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Greg Clark’s Not So Smart Energy

December 15, 2016

By Paul Homewood


Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy



In a speech at Energy UK on Nov 10th, Greg Clark claimed :


By 2020 every home and small business will have had the offer of a new smart meter. In many cases they will be replacing meters based on technology that is more than 100 years old.

But this is not just technology for technology’s sake. This is about making peoples’ lives easier: ending the use of estimated bills followed by sudden demands for hefty sums; making it easier to switch suppliers and tariffs; providing better information on where you can stop wasting energy to keep your bills down.

Our assessment sees nearly £6 billion of benefits to consumers from the smart meter programme. It will save £11 off the average bill by 2020 rising to nearly £50 by 2030.

But the roll-out is only the beginning. The wider application of smart technology means there are even greater potential savings to be made. That is why today, in partnership with Ofgem, we are launching a call for evidence on how we get there.

The aim is to harness the potential of storage, demand side response and other technologies to create the most efficient, most productive electricity system in the world.

This means reassessing regulation which is biased against storage and aggregators so they can compete on a level playing field with large-scale generation.

If we do this right, a smart system could save consumers up to £40 billion in the coming decades.


Before you run out and put a deposit on a condo in Florida, there are a few things you ought to know:


1) The “saving” of £40 billion is actually spread out between now and 2050.

2) This figure comes from an analysis from the Carbon Trust, which hardly inspires confidence. Their study is here, and shows that the savings are estimated to be between £17bn and £40bn.

So the saving could be as little as £500m a year.

3) Furthermore, if any savings do arise they are likely to be well in the future.

4) Although Greg Clark talks about a smart system , and puts it into context with smart meters, the Carbon Trust study is mainly focussed on demand side response (DSR), storage and interconnectors.

There is nothing very smart about any of these.



The simple reality is that none of these options will save consumers money. At best, they might be a slightly less expensive way to solve the problems caused by renewable intermittency than alternative options, such as building new gas fired plants.


There is nothing smart at all about that.

  1. December 15, 2016 6:52 pm

    Clark is another huge disappointment. Just shows qualifications are sometimes worthless. He has always been the same, even in oppoostion, and the Trump team will make him look even more hopeless. After Rudd I was hoping for better but got more of the same group think. Cannot believe the stupidity and ignorance – it is as if they have no ability to think critically,

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      December 15, 2016 10:00 pm

      Especially as he didn’t mention the biggest advantage. Peak demand occurs in the coldest weather when renewables are least likely to work, so supply cost will be at a maximum as will cutoffs. So when people freeze to death in cold houses there will be no need to rush around collecting the bodies and jamming the morgues to over-flowing.
      Result: a big reduction in body collection on overtime and reduced capital costs for extra morgues.
      Should that not be enough perhaps the Government could fall back on that other medieval practice (popular in the Black Death) of sending a cart around for surviving neighbours and friends to load the bodies on the cart and dispatch them to a mass grave.

  2. Keith Gugan permalink
    December 15, 2016 6:55 pm

    The big question is – what does it all achieve? Selling this concept to consumers has been on the basis of providing information enabling individual users to make savings through economies in energy use. The reality is that most domestic consumers already seek to minimise their consumption. But the information transfer runs in both directions and there seems to be more interest from the suppliers enabling them to trim individual usage as and when they see fit. A smart meter is not that smart if it cannot cut your supply as and when the suppliers so desire.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      December 15, 2016 8:52 pm

      “If it cannot cut your supply as and when the suppliers so desire”

      But that’s just what they CAN* do! Both electric & gas smart meters have built in contactors and valves to allow remote switch off. It’s part of the specification.

      * Subject to the data networks actually working, and your meter being compatible with your (current) supplier…

    • Tim Hammond permalink
      December 16, 2016 10:15 am

      That’s a key part of the problem – I don’t see much evidence that demand is particularly elastic, and that if we could only “see” our consumption, we would go around switching things off. Saving £11 a year as is claimed is less than £1 a month, or 3p/day.

      I simply do not believe that people not already doing everything they can to reduce consumption are going to monitor a meter to save themselves 3p a day.

