back to article Millions of smart meters will brick it when 2G and 3G turns off

A gaggle of MPs are calling for the UK government to put together a timetable for the replacement of millions upon millions of smart meters that will be defunct when 2G and 3G mobile networks in Britain are switched off. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) comprised of cross-party MPs penned a report to update the rollout of …

  1. Paul Smith
    FAIL

    No corruption here.

    Not only will nobody loose their job over this, but I expect everybody involved to still receive their full bonus.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No corruption here.

      Not sure too many people got bonuses for this. Energy suppliers didn't want them, and didn't want to be responsible for the roll out. Government ignored them, because like so many bad ideas it has a "supports net zero!" sticker on the business case.

      The fundamental problem was that government picked smart meters as a winning technology. In the mind of those who conceived this, the world was going to be full of "prosumers" who both produced electricity and consumed it, and smart meters would enable the payments for microgeneration as well as charging for consumption, it would fit well with a world where energy prices decreased when the sun came out, or went up when the wind stopped blowing. The fact that most people don't want erratic energy prices that fluctuate according to time of day, time of year and prevailing weather mattered not.

      The actual benefits to most consumers are precisely nil, and yet government still insists that this stupid idea is generating billions of pounds in consumer benefits. I've worked in senior strategy roles for a couple of energy suppliers, you don't think I gave up my mechanical meters, did you?

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: No corruption here.

        The "net zero" is just an excuse, just like "think of the children" when they push for Online Safety Bill.

        The goal of these things is plain and simple mass surveillance. They want to know where people are at all times, what they talk about etc. and they want tools to enforce obedience.

        Did you tell your friend that you dislike the party? No hot water for you and your friend tonight.

        Etc.

        1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

          Re: No corruption here.

          If one were to believe the propaganda adverts surrounding them, then these things magically make your appliances use less electricity, whilst also miraculously turning coal and gas-fired power stations into some sort of fantastical zero-pollution infinite energy generating factories.

          I know this to be true, because they've got someone doing a poor impression of Albert Einstein in them, and a really funny gag about time machines. Chortle.

          Meanwhile, the bullshit-o-meter is spinning so fast, that could be used to generate electricity itself...

          1. blackcat Silver badge

            Re: No corruption here.

            Most of the adverts do say that user action is required.

            1. PB90210 Bronze badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              The ads NOW say user action is required

              (I'm guessing ASA mandated)

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: No corruption here.

              what action?

              stop what I'm doing?

              turn shit off that needs to be on?

              sit in the dark?

              not sure the fuckers who decided on this live in the real world!

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: No corruption here.

                No, turn off the stuff that does no tneed to be on

                1. iron Silver badge

                  Re: No corruption here.

                  > No, turn off the stuff that does no tneed to be on

                  So what should I turn off? The fridge? The freezer? The computer I'm using? Or the two lights that are on in rooms where there are people atm?

                  I know all the devices in use in my house and they are only used when needed. A shit "smart" meter will not chnage that in any way.

                  I would only gain one advantage by fitting a smart meter.... EDF might stop calling at 8am every Saturday trying to persuade me to fit a smart meter.

                  1. Tron Silver badge

                    Re: No corruption here.

                    Agreed. These things have no value whatsoever. The cost of energy keeps usage down, and it is only going to be going up in the future. They are an utterly pointless waste of time. People being badgered and bullied to fit one has been a disgrace. This money should have been used for other things.

                    1. SuperGeek

                      Re: No corruption here.

                      The only good thing I see out of the whole fiasco is that you don't have to do manual meter readings, or have a bloke knocking on your door every so often for access if your meter cabinet is behind a locked gate, as ours was to stop vandals. Everything else, from the failed over budget rollout, to the proprietary smart meters that don't work with all providers, is shite...

                      1. therealmav

                        Re: No corruption here.

                        Where do you live, 1985? I don’t think I’ve seen a meter reading chap since forever.

                        Anyway, does anyone really think that the operators are going to manage to provide a ubiquitous, always available service using 4, 5 or 6G by 2033. Will they bollocks.

                        1. heyrick Silver badge

                          Re: No corruption here.

                          Before a smart meter was installed here, the meter reader came by twice a year and it was mandatory that he physically laid eyes on the meter at least once a year (or you'd have to reschedule a visit at a time that suits you at your own expense).

                          What I don't get, and something that shows things are still very corrupt in the industry, is why the companies insist on continuing with fantasy debits (if paying by direct debit) when there's a meter telling them in exact detail how much you're consuming day by day. Why is this not illegal?

                          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                            Re: No corruption here.

                            why the companies insist on continuing with fantasy debits (if paying by direct debit) when there's a meter telling them in exact detail how much you're consuming day by day.

                            I moved into a new house (modern, well-insulated), which already had a "smart" meter, so no choice for me there. It being a new house I keep a close eye on consumption for both gas & electricity, so I know exactly what we use in a year. Didn't stop British Gas increasing the DD to what they assumed I used based on the size of the house. Fortunately it also didn't stop me logging into my BG account and putting the monthly DD back to what I knew it should be.

                            1. SweetDreams

                              Re: No corruption here.

                              https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/experts/article-5085737/Can-smart-meter-removed.html

                              1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

                                Re: No corruption here.

                                That is a Daily Mail website, so I now doubt the existence of smart meters and indeed electricity.

                          2. FIA Silver badge

                            Re: No corruption here.

                            Before a smart meter was installed here, the meter reader came by twice a year and it was mandatory that he physically laid eyes on the meter at least once a year (or you'd have to reschedule a visit at a time that suits you at your own expense).

                            Not sure about that. A friend works for BG, he reckons every 2 to 3 years is mandatory. What do you mean by 'your own expense'? They can't charge you for gaining access, although you are legally obliged to give them access, but they have to work around you.

                            I had a meter at an old flat that they kept trying to come round and read, but I was at work so they never did. (I kept leaving messages telling them I was available on a Saturday). It took them about 6 years to finally get round when I was in.

                            My current house has never had the gas meter read as far as I know (the elec is available to them so may have been). I just send them readings every so often, it's all good.

                            What I don't get, and something that shows things are still very corrupt in the industry, is why the companies insist on continuing with fantasy debits (if paying by direct debit) when there's a meter telling them in exact detail how much you're consuming day by day. Why is this not illegal?

                            It's a difficult one this. You have every right to pay exactly what you use, and if you can be arsed, you can do what a friend used to do. Set the DD at 5 pounds a month so you get the discount and then just pay the balance every month as needed. They'll pester you to death if you do though, so it's probably not worth it.

                            However, most people prefer a constant monthly payment (hence building up credit in the summer) and in the before times when things didn't change every 5 minutes the utility companies basically got this right (or at least mine did). Now if you object to them making money of your interest you do need to chase them up more.

                            I'm not sure it should be illegal to have this as an option though. I'd personally rather subsidise my winter bills with summer as I have xmas to pay for in winter. :)

                            1. heyrick Silver badge

                              Re: No corruption here.

                              I don't live in the UK, so different rules. Still smart meters using GPRS though..

                              "At your own expense" means you'll need to make an appointment that will be billed as a domestic call-out.

                              Basically for telephone and 'leccy, network faults are their problem and get fixed for free, faults on your premises are your problem and you'll get billed for visits; reading an actual meter hanging in the distribution box is definitely on your property...

                            2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                              Re: No corruption here.

                              Not sure about that. A friend works for BG, he reckons every 2 to 3 years is mandatory

                              We haven't had a meter reader visit our current house since we moved in in 1997..

                              1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

                                Re: No corruption here.

                                My last physical meter reading was in 2011

                            3. Martin-73 Silver badge

                              Re: No corruption here.

                              They've not sent a meter reader to our place for 10+ years.... i've informed eon multiple times the meter and main fuse are unsealed (I'm a sparky, i could reseal it but not my place to do it)... they don't bother turning up

                              1. Kistelek

                                Re: No corruption here.

                                Your DNO is responsible for the supply fuse, not your electricity supplier. Ring them. They'll be out sharpish.

                            4. Dacarlo

                              Re: No corruption here.

                              "building up credit in the summer"

                              I spent more this summer due to keeping the Aircon on most days. So err yeah...

                            5. Kistelek

                              Re: No corruption here.

                              Octopus do variable direct debit. I pay the what I've used every month and I get the DD discount.

                          3. TonyHoyle

                            Re: No corruption here.

                            > Before a smart meter was installed here, the meter reader came by twice a year and it was mandatory that he physically laid eyes on the meter at least once a year (or you'd have to reschedule a visit at a > time that suits you at your own expense).

                            It's still a requirement that a meter reader physically sees the meter once a year, even if you have a smart meter.

                            1. Wellyboot Silver badge

                              Re: No corruption here.

                              Would this annual inspection be in any way a safety inspection, with obvious liability issues should it not be undertaken?

                          4. SweetDreams

                            Re: No corruption here.

                            They make their money by holding your overpayment by direct debit in a bank at very favourable interest rates, yet when they refund you the excess they dont refund you the interest they accumulated.

                            1. Patrician

                              Re: No corruption here.

                              And it takes up to ten working days too.

                        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                          Re: No corruption here.

                          "Where do you live, 1985? I don’t think I’ve seen a meter reading chap since forever."

                          Where do you live, 2285? We get the meter reader chap around at least once per year. How else do you think they get the readings? Trust the user to tell the truth on a web form or phone call every time in the "firm knowledge" no one else will ever come out and check? Or have you a working, fully functional "smart meter"?

                        3. Colonel Mad

                          Re: No corruption here.

                          Ours still comes round about every 6 months

                        4. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

                          Re: No corruption here.

                          I had one come around five or six years ago. He was just checking that I wasn't fudging the numbers.

                          Since then I've been scrupulously honest - yes, I was before then, too :) - and their computers haven't queried my numbers as outliers.

                          Every so often they even reduce my direct debits [or they used to before the latest couple of years] due to me overpaying them. I don't suppose

                          that's going to happen very often in the future?

                      2. JohnMurray

                        Re: No corruption here.

                        You jest?

                        Nobody ever read the meter, they just sent an estimated bill and never told you it was estimated!

                        I got a bill for over £500 once, when the real bill was only £40!

                      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                        Re: No corruption here.

                        that you don't have to do manual meter readings

                        Which takes me 2 minutes - open meter hatch, take picture of electric and gas meter with my phone, put readings in on the website.

                        Also means I have the historical meter readings if the energy company queries them.

                        1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

                          Re: No corruption here.

                          My taking photos involves me getting down on the floor and wriggling into the cabinet under the stairs with a digital camera, easier than the smart phone, taking a few shots then wrigging backwards until out then trying to get up - not so easy these days.

                        2. SweetDreams

                          Re: No corruption here.

                          So much easier than debating with morons over the phone when they overcharge you and claim the "Computer never Lies"

                      4. SweetDreams

                        Re: No corruption here.

                        Well if you're confident that the meter provides correct readings!! in the first place.

                        Even the meter suppliers admit that their meters arent accurate.

                        There are lots of well reported stories indicating their bug-iness. Do you really want the hassle when and if it happens to you?

                        1. Terje

                          Re: No corruption here.

                          The Energy meters are accurate as to the accuracy class they are specified to be, for domestic usually 0.5 or 0.2%

                          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                            Re: No corruption here.

                            Yep, we have several customers who've queried the accuracy of the meter, the usual reaction is to install a check meter... they're always in agreement to within that spec... [of course the main meter will be reading the voltage sense and power consumption of the check meter, but that's usually very VERY minimal]

                          2. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

                            Re: No corruption here.

                            Except when it turns out they aren't. How does "over reads by 600%" sound ?

                            That's not because they are (so called) "smart", but due to poor design of electronic measuring vs a Ferraris disk when faced with a non-sinusoidal load current. But of course, you aren't going to get a "smart" meter with a Ferraris disk for measurement.

                  2. cyberdemon Silver badge
                    Devil

                    Re: No corruption here.

                    > So what should I turn off? The fridge? The freezer? The computer I'm using? Or the two lights that are on in rooms where there are people atm?

                    > I know all the devices in use in my house and they are only used when needed. A shit "smart" meter will not chnage that in any way.

                    Before the smart meter nonsense, many companies (including EDF as it happens) provided devices that would simply monitor the current consumption (with a little current clamp that you could fit yourself around the meter tail) through the day and inform the householder how much 'leccy, in Watts and kWh (or "Pounds and Pence", if you input your rate) they are using.

                    They were not connected to anything, and served a vaguely educational purpose for people wondering relatively how much each appliance used.

                    How are Smart Meters, with their pernicious surveillance backchannel, remote-disconnection contactor, and locked-down firmware, any better than those devices, from the consumer's point of view?

                    They are not, whatsoever.

                    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                      Re: No corruption here.

                      But we still get the abject idiots that believe that magically, these "smart" meters can somehow tell us which devices in our homes are using the most electricity. I've even had some muppet tell me that I had no idea what I was talking about because of course they can do that, as that's why they are sold.

                      No, they are sold to prevent the need for a person to have to read a meter in person and to provide remote disconnect functionality. They do nothing for the consumer at all other than an almost totally unusable interface that half shows some incorrect prices and some usage figures which don't mean anything at all.

                      Have our utility bills gone down as a result of having a smart meter installed? No.

                      In the meantime I've had a year of a supplier requesting a meter reading, which is near impossible to take because the physical device's interface was designed by an abject moron as well as trying to have as few buttons as possible requiring each of the few buttons to have many and varied, and utterly inconsistent, actions. The initial reading was taken using their remote reader, but somehow they forgot that I had one and started using estimated bills rather than use what they had already used.

                      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

                        Re: No corruption here.

                        Not employing a body to go around reading meters is just a happy extra saving.

                        Tariffs that can change the Kw/h cost every half hour make it nigh on impossible for the consumer to complain when they don't know what the rate will be in 30 mins time even if they do check the several thousand data points every quarter.

                    2. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: No corruption here.

                      “Before the smart meter nonsense, many companies (including EDF as it happens) provided devices that would simply monitor the current consumption (with a little current clamp that you could fit yourself around the meter tail) through the day and inform the householder how much 'leccy, in Watts and kWh (or "Pounds and Pence", if you input your rate) they are using.”

                      Yep that’s what I told the woman who called……

                      I said nope one of your competitor firms sent me a meter that uses a clamp on the incoming cable to measure the amount used. Oh no she replies that can't tell you what you've used in actual money, you need a smart meter for that. I countered that it most certainly did and to do that it required me to add in my unit rate in the setup to be accurate, but pointed out that could easily be found on my bill. I said It was accurate enough for me thank you for asking.

                      I gave her the model number of the meter and the clamp which she said she'd investigate….

                    3. Martin-73 Silver badge

                      Re: No corruption here.

                      As I've mentioned many times, the remote disconnection thingy WILL be regarded by yours truly as a fault. If my volt stick tells me the supply is live, but the outgoing side is NOT, out comes the smart meter to be replaced by a meter I have which is calibrated.

                  3. Mr_Pitiful
                    IT Angle

                    Wanna Bet?

                    How much will you bet me that EDF won't call you to have one fitted - even though you are looking at the stupid thing!

                    My parents have had 'smart' meter for over 10 years, it's never worked and their bills are exactly the same as in ~2004/5 I think maybe £30 p/m difference can't remember

                    They were plagued with calls from EDF 'to get a smart meter' Yes that occasional 8am Sunday call was a bugger!

                    1. SweetDreams

                      Re: Wanna Bet?

                      Yes ive had those calls too, the moron on the other end implying that I was legally obliged to have one. When in fact I wasnt.

                    2. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: Wanna Bet?

                      I spent 9 months pestering EDF to install a smart meter! I didn't really want one as I would have been happy to continue sending them six monthly readings myself (haven't seen a meter reader for several years). The problem was that they wouldn't accept the readings I was giving them last year - since we had solar panels fitted, the meter was running backwards most of the time*. EDF continued with estimated readings. They eventually conceded and installed one and then accepted th final reading taken by their engineer. Because their system couldn't process a negative reading, they cancelled all readings for the previous two years (back to when the meter read less than the final reading) and made some ongoing estimates of usage. Our house has no gas and we have a second meter for heating and hot water, on a lower rate (<rant> the lower rate is three times the kWh cost for gas and, even though EDF claim all their electricity is renewable, I'm penalised for not generating CO2</rant>)! Those readings were also adjusted and, whilst they bore limited resemblance to reality, the overall cost to me what in line with my own calculations and I got a decent refund.

                      As others say, the smart meter makes no difference to our usage - we'd already cut out unnecessary use - the remote readout sits in our garage. As well as now giving a more accurate reading of our actual usage, it means we get paid for what we export (~20% of what we pay for what we import, but better than nothing).

                      * I did consider saying nothing about the meter running backwards and sending in fictitious readings every six months - small increments that kept my bill down but enough to keep their computer happy. In reality, the increased winter usage would probably have just offset the summer export, so my net usage would have been quite small, meaning a very small bill (negating the differential between export and import rates). But I doubt that would have gone unnoticed for long and submitting false readings wouldn't have been taken lightly. As it stands, the hike in electricity prices means the cost of my panels will be recouped quicker.

