Re: Question

      I see no-one has mentioned what many believe to be the real reason. Rolling blackouts.

      Some years ago now the government came to accept that there was going to be an energy shortfall, the amount we consume would outstrip out ability to generate it. This is especially true because of the move to 'green' energy and away from better and more reliable power generation (coal, nuclear etc).

      Faced with the prospect of blackouts affecting large parts of the country, politicians had to come up with a plan to save their own hides, they couldn't fix the power generation issue as they couldn't be seen to admit that renewables just aren't up to the job, and building new nuclear power stations would cost a lot of money and take at least a decade. So they decided that if you couldn't prevent the blackouts, maybe you could hide them - what if instead of entire neighbourhoods going dark, it was just one or two households in each street? Or even one or two households in thousands of neighbourhoods? This wouldn't seem so bad would it? People might not even notice the pattern!

      So 'smart meters' were born. A way for individual households to have their power supply cut remotely for a few hours even few weeks or months. Customers would blame the power company for 'screwing up', power companies might even blame 'hackers' but who would think to blame the government?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Question

        Those rolling blackouts, and power rationing, is actual policy rather than just a scare story. The European Greens support it and want it included as standard policy, so it's part of the EU's energy policy. The national green parties (German, French, Dutch etc) even have power rationing and cutoffs included as part of their manifesto commitments.

        I have contacted my power company and told them I refuse to accept the installation of a smart meter.

        1. A Known Coward

          Re: Question

          I know rolling blackouts are EU and government policy, that much is undisputed and has even been reported here on the Register, although the wider public seems to be completely oblivious.

          However I'm avoiding accusing our government of lying to us about the true purpose of smart meters, even though all evidence points to that conclusion since I don't wish to invite charges of liable from government lawyers.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Question

        No,,,, far too SMART for Government - but have a Beer for trying

    4. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Question

      If there's one thing better than having consumers buy your stuff its having governments pass laws that force those consumers to buy your stuff. Left to our own devices nobody would install a smart meter because its an expensive replacement for an already existing device that performs satisfactorily. (I know -- we have one). What it does is give the power vendor more choices in tariffs -- they can effectively 'market price' their power (which, in plain English, means 'jack the price up so they make easily as much money without having to actually supply that many watts'). They can also remotely control your power usage -- you can be cut off at a moment's notice.

      So, from a utility's perspective - and a vendor of meter's perspective -- what's not to love about these smart meters. (What's that? You're a consumer? Sorry....)

  9. teebie

    Tall buildings?

    Some of the problems that they failed to anticipated were related to the fact that sometimes buildings are tall?

    Should the work not have gone to someone who had the requisite skills to realise that the UK has multi-story buildings? Someone at least as smart as a five year old?

    1. Paul Webb

      Re: Tall buildings?

      Sorry, all the five-year olds will be employed designing a proper system.

    2. Craigness

      Re: Tall buildings?

      Do you know why height makes a difference?

  10. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    "aims to install smart meters in 100 per cent of UK homes and businesses"

    I can personally guarantee that will fail.

    A "smart" meter in my home? Over my rotting corpse.

    1. BongoJoe

      I would be curious how they are going install meters in those cottages which are off the grid.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I suppose if you're off grid then you haven't got a meter to be replaced

    2. Anonymous Coward

      ..and they can arrange that

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Only in the Bill because of some "cash for amendments" Peer.

    <profanity filter off>


    </profanity filter off>

  12. Richard149

    Have a Smart Meter, they still come and read it.

    I had a smart meter fitted a few years ago. My power supplier's meter-reader still comes to read it every so often. I ask him why last time he said "is was required by law". So I wonder where any savings will be found?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have a Smart Meter, they still come and read it.

      Think they have a legal requirement to check gas meters every 2 years on safety grounds. As for costs of Meyer reading ... when I lived in California PG&E sent someone to take a meter reading every month!

      Real scandal here though is the way firms have been rolling out smart meters before the interoperability issues have been agreed. Ovo have recently been excessively keen (weekly phone calls from Lowry-Beck) to get me to have one of their smart meters ... eventually persuaded them I was a definite no until they worked with other suppliers as well

    2. Warm Braw

      Re: Have a Smart Meter, they still come and read it.