      This sounds like Congestion Charging all over again – forecast small advantages for everyone that then aggregate to what seems like a big number. But saving “on average” 10% of commuting time is 3-6 minutes each day for most people. What possible value do I get from having my journey to work 3 minutes shorter?

  3. December 15, 2016 7:09 pm

    Greg Clark is just the latest front man, no doubt another will replace him before long, the real problem lies with the civil servants, formerly with DECC, now transferred to BEIS, who have been captured by the unholy alliance between the “Green” lobby, and the “Transition” industry.

    A possible way to defeat this alliance is to set a percentage of electricity bills (say 5%) that can be used for enhancement, who could vote against such a thing, designed to prevent fuel poverty. Greens can come along and choose to spend all the 5% on wind subsidies, but then there would be no money left for anything else, such as flood resilience. The problem at the moment is that “green” measures have no obvious downsides to the average bill-payer, a cap on spending would remove that luxury.

  4. December 15, 2016 7:28 pm

    Greg Clark is no better than his predecessors of the last 20 years. His ignorance is astounding – but he was previously Planning Minister at DCLG, so that could explain a lot.

    I’d like to know how you can have the “most productive electricity system in the world” when a large part of it consists of renewable generators which are the least productive means of generating electricity. I did once estimate that something like 50 workers at a CCGT produced as much electricity as more than 5,000 workers in renewables.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 15, 2016 7:45 pm

      50 workers at a CCGT produce[d] as much electricity as more than 5,000 workers in renewables

      Phillip, that stat needs to be developed. It’s a killer, in my book.

      • December 16, 2016 7:15 am

        Be careful – the greens will just say “look how many jobs we can create!”

    • Tim Hammond permalink
      December 16, 2016 10:16 am

      Ah, but jobs are a benefit, not a cost to the economically illiterate.

  5. December 15, 2016 7:33 pm

    ‘up to £40 billion’ – well, 2p falls into that category.

  6. AlecM permalink
    December 15, 2016 7:38 pm

    Clarke is a seriously dumb minister because he studied economics. This means he is unable to understand that IPCC Climate Alchemy is a clever fraud dating from 1976.

    He needs to accept a personal contract which is that he must accept his responsibility in any future action against government for Corporate Manslaughter.

  7. Harry Passfield permalink
    December 15, 2016 7:41 pm

    As I have posted elsewhere (and here?), I complained about the Smart Meter ads (Gaz and Leccy) to the ASA. I said that the ads were misleading and not truthful. They denied my complaint and said:

    While we acknowledge that the ad makes reference to getting “Gaz and Leccy under control” we note that this is in the context of providing a product that enables consumers to view their energy usage in a way that is more accessible than it currently is and the suggestion that they may be able to achieve a level of control over their individual usage. We appreciate your concerns regarding the claim that ‘no one knows’ how much energy they’re using, and appreciate that some consumers may very well take the necessary steps to ensure that they are aware of the amount of electricity and gas that they’re using, however this will not be the case with all consumers. We consider that the ad is likely to be seen by listeners generally as an indication as to how the product aims to make the process of keeping tabs on energy use easier than it currently is and that it’s unlikely to suggest that the smart meter will actively control energy usage. We consider that the ad is unlikely to materially mislead consumers into making a transactional decision they otherwise would not have made and consequently, there does not seem to be a case to answer under the Code on this occasion.

    I particularly liked the bit about “the ad is likely to be seen by listeners” Doh!

  8. December 15, 2016 7:43 pm

    Look up @BEISgovUK and @GregClark MP and you’ll see GreenBlob mafia are all over them
    Eg they had a “Smart Tariffs from 2017” conference at Birmingham Uni

  9. martinbrumby permalink
    December 15, 2016 8:03 pm

    Maybe it would concentrate minds if we could copy Trump’s intended ban on Civil Servants (and let’s include Ministers) leaving what they laughingly call “Public Service”, and start work for one of the lobbyists or those who they were supposed to be regulating and overseeing.
    It’s been going on for many many years. And it’s getting worse.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 15, 2016 8:10 pm

      Names that come to mind….(who should be banned for life)
      Ed Davy
      Chris Huhne

  10. Joe Public permalink
    December 15, 2016 8:09 pm

    The old canard “ending the use of estimated bills followed by sudden demands for hefty sums” trotted out again.