                  4. Duncan10101

                    Re: No corruption here.

                    Actually, it can make quite a difference.

                    Firstly, don't get me wrong- I think installing a dedicated "Smart meter" is a dumb move ... it could so easily have been a phone app, and therefore massively cheaper and also immune to the issues that this story is about.

                    But looking beyond that ... I've installed solar at my home, with photovoltaics, battery and inverter. It comes with a monitoring app, of course. It's amazing how quickly you learn where all your power is going. You get a very clear picture of which devices are low-energy and which are gas-guzzlers. I had a load of lights that I thought were LED, but somehow were power-slurpers. I've ended-up making lots of small changes, all of which are informed by the power measurement, and my consumption has gone down quite a bit.

                    YMMV, of course :)

                    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                      Re: No corruption here.

                      and my consumption has gone down quite a bit

                      Mine has gone up a bit - probably something to do with the Dell server with 8 4TB drives being added into the acoustic case :-)

                      On the plus side, the upstairs is now even more noticably warmer than before. Which will be useful when we have the air-source heat pump installed in a months time (all the 1997-era radiators are being replaced as is the hot water tank. So, no heating (potentially) for the duration of the install except for the lounge gas fire downstairs and the servers upstairs! (And the 3 dogs and 5 cats)

                      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                        Re: No corruption here.

                        the air-source heat pump installed in a months time (all the 1997-era radiators are being replaced as is the hot water tank.

                        I was under the impression that those old, large radiators and the larger pipes were better for air sourced heat pumps as the water temp is lower so pumping larger volumes through larger pipes to larger rads for a larger but cooler thermal mass is more efficient than tiny micro-bore pipes to relatively small, thin radiators. Properly insulating the pipes in areas where the heat would be "lost" is good, and almost certainly a better, well insulated hot water tank is good too. Or I could just be blowing hot air :-)

                        1. Mike Pellatt

                          Re: No corruption here.

                          1997-era could be microbore. Just sayin'.

                          Neither is 1997 so long ago that those school-style cast iron radiators were the default install.

                          1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

                            Re: No corruption here.

                            >>1997-era could be microbore. Just sayin'.

                            2002 era could be microbore as well!

                            My house, built in 2002, is an unholy hybrid - all the rads are on microbore going back to 15mm copper which goes back to 22mm (IIRC - I may be being generous there) and, as far as I can tell, the rad installer failed to do any heat loss calculations to determine rad sizing vs expected flow rate/ ΔT. For example a 10mx4mx2.4m attic room with two rads - one at either end - is fairly chilly in the winter when we have the heating running, despite reasonable insulation given the volume of the room is about 3x that of a normal room two rads definitely (by my rule of thumb) will not be enough without the added handicap of microbore. The room is about 9m above the boiler as well, so microbore makes sooooo much sense.

                            Whoever decided microbore heating was a Good IdeaTM needs to give their own head a wobble - preferably until it falls off.

                        2. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

                          Re: No corruption here.

                          They were probably smaller* radiators. Design back then was for fairly high temperatures, a flow temperature of 70 or 80˚C would not be uncommon. With high water temperatures, you need a smaller* radiator to get the heat out. With lower flow temperatures, you need a much bigger* radiator in order to get the same heat out with a much lower temperature differential.

                          * smaller and larger not necessarily in size, but in heat transfer surface. E.g. for the same size panel, adding finning increases the surface area, going to a double panel with finning on both will give more heat that either a single panel or a double panel with either no finning or finning only on one of them without adding much to the physical size (just a bit thicker).

                  5. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

                    Re: No corruption here.

                    I bet you're not even with EDF!

                  6. Martin-73 Silver badge

                    Re: No corruption here.

                    Tell them mais non

                  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                    Re: No corruption here.

                    EDF might stop calling at 8am every Saturday trying to persuade me to fit a smart meter

                    That's easy to deal with:

                    "You're calling me because I'm an EDF customer?"

                    "Yes"

                    So if I cease to be an EDF customer you won't call me?"

                    "No"

                    "That can be arranged."

                  8. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

                    Re: No corruption here.

                    Two disadvantages at a minimum:

                    1: the "smart" meter needs power to drive its display and its communications with the world and the little tablet thingy;

                    2: the little tablet thingy will need to be charged or connected to the mains or it will run out of juice and not "help";

                    how is this "saving energy"?

                2. JimboSmith Silver badge

                  Re: No corruption here.

                  I don't have unnecessary stuff on because it costs money, what I have on is what I need. Therefore turning anything off could be hazardous to my health such as the fridge/freezer or the boiler I watch TV in the dark I have eco mode on that all, my bulbs are LED of Compact fluorescent etc. my outdoor lighting including the security lights is solar powered.

                  1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
                    Big Brother

                    Re: No corruption here.

                    The plan is to give you something else that consumes electricity but is pointless. So turning off pointless things then includes the smart meter's display unit.

                    Simples

                    1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

                      Re: No corruption here.

                      The smart meter display device also came with batteries, which lasted 3 days......

                      1. Barrie Shepherd

                        Re: No corruption here.

                        So the countries usage of AA batteries increases by tens of millions to keep the smart meter display working

                    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                      Re: No corruption here.

                      It does make one wonder if all those tiny extra watt hours of consumption multiplied by many millions of smart meters actually use more or less than the power they may save by educating some users to remember to switch off stuff they are not using and whether that is an ever diminishing return.

                      Not to mention the push to replace and scrap still serviceable mechanical meters with "new digital" meters long before their EOL and all that extra energy usage in producing them and polluting diesel vans driving around by the installers replacing perfectly good and working meters.

                      1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

                        Re: No corruption here.

                        And don't forget that the service life of these new meters is shorter than the old ones they replaced. That's especially so for the gas meters that are now battery powered. So before they've finished rolling out the new meters, they'll already be replacing the older ones - and that's leaving aside the issue of replacing the ones that have stopped working, stopped when changing supplier, etc., etc.

                3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                  Re: No corruption here.

                  Good afternoon, 30p Lee.

                  That's up there along with "If you want to save money, spend less",or other brain-dead government ideas like "get a better paid job"

                  1. SweetDreams

                    Re: No corruption here.

                    Better still dont pay tax...

                4. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

                  Re: No corruption here.

                  I think more "Redundancy for the staff we won't need any more" tbh. I know people who worked their entire lives as meter operatives, and despite the rates getting worse and worse, they're still above minimum wage after bonuses. All that cash could go to the CEO and shareholders instead! Cah-ching!

              2. Rick Deckard

                Re: No corruption here.

                They most certainly do....but don't have to do any of the above ..

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: No corruption here.

                  "They most certainly do....but don't have to do any of the above .."

                  Who is this a reply to? They most certainly do what?

              3. Dacarlo

                Re: No corruption here.

                The same fuckers who don't need to think about the cost of turning things on.

            3. steviebuk Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              Including unplugging the monitor display device. They decided to issue ones with the shittist batteries ever so if you want to view it, it needs to be plugged in all the fucking time. Not saving much. Always said they were aloud of bollocks but my partner said we should get it as they were "offering it free" just as covid kicked in.

          2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: No corruption here.

            Hopefully the Tories will get in at the next election and save us from the years of this woke Corbynist government

            1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              I think some people's irony detectors might be broken there, judging from the down-votes you have gathered. Either that, or the three remaining El Reg readers who still vote Tory took exception.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: No corruption here.

                I assumed the reg's Tories were the ones upvoting

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: No corruption here.

                  There can't really be 15 of the dumb turkeys on here?

            2. SweetDreams

              Re: No corruption here.

              Arent they just the same as Labour and the Lib Dems.

              We have Rishi who is New Labour self Identifying as Tory..

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No corruption here.

            Reply Icon

            Re: No corruption here.

            Someone had to tell me that was supposed to be Mr Einstein because I didn't have a clue. I was contacted by my energy supplier and asked when I would like the smart meter reserved for me installed. I acted all shocked and said that I hadn't reserved one and was very sorry if someone else who wanted one had missed out. I then carried straight on with wondering out loud into the phone how I could have accidentally reserved one.I didn't call them and I don't use the web so it wasn't that.........

            Girl on the other end quickly explains that it was reserved for me by them and that I wasn't to blame. She asked when I would like it installed and explained that I would be able to see how much I had used in £ etc. I said I already had a meter that did that and she was flumoxed for a second and said you have a smart meter already?

            I said nope one of your competitor firms sent me a meter that uses a clamp on the incoming cable to measure the amount used. Oh no she replies that can't tell you what you've used in actual money, you need a smart meter for that. I countered that it most certainly did and to do that it required me to add in my unit rate in the setup to be accurate, but pointed out that could easily be found on my bill. I said It was accurate enough for me thank you for asking.

            I gave her the model number of the meter and the clamp which she said she'd investigate and they have largely left me alone. That is except for a letter saying they'd be in my area on a particular week, still had spaces and did I want to benefit from this. As I was away on holiday when the letter arrived, the week had already passed and I was still not in the mood I ignored it.

            1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              Reminds me of a few years ago when I was called at least once a week by a firm who would be "in your area looking at solar panel installation and would you like a visit". When I finally agreed they got their local rep to call who asked me what I knew about solar panels - big mistake on their part

              1. Mike Pellatt

                Re: No corruption here.

                Yeah, I love that sort of sales call.

                In the early 1980s I let a double glazing salesdroid into the house. He tried to tell me that most of the dust in the house comes in from outside through gaps in the windows which double glazing would fix.

                I did enjoy telling him that most of it would actually be dead cells off our skin, and reducing draughts wouldn't really fix that, would it?

                Now, living in a thatched place so we get loads of insects, spider poo becomes quite the issue, too :-). That, and dried mud off the dogs..... No longer living near the M25 does, at least, stop all the dust being stuck together with gluey black stuff from the diesel exhaust PM (OK, that does come in from the outside)

                1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                  Re: No corruption here.

                  That's one of those old tales that's just wrong. While dust does contain some skin and hair, the much larger proportion comes from fabrics.

            2. Dr Dan Holdsworth
              WTF?

              Re: No corruption here.

              That sounds like the time British Gas tried calling me, wanting to install insulation in the cavity walls of my Victorian terraced house. Feigning great enthusiasm with the idea I agreed to all proposals, then innocently asked how they proposed to install the cavity in the solid stone walls.

              This caused a very long pause during which the salesthing was obviously trying very hard not to swear, after which they wished me a nice day and rang off.

          5. SweetDreams

            Re: No corruption here.

            The whole point with "Smart" meters is that the ultimate goal is to charge you the "Spot" price of electricity and gas.

            Whilst the energy companies hedge the prices of electricity and gas years inadvance, when enough people have them installed then they will charge you the "Spot" or current market price for those commodiities.

            As was the case in the US where customers were seeing $9000 monthly gas bills as their bills followed the "Spot" price.

            They can also swap you over to a higher tariff based pre-payment without having to get a court order to do so, which is the normal.

            You are not legally compelled to have a smart meter and you can legally refuse to have one.

            1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              You do know that the spot-price energy companies in the States all got completely hosed when prices spiked, no? You’re right that customers were sent $9000 bills.. but the vast majority of those customers didn’t pay them, and the companies had no financial cushion because they were running at tiny, tiny margins over the wholesale energy prices - next stop: bankruptcy. That experiment has ended, nobody is going to back a repeat of this “brilliant disruptive idea”.

              No electricity supplier can switch a customer who is in good standing onto any plan without their consent. If you’re in the position where a forced transfer to pre-pay is on the cards, the alternative is disconnection. Currently, the process is disconnection, with reconnection dependent on moving to pre-payment. What smart metering does is allow pre-payment to be far cheaper than it is at present: the current extortionate rates are “justified” by utilities citing higher equipment and account management costs: with a smart meter providing accurate readings, most of those costs evaporate. The rest requires a government that’s willing to regulate suppliers, but I guess you’re writing from the UK, so sorry, old bean... all too busy on the important things, to wit [checks notes] kicking trans kids and refugees and fighting “woke”.

              Look, if there’s a “conspiracy” around smart meters, it’s about energy companies trying to avoid paying a few million pounds a year in salaries for people to go and read meters, and then have to run estimated bills anyway, and deal with customer complaints afterwards. Real-time metering is also necessary to implement home-generation feed-in tariffs.

              Still, at least you didn’t claim they cause cancer...

              1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

                Re: No corruption here.

                The suppliers that got hosed failed because they were clueless. What they should have done was forward contract for supplies at the prices they needed - and only sold at that plus their profit margin. Same thing happened here in the UK - many suppliers went bust because they'd sold long term fixed prices, but not done the same thing on their supply side - they gambled and lost. Others got it right and are still in business.

                As to switching customers, agreed it shouldn't happen. Do a quick search and you'll find plenty of stories of people getting switched to pre-pay without even knowing thanks to the remote switching ability. It was so bad that Ofgem had to effectively tell the energy companies to stop doing it at all. In one article, IIRC the supplier did a phone call hearing with the judge, and in under 2 minutes he rubber stamped something like 300 warrants. Many people have found their lights going out because their credit has run out, but they didn't know they were on pre-pay, and couldn't sort things out - think (for many people), no lecky = no internet, no internet = no ability to go online and sort out the online account stuff that's needed for top ups. And for many people, no lecky = no phone so they can't phone their supplier either.

        2. Fred Daggy Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: No corruption here.

          I would replace "mass surveillance" with "mass monetisation". Governments just aren't that smart and reeks of conspiracy theorists.

          Money, on the other hand. Now, that's a strong incentive. Not just in being able to manage electricity generation and purchase, but selling the punters usage data. And, based on micro changes to the power used, time that different devices were used. Each electronic device would have to register a different spike on startup and shutdown. Fingerprinting these should be a doddle.

          1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

            Re: No corruption here.

            Good luck with that when nearly everything is on a lithium battery charged one a day!

        3. FIA Silver badge

          Re: No corruption here.

          The goal of these things is plain and simple mass surveillance.

          This is very cunning... I mean there's already widespread ANPR cameras that can pinpoint most vehicles within a 10-15 mile radius, then there's your mobile phone cell records, and records of things like all your financial transactions, all a warrants access away.

          But no... that dusty box in the corner of a distant cupboard or garage.... that's how they're doing it!

          1. david bates

            Re: No corruption here.

            As far as I'm aware neither ANPR or CCTV can say "We've found out you've been thinking unlicenced thoughts... No electricity or gas for you for the next 24hrs"

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              Smart metres have microphones, cameras and thought transceivers built in too? That's right up there with "5G phone masts cause COVID-19" :-)

              Why would they bother forcing "free smart meters" on people when people are willingly BUYING "smart speakers" with microphones, cameras (and maybe even thought transceivers!!) from Google, Amazon and others, not mention "smart" doorbells with cameras to keep an eye on the Luddite neighbours?

            2. Martin
              Unhappy

              Re: No corruption here.

              As far as I'm aware neither ANPR or CCTV can say "We've found out you've been thinking unlicenced thoughts... No electricity or gas for you for the next 24hrs"

              Yet...

          2. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

            Re: No corruption here.

            You're correct, except for the remote switching off. Make sure to keep paying, ok?

        4. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

          Re: No corruption here.

          It's not about knowing what people are saying, it is so they can cut off your power when they want to.

          Don't like the current government! no power!

          Speak out against the current agenda! no power!

          Don't vote for the right party! Freeze this winter!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No corruption here.

            Calm down dear. Stay off Netflix for a week or two and read a good book.

          2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

            Re: No corruption here.

            As if the electric company can’t cut your power any time they want to right now... and are you going to explain how they electric company knows (or for that matter why they care) how you voted? Or is it just some shadowy “Them” again. Probably Jews. Depressingly, it always ends up being blamed on Jews... it’s kind of a Godwin’s Law of Conspiracy Theories.

            It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs to see such ignorance of how technology works among the readership of a technology website...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: No corruption here.

              this whole thread is a little bit tinfoil TBH which is a bit of a worry considering the industry we all work in. I have a smart meter its great it allows me to access EV tarrifs so we can charge the car at 7p\kwh which works out at around 2.5p a mile ;o)

        5. herman Silver badge

          Re: No corruption here.

          I took Net Zero to mean Zero Net benefit to the consumer.

          1. blackcat Silver badge

            Re: No corruption here.

            Nah, to the customer it is a net negative.

      2. abend0c4 Silver badge

        Re: No corruption here.

        government picked smart meters as a winning technology

        Government picked smart meters as a winning concept and insisted on their being rolled out despite the technology. The first generation of smart meters (SMETS1) were largely useless, though they've been mostly upgraded.

        The second generation use dedicated communications networks. In Scotland and the North of England, Arqiva provide a mesh network. In the South of England, Capita manages a private network on top of 2G/3G (O2) which will eventually transition to Vodafone's 4G network, assuming the government doesn't do an HS2.

        Quite why we have had a throwaway generation of meters and three different and incompatible networks escapes me. I suppose we should be grateful it's not all linked together by Airwave.

        1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: No corruption here.

          They won't transition to Voda 4G without the expensive upgrade in TFA.

          The whole point is that the actual meters have 2G/3G modems in, requiring the network to be up. Practically speaking, what will happen is that O2 will be compensated for keeping the obsolete network up.

          I would suggest getting an O2 SIM to keep your old phone working, but we tried that, and the coverage is so poor that I'm amazed any smart meter works.

          1. mikecoppicegreen

            Re: No corruption here.

            the meters do not have the 2G built in. SMETS2 meters and most SMETS1 meters have an exchangeable communications module.

            1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              Is it exchangeable by the consumer? (And if it is, will they do it?).

              Otherwise it doesn't much matter if it is exchangeable - they still need to send a guy in a van round to do it, and test it. Sure, less disruptive to the customer than replacing the meter itself, but about as expensive as the guy in the van is the main cost. And will they even be allowed to do it without the customer present (even if the meter is in accessible cupboard)?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No corruption here.

          "Quite why we have had a throwaway generation of meters and three different and incompatible networks escapes me. I suppose we should be grateful it's not all linked together by Airwave."

          Because government was so obsessed with the benefits of competition, they unbundled metering from the distribution system operator function. Which mean DSOs had to undertake metering at arms length or outsourced, and were told to keep their beaks out of smart metering. Then unlike every other country in Europe (if not the world) government forced energy suppliers to fit them. Energy suppliers had no field capability, and didn't want to own the meters, government didn't care, and so there's now a bugger's muddle of multiple meter owners, multiple different meter makers, two set in stone and obsolete specifications, a range of meter reading services (smart meters still require a visual read every two years). The technology is owned by the circa 9-10 big meter makers, the SMETS spec is owned (in effect) by government, the meters are read by....... because customers change supplier, each supplier has customer using a range of meters it didn't choose, and doesn't own etc etc ......yeah, you get the general drift. Then there's poor design decisions like gas meters that are battery powered, and whilst the battery can be replaced, by the time it runs out the meter is a circa seven year old piece of techno-junk. Every aspect of the programme was micro-managed by government, and mis-managed by the same.

          So there's the problem: Government believe that EVERYTHING is better if there's lots of companies involved, but apart from that they didn't understand how the energy industry works, how it is structured, who has what capabilities, nor do they understand the ephemeral nature of technology, nor anything of what mattered to customers.

          1. martinusher Silver badge

            Re: No corruption here.

            "It all makes work for the working man** to do".

            (**or woman)

            >Government believe that EVERYTHING is better if there's lots of companies involved,

            ...and so it is. Assuming your goal is to provide opportunities to make money rather than, say, supply a commodity at a reasonable price. After all, energy supply is effectively a monopoly so there's unlimited opportunities to fleece the customer base.

            1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              Not at all. Quite the opposite.

              They want the CEOs to be able to stay wealthy, and the rich tory voters to keep getting share buy backs and dividends.

              The number of staff reading meters is lower, therefore costs are far lower. That those staff are now unemployed? Well, it's not the power company that has to worry about that, is it?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No corruption here.

          "I suppose we should be grateful it's not all linked together by Airwave."

          To be fair if we did... at least there would be basically noone in a position that the device couldn't communicate.

          I'm somewhat surprised that they *still* can't just piggy back off your home network - it's not as if VPNs are a novel technology at this point.

          1. iron Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: No corruption here.

            > I'm somewhat surprised that they *still* can't just piggy back off your home network

            NO GOVERNMENT MANDATED EQUIPMENT WILL BE CONNECTED TO MY NETWORK! FFS

            Not to mention what about people who do not have Internet? And who would pay for this? I charge £1,000 per month for access to my home network, thanks.

            It would also open the door to meter tampering by tampering with the packets travelling across the home network and give no recourse because the network does not belong to the utility or the government.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              I said - be *able* to, not have to.

              There are places in the world where the meters are in a location which is pretty heavily shielded from any RF comms.

              The ability to drop them onto a network would actually be useful, there is no need for them to have any access to your home network - they'd only need net access and that's why guest networks exist.

              As for packet tampering - that's why they'd use a VPN, because then the tampering would be evident.

              1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: No corruption here.

                I know of at least 2 large properties where the smart meters are connected to the wifi. I know this because I created the dedicated guest networks for them.

                Meter is in an ancient metal cabinet, which the first installer didn't realise the implications of. The second installer then had to move the wifi client device out of the faraday cage. They had initially tried using the integral 2G/3G modem but both the cabinet shielding and the absence of any signal in the area meant that didn't work.

                Yes, exactly the same story in both locations.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: No corruption here.

                  not in the UK SMART meters DON'T use Wifi

                  1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
                    Facepalm

                    Re: No corruption here.

                    Not by default, no. But with suitable additional bits they evidently can. Or perhaps I should put you in touch with the EON "engineers" who installed these systems so you can inform them that the kit they've been provided with to install that works perfectly well simply doesn't exist????

                    (don't ≠ can't)

              2. heyrick Silver badge

                Re: No corruption here.

                "I said - be *able* to, not have to."

                Slippery slope. If they make them able to use the home WiFi, how long until it is obligatory that they use it, along with a long list of dubious requirements (like uPNP because they don't give a crap about security)?

                Of course you can't portscan it (tampering with government property etc) or attempt to lock it down (tampering with your meter, etc) and you just know they're going to do something stupid like open ports, hardwired passwords...because, hey, if the government is behind this then no heads will roll no matter how much of a mess they make.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: No corruption here.

                  Slippery slope. If they make them able to use the home WiFi, how long until it is obligatory that they use it, along with a long list of dubious requirements (like uPNP because they don't give a crap about security)?

                  Of course you can't portscan it (tampering with government property etc) or attempt to lock it down (tampering with your meter, etc) and you just know they're going to do something stupid like open ports, hardwired passwords...because, hey, if the government is behind this then no heads will roll no matter how much of a mess they make.

                  I plan to Faraday cage it, if they become compulsory.

            2. Scott 53

              Re: No corruption here.

              > NO GOVERNMENT MANDATED EQUIPMENT WILL BE CONNECTED TO MY NETWORK! FFS

              Smart meters do not connect to your home network. The whole point of the article is that they use 2G/3G.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: No corruption here.

            I'm somewhat surprised that they *still* can't just piggy back off your home network

            Like I'd allow a 'smart' device onto my wifi/network.

            What I do allow is for them to be on an IOT wifi network that I configured - client isolation, filtered access to the internet and absolutely no access to the internal network.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              So - you'd allow them on your network then...

              That's the whole point of guest and sewer networks.

        4. fajensen

          Re: No corruption here.

          Quite why we have had a throwaway generation of meters and three different and incompatible networks escapes me.

          Because of the "Regulation is Evil"-crowd being in power for far too long?!

      3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: No corruption here.

        The benefit is to skimp on grid upgrades, and to not invest in generating capacity, then to effectively implement "voluntary" load-shedding by surge-pricing electricity.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No corruption here.

          "The benefit is to skimp on grid upgrades, and to not invest in generating capacity, then to effectively implement "voluntary" load-shedding by surge-pricing electricity."

          Actually no, there's a shed-load of money being spend on grid and generation. Ofgem rubber stamped programmes costing tens of billions of pounds for distribution and transmission improvements, along with billions thrown at the UK's pointless solar programme, and the huge wind programme. You just have no visibility of that, nor control over it.

          1. snowpages

            Re: No corruption here.

            ...and "voluntary" load shedding by switching you off remotely. Check the small print.

      4. mtp

        Re: No corruption here.

        My smart meter saves me loads of money. I am on a tarrif where the price changes several times per day and I charge my home battery when it is cheap. Eventually I will export when it is expensive which will aid the entire grid by smoothing the load.

        1. Abominator

          Re: No corruption here.

          Until your batteries wear out. How many cycles they good for?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No corruption here.

            Mine are guaranteed > 6000 full cycles. They were installed with the PV panels and it would be perverse not to use them in winter for load shifting on a variable rate tariff.

        2. Mike Pellatt

          Re: No corruption here.

          And, even better, you can turn on loads of equipment, heaters, etc., and open all your windows when you hit a half-hour period with a negative tariff.

          That's happened a few times lately on Octopus Agile. And it's not as perverse as it sounds - it can actually cost more to stop some generation systems for a short period and then restart them (think nuclear), so it makes sense to pay (less than it would cost to turn them off) for the output if it being can't go anywhere else (think Dinorwic top lake being full).

      5. 43300 Silver badge

        Re: No corruption here.

        I avoided smartmeters until moving into the current flat, which already had them so couldn't avoid it. A couple of months ago both of them (gas and electricity) seemingly stopped reporting their readings and I've been getting 'estimated' bills. The supplier seems in no hurry to actually resolve the issue and seem to want me to manually read them. Nope - the sole (minor) benefit from smartmeters is not having to read the meters (these ones are outside), so if I've got to have them they can make sure that they bloody work!

        1. 43300 Silver badge

          Re: No corruption here.

          Supplier is now insisting that they can only send a technician out when I am here, because they need access to look at the boiler. I have pointed out that it seems rather unlikely that the boiler is somehow stopping both gas and electricity meters from reporting their readings (meters are in outside cupboards so they don't need anyone here to get access to them), Presumably the tick-box list says 'insist on access to boiler'...

          1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

            Re: No corruption here.

            > Presumably the tick-box list says 'insist on access to boiler'...

            Next tick box is "condemn boiler, sell them a new one £££££"

          2. Adam JC

            Re: No corruption here.

            This is legitimate actually.

            If they have to interrupt your gas/electricity supply for any reason whatsoever, they are obligated to make sure your boiler still functions and fires back up okay.

            1. 43300 Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              I was assuming that the boiler might well need to be reset if they had to interrupt the supply, but I'm quite capable of doing that.

              1. Mike Pellatt

                Re: No corruption here.

                Yeah, you know that. But they don't. And would therefore potentially be liable if you house explodes.

                1. 43300 Silver badge

                  Re: No corruption here.

                  Right. So repairing / replacing the communication module on a smartmeter is likely to make a house 'explode'. Glad we don't resort to exaggerated hyperbole on here...

      6. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: No corruption here.

        The actual benefits to most consumers are precisely nil

        My energy provider keeps sending me emails titled "the free smart meter installers are in your area, book up for your install now!".

        The emails get bounced with a custom message.

        They've given up phoning me - my last conversation ended with "the only time I'll have one fitted is when it becomes legal necessity". I already know how much energy I'm using (the PV management software lets me know) and I don't leave stuff on that doesn't need to be on.

        And watching the PV-supplied electricity wind our (old-style rotary dial) leccy meter backwards is strangely satisfying.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No corruption here.

          "(old-style rotary dial) leccy meter backwards is strangely satisfying" and illegal

      7. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

        Re: No corruption here.

        I eventually got smart meter cos of the incessant nagging by Shell, which I find just after installation is soon to be Octapus. They aslo quried my meter readings making me send them ohtos.

    2. Captain Scarlet

      Re: No corruption here.

      Only the metre readers, I think mine is read by a metre reader once a year.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: No corruption here.

        Short-staffed?

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: No corruption here.

          It’s located in the yard?

          1. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

            Re: No corruption here.

            Can you prod it with a pole? or is it's perch to high to reach?

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: No corruption here.

              is it's perch to high to reach?

              Too inviting for the odd peck.

      2. Anonymous IV

        Re: No corruption here.

        > Only the metre readers, I think mine is read by a metre reader once a year.

        That must be the most height-discriminatory comment made on El Reg for quite some time...!

        1. jmch Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: No corruption here.

          "... the most height-discriminatory comment ...."

          Well it's just about to be dwarfed by this one!

        2. PB90210 Bronze badge

          Re: No corruption here.

          Linguine reader?

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: No corruption here.

        read by a metre reader once a year

        Hadn't realised that the "4 foot height" requirement in "Get 'em out by Friday" had come into effect.

        1. Mike Pellatt

          Re: No corruption here.

          Oh for the ability to double upvote the Genesis reference there. To a song that's even more apposite now than it was 50 years ago.

      4. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: No corruption here.

        Come to my home, Norweb man, come closer,

        And read my Iambic Pentameter.

      5. Captain Scarlet
        Facepalm

        Re: No corruption here.

        Obviously meant Meter, but I make the error twice.

        Obviously deserve the distance type jokes

  2. b0llchit Silver badge

    It is amazing how fast things become obsolete these days.

    The "technological progress" is matched by how often we need to replace gadgets. Sure, modern stuff can be better, but the total cost-benefit calculation over a device's lifetime doesn't look good. I'd argue that the costs are higher, once you take total cradle to grave resource usage into account.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      The government want technology to be "future-proof", so choose something currently in use, but not directly under their control. Technology marches on and future will task itself to prove them wrong about the "proof" part.

      1. 43300 Silver badge

        "future-proof" is one of the most meaningless bullshit terms out there. It's never applied to things where it might actually apply (a kettle, say, or a fridge), but to gadgets or software in fast-moving markets - things which are pretty much guaranteed to be old-fashioned in five years'time and completely obsolete in ten.

        1. Alumoi Silver badge

          Five years?

          Buddy, get on with the times, it's only 1 year now. I'm still not sure if this 1 year is about old-fashioned or obsolescence, the jury is still deciding.

        2. jonathan keith
          Joke

          The legal definition of 'future-proof' is 'obsolete at the moment of end-user purchase or installation.'

      2. nijam Silver badge

        I had a colleague who always wanted particular specifications of equipment so as to be "future-proof". But he seemed to have misunderstood it, perhaps by analogy with "water-proof".

    2. NeilPost

      If they simply connected via broadband WiFi as the primary option, there would be little issue here. In general they would work a hell of a lot better too.

  3. Piro Silver badge

    2G is perfect for this

    It should never be phased out.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: 2G is perfect for this

      It should never be phased out

      Does anyone actually have firm plans to phase out 2G? 3G, yes - EE keeps sending me texts telling me I need to upgrade my phone as it's 3G-only, despite the fact that I actually swapped it out about six months ago, got a new SIM from EE and (after a short period where it seemed to be restricted to 4G) have been using 5G ever since. I get the feeling that it's entirely possible that some networks will just leave 2G hanging around until the equipment dies :-)

      M.

      1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

        Re: 2G is perfect for this

        EE sent me an text saying I would have to change my phone's settings to 4G or 5G, despite my phone telling me it used 4G - couldn't find the settings they wanted me to change anyway.

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: 2G is perfect for this

          Do they think phones have a “4G/5G” button along the same lines as the Turbo button on old PCs?

    2. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: 2G is perfect for this

      It should never be phased out.

      A problem no one seems to mention: 2G in general provides higher signal strength than 4G or 5G. A quick internet search leads me to believe that the difference is typically about 10db. So, even if all the meters are replaced/upgraded, it's likely that some of them still won't work. That's consistent with my experience here in the US. When 2G was turned off early this year and I was forced to switch to a more modern phone, my cell phone service at home went from marginal (i.e. only in some places outdoors when the phone was held just right) to non-existent. Walking and driving around the neighborhood and checking 4G signal strength suggests that most of the homes probably aren't going to have a usable 4G signal without directional external antennae and maybe, in some cases, ampliifiers.

      Not that I think it matters much. As far as I can tell, no one seems to actually know how to use "smart" metering to any useful purpose.

      1. NXM Silver badge

        Re: 2G is perfect for this

        2G carries better because it uses the original lower frequency bands, not because of the way data is handled. I think I saw a report that the carriers were going to re-use those bands for 5G instead, in which case it would have the same reach. Not sure if that's true though.

        1. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: 2G is perfect for this

          2G carries better because it uses the original lower frequency bands, not because of the way data is handled. ...

          Yes, the lower transmission frequency surely helps considerably, but I should think that the lower bandwidth of 2G (200KHz?) vs 4G/5G (several MHz?) would result in lower signal to noise ratios exclusive of lower attenuation due to lower frequency. That's probably simplistic. What am I ignorant of/overlooking?

          1. NXM Silver badge

            Re: 2G is perfect for this

            I'm no radio engineer (it's all voodoo to me) but since the frequency is lower the band has to be wider to accommodate the same amount of data as the higher frequencies, or, as you say, the noise becomes a problem. If the lower frequencies carry further then the system will switch to those to make difficult connections more robust.

            That might've been the point of the article I read.

            Anyway, the carriers are always desperate for more usable bandwidth, which means re-using the 2G frequencies is a good idea.

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Re: 2G is perfect for this

              the band has to be wider to accommodate the same amount of data as the higher frequencies

              Claude Shannon would disagree. The data rate of a channel depends on the bandwidth and the signal/noise ratio, but not on the frequency.

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: 2G is perfect for this

                Yes and no. Theoretical data rate, rather than actual. If the penetration (which if frequency dependent) is poorer then the S/N ratio drops. So yes, data rate IS dependent on the factors you mentioned, but those are not independent of frequency. As the frequency gets higher, there's more scope for a wider channel, but the signal drops off quicker due to intervening physical barriers.

              2. NXM Silver badge

                Re: 2G is perfect for this

                Well I did say it's voodoo to me!

              3. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

                Re: 2G is perfect for this

                "The data rate of a channel depends on the bandwidth and the signal/noise ratio"

                With no noise the data rate can be infinite. Of course, there's no such thing as "no noise".

        2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: 2G is perfect for this

          4G is already used on the "digital dividend" channels - the frequency band freed up by switching off analogue TV in the 700MHz region.

          The original bands were around 900MHz (vodafone, cellnet) and 1800MHz (orange, T-mobile)

          I have no knowledge of the relative power levels though.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: 2G is perfect for this

        my experience here in the US

        Also worth pointing out that 2G technologies in the US are substantially different to those in use in most of the rest of the world, which also has an effect on robustness and propagation. For example, I believe that the system used in the US suffers from "breathing" effects which GSM (rest of world) doesn't - as the number of subscribers in a particular cell increases, reception at the margins reduces. It's possible that as more people migrated to 3G over time, loading on 2G cells reduced, thus improving reception at the margins and giving the perception of a more robust connection to remaining users.

        The frequency ranges themselves are not that different; there were allocations around 850MHz (US and some others) and 900MHz (rest of world) and 1900MHz (US) and 1800MHz (RoW). The first 3G allocations were around 2100MHz IIRC and later a lot of clearance was done between 700MHz and 850MHz (UHF TV bands as part of the "digital dividend") and some 3G and 4G services were put on those bands with 5G to follow.

        M.

      3. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: 2G is perfect for this

        Plenty of other things reliant on 2G too.

        e.g. many vehicle fleet GPS trackers use 2G.... Typically when a vehicle is EOL the tracker will be used in it's replacement* (generally trackers are robust and last a long time). Although new trackers support 4G, it will still be a pain for fleet managers to, at some point, needless replace a lot of perfectly fine 2G trackers.

        * Sometimes tracker will be positioned such that its too much of a a pain to remove it, but generally replacement makes sense (as the old tracker already set up and working with fleet tracking software solution used)

      4. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: 2G is perfect for this

        >As far as I can tell, no one seems to actually know how to use "smart" metering to any useful purpose.

        Time of Use tariffs. They're all the rage where I live. This is just an upgrade to the old peak rate tariffs, of course, so I expect the next level will be to run some kind of auction where our intelligent appliances bid against each other for the electricity that's for sale.

    3. Kientha

      Re: 2G is perfect for this

      2G also has a ton of security issues and operational overhead. It is a technology that's been in use for over 30 years.

      The IoT component of 5G is meant to be the replacement for 2G networks and really is a pre-requisite to any 2G shutdown if we want to avoid the chaos that happened in the states when they shutdown their 2G network. The only operator that's really embraced NB-IoT is Vodafone although the others are playing catchup. Some form of LPWA network was always going to be the ideal technology for smart meters and other elements of smart cities.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: 2G is perfect for this

        2G (GSM) has actually been much updated in the light of the security issues surrounding its earlier incarnations. The original specifications were designed around the amount of compute power that could be put into a battery powered devices back in the late 1980s, early 1990s, so the crypto algorithms used were just about good enough to ensure adequate security for subscribers and networks, Now, over 30 years later, we can do much better and so the GSM standards have been updated to use much better crypto algorithms.

        The operational overhead is more subtle. GSM had astonishingly low operational costs, largely because network planning / expansion was so easy (the standards designers really knew what they were doing when they wrote GSM). And these days it is trivially easy for a base station to support GSM and, say 5G; the compute load on the base station to support GSM is also pretty trivial compared to what they're packing today to run 4G, 5G. However, the use of valuable and limited spectrum resources for only 2G is perhaps the unconscionable aspect; 4G, 5G are so, so much more spectrally efficient compared to GSM that the "lost opportunity" operational cost is indeed very high.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2G is perfect for this

        IdiotofThings? No, just fucing NO!

        1. Dr Dan Holdsworth
          Boffin

          Re: 2G is perfect for this

          If you go and have a look at the latest spec of NB-IoT then what you will see looking back at you is the perfect system for smart meter usage. Narrowband because meter readings are not yet going to be particularly data-intensive, and pervasive provided you use Vodaphone.

          All the government has to do is to stop trying to pick winners and simply use the most expedient system that exists now; yes this is handing a contract to a single supplier, but the other ones will quickly shape up and start undercutting that single supplier before long.

    4. PRR Silver badge

      Re: 2G is perfect for this

      >> 2G is perfect for this It should never be phased out.

      > Does anyone actually have firm plans to phase out 2G?

      2G stopped working here (USA) several years back. They implied they could not hang 5G technology on the towers until they got the 2G cruft out of the way. Yes, they can do it to you.

      While I think 2G is a lost battle for personal BookFace/TubeYou devices, as said 2G is pretty nifty for LOW datarate like turns of an electric meter.

      I think power authorites could PAY the cell-operators to leave ONE 2G terminal in each neighborhood. All 2,000 meters in my town would not strain a 2G link. I imagine that $0.20/meter or $400/town/month would cover costs of a 2G terminal. Obviously it could refuse connections from "normal" users, only utility and other special operators.

      "Smart" is many things. Here it first meant the meter-reader did not have to go TO every house/meter every month. We got that 13 years ago, tho apparently on a Wigbee or other wonky little short-radio protocol. Last year we "needed" a new meter with no wheel which tracks to a central monitor so they SEE what houses are without power and coordinate a response-- this IS a real benefit in this tree-infested woods. It apparently can cut-off our power for billing or system sanity (program a sequence re-start instead of BANG throw the town switch). I don't think the local boffins (really in another country) would pay extra for the mind-control or variable-rate options.

  4. James Anderson

    Easy to work out costs.

    Look at the label on the device. It will tell you how many kilowatts the device consumed. Multiply by the number of hours you use it and your rate per kilowatt hour and voila you know how much it will cost you.

    The only real benefit of smart meters is the leccy company can resource action Thier meter readers.

    In Spain smart meters are universal and at no extra charge to the customer (some cents per month rental).

    The UK really is on its way to being a third world country.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Easy to work out costs.

      It is possible to deduce usage patterns when you operate various appliances, such as kettles, washing machines, personal massagers, microwaves, etc., based on their energy footprints.

      This information can also indicate whether you are home and provide a general idea of your activities.

      Smart meters are a critical component of mass surveillance systems and form the foundation of social credit system.

      1. Evil Scot Bronze badge
        Gimp

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        Personal What??????

      2. cyberdemon Silver badge

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        Indeed. I remember one case in spain where smart meter data was used by the council to detect how many residents were in each house, and therefore nab people for not paying enough council tax

        It will be used in future to enforce energy rationing, like hosepipe bans etc.

        1. James Anderson

          Re: Easy to work out costs.

          “Council tax” in Spain is based on the value of the property and charged to the property owner or tenant.

          So this does sound like an urban legend.

          There is no per person tax charged by local government. They do receive a per person sum from central government based on the number of registered residents so they have a vested interest in getting people to register as residents ( the pardon ).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Easy to work out costs.

      "In Spain smart meters are universal and at no extra charge to the customer (some cents per month rental). The UK really is on its way to being a third world country."

      How does this work? You state there's no real benefit, then declare that because Spain have foisted them on everybody that means the UK is on a slide to becoming a third world county?

      You've missed out the bit about where Spain did no cost-benefit analysis (FWIW) on the programme before starting, and after the programme finished were unable to supply EU authorities with any information about how much the programme had cost. All of which rather suggests that despite the UK fiasco, the title for third world decision making resides somewhere well south of London.

      1. iron Silver badge

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        He also can't tell the difference between paying for something and not paying for something. Which suggests Spain's education system leaves something to be desired.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        Third World Country ?

        U.K. governments work ceaselessly to become a Fifth World country, why do you deride their only success?

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        "You've missed out the bit about where Spain did no cost-benefit analysis (FWIW) on the programme before starting, and after the programme finished were unable to supply EU authorities with any information about how much the programme had cost."

        Give or take the EU bit that sounds much like any UK govt I can recall.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Easy to work out costs.

      no extra charge to the customer

      Really? So where does the money to pay for them come from? Do Spanish power companies have magic money trees that those in other countries don't?

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        if you're not paying for the product, you are the product

      2. Dave@Home

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        "Do Spanish power companies have magic money trees that those in other countries don't?"

        Yeah Scottish Power

      3. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        "no extra charge to the customer (some cents per month rental)"

        is not the same as

        "no extra charge to the customer"

        And 'some' cents per month could add up quite a bit - eg 80c/mth over an expected device lifetime of 25 years is E240

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Easy to work out costs.

          "And 'some' cents per month could add up quite a bit - eg 80c/mth over an expected device lifetime of 25 years is E240"

          But what's that supposed to cover, and what it the NPV? I can't see a smart meter lasting 25 years. If it's a gas meter it'll need three swap outs for battery replacement and recalibration, if it's electricity then it's likely it'll need a replacement at ten years for recalibration to stay within certification (assume Spain follows generally accepted electricity practices). Even though the replaced meters are not expected to be brand new, there's still the cost of a visit to replace, the recalibration costs, the logistics and scheduling of manpower and meters. Add that to the cash cost of original installation, interest on the capital employed, systems costs, and I'm guessing 80c a month doesn't come anywhere near.

          1. The man with a spanner

            Re: Easy to work out costs.

            Speculation...

            New maint cost aprox equal to old cost

            Extra hardware cost of new device

            Significant saving due to supplier not needing meter readers.

            All in all cash positive - no need for money trees so ee can plant olives instead.

      4. PRR Silver badge

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        > So where does the money to pay for them come from?

        The original and compelling pay-off is Meter Readers. 20 years ago a mini-pickup went up every driveway, guy got out to peep the meter. It is hard to read 50 meters an hour that way, pay plus truck was over $25/hour then, so $0.50/meter-month just to get readings. Yes there are townhouse blocks with 30 meters in one place, but there's also houses out on Crooked Road with mile-long driveways where 10 meters an hour can't be done without a jetpack.

        Now that most places have remote-read meters, the real incentive is that the meter-makers like the joy of new billion-buck contracts so keep adding NEW & IMPROVED features if you only replace your whole meter-fleet. The technology is good but the salesmanship can be extraordinary.

      5. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        Spanish money trees. They turned them into pellets for biomass generation.

      6. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        "So where does the money to pay for them come from?"

        Perhaps like here in France where the low voltage supply network was vastly upgraded and everybody got a "Linky" (they're obligatory).

        A mixture of government subsidies, EU grants, and - oh look - my electricity that used to be about €0,13/kWh is now more like 0,19/kWh (this with the alleged price cap of 4%). Oh and the standing charge has gone up too, but the maths to work that out is a nightmare.

        Anyway, offer something for free and then a couple of years down the line make continual increments to the price and as long as you can play the long game, you'll get paid back and then some.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Easy to work out costs.

      In Spain smart meters are universal and at no extra charge to the customer (some cents per month rental).

      And there you have your charge to the customer, smart meters have a higher rental cost than old meters (81c + VAT vs 54c + VAT/month).

      There was also question of encryption, which hopefully has been fixed by now.

      Still, there are lots of tariffs which charge differently depending on time of day.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        "And there you have your charge to the customer, smart meters have a higher rental cost than old meters (81c vs 54c a month)."

        Well, except that 27c won't cover the cost of installing a smartmeter. EU data gives an average across all available information from multiple countries of about €170 per meter. So it seems that Spain are doing what everybody else is doing, and hiding the costs in other charges to customers.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: Easy to work out costs.

      "It will tell you how many kilowatts the device consumed."

      No, it'll only tell you how much power the device *may* pull from the mains when operating as designed - barring simple devices like electric fires, kettles etc, where the maximum consumption is also, more or less, the average consumption whilst switched on, and where therefore the figure on the label would be useful for calculating running costs, anyone following your advice will end up massively overestimating the power consumption/costs of their stuff.

    6. FatGerman

      Re: Easy to work out costs.

      You don't even need that. If you switch something on it's using energy. If you switch it off it's not. How does knowing exactly how much I'm using help me at all? What am I gonna do? Turn the washing machine off halfway through the cycle? Eat my ready meal cold?

    7. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

      Re: Easy to work out costs.

      The label on my computer's PSU says 700W. Fortunately it rarely uses that much even when a game is demanding enough resources to turn it into an electric fan heater; normal load when it's just doing desktop stuff is <10% of that.

    8. iron Silver badge

      Re: Easy to work out costs.

      > no extra charge to the customer (some cents per month rental).

      Wrong. If you're paying "some cents per month" then your meters were installed at ongoing cost to the customer which you will be paying, presumably, for your entire life.

    9. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Easy to work out costs.

      "Look at the label on the device. It will tell you how many kilowatts the device consumed."

      Not really.

      I have a new washing machine. Rated something like 2.4kW. It takes forever as it seems to revel in the logic of "gentle cooler wash for (much) longer".

      Problem is, that 2.4kW accounts for when the motor is running, and when the heater is heating. Out of the eternity it takes, the heater is only on for maybe 15 minutes. And the motor? The only time that runs continuously is when performing a water fill or when spinning. Otherwise it's typically 6 seconds on and 12 seconds off (but this varies depending on how much stuff I'm washing). Good luck working out manually the energy consumption per load. Especially if you have one of those smart arse things that weighs and adjusts.

      Likewise an oven, air fryer, halogen cooker, fridge... they'll get to the desired temperature and then click on and off to keep the temperature stable.

      So working out, say, an oven means counting preheat time, then working out a rough duty cycle (like half the time on, half the time off) then adding that together to work out the total "on" time, then multiply that by the rating.

      I think the only things that run full whack at their rating are immersion heaters, bar heaters (until the thermostat trips, but that could be a while), microwave ovens, and kettles.

      1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

        Re: Easy to work out costs.

        I agree.

        The label is to enable the electrical connection/supply/protection to be correctly rated.

  5. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    The business case was as robust as that for HS2. Perhaps it was worthwhile doing on its own account, but the savings were illusory.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Meter made...

      Well the Leccy Co's (the ones that haven't gone bust) could spend every penny on a lavish replacement programme, comprising individual monthly visits by a personal Resource Utilization Consultant... aka meter reader. After all, it's getting the readings to the billing system that people are interested in, not all this gold plated technology. Rishinomics comes to the rescue!

      Come to think of it, the posties are getting short of business these days, they're supposed to be down the street 6 days a week - there's a tie-up there for an enterprising Chummocrat!

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Meter made...

        I like the postie tie up. That has legs (in shorts).

  6. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

    Imagine the meetings

    I can hear the echoes of the meeting now:

    Techie: we can make the uplink but modular, so makes it easy to fit 3G, Lora or even satcom depending on how far the house is out in the sticks. A technician can change the module which will be self configuring and plug and play. It’s future proof and reduces costs in the long term,

    Manager: nah, we’re going with 3G. Someone else can worry about it later.

    1. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Imagine the meetings

      I've never been to the UK to look at your meters. Standard meters, sold in the rest of the world, are modular, and the comms link swaps out.

      When it happened at my house (Australia), it was a single man, and it took him about 5 minutes. He was a full-price tradesman (licensed electrician), since the law doesn't allow anybody else to work on meters, and the whole transaction took a bit longer, because he was walking from house to house and knocking on each door.

      I won't be amazed if I find that the UK paid extra to get a specially made meter that isn't trivial to update, but I will be slightly surprised. I note that the quotations in the article don't actually say that the meters will be bricked: that's just the headline writer.

      My house meter had a 3g data modem (slightly different to a phone, but using the same transmitters), and the radio was swapped out because they are shutting down 3g this year. I don't remember what the replacement was: the words didn't mean anything to me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Imagine the meetings

        UK smart meters, at least the SMETS2 ones, are GBCS - they're made specifically for the UK market and are more convoluted than the pure ZSE meters that most (all?) other countries are using. It should be possible to swap the CH part using TCSO, but it'll almost certainly be a more complex procedure than in other countries sadly. I've been working with GBCS for ten years now, and I'm happy to say I've so far managed to avoid getting smart meters installed in my own home.

        1. david 12 Silver badge

          Re: Imagine the meetings

          GBCS - they're made specifically for the UK market

          Again, I'm not familiar with the UK meter market, but GBCS is just the UK regulation for smart meters -- we've got something similar in AUS, because the meters all belong to private companies, but conform to a generic standard. ZSE is part of the GBCS standard. Even if your ZSE is different to my ZSE, it's not the ZSE module that is the subject of this article (although clearly it is the subject of many of the complaints in this forum). The subject of the article is the 2g/3g data modem used for supplier reporting: ZSE (Zigbee Smart Energy) is the display panel, and Zigbee isn't GSM 2g/3g

          What you can do is look at your meter and see who made it, then look up the model on the internet: if it lists a couple of options for radio modems (2g,3g,4g whatever), they are interchangeable modules, and they are simple radio transceivers: any 'smarts' required specifically for GBCS won't be part of the radio module.

      2. Ozumo

        Re: Imagine the meetings

        Why is it done by single men - too dangerous to risk the married ones?

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Imagine the meetings

          Odd Man Hypothesis, presumably.

          Just watch out for the andromeda strain.

      3. TonyHoyle

        Re: Imagine the meetings

        They are separate comms units but SOP for any meter issue is to replace the entire thing.

