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My smart meter’s so ‘dumb’ I have to press seven buttons to get a reading

March 21, 2017

By Paul Homewood






From the Telegraph:


Hundreds of thousands of households seeking to switch energy suppliers in the face of rising prices are discovering that their “smart meters” – which in many cases have only just been installed – will cease to work.

Technical flaws in the meters mean the “smart” function of transmitting accurate usage information is lost when households switch provider.

The issue has been known about for several years, but delays in the manufacture of the next generation of “universally compatible” meters means more of the old models have been installed than was expected.

That, coupled with a surge in energy prices which has prompted more customers to switch, means meters could be stripped of their “smart” capabilities in hundreds of thousands of homes.

And householders are reporting other problems with their meters, too.

The Government wants to have every household using smart meters by 2020 because, in theory, automatic, accurate readings will save money for both customers and energy firms, who will no longer have to pay staff to check millions of meters.

However, three years ahead of the deadline, only 4.9 million smart meters have been installed, out of a total of 53 million.

And there are growing suspicions that the devices are not as smart as their high-profile advertising claims.

The difficulty in switching is one issue. Readers in areas with poor mobile phone coverage report that the devices only work intermittently.

And the news from abroad is also worrying. A Dutch study of smart meters found five different models produced erroneous readings, sometimes up to six times higher than actual energy consumption. Distortions were most extreme when “green”, energy-saving equipment – such as LED light bulbs, heaters and dimmers – were used, the University of Twente Enschede research found.

And in Canada last year, energy firm Hydro One was forced to restart manual meter readings on 36,000 households in rural Ontario after widespread complaints.

  1. March 21, 2017 11:20 am

    If the government says it’s smart, then you know it will be dumb.

    • tom0mason permalink
      March 21, 2017 12:01 pm


      Please understand that the ‘smart’ meters’ specifications were OKed by government bureaucrats and advisors, and thus accurately reflects all the technical smarts they all could muster.


    • NeilC permalink
      March 21, 2017 12:19 pm

      I agree the government is smart, based on your definition

    • March 21, 2017 1:14 pm

      We are of course assuming that these meters are intended to be of assistance to the consumer in some way. It is very likely that they are as smart as they need to be for the purpose for which they are really intended, ie to “manage demand”‘ which is to say “manage supply”.

      Sorry if the cynicism is showing through but various pronouncements from tbe government and from the electricity suppliers and from the energy watchdogs and suppliers organisations and from the green blob have made it pretty clear what the ultimate objective is.

      So either the media are blind and deaf and thick or naive or have been conscripted to back the government line. Any strange rumbling noises you hear from underground are George Orwell trying not to laugh!

      • Gerry, England permalink
        March 21, 2017 1:46 pm

        The media are either signed up to the scam – BBC/Guardian – or just don’t investigate the majority of stories anymore to find out that they are just that – stories. None more so than the press release world of climate ‘science’.

  2. March 21, 2017 11:25 am

    It just seems pointless. Who is going to bother monitoring heir usage to save £1 per month? Should have just sent everyone a leaflet saying your electricity will be cheaper if you use it at whatever o’clock

  3. Vanessa permalink
    March 21, 2017 11:26 am

    It is strange that the government has never heard of the internet ! To say energy companies have to pay for people to come and read meters is ludicrous in this day and age. I log in to my energy supplier and type in my up-to-date readings. What could be easier? I do not need a smart meter of whatever vintage and do not intend to get one.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      March 21, 2017 11:49 am

      Ditto, Vanessa. And by doing so I have good handle on my usage as I can compare month to month and year to year. My bills also analyse my usage and my supplier only physically reads the meter once a year as an honesty check. So, no smart meter in my house.
      In any case, linking meters to a hub using the mobile phone network is old tech. They should have pushed for wifi connection via an internet link – which will probably be as ubiquitous as TVs and phones soon.

    • March 21, 2017 12:36 pm

      But to figure out who is honest and who isn’t – or if a mistake has occurred – they still have to visit the property to check the meter(s) every so often.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        March 21, 2017 1:49 pm

        I read my meters weekly and log the data in excel over a cup of tea and some toast – no hardship. It has been fascinating to see the changes in use having moved houses 2 years ago. On a monthly basis I log the readings with the suppliers but sometimes they email for an update. I had a visit to read the electricity recently but was out and so they left a card with details to log a reading through their webpage. They should in theory visit to do a safety inspection on occasion. Gas is easy since it is outside anyway.

      • March 21, 2017 3:49 pm

        Yes, supposedly they are supposed to for safety reasons as well.

    • Ed Bo permalink
      March 21, 2017 2:01 pm

      Remote monitoring of a meter is THE key feature of a “smart” meter, and the main justification for installing them. You already HAVE a smart meter

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      March 21, 2017 3:54 pm

      Vanessa & others,
      We are in central Washington State – USA. The utility installed meters that send a signal that can be read from the air. They now use a small plane but the future could be drone.
      This does not require any action from the user. That’s always a sticky point.

      • Old Englander permalink
        March 22, 2017 12:10 pm

        To Mr Hultquist: things in Old England are a bit different from the Land of the Free where money is concerned. When I lived in New England I noticed, inter alia, that no one had heard of the Direct Debit, a sneaky means (over here) for utility companies to pull money out of your bank account (without your permission) for gas, electricity etc allegedly used, even if you havn’t. Yes, really. Has American banking done this yet ?

        What’s banking to do with smart meters ? Utility companies (energy re-sellers) are desperate for smooth cash flow. Any means to keep the cash flowing is good (to them). Accurate billing is NOT their priority, but wrong billing is for sure a major hassle to consumers (and they know it).

        So their pitch for smart meters is they do the reading for you. Well, so far so good. I looked at a “smart meter” utility – surprise, surprise, you find they want that Direct Debit, no paper bills – so they can feed off your bank account even if the “smart” meter screws up. In fact it could be good for them if it does.

        If they go wrong and charge you (by DD) £££ for alleged high consumption, proving them wrong will cost the regular householder far more in legal costs than a utility company will lose pursuing a genuinely delinquent consumer. And they hold the £££ meanwhile as a ransom – you don’t.

        Not opening myself to that until metering is decoupled from billing and provider switches. Not holding my breath.

  4. Patsy Lacey permalink
    March 21, 2017 12:06 pm

    We too have no intentions of having a smart meter. However I was slightly alarmed to read somewhere over the weekend that if the take up gets any worse the government might have to make them compulsory!

    • Gerry, England permalink
      March 21, 2017 1:51 pm

      I think in the absence of the universal ‘smart’ meter they can’t do that. I fully expect that they will push for compulsory use once they get beyond a certain level, although that seems a long way at the moment.

    • March 21, 2017 3:40 pm

      Only in the upside-down world of the 21st century could government make something compulsory because nobody wants it!

      • Athelstan permalink
        March 22, 2017 12:02 am

        i think that you are forgetting where we live, and how it is.

        I don’t know about you but I feel that the state becomes ever more prying, nit picking, arbitrary and not least exercises an authoritarian big stick with ever greater flourish. Not least, because the compliant ‘stakeholders’ are just that and mother theresa wouldn’t bat an eyelid about legislating to make ’em [these fatuous meters] obligatory and that’s because she and so many of her ilk, think most of labour’s front bench [or tory for that matter] are just that way out – bossy, domineering – all cloth eared, publind ossification bespattered with total ignorance of anything and everything technological..

  5. Dave Ward permalink
    March 21, 2017 12:14 pm

    The really farcical aspect of the smart meter debacle is that you can buy a clip-on energy monitor for around £35 which will do the same thing, and is completely independent of which supplier you choose! Oh – but it won’t allow remote cut-off in the event of power shortages….

    • Gerry, England permalink
      March 21, 2017 1:52 pm

      Yep, got two of them. Nope, never fitted them at the new house as I had stopped bothering looking at them at the old one. Both came free. Eon and via a Daily Mail offer, British Gas.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      March 21, 2017 11:25 pm

      Yes, you can spend a happy hour running round turning stuff on and off to see how much juice it uses.

      My wife still finds it useful because the reading tells her when the washing machine has completed its cycle without her having to get up and visit the utility room.

      Apart from that…

  6. rwoollaston permalink
    March 21, 2017 12:21 pm

    There’s a link to another Telegraph article if you read the one about the Dutch study. Here is a quote from that article:

    “The problem with the GB program is that the people designing the smart meters have forgotten most of these priorities. Instead, they’ve been designed mainly to help energy suppliers develop complicated tariffs and remotely disconnect users who haven’t paid their bills. Asking energy suppliers to design smart meters is a bad idea, exemplified by a statement I heard from an executive at a Californian utility, who told an industry conference that “the best thing about smart meters is they give us more evidence to blame the customer”.”

  7. NeilC permalink
    March 21, 2017 12:26 pm

    If the goverment think I am going to have a smart meter installed, they had better think again. Not a chance.

    Like many of the above, I get an email from my supplier when they want a reading, I read it and enter it on their website, after logging in. Now that’s smart.

  8. Joe Public permalink
    March 21, 2017 12:42 pm

    Meters ought to be physically read, probably once a year.

    There a thieving buggers out there who bypass meters, and a physical inspection may, just may, catch them out so honest folk don’t subsidise quite so many thieves.

    Smart meters will nullify:

    1. The lying buggers out there, who deliberately submit low readings, if only to attempt to delay the ‘proper’ bill. (Smart meters won’t prevent them from doing a bunk, though!)

    2. The smart folk out there, who when advised their commodity price is rising, submit an inflated ‘reading’ and so ‘forward-buy’ at the old, lower price. 😀

    3. The smart folk out there, who when advised their commodity price is falling (yes it happens – check gas prices 2014 vs 2015), submit a low ‘reading’ and so ‘forward-sell’ at the old, higher price. 😀

  9. March 21, 2017 1:14 pm

    In my experience, most “smart” devices are pretty stupid.
    What is more, they will probably discourage people from thinking for themselves.

  10. Bitter&twisted permalink
    March 21, 2017 2:38 pm

    I’ve told my supplier that I will not have a “smart” meter on my property.
    Any attempt to install one, without my permission, will be regarded as trespass and criminal damage.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      March 22, 2017 11:16 am

      No problem, just change supplier when it is installed. Annoys the original supplier and if the new one cannot read it you get the best out of it.

  11. March 21, 2017 6:59 pm

    They could easily make it more expensive not to have a smart meter than to have one.

    • Joe Public permalink
      March 21, 2017 7:52 pm

      Only until a ‘critical mass’ is hooked.

      *Then* TOD pricing will be rolled out. (Electric) cooking the family meal at 6pm on a winter weekday evening will suddenly become much more expensive.

  12. BLACK PEARL permalink
    March 21, 2017 10:11 pm

    Then there’s the Russians …. hacking into everything … so we are told 🙂

  13. AndyG55 permalink
    March 22, 2017 7:16 am

    Ahhhh…. SMART equipment….

    for a dumbed-down society !!

  14. March 22, 2017 7:44 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  15. Peter MacFarlane permalink
    March 22, 2017 8:29 am

    Mike Jacskon wins the thread: “It is very likely that they are as smart as they need to be for the purpose for which they are really intended, ie to “manage demand”‘ which is to say “manage supply”.”


  16. Shale Watcher permalink
    March 22, 2017 9:28 am

    Well one of the smart things the NG has to do is balance high solar power in Summer when we don’t need it (but have to buy it) with the continuing stream of inflexible nuclear. Basically they seem to be paying companies to use more electricity !! This recently from the excellent Energyst site….

    “National Grid seeks to curtail excess wind generation via Demand Turn-up. National Grid has opened the tender for this year’s summer grid balancing programme, demand turn-up, inviting suppliers to name their own price.

    Companies seeking contracts for curtailing generation or using extra power when the system is over-supplied must sign a framework agreement by the end of this week, ahead of a tender proper later in February.

    As well as extending the programme to run for longer, National Grid has also made significant changes to the requirements and payment structures in a bid to maximise participation.

    Additionally, providers can now effectively name their own price for utilisation payments. If it is cheaper for National Grid to take that price over the summer than use other balancing services, they will be called upon to deliver.”

  17. AlecM permalink
    March 22, 2017 11:07 am

    Perfectly logical: seven buttons are needed because such a meter might be installed in the cave where the seven dwarfs live.

  18. Dawn derr permalink
    March 22, 2017 10:06 pm

    I thought smart meters give off radiation cause people get sick from them I am getting sick from them

  19. March 23, 2017 8:57 pm

    Isn’t it bizarre that at the same time as the TV adverts were going out proclaiming the great accuracy of Smart Meters we had all these stories about the huge issues with inaccuracies? I was so concerned that I complained to the ASA. I await the outcome with interest.

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