    Utilities spend a fortune fine-tuning software that produces surprisingly accurate ‘estimates’ based upon previous usage pattern and heating-degree-day data.

    As Paul pointed out in a previous post, anyone concerned about having an estimated reading can always send / phone / web-page input one they’ve taken themselves.

    Rarely are there ‘sudden demands’. Most meters are now external, so most of time meter readers can access most of them. Meters inside a building need access granting & usually, consumers have been out at work and have been unable to agree mutually convenient appointment.

    There are some however, who for whatever reason, actively refuse to co-operate. Ironically, those also tend to complain most vociferously when the actual bill eventually lands on the doormat.

    It should be noted that it’s 50:50 chance that previous estimated bills were over- or under-estimated.

    Hence Greg Clark is bullshitting.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 15, 2016 11:13 pm

      Er… not in my experience. Utilities were freely overestimating bills on a grand scale when granted the freedom of a direct debit. Then they would use dubious arithmetic to apportion bills when given a true meter reading, taking account of price changes in ways that favoured them. I was shocked to discover a power bill for several hundred pounds when I had been abroad working in the summer: my electricity use was normally only a few tens of pounds per quarter. It was established that utilities were running a float of quite some billions in overbilled power.

      • Tim Hammond permalink
        December 16, 2016 10:19 am

        But that’s the opposite of what is claimed.If you have paid more than you should through a DD, you can’t then also get a bill because you have been underpaying.

        People need to keep an eye on the agreed DD amounts, and if theya re being overcharged, adjust it.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 16, 2016 2:30 pm

      Tim Hammond:

      The arrangement was for a DD to pay the bill in full quarterly – not an estimated annual bill divided up into equal instalments. My response was to cancel the DD, so I would only ever pay a bill I had sighted and had the chance to correct via a genuine meter reading. That still left the utility making apportionments at different prices in its favour – a practice that remains rife with the “equal instalments” billing that is now commonplace.

  11. Ross King permalink
    December 15, 2016 8:28 pm

    for which read ….
    You’re going to get dinged a premium for using electricity at anything other than off-peak hours, the premium depending on the marginal cost of bringing power on-stream at exorbitent rates ‘cos the sun has gone down and the wind ain’t blowing, and the trans-Channel cables are kaput, and the French have first-dibs on *thier* power gen.
    To say nothing of allowing plutocrats to opt-in for Platinum “Guaranteed 24/7 Power” which freezes a few more indigent Grannies to death.
    Brits know all about Rationing and Black-Marketeering from WW2 … you shd be rioting in the streets. If Poll Tax was reversible, so shd Carbon-priced (i.e., exorbitent) Power be reversed. Gov’t shd facilitate the provision of basic needs at the lowest possible cost to all.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      December 15, 2016 9:04 pm

      “Brits know all about Rationing and Black-Marketeering from WW2”

      Sadly most of them are no longer around – the few who are will be dying off pretty soon as they can’t afford to heat their homes.

      “You should be rioting in the streets”

      I fear the only way there will be rioting is when the great unwashed find they can’t watch the Jeremy Kyle show or text the person sitting next to them…

      • Ross King permalink
        December 15, 2016 9:42 pm

        Do they impregnate Brit food with Soma? (Maybe that’s a very good Q.! If not via the mouth, then via the other senses!)
        The one thing I’ll grant the French is that they know and appreciate the power of rioting in the streets. Lorry-loads of dead fish on steps of the Legislature; national strikes; motorways blocked by trucks; students ripping-up cobble-stones and throwing them, etc.
        As to WW2 Rationing, someone there shd get on the subject via the Letters pages of the serious press. (They never publish any of mine, presum’ly as I now live offshore, and my views as an expatriate are irrelevant.)

  12. Dave Ward permalink
    December 15, 2016 8:47 pm

    “If we do this right”

    And when has government managed to do anything right???

  13. Joe Public permalink
    December 16, 2016 12:14 am

    ” In many cases they will be replacing meters based on technology that is more than 100 years old.”