        One of the fitters told me that if they lose access to the comms network for over 24 hours they brick and have to be replaced. That may or may not be true but I went through 6 of them before they fitted one that worked..

        The other issues is the comms units are specific to the brand of meter, and there are, well, I know there are at least 6.. how many more I couldn't tell.

        Luckily here in the north it's not a mobile phone network but a dedicated one operated by arquiva, so there's no issue with 2G.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Imagine the meetings

      The comms part *is* modular, and in theory can be replaced without replacing the meter or disrupting the supply. More chapter and verse on it here: https://www.smartme.co.uk/smets-2.html

      It's modular for exactly the reason you suggest.

      1. Noram

        Re: Imagine the meetings

        II was thinking that, my meters have a third little box wired to them with IIRC a WAN and HN or something light, one obviously for the suppliers network and the other for the "in home display" device.

        Possibly because both the gas and leccy were with BG and from memory fitted at the same time (I can't remember if we had one guy, or two working as a team, I think they were doing several nearby on the same day).

    3. Rahbut

      Re: Imagine the meetings

      They have replaced my (smart) gas meter twice over the years when the battery has run low. I can't see them swapping a comms module in situ; they'll swap meters for ones that have been modded and do them in batches.

  7. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Wait...

    ...so you're telling me smart meters are a scam?

    Knock me down with a feather.

  8. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Keynes

    Keynes is laughing in his grave.

  9. Andy Non Silver badge
    FAIL

    Wouldn't be so bad if they actually worked

    We had one installed just over a year ago as I was becoming too infirm to climb into the cupboard under the sink to get manual readings. The display unit has never worked since installation, so we have no idea how much electricity we are using until it appears on the bill. So not very helpful. I literally had to report the fault to Shell energy ten times before they even acknowledged the fault existed, only for them to say "tough luck" in so many words as it would never be fixed. The automatic sending of data also failed for a few months, reason unknown, so I had to climb into the cupboard again to submit manual readings.

    Fair to say I've been left underwhelmed by smart meters.

    1. Lon24

      Re: Wouldn't be so bad if they actually worked

      Our first display didn't work. The second did - yippee!. But then one day it complained it couldn't get data from the gas meter. This could possibly be because we don't have one. But it is never satisfied suggesting we should move the gas meter closer to the display - or something like that.

      I suppose I could call our electricity provider or the meter installation company again and again. Or possibly Samaritans who would probably be more helpful - like answering the phone!

      The old analogue meter was at least easily readable. The replacement with bright green background with a slightly darker digits when you are upside down under the stairs is not. Nightmare.

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Wouldn't be so bad if they actually worked

      In melb.vic.aus, the companies got to choose how they would implement the display units. My company choose 'zigbee': they have never released any display units.

      Background: our mechanical meters were end of life, and the companies wanted to replace them with something that was easier to read: a red flashing light that could be read by a hand-held device. Our government decreed that if they were going to replace the meters, they had to do a proper job and install remote-reading. Our charities and consumer advocates demanded that if the company could do remote-reading and time-of-day charging, the consumers had to have the same. Cost of all this functionality to be born by users.

      Well, they aren't happy with zigbee, so what we get offered is a generic remote-reading wifi unit --- which reads the red flashing light. The zigbee unit is not enabled, and never will be.

    3. thondwe

      Re: Wouldn't be so bad if they actually worked

      Yep - no O2 2G coverage in our "Rural" backwater for the Smart Meter - so never worked - the remote display won't work until the unit gets a signal, so have to use the on unit display - which is a pale LED thing, rather than the old mechanical clock. Worse I can't subscribe to local solar power company because I don't have a working smart meter.

      4G works for 2 out of 4 networks - only just, to the point where we rely on wifi calling - over the 1G fibre (or the neighbours wifi/fibre - with agreement! 0 when ours went down). Maybe Smart Meter should use wifi calling when/if they get 4G?

    4. Maximus Decimus Meridius
      WTF?

      Re: Wouldn't be so bad if they actually worked

      Wait, you have an electricity meter under a sink? Near water? Seriously?

    5. iron Silver badge

      Re: Wouldn't be so bad if they actually worked

      Refuse to give them a reading because their kit doesn't work. If they insist tell them about your physical limitations and suggest getting the reading could injure or hospitalise you.

      They'll soon arrive to fix it.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wouldn't be so bad if they actually worked

      I’m physically disabled.

      When I need to take a meter reading I take a photo with my phone, and get the reading from that.

      My electricity meter is quite high, so I reach as best I can and point the camera towards the meter and take a few pics.

      The gas meter is low down, so I just hold the phone as low as I can and take a few snaps.

      I suppose one of those stupid “selfie sticks” might actually be of help for some people to reach.

  10. markr555

    When will this crap stop

    A complete and utter waste of billions of pounds. A simple current clamp device and WiFi control panel was all that was ever needed. Enclosing the customer-focussed functionality within the meter is pathetically stupid

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: When will this crap stop

      But corruption here is legal, theft is legal as well and people generally fail upwards.

      It would be madness to make it the right way.

    2. Philo T Farnsworth Bronze badge

      Re: When will this crap stop

      I have to wonder whether the e-waste that all of this obsolete gear is factored into the overall energy and environmental costs.

      When I look at this story and then look at the story elsewhere on these pages of the NASA Voyager spacecraft, which. after close to a half century, are still happily ticking along with but a glitch here and there and, admittedly, the occasional heart-stopping moment, I do have to wonder whether having the "latest and greatest" is all that great after all.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When will this crap stop

      clamps not enough if you want to shut power down remotely!.

      1. Julz

        Re: When will this crap stop

        In a nutshell.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When will this crap stop

      "A simple current clamp device and WiFi control panel was all that was ever needed."

      Customer functionality wasn't really core to the project. The original thinking was that smart meters can report usage data to the half hour and that would allow much better management of the grid. Unfortunately that's a fallacy, as the data can't be processed usefully in time to tell grid operators anything they already know from the system frequency, which is how networks have been managed since forever. Other benefits were the potential for half hourly or dynamic pricing - like you'd want to be connected to a grid system and not know how much you were going to be paying, and the automatic disconnection of supply when a battery fails - because if their meter fails, it's far better you go without heating or hot water for a few days than that (horror of horrors) you get unbillable gas until they fix their stuff.

      1. Evil Scot Bronze badge
        Alert

        Re: When will this crap stop

        I agree.

        I utilise a power harvesting clamp that communicates to a Box on my outside wall via a dedicated RF network.

        Said box connects to the Wi-Fi and I can read it via my mobile.

        This is a secondary reason for having the clamp. The primary reason is to protect my main fuse from excessive current when shower and car are demanding over 60 amps.

        And I really don't want people on my street lifting the tartan bath towel.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A colleague saw this

    and remembered me saying a decade ago that smart meters would be a colossal fuck up.

    "How on earth could you have known ?" they have just asked.

    I reminded them that I have grown up here (unlike them) so it was the default.

    The replied that all of a sudden, a lot of things made sense.

  12. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
    Joke

    My new patented smart meter design:

    Wire a USB charger into the mains, then plug in a mobile phone pointing at the existing meter. It can be periodically woken up to take photos of the meter which can be OCR'd into the database. If anything breaks, the phone can be unplugged and replaced. Even a user could do it.

    If the user needs a remote reading, they can log into their supplier's account.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My new patented smart meter design:

      "Wire a USB charger into the mains"

      Far too simple. Just ensure the telescreen's camera includes the meter as well as the Oceana citzens' movements. Two birds, one stone.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: My new patented smart meter design:

        And if it covers the coffee pot too, bonus!

  13. Mint Sauce
    Boffin

    Shurly shome mishtake?

    Those millions of smart meters are bricked already!

  14. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    How many meter-reader-person hours

    do you get for fourteen billion quid?

    Though with that said, remote reading for the area heating and the electricity here near Berlin seems to work, even if the computer insisted for the first year that our power/heating/water usage was improbably low and replaced all three meters - the previous occupants of the house were a young couple with a small child; we're a couple of pensioners. I can't see how merely using half the resources was anomalous...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: How many meter-reader-person hours

      It's expensive to send out a meter reader every 15 mins when you change the price of the leccy depending on supply market

    2. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: How many meter-reader-person hours

      But it's not just meter reading is it.

      You also get a physical independent check that:

      - the property is there

      - the meter is associated with that property

      - there are no obvious signs of tampering

      - the meter is in a safe position

      That's the problem with letting bean counters run the place. Everything can be called a cost and eliminated with no thought as to where else it's an asset.

  15. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Despite all the evidence to the contrary

    I'm sure it's all been carefully planned

    /sarc

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Despite all the evidence to the contrary

      It has - did nobody notice how the consumer saved money due to the reduction in electricity costs per kWh? Probably not because at the same time the price increases were happening the companies were allowed to effectively double their standing charge price which does not decrease with consumption and is not impacted by microgeneration ...

      This "competitive market" is an utter sham.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    eplacement of millions upon millions of smart meters

    let me take one guess who's gonna pay for this. Indirectly of course.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: eplacement of millions upon millions of smart meters

      You're already on the hook for the £16bn+ of costs for the smart meter programme as it stands. And that's before significant cost over-runs where government underestimated the cost of each meter, the SMETS1 debacle, and the wireless connectivity issue now being talked about.

  17. alain williams Silver badge

    Why smart meters ?

    The benefits in terms of cost savings to households from knowing the amount of energy they are consuming was pegged at £19.5 billion ($23.6 billion).

    So does that mean that energy suppliers make £19.5 B less profit ? ... over what time period - I cannot find a range.

    If consumers switch off a device or few - will they chalk up the lekky saved as entirely due to a smart meter ? If a household does not have such a meter - who/what gets the credit ?

    Then these devices will draw power, 24 x 7 - how much will that cost the consumer? Is this factored in ?

    I have the impression that there is something that we are not being told.

    1. Lurko

      Re: Why smart meters ?

      1) £19.5bn is over the business case period to 2034, and of that only £6.3bn is energy savings to consumers. At typical 5% supplier EBIT margins, that's lost profits of £315m over the same period.

      2) There's no facts in the business case, it was typical Whitehall fiction forecast to support a bad idea, so the number doesn't go up or down regardless of what consumers do.

      3) Gas meter is battery powered, the electricity meters consume about 2-3 watts, allegedly "not from your metered supply", and the in home display uses about another 2 watts that does go on your bill. In practice all costs of smart meters are charged to customers.

      1. Barrie Shepherd

        Re: Why smart meters ?

        To add insult to injury - those who don't have smart meters are having to pay for them anyway - Ofgem juist bung it all on the standing charge.

    2. VicMortimer Silver badge

      Re: Why smart meters ?

      No no no. The cost benefit is that the supplier saves money by not having to send a meter reader.

      YOU get to pay more.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why smart meters ?

        "The cost benefit is that the supplier saves money by not having to send a meter reader."

        Those savings are pretty small - over the business case period to 2034, savings on meter readings were £2.3bn. Of course, because smart meters will need swap out more frequently than old style mechanical meters, the savings on reduced meter reads will be wiped out when they need to replace the smart meters, but the business case avoided considering that. There's a whole range of other fictions for supplier savings - allegedly smart meters reduce customer calls, reduce bad debt, increase the value to suppliers of customer switching (?!), they reduce electricity theft - I'm sure somewhere it says they can help you walk on water.

        See p63 of the 2019 updated business case:

        https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5d7f54c4e5274a27c2c6d53a/smart-meter-roll-out-cost-benefit-analysis-2019.pdf

        1. blackcat Silver badge

          Re: Why smart meters ?

          "help you walk on water."

          If you dump all the broken smart meters into the body of water beforehand, sure!

          I've got a mechanical meter and since moving in 2008 I think someone has been to physically view it twice. I have however been asked to provide photos when changing supplier.

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Why smart meters ?

      It implies that the average Briton is so remarkably thick they don't grasp the simple fact that their kettle's cheerful burble equates to energy consumption - it's sheer lunacy! Are we to seriously entertain the idea that, thanks to the miraculous intervention of a smart meter, individuals across the nation will be struck by a bolt of unparalleled insight, compelling them to abandon their hallowed tea-making ceremonies for the stark blandness of unadulterated tap water?

      The very thought insinuates that prior to this technological marvel, we were all blundering about our homes, utterly befuddled by the mysterious workings of electricity. This 'enlightenment via smart meter' narrative is nothing short of a slapstick comedy! They're selling us the illusion of awareness, as if recognising the cost of our comforts was never within our mental grasp before this digital sentinel started its vigil within our walls. How utterly, absurdly patronising!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why smart meters ?

        No, they will have their electricity cut off easier.

    4. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Re: Why smart meters ?

      The benefits in terms of cost savings to households from knowing the amount of energy they are consuming was pegged at £19.5 billion ($23.6 billion).

      I think it's more likely that was the selling point. In truth, the industry will have done as much as they possibly can to prevent customers saving any money whatsoever.

    5. Scott 53

      Re: Why smart meters ?

      Smart meters can make your life easier if you are a prepayment customer. You can top up online and have things like government support payments applied to your meter without having to go to a shop to cash in a voucher.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    similar in France

    People who refuse the installation of a Linky smart meter will now have to pay an additional charge each month, which is a clear admission that smart meters are there to benefit the supplier, not the consumer.

    I refused one for years without problems (despite the stories about installers forcing entry to install them) but finally gave in when I sold the house. Not my problem any more.

  19. Wu Ming

    Powerline?

    I don’t understand. I thought smart meters were all using powerline technology to transmit the little data they need to. Concentrators then transmit the bulk onwards on the backbone network. Why they use 2G and 3G instead?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Powerline?

      I think there is a reason I haven't heard any news stores about powerline communications in years...

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Powerline?

      'Cos powerline never worked.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Powerline?

        On the contrary powerline over distribution systems does work. However, it's complicated to work around switching and transformers, vulnerable to the sort of noise you get on mains power, and creating any kind of backhaul becomes uneconomic for the measly amounts and value of metering data. My employers (a major UK DNO and international network operator) briefly looked at it to see if had the potential to allow them to offer broadband via people's mains supply before widespread FTTP was anticipated. At a basic level it works to a demonstration standard. But in the real world it's too finnicky, and not cost effective.

    3. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Powerline?

      It's one thing to get PowerLine working within a house. It's quite another to get anything like an adequate signal going unknown distances through all manner of cables and junction boxes before it gets to a substation (the only place where it'd make sense to have a "receiver"). It's a non-starter, really.

    4. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: Powerline?

      Apparently E.on do use BPL (broadband over power lines) for their smart meter comms in some places with tech from corinex.com.

      https://www.corinex.com/news/e-on-chooses-corinex

      1. Wu Ming

        Re: Powerline?

        In markets around the world Enel installed tens of millions of smart meters based on the power-line comm technology. With wireless backup on dedicated low frequency channel. Smart meters don’t need and don’t want a broadband connection.

  20. VicMortimer Silver badge

    You guys still have 2G and 3G?

    Weird. They shut down 2G years ago, and 3G was mostly shut down over a year ago. I think there might be one carrier that has some 3G towers active.

    "Smart" meters here don't use the cell networks, they've got their own mesh network.

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: You guys still have 2G and 3G?

      At some point the data has to leave that network, and if the meter is too far from the next one it can't mesh.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: You guys still have 2G and 3G?

        "At some point the data has to leave that network, and if the meter is too far from the next one it can't mesh."

        That's down to planning whether meters get too spread out to mesh directly, but they are all connected by wires so I'd expect there's some opportunity there. As to data leaving the network, that could be done by a cellular network as it would mean only needing to upgrade a few modules every few years as technology changes rather than every single meter. Data could also be sent to and fro via Viassat or Hughesnet from an electrical substation. The most pedestrian method might be for a radio van to visit areas and download the numbers from a datalogger wirelessly. Given it's the electricity company, the van/car could be an EV since charging would be cheaper than petrol and routes well known to be well within EV range limits.

        Using the cellular network might be a poor choice. As the years roll by, those are changed to meet growing advertising needs of mobile companies so they can state higher and higher data rates so all of the mice can live neck deep in their phones even consuming high data rate content. The leccy companies don't have data needs beyond what could be supplied years ago when it comes to remotely reading/managing meters.

        I'm old enough to remember having to book a week in advance to get service turned on or off when moving house. Since I have a paid for home I don't imagine that I'll move again, but if I did, I could ring up and have my current service switched off within the hour and new service where I'm moving to turned on and in my name. I'm not kept up at night about the evil the leccy company will do with a digital meter on my home. As soon as I have some solar on the roof, I'll be screwing their data mining anyway. They won't be able to see if I turn on a kettle every time. At best, they'll see when I use power at night if I don't have a battery fitted.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You guys still have 2G and 3G?

      If only we knew where on the planet the "here" in your comment referred to…?

      1. iron Silver badge

        Re: You guys still have 2G and 3G?

        Given the arrogance inherent by only specifying "here" it is undoubtedly the US of A.

  21. NIck Hunn

    It's not that they weren't told...

    At the start of the planning, this was pointed out to the committee in very plain terms. It even persuaded them to look briefly at power line comms for the return information, which had worked moderately well in several other countries. At the end of the day, the decisions was largely based on utilities not wanting to engage with companies that hadn't worked with for at least twenty years, along with a fear of any new technology. If anyone had offered them analogue smart meters, they'd have jumped at them.

    The problem is that despite having cost around £30 billion, there's no cost to the Treasury, as all of those costs have been added to consumer energy bills. It means that the Government isn't really interested and OFGEM probably see it as a gravy train, as they can fine the utilities for not meeting installation targets. So just expect more of the same.

    It's also one of those projects, like HS2, which every party has had a hand in, from Labour, through the SDP and Tories. So unless the Tories lose a byelection based on Smart Meters, we're probably set to throw a few more tens of billions away.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not that they weren't told...

      Hmm, well, the SDP actually still exists (or some sort of reincarnation of it, at any rate), but they have even fewer parliamentarians than the LibDems currently have (well, zero, in fact), a background noise number of councillors (still surprisingly impressive, or disturbing, depending on how you look at it), and (according to Wikipedia) they seem to at least partially fall into part of the political spectrum inhabited by some of the loony right parties. (It would be interesting to find out how much they do or do not have in common with their former alliance members, the Liberal Party, which also still exists separately from the LibDems.)

      It would nevertheless be 'interesting' to know what their perspective on "smart" meters is (and HS2, come to that)… :-D

      1. Lurko

        Re: It's not that they weren't told...

        Ed Davey was minister for energy and climate change for the period 2012-2015, so the LibDem spoon is richly decorated with the brown sticky stuff of smart metering.

        An anecdote told at the time by well placed sources was that on his first day, he swept into his new department and told them that he'd fix climate change and the worry of rising energy prices simply by insisting that all UK energy be generated from wind turbines. When the officials of DECC had got their breath back, they explained a Ladybird version of how the energy system works, and he was so crestfallen that he wasn't seen again for three weeks. So we can safely say the LibDems know nothing about anything.

  22. Sparkus

    The death of 2g and 3g

    Was known, to the day, when smart meters and other 'modern' convivences were rolled out the past 15 years............

  23. bazza Silver badge

    Farce

    The use of 2G / 3G by smart meters, and indeed the installation of smart meters is beginning to reach astonishing levels of farce.

    There's no great argument in favour of smart meters in the first place. The fact that they're now going to have to be swapped out is ridiculous. What a ****ing waste.

    If the government wants us all to have smart meters and to have the control / influence over how much energy people use, then it's going to have to act seriously to bring that about. That means thinking about the entire ecosystem. Either one builds a dedicated network for the data link, or one obliges the telcos to provide it. One does not let two entirely separate markets act independently. It's notable that the energy supply market is regulated by one government department, and the telecoms market is regulated by another.

    We've not been very good at building dedicated network infrastructure in this country (harrumph harrumph Tetra / Emergency Services Network replacement), so it's perhaps no surprise that this is turning into a major cock up.

    The problem with "the market will provide", or the "use commercial services" mantra for what is essentially critical national infrastructure is that there is no commercial incentive on commercial suppliers to provide a level of service adequate to meet the "Critical National Infrastructure" needs. It takes either law, or government ownership to make this happen. Some industries have been regulated to drive behaviours towards particular national goals - e.g. TV and public service broadcasters (not that there's many of them), and the BT and the core telephone network. If Government has similar requirements for, say, telecomms in support of, say, smart meters, there is no reason why it couldn't have similar laws / regulations for the same effect.

    The problem of not having thought about the requirements in advance of an industry coming into being (e.g. the mobile telecoms industry) is that, once established, if government then moves the goal posts government then has to pay for doing so. Having said that, I think it would have taken quite a leap of imagination to realise back in the early 1990s when mobile phone networks first got going that there were going to be use cases like smart meters. Having not thought about it, the damage is done, and the only way to fix it is to take a deep breath and pay for someone to alter their network to become something different to what it is today.

    Here's a Thought

    If we really do need a national network adequate for things like smart meters, how about the following.

    1) Build a proper network for the emergency services - I don't care what, so long as it's heavily government controlled (that being the only way to ensure it ticks the "Critical National Infrastructure" box) and actually does the job.

    2) Tetra, which has been blooming marvellous as a voice-only / small data network for the emergency services for decades, could get repurposed for a smart meter data network. This would re-use the Tetra infrastructure, probably reach to a load more places than mobile phone networks do.

    LORA

    This is probably a reasonably good candidate for building an entirely fresh, Smart meter dedicated network. It would be madness if there were more than one network; it needs someone to build a common network that all suppliers / consumers use.

    Multiple Suppliers is Part of the Problem

    The use of 2G / 3G by smart meters rather highlights the lunacy of "multiple suppliers" for things supplied by utilities. A really good reason to use 2G / 3G or any cellular standard for utility metering is that 1) the modems are cheap, and 2) there's already an existing network to hook into. So, if you're an electricity retailer obliged to supply a smart meter option, the cheap / fast way of doing so is to use what's already there. It's not economically feasible to expect all the energy retailers to independently build their own smart meter data network.

    Yet, if they were to all get together to build one that they all share, then really that's just highlighting the lunacy of there being more than 1 energy retailer in the first place. It's probably not politic to suggest in government (of any flavour) that the whole energy supply utilities thing should be forcibly coalesced back into just one organisation; that'd be tantamount to re-nationalisation.

    1. andy 103

      Re: Farce

      "If the government wants us all to have smart meters and to have the control / influence over how much energy people use, then it's going to have to act seriously to bring that about. "

      That is looking at it from the wrong angle. This only takes care of the reporting aspect of how much energy people are using, and potentially using that data to do something useful. It would open up much bigger questions such as

      1. How do we actually produce the energy people need in the first place? Is it possible the number of people in the UK and the energy provision mechanisms we currently have aren't well aligned? You can't get rid of the people(!) so you need to tackle that from the angle of how to produce energy ideally without reliance on other countries as we've recently been made very aware. Nobody is close to addressing this one so good luck.

      2. Why do people need to use so much energy? Are their homes insulated and constructed to a standard whereby they are able to use energy efficiently? Can they do anything about this if the answer is "no"? At what cost to them? Again nobody is close to resolving that one.

      3. "The future is electric vehicles". I'll just leave this bullshit here without saying anything else.

      There are far bigger problems to tackle when it comes to energy usage than just how it gets reported.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Farce

        Completely agree.

        For me as an engineer, the worst thing about a lot of the current schemes being pushed on country are that they're potentially (or proving to be) a complete waste of time, money, materials, energy. For example, if we end up prematurely disposing of of millions of smart meters, we've just made the "throw-away" economy a whole lot worse.

        Regarding your point 2), the problem is the housing stock. It's only comparatively recently that decent insulation standards became mandatory, and even then they're not up to the levels commonplace in other countries. We have rubbish housing stock because much of it was built when coal was cheap and commonplace, and energy was "plentiful". We basically need to demolish Britain and start again, to get anywhere close to an efficient stock of buildings. Obviously that is prohibitive. Previously it was worked out that it was more efficient to build a load of nukes and give away the electricity than it is to retrospectively insulate the current building stock. The only other way is a sustained program of compulsory purchase / demolition / rebuild going on for decades and decades; one would need good luck getting political buy-in for that scheme!

        To extend your point 3), it's becoming clear that large fleets of Lithium Ion powered vehicles are a bad idea. The frustrating thing is that far better chemistries (like Aluminium-Sulphur) are being sidelined by an industry that's already got too much invested in LiIon, yet AlS batteries are probably where we're going to have to go. Trashing the world in pursuit of rare lithium resources first is just lunacy, and another expansion of the throw-away economy on a grand scale. What a waste.

        Personally, I blame the lack of discipline in science. It's far too easy for activists (which includes a lot of scientists) to bump politicians into adopting the first half-baked solution to environmental problems. It's almost impossible for a more sober reflective views such as, "hang on, is this a good idea?" to get any traction. The scientific world is pretty poor at understanding the damage half-formed advice can have at the macro-economic scale, and very powerful in forcing the adoption of half-formed policies.

        And there's plenty of disasters already; the cutting down of rain forests to grow palm oil for European bio-diesel. The sudden up-tick in dirty mining for lithium, cobalt, nickel for batteries. There's an area of Portugal that is about to be blighted by an enormous lithium mine project. We're going to ultimately ditch lithium ion as a power store, but no one is going to restore the countryside afflicted by the mining...

        Worse, the one thing that could actually save us (nuclear fusion) needs lithium (it's used to capture the neutrons from the plasma, gets hot as a result and used to raise steam). If we've got rid of all the lithium by wasting it in EVs first, we're going to look stupid... Oh, wait a minute. We do look stupid!

        1. blackcat Silver badge

          Re: Farce

          If you want numbers that will make you cry just look at the disposable vapes. Something like half a billion went in the bin in the last year, all with a lithium battery.

          It is very strange how projects alternate between what appears to be a complete scattergun approach and 'this is the only solution!!'. The gearup for lithium batteries is a bit like bioethanol in the US. The people behind it have secured some lucrative govt subsidies.

          What is even worse about palm oil is that Europe buys used oil from these countries that used to be mixed in with animal feed. Now it is cheaper for the farmers to buy virgin oil to mix in with the animal feed as the used oil carries a huge premium. And here in Europe we feel better as our biodiesel is made from 'used oil'.

          The thinking is very blinkered and incredibly short term.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Farce

            "The thinking is very blinkered and incredibly short term."

            Usually because idiot politicians commit to unreasonably quick solutions, egged on by moron NGOs (often getting handouts from governments) as with all the net zero and EV diktats. Nobody wants dirty fuels (even the companies currently making and supplying them), but what's happened is panicky snatching at half baked and incomplete solutions that then don't add up to a whole, the complete mess the EU made by failing to plan for a nuclear low carbon future (thank German fear-mongers for that one).

            If the UK had paused and thought about the problem then instead of throwing ludicrous amounts of money at solar power (£15bn), at wind (£50bn so far), at smart meters (£16bn), at biomass (£10bn) and at a guess circa £15bn of grid changes to support renewables, and tens of billions on interconnectors. There's circa £110bn that could have been spent on a planned nuclear power programme. And before anyone says £100bn doesn't buy you many Hinkley Points, that's true but as a national programme you'd get the first one working, learn the lessons and then cookie cutter the rest for a much lower cost. And on current projections, the UK hopes to waste another £70bn on wind projects through to 2030, and who knows how much on stupid CCS schemes.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Farce

          "We basically need to demolish Britain and start again, to get anywhere close to an efficient stock of buildings. Obviously that is prohibitive."

          That's being done slowly. Anybody doing a major refurb of a home will see a big payback for anything efficiency related and it's mandated in many places. Where it happens the slowest is with low-end, low-income housing. It's hard to get an entire housing block vacant so the work can be done. Most of those areas have very bad property values so there's little advantage to doing the work in the first place. Rent controls can make it even worse.

          The spending I do on my house is always strategic. I could strip and rebuild the bathrooms to something that Arch-Chancellor Ridcully would boggle over, but there's no reason for that. I'm better off by replacing the crap windows I have with double glazing, having the roof redone with better materials and adding solar. I think I do better investing a bit of money in the garden so I always have fresh herbs, peppers and some fruits (I'm adding more fruit trees to the vacant lot next door that is so tied up with liens that nothing will be built there in my lifetime) than a luxury kitchen install.

          A massive rebuild of everything all at once is wasteful on a whole other scale. Some thought has to be put into what sorts of legislation and local red tape makes it unreasonable to upgrade properties.

          1. Tubz Silver badge

            Re: Farce

            Don't worry, our Governments be it Tory or I dread, Labour, are on track and within budget to complete that, we'll the demolish part anyway, the rebuild will be put on long term hold, as we don't have enough brickies and the popup renewable 4 bedroom homes for under £20K have yet to be made in mass.

            1. tiggity Silver badge

              Re: Farce

              @Tubz

              Why dread labour if you like the Tories? Starmer labour so right wing that it's almost indistinguishable from the tories.

      2. ITMA Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Farce

        "3. "The future is electric vehicles"

        The future's bright. The future's Orange!

        Nope that bright orange glow is your EV going up in flames.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Farce

      The report says that the Department cost estimatee of replacing the modular communication hubs is £2 per household.

      Sounds low, given it requires someone to turn up, replace the part, and check operation.

      But equally the additional cost to the energy bill should be modest when spread over a year or more?

  24. andy 103
    WTF?

    cost savings to households from knowing the amount of energy they are consuming

    "The benefits in terms of cost savings to households from knowing the amount of energy they are consuming"

    Sorry, how does that work?

    If I know how much energy I'm using, it doesn't change how much energy I'm using.

    I understand the idea that if you tell people they're racking up a large bill in realtime it might prompt them to try and reduce their energy consumption. Has it done that? I doubt it. Not on any meaningful scale.

    Some of the energy prices we've seen recently in the UK however... well, that's another way of tackling it, isn't it? Let them freeze to death and they'll no longer have to care about it.

    1. Lurko

      Re: cost savings to households from knowing the amount of energy they are consuming

      ""The benefits in terms of cost savings to households from knowing the amount of energy they are consuming" Sorry, how does that work?"

      There aren't many, but some poor beggars do indeed sit watching their IHD, and wandering around looking to turn things off. Across the population there will be a very tiny reduction in demand from this, but probably not even a rounding error on total demand.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: cost savings to households from knowing the amount of energy they are consuming

        I’m not a poor beggar, but I certainly check my IHD, sometimes in horror as it indicates £10+ for a single day.

        It’s good to know what’s going on.

  25. Lee D Silver badge

    I'll worry about it when they bother to give me a smart meter.

    Every month or so I press the button again and am told that they're "not available in my area" yet.

    I have an old teleswitch meter, which is dependent upon a BBC radio signal, which is dependent on the Droitwich radio station, which is dependent on a huge *valve* based transmitter, which is dependent on a stock of the now-unavailable valves (which the BBC bought up in their entirety worldwide, and burn through one every year or so).

    They've announced that it's going to be decommissioned - with no planned replacement - as soon as the last valve dies. That date keeps getting pushed back but nobody seems to be in any rush to actually DO anything about it until one day it just stops working. Then presumably there'll be a mad scramble to move me to a smart meter, and I'll tell them to get lost and only do it at my convenience because they've had YEARS to do this and haven't bothered.

    1. Lurko

      According to previous BBC statements, the plan is for LW radio broadcasting from Droitwich to end in the second quarter of 2024. Whilst the electricity industry is again angling for an extension to Dec 2025, I suspect that without BBC broadcasts to share the costs they'll be in for a big bill. I'd also guess that Arqiva will want to be rid of the RTS load as soon as the Beeb have gone, because the Droitwich site is 50 acres of potential development land adjacent to the M5/A38 junction. In rough terms we're talking £25m for the land.

      https://radiotoday.co.uk/2023/05/more-details-announced-regarding-bbc-radio-4-long-wave-switch-off/

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-66644709

  26. munnoch Bronze badge

    Give it all to the DNO's

    Metering equipment should be the responsibility of the DNO, not the energy retailer.

    That way when you need your supply altered its one body that comes around, installs/moves the cable head *and* the meter at the same time. The way we do it here is beyond retarded. The guy who installed my smart meter drove an hour to get to me then another hour to his next job (and being a gen 1 meter it stopped being smart about 6 months later when I switched supplier).

    The DNO will then be responsible for getting the readings transmitted to a central repository from whence the retailers can extract them. I'm sure the DNO has telemetry all over their network which they are probably keen to keep alive regardless of what happens to the backhaul technology so sending readings over the same channels seems quite reasonable. Maybe a wee bit more data needs to move, but honestly, how much data can one meter generate per day?

    The energy retailers that face end consumers should be completely virtual organisations. They should not be responsible for any physical kit whatsoever. All they do is shuffle numbers back and forth and collect a mark up. Arguably they have no real reason for existing but that depends on your view of "free market"(*).

    (*) Its funny how people seem to be quite happy with the idea of virtual mobile networks (who differentiate themselves through their tariffs) but then recoil at the idea of energy retailers doing essentially the same thing in a slightly different consumer-facing space and having the audacity to collect a _reward_.

  27. bashley
    Alert

    Medical technology too

    Not to mention CPAP machines and other medical assistance technology that sends reports via 2G and 3G

    1. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

      Re: Medical technology too

      Modern CPAP machines link to a smartphone app and upload to the medics that way.

  28. TimMaher Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Bugger. This means….

    …I will have to go and find the torch to look in the cupboard low down in the kitchen. The torch will flicker and then go out. No amount of shaking it will re-generate the batteries. Having replaced the batteries and bent double to get into the cupboard, piles of old bags and a half empty wine rack will need to crawled past.

    Then I will discover that the smart meter is fairly new and will not need an upgrade… until it does.

  29. EBG

    here's an idea

    They could be swapped out for traditional (dumb) meters. Job's a good 'un

  30. steelpillow Silver badge
    Coat

    What's in a name?

