Skip to content

Beware Smart Meters

July 8, 2014

By Paul Homewood




An interesting piece by UKIP MEP, Roger Helmer, on the new smart meters, which the UK Govt is planning to roll out at a cost of £11bn.


Pretty soon you’ll be offered a “smart meter”, with all sorts of sales talk about the benefits and savings it will deliver.  But smart meters may not be all good news.  The Mail on Sunday has an interesting article pointing out that there are serious flaws in their design, and that many problems have not been resolved with these expensive systems.

There’s a happy, smiley marketing campaign which advises consumers of the benefits of the system — “helping the consumer” to understand how to reduce electricity use and therefore lower bills, and so on. But they don’t discuss the risks: the wireless system may not be robust; it may be vulnerable to malicious hacking; the programme nationally will cost £11bn; and it indeed may change the way consumers are billed — but not in the way the energy companies and government are selling the idea.

One concern is that demand at times of “peak load” may be “managed”, either by switching supplies off, or by expanding time-of-day pricing beyond the day rate/Economy 7 system which is now in place (and which makes sense, given the spare base-load capacity at night).

Here is the spin that Which put on it, for instance:

“Smart meters also offer the possibility for more flexible energy tariffs in the future – such as improved ‘time-of-day tariffs’

offering cheaper rates at off-peak times to smooth out national energy use through the day.” 

But the corollary of “offering cheaper rates at off-peak times” is of course, “offering more expensive rates at peak times”. That offer is not attractive if you’re elderly and need heat when you’re cold, or if you’re a working family with children that need to be fed and showered before school in the midwinter — peak time.

Steve Holliday, CE of the Grid, that “We need to balance demand for energy with supply. That gets into smart metering, so if we need to interrupt power supply for a few hours during the day when you’re not at home, that’s okay.”

Elsewhere, he said that consumers were going to have to get used to the idea of only using electricity when it was available, and implied that some (poorer) people may be offered deals that would not guarantee continuity of supply, but could be interrupted, as is the case with energy intensive industries currently. At best, the smart meter would force people living on a budget to wander over to the smart meter to see if they can afford to put the kettle/TV on.

A paper by Alex Henney and Ross Anderson suggests that Miliband “cooked the books” when multiple cost-benefit analyses showed that smart meters would produce a net disbenefit to consumers.

As with so many issues we face in the UK, smart meters are driven by an EU directive, as well as by UK energy policy.  The government should come clean and admit that smart meters can be used against the interests of the consumer. The key point here that this expensive way of managing demand was made necessary by the failure to take the need for secure and affordable energy seriously, resulting in the loss of capacity through into the 2020s.  These problems are exacerbated by over-reliance on expensive and intermittent renewables. Now the consumer faces the consequences: demand managed by prices and the energy companies’ ability to switch off the lights.



 I would add one further observation. The main saving claimed is that it will save energy companies, through not having to send meter readers out. It seems to me though that technology has moved on a tad since Miliband came up with his bright idea.

It is now very easy to email meter readings each month, which I do with my current tariff with British Gas. If energy companies really want to save money, (and in turn pass it on the savings via my tariff), it would be very easy to extend this system across the vast majority of users.

As usual with these things, watch the pea, because it’s not where they have told you it is.

  1. July 8, 2014 10:24 am

    “Steve Holliday, CE of the Grid, that “We need to balance demand for energy with supply. That gets into smart metering, so if we need to interrupt power supply for a few hours during the day when you’re not at home, that’s okay.””
    Hmm, what happens to my computer, which needs to be on 24/7 and my tv recording devices which will be severely disrupted?
    Anyway, how do they know I am not at home?
    Why should I have my electricity supply restricted when buildings in cities are lit all night just because it looks pretty?

    • Dave Ward permalink
      July 9, 2014 4:30 pm

      “Anyway, how do they know I am not at home?”