    Dear Greg – If technology needs replacing because it’s “old”, why are so many windmills being installed? Their technology is 400 years old.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 16, 2016 1:22 am

      I was thinking that no-one has improved on James Clerk Maxwell’s Laws of electromagnetism. Then again, for most practical purposes, Newton’s laws of motion and gravity are more than adequate.

    • Tim Hammond permalink
      December 16, 2016 10:20 am

      And why are we still using a civil service model that is more than 100 years old?

  14. mikewaite permalink
    December 16, 2016 8:40 am

    There may be a positive side to this Smart Meter affair.
    I gather from the comments on this and previous threads that the meters will permit the inefficient renewables to displace reliable conventional power generation because , by rationing or enormous increase in payment by the consumer , the basic deficiencies of wind and solar are obscured.
    The renewable industry itself is so large in terms of political and financial power that it is immune from attack .But if it becomes reliant on Smart Meter uptake by every household then the meters are the “soft underbelly ” of the Green Empire.
    Whereas the renewables are surrounded by a cloud of piety that makes it difficult to criticise them the Smart Meters are already regarded with suspicion and scepticism by many so a campaign against their compulsory installation will expose the basic problems of current renewables technologies .

    • AlecM permalink
      December 16, 2016 10:09 am

      Yup: what better way to demonstrate energy system collapse than to ration power.

      We can then prosecute distribution company management for Corporate Manslaughter.

  15. December 16, 2016 9:32 am

    There are also known issues about the health issues surrounding Smart meters. When I heal sick houses, I always warn people not to have one fitted as experience has shown that people’s health can be really affected. Australia has led the way in stopping these becoming compulsory because of the health issues. I have also read that the Meters pick up on the harmonics of the electricity supply and charge for those despite the harmonics not being an actual supply to the house i.e. they overcharge.

  16. Derek Buxton permalink
    December 16, 2016 10:35 am

    As we know, the government want to ration energy, that is their aim. But what about the poor and vulnerable who cannot afford these bills? And let us not forget that the bills are set in effect by government decree, by setting a strike price 3 or 4 times the wholesale price of the energy. Perhaps that should read not “strike price” but bribe paid for by the customer. The other thing is that energy is a necessity of life and must be provided at affordable costs. That is the governments function, to look after the populace nor just it’s own interests.

  17. December 16, 2016 10:46 am

    Surely the key item in this wondrous speech is this ? –
    “…every home and small business will have had the offer of a new smart meter.”
    Looks like we can say “thank you for your kind offer, but no thank you”.
    Or are they planning to make it compulsory?

  18. Dung permalink
    December 16, 2016 2:32 pm

    It is not comulsory, yes you can say “thanks but no thanks”. I think they would hesitate to make it compulsary.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      December 16, 2016 7:01 pm

      They probably have a percentage in mind for take up that once they have reached that will move on to make it compulsory.

  19. It doesn't add up... permalink
    December 16, 2016 2:36 pm

    UK MEPs have been in the forefront of promoting a big expansion in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, aimed at reducing EU wide emissions by 80% by 2050.

    Is this a cunning plan to get them signed up to it, leave the EU, and ditch it in the UK (perhaps seeing what is about to happen in the USA), knowing they will take forever to unpick it inside the EU?

    • Dave Ward permalink
      December 16, 2016 2:49 pm

      “Is this a cunning plan to get them signed up to it, leave the EU, and ditch it in the UK”

      Do you really think they are that bright?

      • Gerry, England permalink
        December 16, 2016 7:02 pm


      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        December 16, 2016 10:06 pm

        Did you need that /sarc tag?

  20. Gerry, England permalink
    December 16, 2016 7:03 pm

    So if you come up with a generating policy that is dumb you need smart meters to try and save it?

  21. December 16, 2016 10:49 pm

    Smart meter rollout could still be halted, says Utilitywise

    Utilitywise strategy director Jon Ferris said: “A full mandatory rollout is probably not going to be beneficial to everyone… A voluntary or scaled back one might have been a more appropriate way to go rather than mandating 55 million meters to be replaced in a fairly aggressive timescale, based on quite optimistic benefits for consumers.

    “There is certainly a danger that the way we’ve gone about it, it is going to be obsolete by the time its finished.”


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