    Migrating to better security and spectrum usage at 2G frequencies makes huge sense. Most RAN systems are compatible with it anyway, as it is often still the default for routing voice audio calls to give poor 3G/LTE a break, also all the old routing and billing shit still has to work. Better still would be a software-defined breakdown of individual 2G channels into multiple narrowband high-efficiency channels, so you could move the cell across one 2G channel at a time, as the user base migrated.

    But would it then be 5/6G over LF or 2G++ ?

    No, steely, don't be so silly. It would be a dream, you'll wake up one day and find it's all some Cisco proprietary gobshite* that only works when the Russian and Chinese cyberwarriors fix it properly so their spyware can function.

    * Vulture buzzword No.1 of 2023.

  31. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Time for the

    back of a fag packet calculation.

    Total cost of smart meter rollout in the past 10 years = 20 billion quid.

    Number of meters that are bricked as a result = 30%

    30% of 20 billion is 6.6 billion or thereabouts.

    Starting cost of building a 2 Gw nuclear power station (IE something thats actually needed)= 6.6 billion.*

    Or spend abother 12 billion replacing the 30% of smart meters about to bricked**

    Perhaps the rest of our lives should be spent banging our heads against a wall while yelling 'make it stop'

    *Or 15 miles of high speed rail line

    ** Yeah I know it was 6.6 billion.. but what with inflation, consultacy fees, legal advice, the inquiry, the lost legal case against private eye for spilling the beans, and other expenses (duck ponds, boats, minister's holidays) the price had to go up.

  32. DevOpsTimothyC

    So what is going to be the outcome here ?

    I'm going to guess everyone is going to get a "Upgrade your old smart meter for £££, or you will be cut off (without power)"

  33. HappyDog
    FAIL

    What a waste of money and opportunity. If they had joined forces with, for example, a smart thermostat manufacturer, they could have provided a package that would have actually saved customers money. We had a new gas boiler all efficient and "eco friendly", whatever "that's" worth for a gas boiler, with a truly woeful UI. All manual time settings and tiny display. Made the thing unusable except for the boost button which turned the heating for the boiler on to full max for minimum 1 hour. When the room would be like a sauna. Then the house would cool down over the next hour and the boost button would be pushed again. Rinse and repeat. We got a smart thermostat and from, an average of 4 boosts, i.e 4 hours and half the time freezing between boosts we currently average 1.25 hours with the smart thermostat and are never cold or too hot. The smart thermostat controls the boiler turning it on for a small duration, usually about 5 mins to keep the room temperature at my presets, before turning it off again. Everything can be controlled easily from an app. If the government had rolled smart thermostats out instead of dumb smart meters, we would probably be close to their original net zero targets and people would be using and paying for a lot less fuel be that gas, electricity or renewables

    1. ITMA Silver badge
      Devil

      I would humbly suggest that if you have had a new gas boiler installed that you are having to try and operate via the control panel on the boiler, you hired an absolutely crap installer.

      Or you put such restrictions on what you wanted him/her to do - "only change the boiler" - that you got what you asked for.

      A descent/competent one would/should have looked at the system as a whole and advised what system controls would be needed for it work well and efficiently - such as a separate programmer/thermostat.

      Of course for all we know they may have - but you may have refused.

  34. Barleyman

    Sort of useful

    I've found the smart meters kind of useful. You get monthly bill based on the actual consumption instead of getting the hammer once a year if you don't bother regularly checking the readings manually. Other than that, they're pretty useless. Okay, I guess if you have hourly pricing (or half an hourly or whatever), you could take some benefit by charging a BEV at night or something.

    WRT the meters becoming bricks, that's more ticklish problem than you guys probably think. 2G is the go-to utility tech because we don't have a replacement. There's Cat M1 (LTE-M) which piggybacks on 4G and allows cheapo low battery use devices for stuff that doesn't need that much data, like smart meters. Only UK has been reeel sloooow deploying those things, national O2 network happened pretty much this year and it's not really that national yet. So up until now, there simply was no replacement for 2G in many cases, except for 4G which is expensive and unnecessary tech for such devices.

    Anyways, 2G is not going to go gentle into that good night, it's a bit ridiculous we're going to have that thoroughly obsolete tech around in 2030s, but it's hanging around exactly because of the millions of devices that depend on it.

  35. spireite Silver badge

    One of the 'selling points' of this debacle was that you'd know what you were burning energy wise and adjust your usage.

    It's made no difference to me... if i'm cold i'll pop the gas heating on or a jumper. I'll burn the same leccy no matter what. It's hardly a time saver - takes all of 10s to photo both meters and 5 mins to submit my readings.

    Same for my parents....

    It is the classic solution that is looking for a problem IMO

    1. ITMA Silver badge
      Angel

      "It is the classic solution that is looking for a problem IMO"

      It is a solution to a problem - just not the one they are claiming.

      The "problems" it is a solution to are:

      - allows them to implement very granular variable peak demand pricing.

      - allows them to remotely cut off those who haven't paid.

      - allows them to remotely switch anyone they want to a prepaid arrangement whether the customer wants it or not, or even needs it.

      So-called "smart" meters have absolutely bugger all to do with saving consumers energy or money which is the claim. Especially by that God awful "Albert Einstein" advert.

  36. Jamie Jones Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Only as "smart" as the dumbest link

    Even if meters were truly "smart" and wonderful, you still have to deal with the energy companies that read them, and as soon as there is any little problem, you face their ineptitude.

    Ok ,this is my current situation. I don't have a smart meter, but it's a good excuse for a quick rant anyway.

    TL-DR? My current gas bill. Look at my "minimum payment"! ---> https://www.jamie.wales/misc/gas_bill-20231024.png

    When I moved into my new flat 8 or 8 years ago, it turned out they'd messed up the meter - all the meters are in the "boiler room" downstairs, so the meters are read by someone getting access via the landlord etc.

    This wasn't a problem for the first 5 or so years (or so I thought)

    I never really use heating (I probably spend more on the air con over a year) but this was the first place I'd been where the plumbed in shower was powered by gas, so I expected to see a rise in my typical gas bill.

    I was getting charged around £15 a month - I was surprised, but I had this "state of the art" new efficient gas boiler, (arranged by the builders, not me) so I assumed it was doing a good job. After all, my meter was being read regularly, and there seemed to be no issue.

    Anyway, fast forward to covid lockdowns.

    I get a call from SSE (my supplier) asking me to send in a meter reading, as their meter readers can't get out due to lockdown.

    I go downstairs, locate the meter for my flat, and the reading is about 38,000 units! The last value they had was around 480!

    I did some back and fore with Scottish Power (at the time) and they said that obviously my meter is buggered, and when the covid restrictions are lifted, they'll be replacing the meter with a smart meter anyway, so it will all be sorted by then, so for now, just continue as I am.

    About a year later, getting concerned, we called them again. They had no record of the prior conversation! so we had to go through the whole rigmarole again. Sent photos of the meter etc. and it became apparent that there was a meter mixup: Whilst the flat numbers on the meters were correct, they were billing based on the serial numbers, and they'd mixed up my meter with the meter of the guy next door!

    Now, the flat next door was empty for about 6 months when I moved in, and after that, the guy who lived there was out 8.00am to midnight every day for years. So that is why my bill was so low!

    They said they'd need to send someone out to check the meters in person... And some time after that... Scottish Power sold the account to OVO energy. No information about my meter or issues were passed on - the account was passed on with the original low usage reading on the meter.

    At this time, the landlord for the building got involved, because not only was this affecting my neighbour, it turned out it was affecting 2 other tenants too! Similar issue! Her dealings with OVO had to start again from scratch.. They were just as slow as Scottish Power were, faffing around for photos, and saying we need an engineer to visit. etc.

    Fast forward to last December. It seems the "correct" meter reading has now been put on the account (and it's not even positive that the "correct" meter reading is accurate!).

    Since they inherited the account with the low number about a year ago, in their eyes, I've used pretty much 8 years of gas in the last year, and they have thus billed me for it all, based on gas prices THIS YEAR, and have also averaged out the monthly usage based on this figure, hence why my monthly usage the last year is averaging so highly!

    We had to call OVO again, explaining the situation, etc. all over again. The landlord finally sent the whole thing to the ombudsman. She had to have a name on the ticket of one of the customers involved, so she chose the guy downstairs from me, but the ticket was dealing with the 4 flats.

    Now this was sitting with the ombudsman, who was also dragging their feet. 6 weeks ago, unfortunately, the guy downstairs died. The ombudsman, and OVO, on hearing this, CLOSED THE WHOLE TICKET. The ombudsman did add "I couldn't really do much anyway, they said it was with their technical team" BLOODY HELL, that's what they've been telling us for 2 years, that's why we called the ombudsman... Anyone have the number for the ombudsman ombudsman?

    The landlord mentioned that it affected 4 of us, and will still affect the new tenant, but they said nothing they can do, account is closed, so we have to start from scratch for the third time.

    I know this, because when this happened, all the accounts got unfrozen, and all the phone calls forgotten, and I got a bill last week (attached).. They expect me to pay over £6,000 a month - I live alone in a one bedroom flat! Ok, I have a living room, bathroom, and kitchen, too, but they aren't THAT extravagant! :-)

    To me it's a laugh - but this sort of shite would really scare some people. Ridiculous.

    Some simple meter cockup (on their behalf) that they've known about for 3 years, and yet, we are no closer to getting it sorted than we were when I first discovered the issue.

    If your "smart" meter has issues, don't expect anything to go any smoother!

    1. TonyHoyle

      Re: Only as "smart" as the dumbest link

      Go back to the ombudsman.

      They can only back bill you for 12 months, not 8 years.. Those are the Ofcom rules. Anything they failed to bill you from before then is their problem.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Only as "smart" as the dumbest link

        Go back to the ombudsman.

        They can only back bill you for 12 months, not 8 years.. Those are the Ofcom rules. Anything they failed to bill you from before then is their problem.

        I think you mean OFGEM unless Ofcom are overstepping their remit.

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Only as "smart" as the dumbest link

        Thanks for the reply. I didn't know that, but that is good information to know.

        To be honest, I'm rather laid back over the whole affair (too laid back, probably), but I know at least one of my neighbours is quite anxious about it all, so that will be pleasing news for him. Cheers.

        As I said, the landlord (well, a representative - it's a big old house converted to 6 self contained flats next door to another unit they run) is dealing with it, and she is a bit too patient, I think, but she takes no crap, and as they can't get to the meters / stop taps without going through her, I'm not too stressed about it all....

        Actually, knowing the 12 month rule, the longer they take to sort it out, the better :-)

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Only as "smart" as the dumbest link

          "Actually, knowing the 12 month rule, the longer they take to sort it out, the better :-)"

          That's good for not having to pay all of the back usage, but if they've consolidated usage so it looks like you used 8 years worth of gas in 1 year, that can affect estimated bills if they can't get a meter reading and possibly what they might demand in deposits.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Only as "smart" as the dumbest link

      I feel for you. In my place the suppliers were billing the shop downstairs for the flat's usage, and billing the flat for the shop's usage. They kept saying the meter readings were correct - well, yes they were, but on the wrong account. I had to almost physically drag a technician into the shop and shove his face into the shop's meter cupboard in the shop to get them to rectify it.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Only as "smart" as the dumbest link

        Thanks.

        Oh geeze, that sounds oh too familiar.. How is it so difficult to get them to understand that the meters have simply been mixed up?

  37. Snowy Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Smart Meters

    Money spent so well lets do it again.

  38. Anonymous Tribble

    Wifi connection

    Octopus are trialling something that they hope will make the 2G/3G connection irrelevant with their Home Mini device. It replaces your IHD with something that connects to your WiFi and shows you your usage figures on their app. It means they would be able to get up to date readings directly from the meter without all that messing about and delay on the current system.

    They hope to be granted permission to use those readings instead of the normal method by TPTB.

    If it works and they are allowed to use them it means a tiny inexpensive device will mean that most SMETS2 meters don't need to be upgraded when 2G/3G is switched off.

    I'm getting one soon, so will see how it goes.

  39. Richard 36

    2033? No story here, surely!

  40. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Turn off reliable old systems that are still in use?

    Makes so much sense.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Turn off reliable old systems that are still in use?"

      It does. 2G/3G is an overly large frequency range for use with limited data needs such as a meter might need. It was thought that since it was such a low data use that it made perfect sense to just piggyback on something built out for another purpose and at the time, it did make sense. What wasn't considered is that mobile telephone needs and technology might change. Surprise! when it shouldn't have been a surprise. Meter reading could have been allocated to ISR bands. It would have been more money upfront for the electricity and gas companies to build out, but the whole premise is they are saving money hand over fist by not having to send a person to read each meter in person. They also can switch service on and off remotely so a person doesn't have to be sent out when a new tenant moves into a property to turn the services on. When moving out, a person can have services shut off and a final reading made within 24 hours and get the final bill right away rather than having those utilities left on for the landlord to run up by leaving the lights on and HVAC going full bore to make the flat/house more inviting when they show it. I've been to that play and it was a load of acrimony to get sorted out and I feel I got the dirty end of the stick.

      The 2G/3G bands can't be reallocated until their current uses are ended. To narrow the bands so utility data can still be transmitted would mean updating all of the meters to only broadcast on the narrowed range of frequencies so they don't cause interference. We're back to having to replace all of the meters if they aren't modular enough to fit a new RF module.

  41. Tubz Silver badge

    All Damn Lies

    Remember the claims by Government, Energy Industry and the Green muppets that we will all save money in the long wrong and we'll knew it was a lie but practically forced to go along with it, once again the consumer picks up the bill, when it should be the energy companies for putting in kit they knew would be obsolete in a few years.

  42. Dolvaran

    I never understood why they used telco's at all. The technology to send data over the mains cabling has existed for decades. The power distributors should have kept it all in house.

  43. Jim Whitaker
    Happy

    Content

    Every so often it is nice to have a gentle warm feeling. Usually I get this from ignoring messages to install a "smart" meter. Now I get double reward from this announcement.

  44. Richard Cranium

    I've never been happy with the ability to have power turned off remotely, still less happy that it's done just by changing a setting in a large centralised database. What a target that database is for anyone wanting to inflict massive damage on uk homes and businesses - but of course it's absolutely secure, like all the others we read about being breached on an almost daily basis.

    As for monitoring energy use: I submit meter readings every month and then get a bill, that gives me a clue.

    The house is reasonably well insulated and the pay-back period for improving on that is decades. I have room for an air-source heat pump but it would mean replacing the heating pipes and radiators. I have roof space for Solar panels but the salesman who did a survey was honest (!) and told me I'd probably need a full-house rewire but in any case the roof orientation and shade from a neighbouring tall building meant I'd not generate much.

    If I want to reduce the fuel bill the choice is to reduce my use of anything that uses a lot of energy, basically anything that gets hot and, where possible, heat with gas rather than electricity.

    1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

      try a windmill generator?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How about putting the kids in a treadmill, keep them fit and contribute to the household budget...

  45. JohnMurray

    Faraday cage

    around the meter !

  46. Richard Cranium

    Just a thought...

    Many people complain about it being difficult to read the meter - like hard to reach location at the back of a dark cupboard, small numbers. Smart meters fix that (or would do if they were reliable). Another _inexpensive_ option would be to bluetooth enable the meters so they could be read by mobile phone app and the reading stored for the householder and sent to the energy supplier*.

    Granted this doesn't facilitate feed-in and variable tariffs but it gets rid of reliance on the mobile networks, the mobile phone could use a WiFi connection too or store and forward if no immediate connection available.

    * Actually rather than send direct to the energy supplier send the readings and the unique meter ID to a central database which then routes the readings to the current energy supplier.

    BTW currently I use Octopus who send a monthly reminder to submit current readings then email a bill usually within 24 hours. A big improvement on Scottish Power who sent me a bill for a month's electricity 30 months years after I left and over 10 times what my monthly payments had been. It took hours of my time, proving to them and a series of debt collectors that nothing was owing. That took a further 2 years. You might have expected an apology or even compensation - don't be silly, this was Scottish Power.

    1. Paul Smith

      Irish planning law has insisted for years that meters can be read without having to enter the premises and the sky hasn't fallen in. Perhaps you could suggest something similar to your local councillors.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Local councillors don't make law. And any law on placement of meters would only affect new meters, and not the 50 million already in existence.

        1. Paul Smith

          Placement, and replacement.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Local councillors don't make law. And any law on placement of meters would only affect new meters,"

          In the US the local governments are the one that make law (called ordinances) with regards to building requirements. There could be the need to fit a new meter where it can be read without entering the home or property when a certain level of refurbishment is being done. New builds are obviously going to need to have meters placed according to code.

  47. Plest Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Utterly pointless, 'cos mine stopped connecting after a few weeks!

    Had smart meter put in 2 years ago, it stopped working a month after it was put in, rang the leccy company 5 times now and all they say is, "We'll make a note and come back to you!". The one for the gas supply lasted 2 months and stopped calling home. It was good for the first couple of weeks they both worked, instant numbers on the app and website, no clambering about under the stairs, no snotty emails from the power company.

    Now we just read the numbers of a digital display under the stairs instead of an old analogue dial, we still have to fill in the numbers manually on the power company website.

    Basically the whole thing was a complete f**king waste of time and money, might as well have left the old meters in place!