      It also used to be the case that a meter reader would come round a street and read all the meters in one pass. Now they come out to read a few meters that relate to a particular supply company, go away and come back later to read a few more...

  13. Aqua Marina

    Sort of related question

    While we're on the topic, I'm looking at replacing my current heating controls with one of these.

    My current bill is about £500 per year, and I'm only home for about 48 out of 168 hours a week.

    Has anyone tried one of these remote apps? I'm hoping that I could make a saving by only turning on the heating, as I'm about to make my hour long trip home, and have it on when I get home, rather than the on twice daily by timer I have it now, and turning the thermostat down to 5c on days I won't be coming home.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sort of related question

      there are quite a few of these solutions around. The over hyped Applesque NEAT, Honeywell do one and so do Heatmiser. But you might be better off (cheaper) replacing your room stat with a PRT, its sort of a cross between a timer and a thermostat. You can set the time you want your heating to come on but ONLY if the temperature threshold has been met. We've got a few heatmiser ones in our house, so we have the heating to come on at 5am but only if its colder than 18 degrees. With ours you can set 4 different time periods in a day and can have different periods on different days. Not as sophisticated as net worked devices but simple and cheap to install.

    3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Sort of related question

      Nest works fine for me. A much better interface to deal with than the utterly unwieldy two on, two off or some nightmarish one-off, one-on kludge during winter particularly when you have the typical interface of 4 buttons repurposed for everything in some archaic manner. You ditch the silly idea of "heating on" and "heating off" and just set the temperature that you want, when you want it. In a particularly cold winter's night you don't really want the heating "off", you just want it at a lower level than during the day when you are around and would like to feel your fingers. The temperature is set at a target value for a particular time therefore if you want 20C at 6am in the morning and your house takes 45m to warm up to that from 12C it will turn on at 5:15am. Similarly, if the temperature is 16C and it predicts only a 30m warm up period, it'll turn on at 5:30am instead. (silly temp examples, but you get the idea)

      The auto-away option overrides the temperature to whatever you set as your minimum / frost-protect temperature and should spot when you are away or not in case you forget to turn it off. The remote app can turn the heating up and down or trigger the away option manually and if you expect to be home at, eg, 8pm you can tell the system to have it warm for you then.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sort of related question

        So in the same way that my heatmiser PRT works then!? You set a temperature value and a time range for that temperature value.

    4. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Sort of related question

      Depends on your boiler, but the better thermostats don't just tell the boiler to run at full wack and then switch off for a bit, and then on for a bit...

      The better ones measure the actual temperature compared to the set-point, and then tell the boiler to heat the water to a certain temperature. A friend has one, and during the day it only heats the water to about 28°C, so the boiler runs at about 98% efficient. Over night the temperature increases to about 55°C as the temperature drops outside and the losses from the house increase.

      Bare in mind that at full wack, the boiler can maintain the house at 20°C, with the outside at -10°C, and the outside is almost never that cold! However, this means running the water at a much higher temperature, so the boiler is much less efficient.

      Check if your boiler supports "Opentherm" and if it does, look for an opentherm thermostat.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sort of related question

        only good for gas boilers (I know that's most people) We have an oil boiler so you can't just reduce the flame, which is in effect how a gas boiler reduces the temperature its heating too. With an oil boiler you have to cycle the boiler ie turn it off an on which in itself isn't that efficient. We have a thermal store which is set to 65 degrees it holds 700l of water our oil boiler is set to heat this normally once a day for about 30 mins which is usually enough to provide a couple of good showers. The return feed to the boiler is set to 55 which is meant to be the most efficient temp for the boiler to heat.

      2. chris 17 Silver badge

        Re: Sort of related question

        if you have a Vaillant boiler look into getting the weather compensating boiler controls vr470f. This will allow the boiler to operate as efficiently as possible by varying its output according to the prevailing outside temperature in addition to maintaining the house at desired temperatures at day or night. It would be better if it allowed a greater number of temperatures to be set.

  14. Joe 48


    Do the smart meters work like one big, really flipping big, powerline adapter setup? Sending the data back over the power grid? Wonders about security......

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Curious

      Most of them are designed to use the mobile phone network to call home - an even bigger security failure.

  15. jason 7

    Another classic example of...

    ...little grey haired men chanting "It's only taxpayers money!"

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It will tell me how much power an appliance is using...

      ahhh but your 3kw heater only used 3kw at full load but you might not be running it at full load. I quite like the idea of knowing how much electric I'm using and I have bought a electricity monitor. Typically for me after I bought the fecking thing (its an ONZO) the company was bought by one of the big suppliers (can't remember which one) so the website for it was shutdown. It was pretty good and they had just introduced (in beta) an ability for the monitor to detect appliances through their usage signature using some fancy algorithm, it worked'ish, but was only beta. Anyway a while after ONZO had been bought I had an email from the energy company who bought them to ask if I wanted to beta test their new energy monitor, as I was a ONZO user, I'd be sent a monitor and details of the website to go with it. Got sent a monitor it was an ONZO! Waited and waited for the website to be launched then got an email to say the project had been binned! So I still have the monitor but all I can do with it is display my current usage and weekly total.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: It will tell me how much power an appliance is using...

      They dont seem to be particularly smart meters - unless you call them smart because it was smart of the power industry to get them allowed.

      To me a smart meter would actually tell me what the price is - not on a screen but let my home controller know so when there is a breeze blowing and the price has dropped I can work out whether to spend my money on electricity for heating (running the ground heat pump, topping up the hot water etc) but it seems I'd have to crawl under the stairs and have a look.

      It is conceivable that there will be overproduction of renewable power in the next 30 years and I'd like to be able to use it but I cant see the energy companies wanting me to know when its available.

      1. Craigness

        Re: It will tell me how much power an appliance is using...

        Tom, you'll have an "in home display" (IHD) which is a smartphone-like device which shows your usage and the current cost. No need to go under the stairs.

        On the other hand, you'll never use the IHD after the first day you get it, because you won't be bothered about saving 5p by delaying your dishwasher by an hour, but you'll be given one anyway.

        And when I say "given" I mean that the cost will be factored into your bill.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: It will tell me how much power an appliance is using...

        "They dont seem to be particularly smart meters"

        But they're still smarter than the politicos who were sold on the idea.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It will tell me how much power an appliance is using...

        Re: using"free" renewable power.

        Whilst it is possible that there will be "free" power periods in the future due to the idiotic build out of renewables, if you want to take advantage of that you'd need to be on a dynamic tariff. That would mean that you'd be paying much more for power at peak times. If you're happy to shift all your tumble dryer use from winter evenings to midday on summer then it could work for you. For the test of humanity, dynamic and time of use tariffs are an unwanted and unnecessary complexity that has no value.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It will tell me how much power an appliance is using...

      maybe we need to get Apple to "invent" the smart meter or the iSMART. We can then get their keenest advertising company, the BBC, and good old Rory Cellan-Jones to ram it down our throats and tell us how fantastic it is and better than everyone else's smart meter. Public "buys in" jobs a good un!

  17. tmagic

    installers may be busy

    "The report by the Energy and Climate Change Committee said it does "not believe" plans to install 53 million devices in homes and businesses by 2020 will be achieved."

    That's only slightly over 30 thousand meters installed per day, what's 'not believable' about that target?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Load of rubbish

    This is about a SMETS 2 meter "hub" while SMETS 1 is already in and running. They'll continue rolling out SMETS1 so by the time the deadline comes, everything will back-register anyway and they'll just say, "Well, we've put out X million smets 1, so why not stick with this?"

    No one will really have wasted that much wonga. Massive, headling-grabbing red herring IMHO.

  19. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Like ID cards before it

    I expect this plan will keep running forward until the electorate have had enough and vote in a different party which kills it dead. If there is such a party.

    It seems there is very little "delivering what people want" these days; we are simply told what we will have to put up with. But I guess that's the problem with elected dictatorships which we accept as democracies.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Privacy issues could make this an even costlier nightmare

    .............weirdly, a tin foil hat around it likely works towards privacy but at further nightmare costs.