      That’s one of the security concerns – thanks to the frequent measurement of your electricity useage it’s easy to determine your regular habits. Add the “Smart” home of the future, where most appliances will talk to each other, and your smart meter, and any hacker will know exactly when it’s safe to break in…

  2. jazznick permalink
    July 8, 2014 10:50 am

    It’s all part of Global Governance that we are being subjected to.
    This was always the end-game intention and using a climate scare to make it all workable
    was a stroke of genius.

    Check out the way that the BBC, WWF, Greenpeace and numerous green slime
    are all funded by taxpayers around Europe. This pays them to frighten the plebs
    into paying their green taxes and accepting all kinds of ‘governance’ by stealth – such as
    smart meters.

    See where the money goes – our money. Small wonder the BBC are shutting out all
    opposing views – they have been bought by the EU to spout their propoganda so cannot
    upset the people who really run the BBC.

    The truth of the actual science has nothing at all to do with it.

    Check out some of the old climategate e-mails and count the number of WWF, Greenpeace
    wonks who were not part of the conversation but were copied in anyway, it’s staggering.

    It’s all about the message and massaging that message.

    As long as the plebs fall for it they can get away with anything it seems – for now.

  3. John permalink
    July 8, 2014 11:09 am

    Any fool only has to look around to see what electricity & gas they are consuming. Smart meters will not save you anything They are for idiots

  4. July 8, 2014 11:41 am

    Reblogged this on CraigM350.

  5. Dave Ward permalink
    July 8, 2014 12:18 pm

    2 more papers from Cambridge University:

    Click to access JSAC-draft.pdf

    Click to access meters-offswitch.pdf

    The “Save Power” argument is false – It’s known that these meters (which have NO moving parts) will read short term surges, such as motor start ups, more accurately than traditional meters. So there goes one claim! There is also the ability (depending on supplier, and tariff) to measure the true power involved in heavily reactive circuits. Since virtually every appliance now has a “Switch Mode” supply, and most of these have poor Power Factor correction, there goes another claim…

    We are being stopped from using traditional bulbs (on specious grounds), and all the replacements are non resistive, so there are actually very few domestic loads which don’t have the potential to give higher readings on smart meters. The few resistive heating loads are the very ones that people will be doing their best to cut back on, thanks to exorbitant tariffs…

    I discovered recently that buying a new “Eco Friendly” washing machine isn’t quite the panacea claimed. It has a fully electronic controller, and like TV’s, DVD players, Satellite boxes, etc it draws a few watts even when (apparently) switched off. I now turn the power off at the socket to stop this! I only discovered it when using a plug-in power monitoring adaptor to see how much energy each appliance was using. Since this particular model will give readings in both Watts and Volt/Amps (the “True” power), it’s instructive to compare the two with each device either running, or in standby mode. The P/F is invariably much worse in standby.

  6. Andrew permalink
    July 8, 2014 1:20 pm

    I found this article quite disturbing, far more detail than the Mail article. Another government cock up.

  7. Russ Wood permalink
    July 8, 2014 2:38 pm

    In the part of Johannesburg, South Africa, where I live, we’ve had these ‘not-so-smart’ meters for a few years. Since they are readable by Bluetooth technology, an employee of the supplier company would drive around once a month, with an antenna sticking out of his car, to read the meters. This supplier has now been dismissed, so meter readings have been estimated for months! But – and a big but – the Bluetooth was liable to have connection conniptions (sorry about that!) and once, many of the meters in the suburb started broadcasting continuously, and jamming the Bluetooth frequencies. So, until it could be traced, car, alarm system, gates, and even weather remotes would not work! And they don’t save nuttin’.

  8. Ben Vorlich permalink
    July 8, 2014 3:56 pm

    Dave Ward
    You’ve confirmed my view of these so called eco devices.

    Do you have any figures on the Power Factors you found. I have read that CFL bulbs can be as low as 0.5.

