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More than half of smart meters ‘go dumb’ after switching

May 12, 2018

By Paul Homewood



The smart meter programme stumbles from crisis to crisis:



Hundreds of thousands of people with smart meters have been unable to switch supplier without their meter “going dumb”.

The £11bn smart meter roll-out was meant to make things simpler for customers and reduce energy usage, but many of those who switched supplier in a bid to save money found that their meter was incompatible with the new firm’s network and stopped working fully.

Government papers now reveal the true scale of the problem, stating that “less than half” of those who switched retained all the features of their smart meter. Some of those that kept working did so only because the new supplier physically changed the meter.

Millions of energy customers switch every year in pursuit of cheaper deals. According to Electralink, the firm that monitors switching data for the energy industry, a million consumers with smart meters changed supplier in the past 12 months. 

Switching supplier can save the average consumer £263 on their annual energy bill, according to Energyhelpline, a price comparison service. The firm’s Victoria Arrington said interoperability issues undermined the entire point of the smart meter roll-out.

She said: “Switching suppliers is a recommended method for keeping energy bills as low as possible. Any inability to combine the power of a smart meter with the freedom to switch and keep the meter ‘smart’ undermines the goal of the meters.”

A fix for this problem has been trialled for years – a centralised computer network operated by the Data Communications Company (DCC), part of the outsourcing firm Capita, and a new breed of smart meters. This will standardise systems across suppliers and make switching far simpler.

But the network’s launch has been repeatedly delayed and fewer than 300 switchable meters have so far been installed in customers’ homes. The major challenge now is making sure the millions of legacy meters are compatible with DCC’s network.

The document released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) laid out how this would be done, but acknowledged for the first time that some older meters might be replaced. Legacy meters will be added to the network in three waves via operating system upgrades. DCC said this would give users “full switching and smart capability”.

But some experts expressed scepticism about how successful the upgrades would be. Professor Benjamin Sovacool, an energy policy expert at the University of Sussex, said: “We have more than 50 suppliers in Britain and countless designs of meter. How can you have a one-size-fits-all upgrade that will fix all the problems?”

Others have raised security concerns surrounding the upgrades, which will start later this year. GCHQ, the security service, reportedly intervened in 2016 to fix a flaw with the security key used to access smart meters remotely.

In Germany the roll-out was halted, reportedly over security concerns. A spokesman for the BEIS said the network was secure and accessible only by “authorised parties”. She said the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, had been involved from the outset.

Despite frequent assurances that no meters would need to be replaced to connect to DCC’s network, the Government has now opened the door to that possibility. The proposals include a “backstop” that would legally require companies to replace early meters that haven’t been connected by the end of 2020.

This could drastically increase the cost of the roll-out, which some experts say could already cost all customers hundreds of pounds on their energy bills.

There are 10.1 million smart meters in homes across Britain. In February, the energy minister, Claire Perry, told Parliament that large suppliers were operating 400,000 smart meters in dumb mode.

But the Electralink data and the government report suggest that more than half a million consumers could have lost smart functions after a switch in the past year alone. Their meter will still display their energy usage in “kilowatt hours” but won’t show usage in pounds and pence or send readings automatically.

  1. May 12, 2018 3:52 pm

    Central planning never works.

  2. Joe Public permalink
    May 12, 2018 4:33 pm

    Gotta love this quote:

    “‘Slow in the UK

    …. It has not turned out as planned. The energy suppliers are not on course to complete the smart meter roll out by 2020, there are problems with the meters, and consumers are not behaving in the way politicians assumed they would.”

    • Joe Public permalink
      May 12, 2018 4:40 pm

      That quote by the way, is by Prof Dieter Helm from his paper:

      “Not so smart – what has gone wrong with the smart meter programme and how to fix it:

    • Gerry, England permalink
      May 12, 2018 10:18 pm

      It is a bugger when people are not as stupid as politicians think they are. That’s what comes of judging people by their own stupidity.

      • Sheri permalink
        May 14, 2018 5:15 pm

        That’s kind of what I thought. Politicians everywhere are sooooo disconnected from reality. In an earlier time, we would probably have called them psychotic and recommended treatment. Now the inmates took over the asylum and no one seems to know how to stop this.

  3. May 12, 2018 4:55 pm

    Reblogged this on Rangitikei Enviromental Health Watch.

  4. May 12, 2018 4:59 pm

    “Any inability to combine the power of a smart meter with the freedom to switch and keep the meter ‘smart’ undermines the goal of the meters.”
    The ‘goal’ of the meters is variable pricing, not cheapness for customers.

    • Sheri permalink
      May 14, 2018 5:19 pm

      Seems true, but perhaps the marketing department should have come up with a name other than “smart” meters if there was a good chance of failure of the meters. I suppose “Pick your price meters” wouldn’t have gone over well, but at least it would have been honest.

