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No one’s noticed, but the Tories are quietly killing off the smart meter revolution

May 25, 2017

By Paul Homewood

h/t Philip Bratby

An interesting piece in the Telegraph this week:


Normally politicians promise much and deliver little.

Last week brought a rare example of the converse: a manifesto burying a huge policy change that will save every household in Britain fifty pounds a year.

It’s lurking on page 60 of the Conservative offering: “everyone will be offered a smart meter by 2020”.

If you blinked, you missed it. A national programme committed to install meters in 80pc of homes by 2020 has just become voluntary.

Twenty years ago, the electricity meter industry thought up a wizard wheeze.

For a prime minister who wants to drive energy bills as low as possible, the sacred cow has to go

Why not replace old meters that cost £15 and lasted 50 years with new meters that cost £50 and lasted only 15? The story was that if you could see how much electricity you were using you’d use less of it, and we could recoup the cost by building fewer power stations.

When Ed Miliband become climate change secretary, he seized on this chance to save the planet.

Three successive impact assessments had shown that smart meters would not be viable in Britain, but no matter: a new one was ordered which argued that smart meters could save enough energy to pay for themselves.

Britain pressed the commit button, and promised Brussels to put smart meters in 80pc of homes by 2020.

There was just one small problem. British electricity meters belong to the retailer, which has no incentive to help you use less of its product.

Ontario and Germany are the same. In the former, a $2bn smart meter programme failed to save any energy, while Angela Merkel ordered an honest impact assessment and decided to leave well alone. The Miliband project quickly got into trouble.

It’s not tax money being wasted, as the power companies can just add their costs to your bil

The power industry couldn’t agree a common specification, so the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) decided to build a central computer system to collect your meter data and reroute it to whichever retailer you buy energy from.

One commitment led to another, with the design becoming more Heath Robinson at every step, and nobody at DECC having the engineering know-how or political confidence to take the hard decisions.

So while Spaniards have a standard smart meter costing 40 euros, we’ll get three or four devices in each house, at a cost in the high hundreds. But why should the Treasury care?

It’s not tax money being wasted, as the power companies can just add their costs to your bill.

Criticism from despairing engineers and energy economists fell on deaf ears. As a Labour leader’s policy triumph had become a Coalition commitment, no MP or civil servant dared question it.

Contractors licked their lips. But while Centrica and Ovo already sell proprietary smart meters, the integrated national system Miliband dreamed of is still far away. The radio network won’t reach enough homes. The meters won’t communicate with appliances.

The ever-changing standards for a British national meter have become too complicated.

Oh, and people who fit smart meters and then change supplier discover a whole new world of pain.

So for a prime minister who wants to drive energy bills as low as possible, the sacred cow has to go.

Otherwise every household in Britain will end up paying about fifty pounds a year more on their fuel bill, a regressive tax that would hit the elderly poor the worst.

But how can a government kill a £20bn programme without getting roasted alive by the lobbyists? Easy: split the industry. Let companies who don’t install smart meters charge their customers less.

And do it quietly in the middle of an election – when the lobbyists have no access to anyone. On June 9th it will be a done deal. 

Ross Anderson is  professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory


It makes a change to read an article written by somebody who knows what he is talking about, rather then a cut’n’paste job from the likes of Jillian Ambrose.

Whether the Tory Manifesto really means what he says remains to be seen. The real problem is that, currently, energy companies can be fined if they don’t roll out smart meters.

It is not clear whether this threat will be dropped.

  1. May 25, 2017 9:05 am

    Reblogged this on Wolsten.

  2. 2hmp permalink
    May 25, 2017 9:07 am

    I’d also like to see “The Tories are quietly killing off the Climate Change Act ” – or is that just wishful thinking,

    • Old Englander permalink
      May 25, 2017 9:14 am


    • HotScot permalink
      May 25, 2017 9:58 am

      Softlee, Softlee, Catchee Monkee.

      With nothing drastic having happened to the climate over the last 40 or 50 years, the temptation to examine the wasteful spending on it will be too much for politicians to resist. I mean, what could better than a politician delivering £14Bn of savings to the taxpayer after 2020 in one fell swoop?

      They just need the first thread of an excuse to start unravelling the whole jumper. I wonder if that might be when the IPCC is again forced to reduce it’s ridiculous warming predictions when observed temperatures finally drop below even their lowest estimates. Perhaps around 2020/2022, just in time for another GE?

      Then watch as the snarling pack stab each other in the back and point fingers at everyone who perpetrated the AGW scandal.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        May 25, 2017 12:41 pm

        Observed temperatures and satellite data are already below every one of their modeled temperature runs. Their problem is to explain this gap and why it is increasing. Even more so if this year starts the downward trend delayed by the El Nino.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        May 27, 2017 4:27 pm

        “Observed temperatures and satellite data are already below every one of their modeled temperature runs.”

        Ah, but the results from the computer games climate models aren’t supposed to be “predictions”, they’re “projections”, Gerry.

        You need to be a “climate scientist” to understand the difference.

    • RogerJC permalink
      May 25, 2017 9:08 pm

      UKIP have an interesting energy policy, scrap the Climate Change Act, no VAT on energy bills, withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, stop subsidising renewables, mixed power generation using coal, gas, oil, nuclear, shale gas, and allow renewables only if the compete on unsubsidised cost.

      • Paddy permalink
        May 26, 2017 6:18 am

        Roger Helmer for Energy Secretary

      • dennisambler permalink
        May 26, 2017 9:35 am

        But in Wales they support the Swansea Barrage………

      • May 26, 2017 9:55 am

        They would not if they had to pay for it themselves!!

      • HotScot permalink
        May 27, 2017 10:20 pm

        The Libertarian Party have an even better one.

        Stand on our own two feet, stop governments interfering in our day to day lives and, instead, concentrate on what they are pledged to do, maintain our national and civil defence.

        Why are any governments even entering the debate on climate, it has nothing to do with them?

        The term ‘government’ is a euphemism for reducing unemployment by employing anyone and everyone at taxpayer expense.

        I understand the Bank of England recently spent £20,000 on a staff night out FFS!

        Were any of us invited, despite paying for it?!

  3. martinbrumby permalink
    May 25, 2017 9:44 am

    Whilst this is very welcome, I think that these “smart” meters are already voluntary.
    I told my energy provider in no uncertain terms what they could do with my smartmeter and they agreed to just replace the meter (which was just 11 years old).

    So will they actually take a knife to this mad programme?

    I doubt it!

    • Dung permalink
      May 25, 2017 10:19 am

      Absolutely right Mr Brumby, if you refuse to accept a smart meter you can not be forced into it. This is set out in the last Electricity act/bill.

      • mikewaite permalink
        May 25, 2017 1:11 pm

        However incoming Govts are not obliged to follow the policies or Acts of their predecessors . The rapid decline in Tory poll results following the shambles over social care and just general incompetence suggests that the next govt will be led by Corbyn with McDonnell as Chancellor and a Green or LibDem in charge of Energy . I believe that all of these politicians have in mind compulsory introduction of Smart meters , paid for by the consumer. .

  4. May 25, 2017 9:50 am

    I’m still getting smart meter fliers from energy companies I don’t even have an account with.

  5. Dung permalink
    May 25, 2017 10:24 am

    I think this statement in the manifesto tells us more; We will lead the world in the fight against climate change. Just like Cameron she will not bother to look behind and discover that nobody is following ^.^

    • May 25, 2017 6:21 pm

      Just insert ‘up the garden path’ after ‘world’ and the manifesto will be correct.

  6. HotScot permalink
    May 25, 2017 10:45 am

    I must admit to having been tempted by the convenience and accuracy of a smart meter recently. All the hype is quite convincing. We live in an old cottage and our electricity meter is buried in a boxed in area under the TV, with all the associated paraphernalia like the YouView box, speakers, broadband router etc. It’s a real pain in the backside to read so a smart meter sounds great.

    However the first problem that strikes me is that whilst one can change supplier at will, the meter may also have to be changed. Yet we are encouraged to review our suppliers every year and ‘switch’ the moment we can. In which case, every time we switch suppliers it could mean we have the additional inconvenience of having the meter changed, conceivably, every year.

    If these meter’s are indeed ‘free’, how long will energy companies tolerate installing a large proportion of the countries meters on a rolling basis? And how long will it take the public to recognise the obscene waste of money added to their electricity bills to pay for the legions of installers? And I have no doubt installations will be sub contracted to third party installers and the whole thing will turn into even more of a racket with dodgy installers doing botch jobs compromising consumer safety.

    And if consumers are forced into this ridiculous situation of having to consider whether they will have yet another round of inconvenience just to change supplier, it will discourage switching and stifle yet another ill conceived and ill considered government initiative, by introducing yet another ill conceived and ill considered government initiative, without first engaging the single brain cell they share between them. Not that MIlliband was ever at the front of the queue to use it.

  7. Dung permalink
    May 25, 2017 11:35 am

    If you do not have a smart meter you do not have the problem and actually accepting the smart meter lays you open to control. With the internet of things coupled with a smart meter they may dictate what appliances you can operate when they screw up the supply.

    • tom0mason permalink
      May 25, 2017 12:32 pm

      Also if your are on automatic billing (payment automatically from your bank account) and automatic reading of your ‘smart meter’, I wonder how fast the electricity companies will be in blaming ‘computer error’ for overcharging you when they are a little short of cash?
      To me it just seems too much of a temptation put in their hands.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      May 26, 2017 4:34 pm

      Re “The Internet Of Things”: As a retired software engineer, I refuse to let ANYTHING except my (thoroughly firewalled) modem/router be connected to the internet. I believe some of the more recent Internet attacks have been using connected, un-firewalled ‘things’. And why, oh why, would anyone want an Internet connected fridge or toaster?

  8. Gerry, England permalink
    May 25, 2017 1:05 pm

    I like many others probably is untrusting of the word ‘offered’. Being cynical and therefore realistic you can see once a certain number is reached it becomes compulsory. But of course if a brain cell somewhere has switched on and seen how contradictory adding costs to bills while pointing the finger at the utilities is and sees how at some point this will make news.

    Funnily enough, Engineering & Technology – the Guardista publication of the so called learned society, the Institute of Engineering & Technology – is in full on green bullshit mode for June and includes ‘smart’ meters. Editor, appropriately named Dickon, is saying how wonderful they are and why would you not get one as they are ‘free’?

    Away from the watermelons who write most of the shit in the magazine, the letters page is a bit more interesting questioning the data the great pollution scam is based on, why anyone would want a driverless carless complementary and pointing out lots of holes in the dreams of the EV-driverless cheerleaders.

    Amazingly they do feature energy systems consultant Alex Henney who has been trying to get the government to cough up a paper relating to an audit of smart metering. Now since the government has used your money to fight this tooth and nail you can probably guess the contents are not good for the government. He has received a redacted version which practically just left the words, the, and, a, or visible. And it includes a piece about a nice new problem for those with one. When it does go wrong you are not able to submit readings to your supplier because they have decided you won’t need to as you have a ‘smart’ meter.

    The June edition also contains drivel on storage systems being our savior, or microgrids being our savior, plus unicorn spotting in the form of carbon capture systems.

    On the plus side the article on induced emfs due to the solar wind – they refer to it as just auroras – which can damage oil pipelines is good. And you can always rely on the spoof student column as being just about the best thing in it.

  9. May 25, 2017 6:32 pm

    Solar panel alert…

    ‘Which?’ mag says: ‘We’ve heard from members with solar panels who have been refused a smart meter, and from others who have had a smart meter installed that does not work with their solar panels.’

    ‘If you have solar panels and are offered a smart meter, make sure your supplier is aware. Check whether your smart meter and in-home display will work fully with them.’

    Read more: – Which?
    – – –
    And in any case wait for ‘fully compatible smart meters’ to appear, which might mean next year sometime. Otherwise risk ending up with a dumb meter that has to be read at the property.

  10. David permalink
    May 25, 2017 8:36 pm

    Presumably if one refuses a smart meter, one still pays the levy to pay for all the others. And another racket. I have just had to accept a water meter forced on me in an area of abundant water supply even in the worst drought.

  11. May 26, 2017 9:00 am

    Ten years ago EoN would give you a clip-on meter free of charge that told you exactly what smart meters are supposed to tell you – instantaneous and summed consumption.

    It didn’t change our consumption behaviours at all. It didn’t change the consumption behaviours of any of our friends to whom we lent it.

    A personal friend who contracted to the Smart Meter providers advised me that the location of the centre of operations for the data that smart meters send back about you and your household is a state secret. If true one wonders why.

    One also wonders what the real underlying agenda is – it certainly won’t be saving you money. Does anyone know what it is? My paranoia makes me wonder if it’s about controlling us. Much else that is going on seems to be.

  12. Gerry, England permalink
    May 26, 2017 1:20 pm

    Something the more sensible members of the IET have been discussing is exactly what power ‘smart’ meters are measuring and also what things like the EoN meter are measuring. There is true or active power(watts), apparent power(volt amps) and reactive power(vars). Which is relevant depends on whether your load is resistive, inductive or a mixture. Fluorescent lamps are reactive since the ballast is an inductor, and require their own light switches that have an X added to the current rating which avoids the big spark when you operate it. Too much inductance, such as induction motors, requires power factor correction. Simples as they say.

  13. Roy Hartwell permalink
    May 26, 2017 3:14 pm

    A few days ago, an article in The Telegraph informed us that oil companies were planning to introduce an AI based system on pump pricing that would increase local pump prices when it was calculated there would be a local ‘bubble’ of fuel purchasing. Prices would be increased when it knew a lot of customers would be piling in.
    The technology is there and i warrant the intention ! I see no difference between ‘smart’ meters and this proposal.

  14. John Seamans permalink
    May 26, 2017 6:52 pm

    I have electric and gas Smart meters and regularly asses where costs are going and how we can reduce them
    Provided they remain accurate I have no complaints at the moment.

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