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Smart meters in the UK

I noticed this news article back in May just before the 2017 UK General Election, "No one's noticed, but the Tories are quietly killing off the smart meter revolution":

smart meters are optional

The article picks up on a statement in the Conservative Party's manifesto for the recent election where it suggests that having a smart meter installed in the next few years will be optional for UK energy consumers. The author of the article, Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering (who presumably has an interest in smart meters because of their potential to be hacked), thinks that this is a subtle but significant change. I suppose he might be right, because if the intention had been that smart meters were optional all along, then there would be no need to clarify it. Certainly the UK energy suppliers seem to behave as though installation of the new smart meters is effectively compulsory - I've personally received three requests by my energy supplier to install a smart meter in the past year or so (under the excuse that they happen to be already installing the meters in my area), including one just after the General Election.

So I would advise UK readers in the forum to resist having a smart meter installed, if you haven't already succumbed to the pressure from the energy suppliers to have one installed. According to, one in five people in the UK do not want one.

Another recent article gives some good reasons for not having a smart meter installed called "Six reasons to say no to a smart meter":

six reasons to say no to a smart meter

The six reasons given are: 1) Smart meters could make it harder to switch gas and electricity providers, 2) Smart meters don't bring an end to estimated bills (or billing errors), 3) Smart meters won't work if you have a poor signal in your area, 4) The display units linked to smart meters are crude and difficult to understand, 5) There's little evidence so far that smart meters will save energy - or money, 6) Smart meters 'pose security and other risks'.

I suppose you could add two more reasons to the list: 7. You could potentially save some money by not agreeing to the installation, though UK energy suppliers do not have a good track record for passing savings on to consumers, and it would not surprise me at all if you still get charged for the smart meter even if you don't have it installed. Smart meters appear to be more expensive than the £50 figure quoted by Ross Anderson, I've seen a cost of £11 billion quoted for the whole smart meter programme, and with 26.5 million households in the UK, that would work out as about £400 per household. 8. One of the main ideas behind smart meters is that they are generally regarded as being helpful to the cause of deploying intermittent renewable energy, so it would make sense for any opponent of renewable energy in the UK to resist having one installed.

Re: Smart meters in the UK

I had a smart meter on my house in Wisconsin. I agreed to let them cut power to my AC when there was a spike in demand and they needed room. I got a little bit off my bill every month for letting them have that. My AC was on maybe 1 week a year. At that point in time, I was not fretting about the overwhelming power of government, I was trying to be a good citizen and help the power folks balance demand and supply.

I have semi smart readers for water, electricity and power in Washington. Semi smart meaning that a guy in a truck has to drive by every other month to read my usage.

He has to get within about 20 meters for the reader to work.

Re: Smart meters in the UK

I looked further into the issue of whether smart meters were compulsory before the recent UK general election in 2017, and found this article from the Register in 2012 which covered the issue:

Register article

Quotes from the article:

The energy and climate change minister at the time, Charles Hendry, told the House of Commons:

"We believe that people will benefit from having smart meters, but we will not make them obligatory. If people are concerned about the electromagnetic issues, they will not be required to have one. We have been willing to give assurances to Hon Members on that account."

The Register also checked with the (now defunct) DECC government department, where a spokesman informed them:

"This is not actually new. While smart metering brings significant benefits, it will not be an offence for householders to refuse to accept a smart meter and we have made it clear that we do not expect suppliers to seek an entry warrant simply to fit smart metering equipment."

Apparently they were intended to be compulsory when Labour's Ed Miliband first introduced the idea, but few, if any, smart meters would have been installed by the time Labour lost the 2010 general election.

But as noted in the previous post, the UK energy suppliers tend to behave as though installation of the new smart meters is effectively compulsory. For example, British Gas recently announced that their electricity prices (they supply electricity as well as gas, for non-UK readers) would go up by 12.5% in a press release:

BG press release

"Since our last price rise in November 2013, some costs have risen steadily -- among them Government policies to subsidise renewable energy, social levies, delivery to customers’ homes, and the nationwide smart metering programme. In that time, overall electricity costs have increased by 16%."

It sounds from the above that British Gas are charging all their electricity customers for smart meters, whether they have a smart meter installed or not.

Re: Smart meters in the UK

"SMART" gives the utilities far more information than they are entitled to or really need.
It allows them to collect data on your appliances and your use of them and to brand you as socially irresponsible in your energy use, if they choose. This may be true or not and there is an obvious cost saving if they can send out targeted mail shots rather than shotgunning all consumers.
On the other hand, receiving targeted mail encouraging "energy saving" means you are no longer anonymous.
And who also can access this data? The Greenies? This is the age of "BIG DATA" .... this is why MS, Twitter etc impose their new terms and conditions, to access all the information they need from your computer use and package and repackage it for sale to the marketing companies.... and others.
Utility data is no different. And if you are accessing it then it will be via some device with the latest MS software and their latest terms and conditions.
If they can use facial recognition programs on your photos then they can probably also not simply identify appliances from their characteristic current and power profiles but probably also the make and model.... and age. And that is ideal data for the marketeers.....sending advertising leaflets and offers can be precisely calibrated against what you have.

BUT: Brad may consent to having his AC shut off, which is OK.
The problem of brown-outs is when demand peaks above supply and things go wrong shutting down entire communities.
To be able to selectively inhibit some appliances in as many homes as necessary to limit demand is a good idea.
The problem is to know on what basis they will choose whose appliances they will shut down or adjust and whose will not be touched. It doesn't take much experience with the powers that be to realise that the next step is compulsory selective appliance shutdowns rather than contracted voluntary. And they will have good reason. Or good sounding reasons.
But what if it is the same people all the time? Will they be allowed to see statistics that show fair application of the principle? I doubt it. And it will be the ones who are the "pariahs" who will become most affected and you can bet that Al Gore will never find his kettle doesn't work when he wants it too. The greenies want to put deniers in jail. Think they will scruple to target those they consider don't do things their way or think the way they do? Or support the wrong political parties?

As I understand it "SMART" is a push through product, not "pull through". There are some utilities who don't see the need. Nor are they actually offering a benefit to the consumer..... apparently something like only 5% think they have made savings based on having SMART meters. Maybe they have or maybe they haven't.

One reason for SMART is making a virtue out of a necessity. That the electricity meters do not last as long or that water meters cost more for only marginal (and often deceptive) performance improvements is such that they need some justification. The shorter life isn't simply a cost of a new meter but the significant cost of the labour of removing the old and fitting a new meter. SMART often means solid state. The old electricity meters have a mechanism where you see the spinning disk. These have a long life. With the newer meters it is presumably the electronics that die off, no problem with power for an electricity meter but for the water and gas meters, they have to be battery powered and last the 15 -20 years of the mechanical meters they are supposed to replace. That static or solid state meters have to have electronics means they have to build as many "benefits" into the claims as possible because these meters are more expensive and they need some sort of ROI that gives them an equivalent amortised cost. There are some stupid marketing claims made such as "Lost revenue recovery". There is no lost revenue unless the utilities are incompetent as businesses but what it really says is that the consumer will pay more for the same consumption and yet they are suggesting the consumer will save by managing their use better..... the fact is that this is based on the lower starting flow for a water meter. They don't explain but in reality the marginal improvement in starting flow doesn't necessarily actually capture any extra unregistered flow. Static meters are obstructionless. Mechanical meters are not and when they stop the unregistered flow has a significantly restricted flow path while in a static meter which is obstructionless, there is no restriction and flow can continue at just less than the starting flow.
But they need all these "extras" to try and justify the higher price both to the utilities and the consumers.
Of course, politicians are glittons for fanciful concepts with a "green" message and they have been busy creating their "SMART City concept or being sold it by glib marketeers well versed in the modern "science" of "Neuro Marketing" which is little different to propaganda apart from Marketing having a code of ethics (paper thin) which propaganda does not.

Re: Smart meters in the UK

I was younger when I didn't mind having the smart meter. I no long have an air conditioner in my home. Just window fans. In spite of global warming, the window fans are only vital for several weeks a year. For several more, they are vital to my wife. They would have to cut off my entire house to cut off my fans.

There is a bubble out there waiting to pop around BIG DATA though. There are lots of people trying to offload Business Intelligence into the cloud. More specifically there are lots of people trying to get businesses to offload their intelligence into the cloud.

I get adverts from Amazon for $37,000 tool chests. I do not block ads. I do not hide my searches. The comments on that product on Amazon are entertaining. That I get the advertisement makes me both curious and suspicious. Harry Seldon tried to apply statistics to the masses, but even back when the book was written, it seemed to be understood that while the masses can be predicted, the individual cannot. We are all individuals. We are all part of the masses.

The Big Data is bigger than we imagine, but it is also more punctuated than ever.

My CPAP tells me many things about my sleep. I take my CPAP into my doctor and they can print out 17 different reports on my usage going all the way back to my first day. They make lots of beautiful charts with that data. All of it comes from 1 measurement connected with 1 time measurement, yet they can distinguish between Clear Airway Apneas, Total Obstructive Apneas and Total Hypopneas. God bless that CPAP, it does its job. The data it is collecting leaves me just a little bit cold. When I started my AHI was at 40+. Now, my machine says 0.5. Awesome. Part of my mind is screaming, "WHAT DID THEY REALLY MEASURE!" I had to tear it apart recently to try and fix it. It is both a very simple and very complicated device at the same time. An impeller and some duct work connected to a controller. A significant part of the control is feedback to control board from the motor. I am not sure that I found a pressure transducer in there. There is separation of Church and State (aka Air Path / Electricity Path). From what I can tell externally, the system spins up the impeller to a certain level and then keeps track of the current needed to maintain that level. There is a periodicity to the backpressure created by a mask and breathing which shows up in the current changes. A mask that is off changes the amplitude. So much data to collect from one measured data vs 1 set of time data (aka when the machine is turned on and when it is turned off).

I obsessed over the **** AHI number for way too long. I only had access to part of the number at that time. Then I got access to the part that makes it and I became so much less obsessed. The most important piece is that I do not snore. Occasionally I squeal now, but I do not snore.

Forensically, those smart meters might be able to tell all kinds of things about me. When I am home, when I am not; When we wash our clothes, when I turn my heat on -- how much energy we use to accomplish these tasks.

The utility companies though don't use it quite the way they are supposed to though. For all their need to reduce the demand, they do not truly want to reduce demand. I have a friend whose bill is astronomical because it says his use is astronomical. They do not do anything to help him reduce his bill or find where the leakage is. They just keep accepting his payments. He keeps making the payments because even though his bill is 10 times mine, it is still cheaper than running off a generator.

Revenue > Expense. That is always the need.