  5. markl permalink
    May 12, 2018 5:44 pm

    Has anything proceeded as advertised for the so called “carbon reduction plans”? Anything? I bet there isn’t one facet of the entire plan that’s been as successful as touted. Solar? Wind? Actual reduction? Money saving? Availability? Environment conservation? Here we are in the 21st century supposedly enjoying the vast technology created and we’re reverting to early 20th century energy capability and delivery and it’s getting worse rather than better.

  6. Mick permalink
    May 12, 2018 6:56 pm

    The smart meter programme should be stopped immediately . An absolute waste of money .

  7. Schrodinger's Cat permalink
    May 12, 2018 7:03 pm

    I seem to remember reading that Germany refused this EU directive on the grounds that it was too expensive and offered no savings. Our clever politicians decided that it would save every consumer money, (a figure of £47 seems to come to me) and of course the EU is there to be obeyed.

    Some years ago it was realized that the meters stopped working on switching, but the current roll out continued, using the doomed meters, in the knowledge that government advice to switch would render them useless. This is almost a criminal waste of consumers’ money. It is an outrage.

    To me, this is a gigantic waste of money and a monument to government incompetence. Unfortunately, we have politicians who seem impervious to all evidence that they are a waste of space.

    • David Richardson permalink
      May 12, 2018 7:45 pm

      Cat – did you mean the meters or the politicians??? Sorry both of course, silly me.

    • Colin Brooks permalink
      May 13, 2018 11:18 am

      Pretty much everything about ‘green’ environmentalism is a waste of space and money so move along there, nothing to see here ^.^


      • Sheri permalink
        May 14, 2018 5:21 pm

        I would add that most everything the government does is incompetent, not just the “green” movement. They’re kind of a loud subset of the mess.

  8. May 12, 2018 7:54 pm

    There is insufficient space to fit ‘smart’ meters where our existing meters are. You would think that the 50 year old (my guess) meters I have would be replacable using far less space.

  9. richard verney permalink
    May 12, 2018 9:36 pm

    If these meters were truly smart, they would be coupled to the internet price comparison sites, and automatically transfer the consumer, say every 3 months, to the cheapest supplier/tariff for the type of usage/consumption that the consumer uses.

    Of course the electricity companies would not like that, would they?

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      May 13, 2018 11:52 am

      Now that would be a Smart Meter.

  10. CheshireRed permalink
    May 12, 2018 10:08 pm

    I wonder if anyone predicted there would be problems with smart meters? Probably not, as had they done so our very clever ministers (and their achingly brilliant advisors) would’ve obviously stopped the program being rolled out nationally. Wouldn’t they?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      May 12, 2018 10:22 pm

      Unlikely unless you are part of the Westminster bubble or have that magic thing known as ‘prestige’. Sadly ‘prestige’ does not stop you talking out of your backside as the Brexit disaster keeps showing us where all of the knowledge to do it properly resides outside the bubble and from sources considered lacking ‘prestige’.

  11. Athelstan permalink
    May 13, 2018 6:56 am

    Are people getting wise to ‘smart meters’?

    I suppose it would be too much to hope that people might see through the whole hoax, the great global man made warming scam and the unreliable ‘energy’ boondoggle………………. is that an ask to great?

    • dave permalink
      May 13, 2018 7:10 am

      “…is that an ask too great?”



      Sherlock Holmes. I would draw your attention to the curious incident of the dog in the night.

      Inspector Gregory. The dog did nothing in the night.

      Sherlock Holmes. That is the curious incident.

      • dave permalink
        May 13, 2018 7:13 am


        is a link to Global Tropical Cyclone Activity, and is not the caption to the Greenland Snow picture.

  12. James sayers permalink
    May 13, 2018 7:45 am

    What an expensive farce! This is going to be the biggest government scandal that’s ever been and cost the consumer thousands of pounds. If the cost had to be paid by the utility companies we would not have any smart dumb meters.

  13. geoffb permalink
    May 13, 2018 8:10 am

    EON sent me a letter the other day stating “Your meter is obsolete and must be replaced…”.
    Just heard a radio commercial from British Gas stating.. can save 345kWhours per year (it works out to £46) with a smart meter, then at the end a statement “saving only possible if you monitor useage and cut wastage”. So there is a lot of pressure on the non technical person to get a FREE smart meter. Thats why 10 million have been installed. If they were up front and said, we are going to introduce smart pricing and charge you double for your electricity at peak time, as well as being able to cut your power if we need to, and by the way the software does not work very well when you change supplier and whats more its not that secure so you might get hacked, Why would anyone want a smart meter?
    There is report on the smart meter fiasco in Canada (Ontario) which is worth reading, I cannot find the link tho.
    For the same cost as the smart meter roll out, 17GW of CCGT powerstations could be built. Thats a much better investment…long term reliable low cost electricity.. well who wants that?