    Many years ago I worked for a capacitor manufacturing company one of the product lines was PF correct capacitors for fluorescent light fittings. I think that large commercial users are charge on VA and so in a factory or office getting a PF as near 1 as possible is worth the effort. If Smart meters read and bill on VA then people will notice a sharp increase in bills. A potential opening for an after-market PF correction adapter.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      July 8, 2014 6:10 pm

      Ben – I don’t have many CFL’s about the place – I installed PROPER fluorescent lighting more than 30 years ago! However two that I could quickly check gave “illuminating” results: an Osram (a good brand, or so you would think) was only 0.45, while a “No Name” bought from a local discount store was 0.98!! The LG washing machine – a direct drive model, which will obviously use a switch mode variable frequency drive controller, showed a dismal 0.15 in “standby”. This equates to 1 watt or NINE V/A… I would have to monitor it through a full wash cycle to see how it varies under different loads and spin speeds. I can’t check the main TV and equipment, as other family members might complain. But from memory they varied from about 0.7 to 0.9 in operation, but similarly low figures in standby. I have checked a 10 year (ish) old CRT screen TV and Freeview box (but not separately) and standby was 0.3, running 0.65. If I remember my electrical theory correctly, these will all be “leading” PF, thanks to the capacitive input stages, but things like domestic fridges & freezers will be inductive, and therefore lagging. I checked a freezer and it was showing 0.6PF ~ 60 watts / 100 V/A. So to some extent the two categories should cancel out. But only when all are in use simultaneously….

      As for industrial users – I know that many standard fluorescent fittings sold for DIY installation often have no PF correction, whereas those sold for commercial use do. I also remember working briefly at one of the large gas installations on the coast, and they had a dedicated real-time PF correction cubicle. Considering the huge motors running the various pumps and compressors I can understand why!

  9. Joe Public permalink
    July 8, 2014 5:20 pm

    “….demand at times of “peak load” may be “managed”……”

    And that presents a challenge to all self-respecting hackers ………..

  10. Sceptical Me permalink
    July 8, 2014 6:16 pm

    So the smart money will be in petrol or diesel generators and clever electrical devices that automatically switch your generator on so that your fridge, freezer, computer server, fire alarm, etc, can remain active. Its going to cost you a little extra, but its what we have voted for all these years…..didn’t we??

    • silverfox permalink
      July 8, 2014 6:53 pm

      Any guidance where technical and commercial information regarding such devices + how to stitch it into a domestic power system would be greatly appreciated

      • Dave Ward permalink
        July 8, 2014 7:41 pm

        Sceptical Me & silverfox – I had some input to this thread at Bishop Hill:

        I can see a future where houses & offices will end up being wired with two independent supplies:
        1) The standard mains – which would supply any non-critical loads.
        2) A “No Break” feed, which would most likely come from a battery/inverter/generator combination. This would be restricted to essential appliances, and probably a limited number of lights. Exactly how this feed would be derived will depend primarily on how deep your pockets are! Do a search for “Off Grid” systems – there are several companies specialising in these setups, which will give you a good idea of what is possible if no mains is available. There is nothing to stop you going somewhere in-between.

  11. Ross Lea permalink
    July 8, 2014 6:37 pm

    Can you refuse to have these meters. I have heard both you can and you can not what is the truth.

    • July 8, 2014 9:42 pm

      Not sure, but I heard you can refuse them.

      Trouble is, if you are forced to later on, you will likely have to pay for them again.

    • mitigatedsceptic permalink
      July 9, 2014 10:34 am

      There is SILENCE about what sanctions will be imposed on non-compliers. Higher tariffs and a charge for manual meter reading are inevitable. But the Precautionary Principle suggests that non-compliers are likely to be paranoid sociopaths who had better be observed closely – non-compliance will be discovered to correlate closely with anti-social, anti-community, serial killing and worse – perhaps they had better be looked after for their own good! No need to send them to special institutions – keep them at home under constant surveillance and provide free gin – that was Orwell’s recipe was it not?
      For more read Agenda 21.

  12. KCW permalink
    July 10, 2014 7:13 pm

    There is also a home security problem with smart meters. If you go on holiday or away on business your energy supplier will know because no energy will be used. Therefore a dishonest employee could pass this information on to anybody interested in burglary, for a fee of course !!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: