Skip to content

Smart Meter Roll Out Stalls

February 6, 2018

By Paul Homewood



h/t Joe Public



Only 80 “second generation” smart meters which allow customers to easily switch suppliers have been installed in homes, three months on from the official launch.

Smart meters, which come with an in-home display, allow users to track their energy use and how much they are paying for their bills.

Almost nine million first generation devices – known as "Smets I" – are now in use, but users have reported technical issues including the loss of functionality when changing energy suppliers.

The new software, "Smets II", which connects the meters to a national network known as the DCC, has been championed by the energy industry as a fix to this and other problems.

But answering a written parliamentary question last week, Claire Perry, a business minister, revealed that few have been installed.

Energy companies claim the figure is unimportant because Smets I meters will automatically be upgraded to the new network. 

But critics of the roll-out say this is another delay at the expense of consumers.

Last month, the National Audit Office, the public spending watchdog, opened an investigation into the programme, which has cost £11bn so far.

Ross Anderson, an engineering specialist at Cambridge University, said: “The roll-out had no realistic prospect of ever saving enough energy to pay for itself but Whitehall didn’t care as the costs are going to fall on the electricity bill payer, not the Treasury.

“There are no real benefits, except the PR benefit already harvested by Milliband, Clegg and Cameron; the costs fall on every household.”

Read the full story here.



Given the importance of smart meters in the government’s energy strategy, my guess is that, sooner or later, they will be made compulsory.

Meanwhile in separate news Australia:


Electricity prices have hit the front page of The Australian… again.

There’s no good news. Just more price pain.

And this news comes on the same day that the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) is closing its current round of feedback on its review into the market and regulatory frameworks necessary to support the reliability of the electricity system.

According to the article, a federal parliamentary committee has just released a 133-page report containing a list of 23 recommendations in response to the current crisis.

The committee, chaired by Nationals MP Andrew Broad, confirms ‘the reliability of the grid at times of peak demand has become of particular concern’.

The cause?

Australia faced a ‘trilemma’ of needing to meet ­climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement, ensuring stable supply so the ‘lights don’t go out’, and mitigating rising electricity costs.

The closure of coal-fired power stations has left South Australia and Victoria precariously exposed to the intermittent nature of wind generation.

In Victoria, the shortfall is around 1,000 megawatts. For SA, it’s around 270 megawatts.

The solution so far has been to increase the supply of electricity via expensive diesel generators deployed in South Australia and Victoria.

Gas and hydro have also increased in use. Gas prices are high, so that’s contributing to the increased wholesale price.

On the demand side, the report recommends…

‘Electricity smart meters… for all households and businesses, a move that would raise the cost of power during peak periods in a bid to lower demand…’

Yet, in the same breath, Mr Broad notes…

‘… one of the discussions we had on the smart meter was, does it alter behaviour, and generally speaking, no, people don’t look at them…’

For context, back on the 18th and 19th of January Victoria and South Australia experienced a couple of hot summer days. The heat caused network failures that blacked our tens of thousands of homes. Thanks to a small surplus of electricity generated by Tasmania and Queensland, the lights stayed on for the remaining homes and businesses. However, the price spike in Victoria exceeded $13,000 per MWh. For context, the average wholesale price for 2017 was $66.58 per MWh. South Australia was even worse, peaking at $14,200.

A quick check of AEMO price tables shows the incredible jump in wholesale prices compared to the same time last year:



Now, the article doesn’t say exactly how the ‘flexible’ pricing via smart meters would impact prices.

It does say the pricing could be changed every 30 minutes.

So, let’s take a look at what happened to the wholesale price on 19 January 2018 when the wind dropped off in the face of normal summer demand (remember, that day’s demand was ~1,400MW less than Victoria’s all-time peak of 10,446MW in 2009).



It will be interesting to see the detail of the smart meter proposal. Do they intend to pass on the full wholesale fluctuation? How much warning will they give? What if you’re not home during a sudden 100-fold increase in power price and miss the opportunity to turn off the air conditioner?

Meanwhile, the Federal government is trying to convince the States to adopt their proposed National Energy Guarantee (NEG), which seeks to restore reliability.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has upped his calls for the states and territories – including South Australia and the ACT – to support the plan, as new analysis of the National Energy Market shows Victoria and South Australia struggled to cover their own peak energy needs when the wind isn’t blowing. ‘Despite the best ­efforts of AEMO, the supply-­demand ­balance in South Australia and Victoria is precarious,’ Mr Frydenberg said.

‘There is no better illustration of this than the need to rush in expensive, polluting diesel generators that use up to 80,000 litres an hour as back-up.’

It is ironic that in the pursuit of renewables, SA and Victoria are relying on expensive diesel and gas to keep the lights on.

Our solution? Deliver lower emissions intensity from brown coal via a Coldry-enabled high efficiency, low-emission (HELE) power station while improving reliability and affordability.


  1. markl permalink
    February 6, 2018 7:01 pm

    To say these people don’t know what they are doing is an understatement. The world is watching as Australia goes back in energy time and charges people more for the “honor” while producing more of what they are trying to reduce in the process.

  2. Don B permalink
    February 6, 2018 7:17 pm

    “Australia faced a ‘trilemma’ of needing to meet ­climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement, ensuring stable supply so the ‘lights don’t go out’, and mitigating rising electricity costs.” 

    According to a NY Times July 1, 2017 article, there are 1600 coal power plants either under construction or planned in the short term in 62 countries. Presumably all 62 countries signed the Paris accord. Australia could solve their self-imposed problem by building new coal power plants; that would make the grid more stable, lower costs, and they would be as virtuous as those 62 countries.

  3. Stonyground permalink
    February 6, 2018 8:05 pm

    There are some interesting radio ads for smart meters which depict the chore of reading your old style meter as being a bit like doing a tough mudder course and claiming that your smart meter enables you to save tons of money by identifying which of your household appliances cost the most to run. Presumably you can save money by eating raw food and drinking cold tea.

    There is also a radio ad for green energy tariffs, I would be quite interested to know how these are supposed to work. I bet they don’t cut your power off every time the wind stops blowing, which is what I would expect should happen.

    • February 6, 2018 10:05 pm

      My energy supplier is keen for me to have a smart meter. It wants me to book an appointment to have one installed (I ain’t gonna). The alleged benefits are as follows:

      i) More control over your energy use. Smart meters enable you to keep an eye on your household energy use and control those energy guzzling areas and appliances.

      ~Or, you could turn off stuff you’re not using without reference to mr Smarty Pants. (What is an “energy guzzling area”?)

      ii) More control over your spending. Your smart meter displays your credit levels and can be programmed to warn you if you’re approaching a credit limit.

      ~What does this even mean? Who has credit limits on power use? (Except if you’re on pay-as-you-go, see iv)).

      iii) Accurate Billing. Smart meters send information directly to your energy supplier ensuring your bills are accurate.

      ~Or, and here’s a thought, you can read the numbers off your dumb meter and email them to your supplier.

      iv) Flexibility to top-up. Your smart meter pay-as-you-go card can be used to top-up online, over the phone or at your nearest PayPoint retailer.

      ~I don’t know what this is, but no-one should be on ‘pay as you go’ on energy.

      Overall it seems that the “benefits” are actually very minor if they actually exist at all. My tin-foil-hat wrapped head says that a “smart” meter is actually a Trojan horse for variable pricing/cutting off plebs who don’t pay.

      They will have to break down the door to fit one here, which should be interesting. I’ll try to livestream it!

      • February 7, 2018 12:28 am

        I actually did for first time hear of one woman saving a little money
        On woman’s our one of the media land wimmin
        said thet she hadn’t realised spot lights in her kitchen (Presumably halogen) were high energy users.
        I hope she realised that they were powering out heat , so if the kitchen was open to the rest of the house the thermostat would cause her to use more heating energy when the lights are off.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        February 7, 2018 1:14 am

        “I hope she realised that they were powering out heat”

        Interesting you should say that.

        I know someone who changed the flush fit halogens in her kitchen and bathroom for LED bulbs.

        First bit of decent frost, the pipes above the ceiling froze and burst – expensively.

        Cost a damn sight more than the odd few quid she saved on the electricity bill…

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 7, 2018 1:25 pm

      I have heard ads for N-Power, which are presumably for reliable nuclear generation in the main. Of course, listeners aren’t supposed to make the nuclear link.