    • dave permalink
      May 13, 2018 8:29 am

      “…the link…”

      Click to access 311en14.pdf


      “As yet many of the anticipated benefits of smart metering have not been achieved, and its implementation has been much more costly than projected.”

      • geoffb permalink
        May 13, 2018 5:22 pm

        thanks for the link….

  14. May 13, 2018 8:23 am

    Smart meters are a horribly expensive way of trying to push people into running their washing machines and dishwashers outside peak hours.

    • dave permalink
      May 13, 2018 8:38 am

      “…dishwashers outside peak hours…”

      When the sun isn’t shining and the wind has usually died down. A well thought out ,long-term plan!

      My machine is on the fritz, and has to be kicked occasionally. So, doing things in the middle of the night does not really work for me.

      • dave permalink
        May 13, 2018 8:54 am

        As to whether there is enough solar generated electric power to actually do my wash…

        The installed solar capacity for the UK is 12,760 Megawatts – which sounds like a lot. However this is 220 watts per person, and the UK Government tells me that the actual output of photo-voltaics, averaged over a year, is 10% of head-line capacity. That is an average supply of 22 watts per person.

        And my machine uses about the same as a one-bar fire, i.e. 1,000 watts…

  15. Ian permalink
    May 13, 2018 8:45 am

    I’ve just received a missive from our esteemed minister, in which she claims:

    “Policy costs are a relatively small proportion of household energy bills, around 12% or £147 in 2016 (including carbon costs). These costs were more than offset by average savings of £161 from improvements to the energy efficiency of people’s homes. The net effect was an average saving of £14 in 2016 on household energy bills.”

    I’ve asked for the evidence.

  16. iananthonyharris permalink
    May 13, 2018 9:41 am

    Yet another daft pander to the Green lobby, costing billions. Hidden agenda-greying or turning off supplies when wind and sun don’t work?

  17. swan101 permalink
    May 13, 2018 10:25 am

    …..and consider this warning found about Smart Meters from Prof. Martin Pall in 2014. Why is the general UK public mostly unaware of these serious risks and also that in parts of the USA they are banned and/or removed? We need to ban the of placing mobile phone masts near homes for the same reasons.

    ”Smart Meters’ emit a continuous stream of pulsed microwave radiation, 24 hrs. a day, 365 days a year. These fields are intensely bio-active and affect the people and natural ecology in and around each home as well as nearby. Mechanism for harm to Human Health include activation of voltage related calcium channels (VGCC’s) and cellular communication interference which leads to the production of free-radicals and DNA damage. EMF waves are especially dangerous to the cells, DNA and organs of young children, babies and foetuses.’

    • dave permalink
      May 13, 2018 11:31 am

      “Why is the general UK public mostly unaware of these serious risks…?”

      I guess it is because, among the many unlikely possibilities that could be used to terrify us, some (global boiling) are more equal than others (emf pollution in our cells) when it comes to demanding we push that ruinously expensive button called ‘the ‘precautionary principle.’

      • swan101 permalink
        May 13, 2018 11:53 am

        A rather ‘lump everything together’ response Dave, climate change issues re. the global warming aspects are completely different to the question in hand. Also, binning the ‘precautionary principle’ requirement, as you appear to suggest, is far more fraught with danger than leaving it there and insisting that it is recognised and implemented. When imposing technologies upon the public with the real potential for harm, that becomes an absolute necessity. I trust others will read the full post with more equanimity.

      • dave permalink
        May 13, 2018 3:08 pm

        I already take calcium-channel blockers, and so I am covered if Professor Pall is right! I have no idea whether the ‘in vitro’ studies of cells can be extrapolated to the ‘in vivo’ of whole bodies. That is always a huge step in investigation.

        I remember reading a book about about electromagnetic “pollution” forty years ago. It was power lines mainly, then. I know that at this very moment the electronic “murmur” of millions of people and machines is passing straight through my head. I am glad I cannot decode it!

        There are obvious logical problems with ‘the precautionary principle’
        The first is that is that it can plausibly be invoked on either side
        of many questions. The second is that it is subject to diminishing returns; e.g. how many times should one check one’s pocket for the key before going out the door (six times is my rule)?

        The result of the – inevitable – uncertainty about risks and benefits is that in all societies – irrespective of any unity of ideology or religion – there is always a party of those who cry “Forward!” and a party of those those who cry “Back!” i.e “Radicals” and “Conservatives.”

    • May 13, 2018 1:29 pm

      Better to have more masts as mobile devices negotiate power levels with the base station. The radiation generated by the users device will be far more intense at the user’s position due to the dispersion of the field over distance.

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