  21. OllyL

    Capita cost increases

    as a lay person and thus not entirely up to speed on contract law, would it not be possible to hold Capita's feet to the fire and force them to abide by the contract that they presumably signed to win the business in the first place? I'm fairly sure that most organizations I sign contract with would take me to court if I failed to live up to my side of the deal (paying the bill in this instance)

    1. Craigness

      Re: Capita cost increases

      Most organizations you sign contracts with have something to lose if you didn't keep your side. When a civil servant makes a contract on your behalf they can only gain, so don't be surprised if there is a "feet and fire" clause protecting capita from any such situation.

    2. cantankerous swineherd

      Re: Capita cost increases

      as a layperson myself my understanding is that the side with the most expensive lawyers wins. hence big business always beats Joe public.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Capita cost increases

        my understanding is that the person who proposed and pushed this through would have had fingers in pies. This meant that the contract was to be in favour of the politician with sticky fingers and the company who shouldn't really have to make good on its promises.

  22. Alan Denman

    Greed of paid lobbyists ?

    the sums will never add up,

    ... already onwing a cheap Lidl wattt meter and knowing 1 click of the dial is 10 to 15p cost, the gain is exactly zero for me.

  23. Ed Mozley

    I like them!

    I had a British Gas smart meter installed a while back and the simple feature of telling me the cost of my energy on a given day has proved invaluable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I like them!

      Yes, that's why I was tempted by Ovo's offer to foot one for me. But the problem you will have is of you switch to another supplier you will probably find that much of the smart features will not transfer and you'll end up having to send in manual Meyer readings as before. That is of you can switch - clincher in my deciding definitely not to get a smart meters was an article I read of someone who'd had a transfer refused by the new supplier because they had a "non standard meter"

  24. Wolfclaw

    What Do You Expect

    Capita + UK Gov = millions wasted and arriving late, if at all !

  25. Craigness

    Network Neutrality

    In the comments on (Inter)net Neutrality nearly everyone was in favour of government controlling the way businesses operate. All of a sudden the consensus is that government can do no good and we should let the customer choose. Weird.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Network Neutrality

      No, it's a matter of praising a govt for doing the right thing and blaming them for doing the wrong thing. The only weird thing here is that you seem to be assuming govts are consistent.

  26. AndrewDu

    I have one of these silly things. It tells me nothing except the total units consumed - just like the old mechanical meter did. It does mean I don't need to have the meter read any more, but then they hardly ever turned up to do that anyway, we read it ourselves and entered the number on a web site.

    It's supposed to "help me manage my power usage". How? Nobody has told us. It does nothing for us. It probably does stuff for other people, secretly, and I am sure it can be used to cut us off if some celebs or politicians need the power and they wind ain't blowing that day. But that is all, as far as I know.

  27. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton




    It can't be true can it?

    But they never waste money like this?

  28. Adair Silver badge

    As I have said before on this subject...

    the technical word for it is 'boondoggle'. That is all we need to know.

  29. cosymart

    SMART Meter For Business

    The business I work for had an electricity SMART meter installed last November. Hurray! thought I, no more faffing about each month trying to take a reading in a dark cabinet. Contacted the supplier... "So, now that you have a SMART meter installed here you won't require monthly readings from us? Oh no we need those to continue for at least another year, as although we are rolling out these meters we don't have the software to interface it with our billing system." What!!!

  30. AJames

    Missing a major source of savings

    Here in British Columbia, Canada the local electrical utility BC Hydro told the public that they would offset part the cost of their $1 billion smart meter program by catching and shutting down more marijuana grow operations that were stealing power. They failed to explain how smart meters would help catch these illegal operators known for bypassing their electrical meters to steal power directly from the grid. Sadly their plan doesn't seem to have worked, and instead we are facing huge increases in electrical rates to pay for the smart meters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Missing a major source of savings

      " They failed to explain how smart meters would help catch these illegal operators known for bypassing their electrical meters to steal power directly from the grid. "

      It is presumed they have their own metering on various sections of their infrastructure? Subtracting all the customer meter readings from a section's supply reading would show a significant constant discrepancy if there was unmetered use for cannabis farms.

  31. JavaIsMyPoison

    Couldn't we just scrap DECC and all who sail (or sale) in her? The entire department is a waste of money...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hear, hear!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smart? Smarter than those designing them, anyway!

    We all know that that the main reason for forcing these idiot meters on us is to give the energy suppliers the ability to turn off our supply during periods of energy shortage. Trust our politicians to fail to address the future and instead blindly adopt renewables that dont work (wind) and shut down reliable generators.

    They are even building diesel power generation plants to cover up the fact that electricity shortages will arise within the next couple of years!

    As for smart meters - did you know that instead of specifying that all such meters shall talk to each other regardless of the name of the supplier-of-the-moment, BG have their own version which doesnt talk or bind to that of a different supplier? Or that unless you take dual fuel its unlikely that your gas meter will be able to bind to your gas meter? Brilliant design, eh?

    So on the one hand the government encourages us to swap suppliers to save money, while overseeing a massively expensive project at our expense to ensure that by swapping supplier their project is less likely to work?

    God save us from politicians who know so little as to be very dangerous.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Smart? Smarter than those designing them, anyway!

      "the ability to turn off our supply during periods of energy shortage"

      The last time a government tried that, the public turned round and switched off the government's oxygen (vote) supply. With our increased reliance (and addiction) to electrically powered toys, I'd be amazed if any government could introduce rolling blackouts and win the following election.

      If these blackouts are expected to start before 2020, perhaps no-one actually *wants* to win this year's election.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smart Meter or Smart Monitor?

    Please forgive my ignorance, but like the majority who consume energy - my relationship/contract is directly with the supplier, and most of the the new devices only seem to track usage and put the onus on the consumer to improve efficiency. IMHO, these devices generally act as 'Smart Monitors' and fairly dumb when it comes to reporting usage back to HQ:

    A *true* Smart Meter relies on the new favourite buzzword i.e. M2M. In this case, it uses a HAN (Home Area Network) in licence exempt spectrum at 2.4GHz and 863-870MHz, which in turn communicates with DCC and everyone else that requires the information via WAN - as stated in this document:

    Although, It is easy to understand their obsession with white elephant projects and declare them to be altruistic. However, for the government to insert themselves in the middle of a traditional model, where they don't belong, and use the Smart Meter as a conduit to gather more information is a completely different matter.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    several years of dicking around and mushrooming costs

    but finally a clearer picture: Capita.

  35. Archaon

    Bill cutting

    'Capita, which runs the Data Communications Company (DCC) responsible for rolling out the programme, has also said "there is no feasible way to maintain the time-scales".'

    Forgive me for being cynical but doesn't this translate to "We under-bid for the contract and now we can't complete the contract on the allocated timescales...". I'm surprised that somehow there wasn't a follow up of "...Without additional government funding".

    In more general terms, save energy by plugging in something that's always on and always uses power. Frakking genius. If it ran for 5 years on a CR2032 then fine, but it doesn't.

  36. Colin Miller

    Over what time scale?

    Over what timescale will the £17 billion level of saving be realised?

    There are 26 million households in the UK, according to the 2011 census. If the saving is per household, per year, then that's £654 per household, which is clearly bollocks.

    The UK's total annual electricity consumption is 330 billion kWh (in 2010). Electricity generators get paid £0.09 per kWh on average, households pay around £0.13 per kWh. At £0.09 per kWh, the UK's total electricity bill is £29.7 billion. The £17 billion saving is 57% of that. Again the stated amount of money saved is bollocks.

    I have ignored gas costs, because (1) I don't have the price or consumption values, and (2) a good chunk of the the gas consumed in the UK is used to generate electricity, which leads to double-counting.

  37. theOtherJT


    Everyone keep quiet! If they keep this up the way it is, none of us will ever have to pay for our 'leccy again! We can just shift it onto next door's bill ;)

  38. JaitcH

    Leading Edge Techology? No, incompetent users.

    This stuff has been around for YEARS. Everyone is making SoC for the business.

    One good thing, MESH radio can be hacked, so you can make like a meter and send encrypted messages - FREE!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It certainly won't be achieved, especially as suppliers and metering company's are installing digital meters and not smart meters in new builds and meter replacements.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hated smart meters?

    I absolutely love my smart meter.

    It's saved me a fair whack of cash by virtue of the fact I can simply log on via an app and change / turn on / turn off the temperature as I require, which allows me to react to on-the-fly situations such as getting caught at work, not coming back that night, etc.