  4. Nigel S permalink
    February 6, 2018 8:47 pm

    My son is retraining as a plumber/gas fitter (he is a graduate chartered mechanical engineer). The gas course has been completely redisigned by government diktat after dangerous smart gas meter installations by poorly trained cowboys. He won’t ever fit meters but only disconnect and reconnect if working within 1 metre but his whole course has been disrupted and interrupted by the usual government inspired cock up. The only upside is that it appears that the government is now quietly climbing down from making smart meters mandatory.

  5. Bitter@twisted permalink
    February 6, 2018 10:31 pm

    I told my energy supplier to foxtrot oscar when they offered me a scam meter.

  6. John permalink
    February 6, 2018 11:05 pm

    My supplier has sent numerous messages they want to fit one. Ignored the lot, lets hope they have gone away
    i will remain in charge of my meter readings

  7. February 7, 2018 12:32 am

    This issue was covered on R4 You and Yours on Monday.
    “the costs fall on every household”, no of course not the magic unicorns pay, the same ones who pay for all the subsidies/ExtraInfrastructure/inefficiency Costs of solar/wind

  8. February 7, 2018 12:42 am

    New tool
    the Carbon Intensity data comes from
    mouse over on the map gives
    UK Carbon Intensity as 334 with 17% renewables
    Belgium 228 with only 9%
    Portugal 351 with 47%
    Estonia 1,339 with 11% ..guess dirty coal burning
    France 86 with 19%
    Germany 538 with 17%

    South Australia 434 with 27%
    Victoria 669 with 15%
    NSW 639 with 23%
    Queensland 692 with 13%
    WA 586 with 12%
    Tasmania 86 cos of hydro, but sometime Vic dumps coal power on it
    Click a country to see its energy mix

    Conclusion Hydro/Nuclear really impact carbon intensity ,
    gas burning does at secondary level
    but solar/wind don’t …………. (do they Germany ?)

  9. HotScot permalink
    February 7, 2018 12:47 am

    It’s all crashing and burning as we post. Yet another government initiative going up in smoke.

    The idea is almost great, but it’s like the 2040 EV pipe dream, another government car wreck we all must pay for.

    Money’s cheap when it ain’t yer own.

  10. February 7, 2018 12:54 am

    The unicorns have been paying for all those LBC adverts banging on about Smart meters
    ..The ads were laid off until now and I thought replaced by other adverts pretending to be electric car helplines, but no the smartmeter ads are we get these propaganda ads one after another now.

  11. It doesn't add up... permalink
    February 7, 2018 1:39 pm

    Have they solved the problems with meters giving false readings with LED lighting yet?

    Meanwhile the Australian situation goes from one farce to another. Now Tesla have conned the South Australian government into spending an estimated AUD800m on 50,000 Powerwalls and 5kWp solar PV installations mainly for social housing. Supposedly this is a virtual power station. Do the sums and you find it will add about 33MW on average once you allow for the losses in the batteries. The power will be billed to tenants at a 30% discount to market. I guess that means prices will have to rise again to pay for it all.

  12. Gerry, England permalink
    February 7, 2018 1:59 pm

    At some point it will become cheaper to run your own diesel generator, maybe during the peak charge periods.

  13. Russ Wood permalink
    February 7, 2018 2:25 pm

    In Randburg (a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa) we were ORDERED (no choice) to change over to smart meters. Nothing special, but they could be read remotely without a meter reader coming into the house. And they were wired with a relay on the hot water geyser so that, in case of high load, your geyser could be switched off. OK – until the Bluetooth (TM) transmitters in the WHOLE suburb began broadcasting continuously! This jammed all remote controls which use the open Bluetooth frequency band, so that car locking, alarm systems and the like stopped working because the frequencies were being jammed! Reprogramming the 2000-odd meters to stop the broadcasts also disabled the overload shut off. The fitting company, that drove around the suburb with an antenna and laptop to ‘read’ the meters was fired by the Council, who were just about to contract with a MUCH more expensive company (bigger kickbacks!). So, for my last year in the house, the meter was NEVER read, and we were charged ‘estimated’ amounts. Yeah – right – smart meters will save SOMEONE money – but probably not you!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: