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Smart Meters Are Just Plain Dumb

September 4, 2017

By Paul Homewood


h/t Joe Public


I won’t say I told you so! From the Mail:


Billions of pounds are being spent on installing ‘smart’ energy reading meters in homes that will leave householders out of pocket.

Energy firms are hoping to fit all 26million homes with these new monitors in an £11billion project launched three years ago and ending in 2020. But experts fear the scheme is a waste of money with meters vulnerable to hackers.

The devices do away with estimates for bills and meter readings, as usage is read remotely by the supplier using radio waves.

Power crazed: 'Gaz' and 'Leccy' appear in a series of TV ads for the meters

Power crazed: ‘Gaz’ and ‘Leccy’ appear in a series of TV ads for the meters


The smart meter also comes with a hand-held display that can sit in the kitchen and show how much energy a home is consuming.

Television adverts featuring ‘Gaz’ and ‘Leccy’ relentlessly promote the virtues of the smart meter. But they are not as consumer-friendly as Gaz and Leccy are letting on.


Every household, whether they want a smart meter or not, is being forced to fork out £420 to help fund the £11billion smart meter project. The cash is being pickpocketed from our energy bills – rising up to 10 per cent this year to an average £1,150.

Gordon Hughes is professor of economics at the University of Edinburgh and a former senior adviser on energy and environmental policy at the World Bank.

He says: ‘The introduction of the smart meter is a dog’s breakfast. At best it is misconceived and an astonishingly expensive project. For those claiming it will bring major savings, I say they need to grow up.

‘Studies confirm that after just a couple of weeks the novelty of a smart meter wears off and people go back to their old energy usage habits.

‘A smart meter might end up shaving one per cent off a utility bill – a tenner a year.’

With the cost per household of the project estimated at £420, it will take decades for smart meters to provide savings to households.

Alex Henney also believes the introduction of smart meters is a waste of money. He is a former government adviser on energy privatisation and ex-director of London Electricity.

A dog’s breakfast… misconceived and astonishingly expensive

Gordon Hughes, Professor of Economics

In a written statement to the Parliamentary Energy and Climate Change Committee four years ago – a year before smart meters started to be installed – he wrote: ‘The British roll-out of smart meters is one of the most incompetent, one of the most expensive, and definitely the most complex.

‘The project is likely to be a shambles with negligible consumer benefit.’

Henney stated civil servants ‘cooked the books’ to give meters a net benefit of almost £5billion – but independent analysis found it would end up costing the nation at least £4billion.

Even the Government’s own savings projections look poor value for money. It claims meters may provide households with initial savings of £23 a year.

But £13 of this annual saving is expected to come from the money that energy companies will pocket by no longer having to send meter reader workers out to come and visit.

The rest of the meagre savings are predicted to come from homeowners looking at their energy display monitors and realising the cost of many energy-sapping devices around the home.

For example, televisions that still burn up electricity when left on standby.


There are fears that the new smart meters can be hacked, giving criminals the opportunity to raid people’s bank accounts and plan burglaries.

Jim Dee is head of forensic and counter-fraud services at accountancy firm Crowe Clark Whitehill.

He is also visiting professor and chair of the Centre for Counter Fraud Services at the University of Portsmouth.

He says: ‘As with all wireless technology, there is a risk that smart meters will be hacked. It is not a question of making them secure but of providing greater resilience.

‘Hackers use viruses that can adapt and mutate over time to break in to smart meters. Even the latest technology is vulnerable.’

He adds: ‘There is a line of code in smart meters that can be deciphered.

‘Fraudsters could then commit billing fraud, leading to money being taken out of households’ bank accounts.

‘Hacking a smart meter also enables a fraudster to discover when you are out, making it a tool for a burglar deciding when is the best time to break in.’

Dee, co-author of a recent fraud report that shows cybercrime costs the economy £193billion a year, believes arsonists could even take advantage of flaws in the technology.

He says: ‘There have been instances where fires have been caused due to sudden increases of power to a home. Smart meter technology could possibly be abused in this way.’

Earlier this year the BBC Watchdog programme investigated whether there were links between fires caused at 18 homes after smart meters were fitted.


A smart meter enables energy companies to read usage wirelessly using radio wave signals through a ‘national communication network’.

Yet industry insiders are concerned the technology is not foolproof and the wrong meter – or reading – could still be taken by an energy firm.

Earlier this year some meters in Britain – supplied by energy provider SSE – gave false readings due to a computer glitch

Earlier this year some meters in Britain – supplied by energy provider SSE – gave false readings due to a computer glitch


Research by scientists at the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, found meters can in some cases produce readings up to six times too high – though the ones it tested were not used in the UK.

The issue was caused partly by LED bulbs and dimmer switches distorting the shape of the electric current read by the meter.

Earlier this year, some meters in Britain – supplied by energy provider SSE – gave false readings due to a computer glitch.

One stated a household was consuming more than £30,000 worth of gas and electricity in a day.

SSE did not bill the customer for the mistake. A spokesman for SSE says: ‘The issue affected a small group of meters and was investigated as a matter of urgency.

‘We continue to monitor the performance of our meters to ensure they are operating correctly.’

But Hughes fears such assurances are not enough. He says: ‘It is most difficult to make a system of this kind genuinely secure. It could be a real menace if it is ever connected to the internet.’

The professor believes part of the problem is that smart meters are being forced on the industry by the Government without proper consideration of the commercial implications.

For example, the wirelessly controlled smart meters are not the same for each provider, making it hard for consumers to switch energy firms. A further layer of confusion is added if meters are installed by a third party.


Only a quarter of households have signed up

So far only six million householders have agreed to have a smart meter installed despite a £224million publicity campaign encouraging people to sign up.

It means that the ‘smart future’ that TV cartoon characters ‘Gaz’ and ‘Leccy’ want us to join has only tempted a quarter of all households.

Part of the reason is that homeowners are not required to make the change – it is their choice.

Those interested in having a smart meter installed just need to ask their energy supplier. Even if you have two different suppliers for gas and electricity – so two smart meters – you should be able to read energy usage on just one display.

All you need do is book a day for it to be installed. The process should take no more than a couple of hours to complete.

The Government says the installation of meters is part of a drive to meet European Union energy targets – a club we leave in 2019. Smart Energy GB, the Government-funded ‘voice of the smart meter roll-out’, did not wish to comment on the cost of installing smart meters.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: ‘Smart meters will provide near real-time information about energy use and help households keep bills down. They are a vital upgrade to Britain’s energy system and will take £300million off energy bills in 2020 alone.’

  1. dave permalink
    September 4, 2017 5:27 pm

    “…energy-sapping devices…”

    Eco-nuts, civil servants, politicians, socialists, silly buggers,….

  2. Dung permalink
    September 4, 2017 5:37 pm

    Is there anything a smart meter ‘can’ do reliably apart from shut off my supply?

  3. September 4, 2017 5:39 pm

    ‘will take £300million off energy bills in 2020 alone’ – says our resident mysticist.

    • September 4, 2017 10:02 pm

      So that’s a fiver for everyone in the country. Wow!!!!!!

  4. September 4, 2017 5:57 pm

    Like all the other cr@p talked about energy these days, Smart Meters are a waste of time. They have nothing to do with trying to save the consumer electricity, it is about making sure when the wind doesn’t blow and/or the Sun doesn’t shine any appliances in you home which aren’t “essential” will be switched off, your electric car on charge to get you to work the next day will have it’s battery drained. All because some “scientists” claim that a 0.002% rise in CO2 is affecting the climate, which anyone with any common sense at all knows that any effect will be negligible.Three times Scottish Power have asked me to have one and three times I have refused.

  5. quaesoveritas permalink
    September 4, 2017 6:10 pm

    IMHO, most things they call “smart”, are actually very dumb!

  6. September 4, 2017 6:38 pm

    It shows how many dumb people there are in the country if six million householders have agreed to have a smart meter installed.

  7. Stonyground permalink
    September 4, 2017 6:49 pm

    I’m pretty sure that reliable technology exists that could eliminate the need for meter readings by transmitting the relevant numbers to your energy supplier. that is really all that is needed to save you money. If we really wanted to eliminate waste, the best way would be to have two separate ring mains downstairs with colour coded sockets. things that needed to stay switched on in order to keep working would be on one colour and things that could be switched off at night could be on the other. That main would be switched off when we went to bed and switched back on in the morning. Simple, low tech and cheap.

    • September 4, 2017 6:55 pm

      That makes a lot of sense.

      • HotScot permalink
        September 4, 2017 7:28 pm

        A modem attached to a household telephone line sending everyone’s meter readings once a day. Would take seconds and be nice and cheap. For those without home phones it could be done over the mobile network.

    • September 4, 2017 10:03 pm

      Spot on

  8. Dave Ward permalink
    September 4, 2017 8:00 pm

    “Sending everyone’s meter readings once a day”

    Unfortunately, even this would allow a hacker to determine if the house is empty.

    • September 4, 2017 10:04 pm

      Yep, surely they only need to send it once a month or quarter or whenever you are due to pay

    • HotScot permalink
      September 4, 2017 10:08 pm

      I don’t understand how a hacker would know if the house was empty when a land line call is made every day at the same time.

      Nor are housebreakers that bright. They are usually opportunists and their method of establishing if a house is empty is quite simple, they knock on the door. It’s not clever but it’s pretty reliable.

  9. September 4, 2017 9:15 pm

    Speaking of wasteful government mandated programs that consumers are forced to pay for: I’ve been getting a ridiculous amount of pressure from Essex Water to have a visit to discuss water saving measures – including 2 phone calls and 3 letters – one with an elaborate folding cardboard cube extolling the ‘benefits’ of water rationing on each facet. Bloody ridiculous: 71% of the Earth’s surface water hundreds of meters deep, it falls from the sky for free and is 100% recycled. Why should the company that I pay to pipe it to me want me to use less? Shouldn’t they be encouraging me to use more?

  10. Bitter&twisted permalink
    September 4, 2017 9:58 pm

    I have refused point blank to have a “smart” meter fitted.
    They can go boil their heads.

    • HotScot permalink
      September 4, 2017 10:16 pm

      I don’t have one because I don’t need one. I don’t put the kettle on for fun, nor the tumble dryer, lights, TV, PC or underfloor heating. I put them on because I need them on. I fail to understand how a gadget will stop me doing any of those things.

      In fact, a friend of mine got one and took great delight in demonstrating it by unnecessarily switching the kettle, lights etc. on and off. After week though, he was bored with it and its now in the kitchen cupboard.

      Another useless piece of tech junk.

  11. September 4, 2017 10:10 pm

    The meters that have been installed (are still being installed?) are the old SMETS1 standard, which revert to being dumb meters if you switch suppliers. At some time they will have to be updated to SMETS2

  12. roger permalink
    September 4, 2017 10:14 pm

    Eerily enough today I received in my post a missive from SSE encouraging me to have a smart meter installed so as to allow me to ‘take control of my supply’!
    In fact installing a smart meter is to allow THEM to take control of my supply.

  13. HotScot permalink
    September 4, 2017 10:26 pm

    I had my second call from SSE the other day to persuade me to have a meter fitted “as we have engineers in your area just now” (yea right, pull the other one).

    I told the first of them, politely, that I didn’t want one and not to call again.

    The second one happened to call when I was in the middle of something so she was told to f*ck off and to take my name of the database.

    I’ll wait to see if they call back as I find it interesting that if I get angry and simply raise my voice when calling any customer services department, their first response it to warn me they will terminate the call. It’s strange there’s different standards for different departments in the same company.

  14. Geoff Sherrington permalink
    September 5, 2017 3:38 am

    You should follow the money and see who profits outlandishly from smart meters.
    IOn Aust, the govt made out they were compulsory. Citizens had to buy them for a set price, with no details of what the buying price to intermediates was. I refused, still do not have one.
    It has all the elements of a very shonky deal. Geoff.

  15. tom0mason permalink
    September 5, 2017 5:16 am

    Yes it the government…

    On 19 December 2012, Huhne’s successor Edward Davey announced the publication of the first DECC annual progress report on the smart meter roll-out, again heralding the potential the devices would have “to transform consumers’ relationship with energy bringing considerable benefits for both them and the energy industry. Smart meters will for the first time put consumers, who are at the heart of the roll-out, in control of their energy use, allowing them to adopt energy efficiency measures that can help save money on their energy bills, offset price increases and reduce carbon emissions.”

    Yes a change in consumer relationship — you are not in change!
    On customer demand supply is to end, on supplier ability to deliver to arrive — THAT IS THE NEW RELATIONSHIP.

    And just a small point —
    When the meter’s battery fails the meter switch the home off!
    If it gets too cold or too hot the battery will fail…

    Alarmingly, Dr. Jamieson has discovered that, in the UK and possibly elsewhere, ‘Smart’ Meters are designed to “fail-to-off” – that is, if and when they fall victim to temperature or weather extremes, they disable energy and utility supplies. This points to the shocking realisation that households – potentially in their tens of thousands or more – could be left without heating during cold snaps or without water during heat waves.

    So when the battery fails in the smart dumb meter you are cut-off.

    But then the battery is unlikely to fail — hopefully.

  16. Peter Murray permalink
    September 5, 2017 8:13 am

    On a general point regarding the Government’s latest ‘smart’ word, I feel that the push for smart meters falls into the same category as the introduction of ‘smart motorways’. Ideas thought up by idiots and agreed to be nitwits.

  17. quaesoveritas permalink
    September 5, 2017 9:07 am

    I know it’s off topic, but it also annoys me when scientists say a life-form is “smart” because it has evolved a particularly successful trait.
    Evolution is actually the “dumbest”, mechanistic process, involving no intelligence whatsoever.

  18. Rowland H permalink
    September 5, 2017 9:24 am

    I regularly send my meter reading to my supplier and they bill me for what I’ve used. What can be smarter than that!

  19. MR T PINDER permalink
    September 5, 2017 9:30 am

    It would help if the people who are fitting the meters knew what they were doing! I have solar panels and after fitting a new smart meter they either forgot to connect the solar system to the meter, deliberately didn’t do it, or didn’t know how, I am still waiting for a resolution. I am now no longer getting any benefit from the panels until everything is connected properly.

    • dave kenyon permalink
      September 5, 2017 1:11 pm

      I have solar panels and my supplier told me smart meters are not compatible with them.

  20. Dermot Flaherty permalink
    September 5, 2017 9:40 am

    In a previous life I worked on IT systems to support “smart grid” and a key goal was to enable “demand management” by the Utility companies to prevent brown-outs in cases of extreme demand. The model was that the consumer would sign up for this, would get the necessary household equipment and a cheaper price for their power on condition that the utility company would be able to turn down/off designated consumer units in times of demand stress to mitigate the excess demand across the entire grid.
    If you read the FES 2017 doc, you will see phrases like “demand management” and “two-way communication” and they refer to this aspect of the “smart grid”.

    I don’t know how far this has been realised in the US (but I will spend time trying to find out) but no matter what you think about the goal, it at least seemed to be clear and in particular, the customer would actually be paying less for what was going to be a benefit to the generating companies.
    In the UK (surprise, surprise) our politicians and Electric Companies seemed to have turned this model on its head and ended up with what seems to me the fairly vacuous idea of installing a piece of proprietary kit that will enable interested folk to discover that electric heaters, motors, etc. cost more than light bulbs and LEDs are a good investment in the long run.

  21. A C Osborn permalink
    September 5, 2017 10:25 am

    I have a man come and read the meter, unlike most people I prefer to PAY a little extra for someone to do a Job, rather than pay someone to be on the dole.
    Which is why I still pay more to employ the bloke down the road to deliver my milk, even though I walk to the shops 3 or 4 times a week.

  22. Richard Phillips permalink
    September 5, 2017 2:39 pm

    The only thing “smart” about “smart meters” is the gaggle of smart arses who dreamed up this anti social scam and are making a train load of money. Acurse on alltheir houses!!

    Richard Phillips

  23. Paul wilson permalink
    September 5, 2017 7:54 pm

    I like millions of others will not have a so called smart meter its yet another con by people makeing money from the tax payer yep u and me just like the soler panel rubbish

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