    The Hive app also gives me a whacking 12 time slots to configure how I please - that was more than any standard wall mounted controller that I could find for a reasonable price.

    For a tech website, I have no idea why some people are so against taking up this technology. I have changed my energy usage as a direct result of the display that shows how much my current consumption is costing me - and having just come back from a week abroad when I forgot to turn off the heating, not a problem, I just did it via the app whereas before, tough-titty, a week of a warm house for the benefit of no-one except the energy company.

    Long and short of it - I use the Greenhomes Cashback scheme for a new boiler, fought hard with British Gas, got a superb deal including three years of mid-level maintenance for free, and the scheme gave me my upgraded meter and all the pizazz that went with it.

    It really cost me nothing. I am now paying far less on my energy bills, and my yearly savings projected and past are coming in at over £250 so far.

    What's not to like?

    1. A Known Coward

      Re: Hated smart meters?

      Err, what you're describing is not a smart meter, it's a thermostat, entirely different piece of kit.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only a matter of time

    Since the very first announcement of this its only been a matter of time before this was announced. Perhaps we should just cut the crap in future and just hand our money straight over to the already undeservingly rich and just miss out the 'death of a thousand cuts' shenanigans.

  42. ispose

    My smart meter is in the bottom of a dusty cupboard - interesting for about 10 seconds, then it gets boring trying to work out which appliance is using energy, very boring. Adds no value at all, none. Even a marketing exec acquaintance mentioned they measure success of installation in TTC - time to cupboard. Nothing will make me plug this in again ever. I cannot tucking believe that we are paying 10billion pounds for this nonsense. Does anyone know if there's a feedback process on consumer satisfaction? I am writing to my MP with one hand as I type this with my middle finger.

  43. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    It's not actually intended to be a workable policy..

    ..It said the policy problems "are symptomatic of a national programme that the government has left largely to suppliers and failed to drive forward effectively".....

    'The government' had no idea of what Smart Meters were, of what they might be used for. They were just told by lobbyists that 'Smart' meant 'Good', and that 'demand control' was a good green thing. No one said that 'Demand Control' meant turning off people's electricity supply when it was convenient for the suppliers, rather than investing in more power generation.

    However, I don't think there is any concern about delivering these things on time, or at all. The lobbyists argued for loads of taxpayers money to be spent - politicians started becoming directors of firms that profited, and the money rolled in. They just want to keep money rolling in - the last thing they want to do is deliver and kill the goose laying the golden eggs....

  44. veti Silver badge


    UK consumers currently spend more than 100 billion pounds a year on electricity. It follows that if the meters save 2%, they'll pay for themselves in five years.

    Is it asking too much for a technical news site to dig up a few basic facts and figures before posting flamebait drivel? Apparently.

    Smart meters are a solved problem. This isn't string theory. What's missing in the UK's electricity industry is a central co-ordinating agency responsible for handling meter reads.

    What happens in Australia is: meter readers have their own service areas, where they collect all the reads (regardless of what retailer each household is signed up with), they forward those to a central hub, and the hub then forwards the reads to the retailers responsible for each individual site. (Which means: if you switch suppliers, the guy who comes round and reads your meter - is exactly the same bloke, coming on the same day he always would.)

    Rollout of smart meters in Victoria is well past the 50% mark already, and for the average consumer, it's done nothing but good. (Want to move house? Getting a meter read for the day you move used to cost you $50; with a smart meter, it's $15.) Meanwhile, the horror stories about malicious hacking, abuse of data, soaking people in radiation... have yet to be observed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Context...

      You seem to have missed the entire point of the article; the frontlash is against the government, who have decided to become some sort of 'central hub' by driving a project, which is funded by the taxpayer involving unrealistic time-scales and dubious reasons with no tangible benefits.

      The matter of metering utilities, regardless of any issues or costs should stay between the supplier and the consumer.

      As for your bed of roses story that all is well in the world of Smart Meters, you might want to take a few minutes and read between the lines:

  45. Anonymous Coward

    Not every supplier appears keen

    I recently swapped gas & leccy from from two suppliers to EDF, they said "Do you wnat a SMART meter?" I said "no" and they replied (literally) "Right Oh, no problemo" - maybe cause they are French?

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