  48. MJI Silver badge

    I don't want one, why?

    Reason 1 They use electricity, including the little display.

    Reason 2 Remote disconnect

    See reason 2

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't want one, why?

      If they want to disconnect you, they only need a magistrates approval and give you seven days notice

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I don't want one, why?

        "If they want to disconnect you, they only need a magistrates approval and give you seven days notice" or Oops someone pressed the wrong button or oops they keyed in the wrong address/meter number or oops the database was hacked or oops software error

  49. da39a3ee5e6b4b0d3255bfef95601890afd80709
    WTF?

    Free SMART meter, ONCE

    I had British Gas (I know, I know) install a SMART meter a few years back. Changed supplier 3 times since then. I do it annually, mostly, to get best rates. Now, I'm with E*ON Next, and they can't read my meter ofcourse. I ask them about the EV car rate supply, and they tell me "you need a SMART meter" to which I reply, that's fab, I've got one. Nope. "We can't read it". So I say, "ok ... when can you install one?" E*ON - "Nope, you've already got one ... " ummmm .... this can only be a government program with logic like this. What a cluster *uck.

  50. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. jonfr

      Re: 2G or not 2G?

      No updates and the whole 2G system today is a major security risk, mostly because 2G got weak security and might as well not have any with today's standards. The same goes for 3G, its not being updated and security problems are not getting fixed.

      1. reubs007

        Re: 2G or not 2G?

        Good to hear that a piece of critical infrastructure is connected to networks with little or no security. A notable selling point of mechanical meters is they are 100% hacker proof.

  51. Ian Tunnacliffe

    My two pennorth

    I have been getting calls from my energy suppliers for years asking me to book a smart meter install. I just keep telling them I don't want one and the poor sod in the call centre accepts that and we get on with our days. Then a month or so ago I got one of these calls and the PSITCC said that if I accepted a smart meter they would pay me a hundred quid. I said no thanks and we got on with our day. If they try that one again I am inclined to try to see how high they are authorised to go. A hundred is not attractive enough but if I can get them up to a grand.....

    ALSO. The TV ads featuring a caricature Albert Einstein figure make me determined never to cooperate with any company that would sanction their production. AE was one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists that ever drew breath. He was not some bumbling mad inventor and to portray him as such just gets on my nerves (comment toned down for public consumption).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My two pennorth

      The usual reason to swap supplier was lower cost - but one year I found another, the small print on the contract said I would be *required* to accept a smart meter

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: My two pennorth

      Mind you, using Einstein to advertise fridges would have been perfect. He and Leo Szilard invented one.

  52. heyrick Silver badge

    Linky TIC

    Hmm, this topic has reminded me that the French Linky smart meter has a "TIC" output. I keep meaning to hook it up to an optocoupler and then feed the result into an ESP32 to chart/record my power consumption.

    I could let Enedis access my meter every half hour (rather than daily) and use their website but that means involving a third party, the resolution is lower (I think the Linky spews it's serial data every couple of seconds which is better than every half hour), and as a nerd "where's the fun in that"? Much better to spend a weekend coding up something to record the past X hours of consumption and draw a pretty little graph when I enter the IP address of the device.

    Do other (UK?) smart meters have a user accessible data port, or is this just a French thing?

    (if anybody is interested: https://www.capeb.fr/www/capeb/media/vaucluse/document/FicheSeQuelecN17TIC.pdf)

  53. Paul 87

    Who'd have thought?

    The government and civil servants responsible for making the policy document were entirely incapable of predicting the future, nor accurately assessing the time to complete the rollout of a project in an area where they have next to no experience. Never saw the point of smart meters, never wanted one, will always resist having one. After all, why on earth put something on the public internet for the sake of a tiny bit of data sharing?

    Chances are high that this was high level corruption, boost shareholders values in various companies by pretending to give a damn about something.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ZedPM

    Not sure why this technology isn't used, apparently its very common to 'mine' the quantum vacuum ie near a black hole and then convert the energy into

    long lived radioisotopes like Laforgium, its unusual for a civilization to rely on primordial isotopes for long,

    Usually when they get to about a 0.9 on the Kardashev scale interstellar travel becomes possible, though a slow boat approach.

    Around this time they normally find either a natural or artificial source of power that makes things a lot easier.

    ZPMs are basically a refined version using entirely artificial constructs and elements that aren't found in nature, that generates about the same amount

    of power as a thousand fusion plants but without the radioactive byproducts.

    Once you've got that sort of technology travel at beyond light speed s very simple, Alcubierre based warp bubbles aren't that hard though can have

    deleterious side effects if not configured properly.

  55. Anne Hunny Mouse

    'Smart' Meters

    The meters and displays aren't that smart.

    The original SMets1 are tied to one provider, meaning they went dumb if you changed companies.

    The in house displays cannot cope with tariffs which have different prices depending on the time and only display usage costs based the higher rate.

    Smart meters are only useful if you are using one of these time based tariffs to exploit cheaper electricity available overnight for EV charging, heat pumps or storage heaters (though Economy 7 is more common for these).

    Depending if you are north or south of a point in the country depends on how your smart meter connects.

    North uses radio. This means certain areas you can't get smart meters as they have been deemed to interfere with radar.

    The idea for smart meters is to cut peak usage as neither the generating companies or the Government want to built more power stations as they cost money.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: 'Smart' Meters

      Are DUMB and always have been.

      I have five of those stupid home displays sitting in my Electronics recycling bin (when I can be half arsed to take them to the tip) because they won't connect to my 'dumb' meter.

      Then you can't take a reading of both tariffs at the same time. You can only read the one that is operating.

      As someone who spent a large part of my working life designing systems, these bits of junk are about the worst possible solution to a non problem that a politician can dream up on a wet Friday afternoon after an even wetter lunch.

      I despise the things and only have one because it was a precondition of going onto an EV charging tariff (that also charges my home batteries so my peak power usage is very, very low).

      As for the gubbermint not wanting to build more power stations, the cost of the dumbass smart meter rollout would have paid for a nice big one.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: 'Smart' Meters

        Is the display hackable in any way?

  56. jollyboyspecial

    Mine has only ever worked intermittently for electricity and not at all for gas. I've reported this several times, but nobody has been able to fix it. I had one person at the call centre Tel me she could "see" it working properly when I was standing right in front of it and could see that the display was showing "waiting for current data". It's been swapped which has made no n difference. And an engine came out to fix it but all he did was go through the setup procedure which I'm more than capable of doing myself. I've been told several times it's a signal issue when the display shows clearly it has a good signal.

    So do I really care if it stops working when 2G and 3G are switched off? Not really. It's never actually started working in the first place.

  57. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    My, and my neighbours', meters are in the cellar where there's no comms signal, so is pointless to install a smart meter.

    I seem to remember decades ago when all this remote reading was being touted that the signal was supposed to be sent back to base over the electricity mains itself.

  58. Byte me

    It's an eco-friendly, job creating oportunity.

    Yes the devices work fine, yes 3G was ample for most people's usage. However the way to tackle the climate apocalypse is to replace every device every 5 years because there may be some marginal benefit not accounting manufacturing impact and real world usage. Also, think about the kids: What would those Uighur kids and kids in the Congo do without jobs?

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Replacing all the current meters by 2033...

    Was always going to have to happen anyway. Most smart meters (especially the gas ones as they're battery powered) are only designed to have a 10 year lifespan (Vs a 30+ year lifespan on traditional meters) so they were always going to have to be replaced by then anyway.

    Instead of having someone spend 2 minutes looking at your meter ever few years you now have someone spending an hour or two every 10 years replacing the meter. This is obviously not about saving labour or money.

    The main goal of the lobby groups behind how the UK's smart meters were setup was to make it as expensive and complex as possible so all the small energy suppliers would go bankrupt trying to get themselves through their DDC audits. It worked a little too well as when gas prices increased suddenly killed them all at once. All the consumer unfriendly stuff like remote disconnection and switching to prepayment mode where just "happy" side effects.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Replacing all the current meters by 2033...

      "Vs a 30+ year lifespan on traditional meters"

      The meter that was taken out at home a few of years ago was installed in 1968. They wouldn't let me keep it either. :(

      The Linky apparently has a soldered-in lithium cell with a ten year lifespan. Which means things could get interesting with power cuts after around five years from now given that it's the thing that lets the meter remember who you are and so on.

      I don't think people are going to accept their electricity refusing to come back on line because too many cows were being milked at once causing a brownout long enough to give the meters amnesia.

      I don't see why the thing didn't use a slot in button cell. Then somebody could come out once a decade, open it up, pop in a new battery, job done.

  60. localzuk

    Impossible to see this project failing...

    I mean, who could possibly have seen this project being such a failure? With the govt making it a legal obligation that energy companies roll them out, but didn't give them any powers to actually do so. You can still refuse to have one installed. So, how exactly are companies supposed to roll them out when people say no?

    And with 2G/3G being turned off, what happens more years down the line and 4G is turned off? Or whatever other tech they decide to move to? Future proofing wasn't part of the design...

  61. JulieM Silver badge

    I like my key meter

    I like my key meter.

    It's true that I have actually to walk all the way up to it and look at it, to see how much I have got left; but I have a pretty good idea how long a pound will last me, and if I want to see how much a particular appliance is using, I have a plug-in device which tells me volts, amps, frequency, watts, VA and power factor.

    I can pay for my electricity at any local shop where there is a PayPoint machine.

    And if the worst should ever happen and one day I can't afford electricity, I know I can get myself reconnected as soon as I can raise the money.

  62. Rattus

    The value of a smart meter

    Most customers don't see a benefit, I do

    Since the installation of a 'smart meter' my supplier has been forced to stop using estimated usage (despite me sending them readings)

    As a result they finally paid me back the £600 the owed me, and the last few bills have gone down (again despite the hike in prices)

    However the real benefit of a smart meter is NOT for the customer:

    1. Remote reading

    No longer have to send people around to take a reading periodically

    Saves a fortune in wages

    2. More frequent readings & higher precision

    Instead of total usage (and deriving usage between readings), you now get usage divided into time slots, providing far more insight into demand

    3. Remote cut off

    No need to send the bailiffs around to cut people off, Fail to pay your bill, power goes.

    If you fully automate this then reconnection is just as easy

    4. Shedding

    Honest gov. we won't do that!

    Yes people talk about smart shedding where individual appliances (AC plant for example) doesn't run for certain times, but in the domestic situation, the far more course turn it all off approach would be used.

    1. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: The value of a smart meter

      Key meters also don't need a person sending round to read them, and allow for a supply to be disconnected and reconnected without sending someone to pull out the company head fuse.

      As far as load shedding goes, there has been some work going on in my area recently that looks suspiciously like replacing one cable big enough to serve many houses with lots of little cables .....

  63. VeNT

    This is why I've a shotgun next to my printer.

    Even with tech like non-cellular 5G, how can anyone trust that it'll still be in use or prolific in 10, 20, 30 years time?

    My "dumb" meter was installed probably some time before I was even born, in that time we've gone from ZX Spectrums to 16, 32 and 64 bit desktops to now having eight core 3GHz processors running off batteries in our pockets. who knows what will happen in the next half century.

    I can't help but feel that replacing currently working meters is a fools errand, only good for spending public money to increase energy companies profits. I understand the idea of load shaping and better billing but I've yet to see any evidence of this being a realistic use.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: This is why I've a shotgun next to my printer.

      "My "dumb" meter was installed probably some time before I was even born, in that time we've gone from ZX Spectrums to 16, 32 and 64 bit desktops to now having eight core 3GHz processors running off batteries in our pockets. who knows what will happen in the next half century."

      The same approach is needed for digital meters. They need to be simple and rely on a wireless network that is owned and operated by the electricity/gas company. I know this is a challenge in the UK with so many middlemen, but it's not insurmountable to put standards in place so once a meter is fitted, it can be programmed and read by any of the billing companies. The issue seems to stem from the outsourcing of a critical bit of infrastructure.

      The municipal water company where I live has upgraded the meters so they can be read electronically. The reader now doesn't have to deal with Black Widow spiders and water/dirt that's poured into the box. They have a stick with an antenna on the end that reads the usage. The meter readers zip around town on scooters stopping at each meter to take a reading once a month. I think the city found this sort of data collection to be simpler than a lash up that remotely reads the readers. A super low power transceiver can be powered by the water flow. The downside is the city outsources the meter reading so they are paying not only for the data collection, but the profit of a company that likely has more office staff/management than people in the field.

  64. reubs007

    Imagine if...

    ...this money had been spent on something simple and effective like a national home insulation scheme. That would also have avoided the government forking over billions to Shell etc to prevent people freezing to death due to extravagant gas prices.

  65. MrTuK

    Its all a load of crap, I keep getting the stupid letters from my leccy supplier about getting a smart meter yet when then send me a email to send them a meter reading (on the last day of the month) and I send them a meter reading on the 2st and then pay the bill including the VAT, 10 days later they say I owe around £10 which is the estimate they have made from the 1st when I paid until they got their finger out of their ass to send me a bill which i didn't need cos I already paid 10 minutes after sending them the meter reading ! I contacted them to to see if I can sort this out and they said can't I just wait until the 4th to send them the meter reading and then pay ! I said no, I send them a meter reading when they requested me to and I pay the bill straight away and if they wanna take me to court then lets go ! I continue to get bills around the £10 value and on the 10th of the month and they go straight into the recycle bin !

  66. Barrie Shepherd

    I don't need to know what the smart meter does, whether it uses 2G/3G/4G/AnyG, whether it can turn the power off or read my mind.

    All I need to know is that the government wants me to have it - which means it will not be good for me - so no thank you.

  67. Big_Boomer

    Yet another government sponsored clusterfuck

    I had "Smart" meters installed years ago and neither of them have ever managed to communicate with my energy suppliers since they were installed and I live in the middle of a red brick housing estate. As a consequence I get hassled by my supplier every month to provide a reading and if I don't then their "estimates" are stupidly huge. From my point of view they have made the whole process of energy supply more of a hassle and less convenient. I have twice complained about the non-communicating meters and the people I spoke to implied that my situation is quite common. In July the FT reported that over 3 million "smart" meters do not communicate with the energy providers. So, nearly 10% of them don't work as intended, they have increased our costs, and will soon become obsolete. Yup, that's the classic definition of clusterfuck in my book. Yes I do understand the potential benefits from their use but as usual nobody thought about future proofing the system or even making sure that it worked reliably in the first place.

    Since the electricity meter is by definition hardwired to the nearest substation, why did the "smart" meters not communicate over that wire to a system in the substation and from there to their central servers? The gas meter could communicate wirelessly or by wire with the electricity meter since they are almost always close to each other, and from there on to the servers. It's not like there is a huge amount of data to transfer so why use wireless 2G/3G comms? Now we will all have to pay AGAIN for another set of "smarter" meters. I wonder how the incompetents will fuck that up?

  68. johnnywozere

    Is it kVA or kW?

    I keep getting asked to instal a smart meter. Every time, I ask whether the electricity meter is going to bill me for kVAh or kWh. I have yet to get an answer to that question from the supplier. I have seen the specs and it says kVAh. Not signing up!

    1. bernmeister

      Re: Is it kVA or kW?

      Interesting point nobody has picked up yet. Older meters ( the ones with the spinning disc) measured kWh ignoring the reactive content. Modern meters can charge for the reactive content of your consumption. Unless a smartmeter is replacing an older meter (does anybody still have one) there is probabbly nothing to worry about.

  69. AegisPrime

    A positive story...

    I'm as anti-IoT as it gets - even my 'smart' phone barely qualifies for that moniker but I've been pretty impressed with Octopus' offering.

    I was with Eon and they decided to arbitrarily add 30% to my monthly DD which was the last straw for me (the fixed rate I was getting from them at the time was £0.37p per kWh) - I'd heard Octopus had good rates and on checking they were offering £0.30 per kWh (result!) *however* the real incentive to switch to a smart meter was their 'Octopus Tracker' which supposedly follows the wholesale market price for energy - my average cost per kWh this month has been £0.18p and I'm presently paying 55% less for my energy than if I'd stuck with Eon.

    Still not crazy about the cons for having a smart meter, but at least in my case, the 'pros' are pretty substantial.

    1. Red~1

      Re: A positive story...

      I moved into my place with a smart meter already installed. Was on bulb but inevitably got switched to octopus once they went bust. I've done the same and been pretty happy with it. Sure, smart meters aren't perfect but saving 33%+ on energy is pretty nice :)

      They did fail to switch me in July when I was told to approve the switch to tracker (I did), but after contacting them they fixed it quickly and backdated all the price changes to the day I would've been switched had they not failed to do so, which I thought was a nice touch.

  70. bernmeister

    There is something (or everything) about smartmeters that does not ring true. They cant possibly save the billions clamed. Everybody knows if you keep your heating up high it will cost more. You dont need a smartmeter (or an Einstein) to tell you that. For the price of a fleet of UK aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines I am sure the money could have been better spent. An interesting point, I read somewhere a case where Einstein confused energy and power during an interview. It was a result of a colloquialism but I dont think he could be excused it.

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