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The critics of smart meters were right all along-Ross Clark

September 19, 2020

By Paul Homewood

h/t ianprsy

For years, useless journalists, such as the Telegraph’s own Emily Gosden and Jilly Ambrose have been uncritically parroting government propaganda about how wonderful smart meters are.

Finally, at least one seems to have woken up:

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Imagine that you do as the Government wants you to do and buy an electric car. Then you replace your dirty old gas boiler with an electric heat pump and install a smart meter. You think you have done your bit to help the environment.

So what is your reward? To have your electricity company use your smart meter to turn off your power because there is not enough juice in the grid. Suddenly, you find yourself sitting in a cold home and your plans to drive to Birmingham tomorrow are scuppered because your car won’t be fully-charged.

Smart meters have been sold to us as part of a green future where we can manage our homes via mobile phone, switching appliances on and off remotely so as to cut our bills. But it is the cynics, so often denounced in the past few years as paranoid and backward-thinking, who have worked out the real reason why electricity companies are so keen to install them in our homes: they want to ration our electricity.

It isn’t just us who will enjoy the convenience of being able to access our appliances remotely. Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks has proposed a system in which it will be able to turn off certain devices in our homes, such as electric vehicle chargers and heat pumps, when the supply of electricity is too small to meet demand.

For the moment, the company says it will only do so with consumers’ permission and that it will only be for two hours at a time. But I don’t expect that promise to last. Once electricity companies have established the principle that they can cut off consumers in order to cope with shortages of supply, they are bound to come back asking for more. And at the current rate, they will have to do this, because we simply don’t have enough storage in the electricity grid to cope with the switch to renewable energy.

Here’s the problem. Yesterday afternoon, Britain was using 34 GW worth of power. It was a sunny and windy day across much of England – ideal conditions for renewable energy. Wind was producing 5.3 GW and solar 7.6 GW, with most of the rest being produced by gas (12.1 GW) and nuclear (4.7 GW). We were also importing 1 GW from the Netherlands.

But what happens when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining, as it all-too-frequently does in cold, anticyclonic conditions in midwinter, when demand for power is at its greatest? Moreover, what happens when electricity demand has been boosted by the switch to electric central heating and electric vehicles?

It ought to be obvious that if we are going to rely on intermittent sources of energy we are going to need massive investment in energy storage. Quietly over the past few years, large battery installations, housed in rows of shipping containers, have indeed popped up across Britain. At present, however, there are only enough of them to meet 1 GW worth of demand – and even then only for an hour or two. The Government is desperately trying to encourage more batteries by speeding them through the planning system. Even chuck in proposed capacity, however, and it would only supply another 4 GW of electricity for an hour or so.

But don’t expect even these batteries to get built. The Government is trying to solve the problem of a lack of energy storage through what is calls “capacity auctions”. The bids for batteries, however, are losing out to something called Demand Side Response. If you haven’t heard that jargon before, it means exactly what Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks is proposing to do: persuading people to turn off appliances when electricity demand is too high.

In other words, the electricity industry has worked out that it is going to be cheaper not to bother building batteries but instead to cut us off when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing. As far as the Government’s capacity market is concerned, a kilowatt-hour of energy saved is the equivalent of a kilowatt-hour stored.

For the consumer, however, there is every difference. Cutting off our electricity threatens seriously to interfere with our lives – especially if we are going to have to rely on electric cars and heating systems in future. It doesn’t matter too much if our heating goes off for a few minutes, but if electricity companies try to plug the enormous gap between supply and demand on a still winter’s night entirely by cutting off our electricity supply to demand, we are going to find ourselves sitting in the dark rather a lot.

Unless the Government acts quickly on this problem and invests in a proper energy storage infrastructure – either that or finds another way to back up supply from intermittent wind and solar – we are going to be back in 1973 and the three day week, when homes had to take it in turns to go without electricity. Then, it was the miners’ unions who were to blame; now it is a failure to plan properly for a green future.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/09/19/critics-smart-meters-right-along2/

I only have a couple of slight criticisms:

1) Ross Clark might have mentioned the cost of the smart meter roll-out, already heading north of £15bn. The new generation of meters which will be needed for the above control will doubtlessly add much more cost.

It is hard to think of other examples where such large sums of spending have been incurred by govt policy, without the slightest scrutiny.

2) He talks about the need for “proper energy storage infrastructure”, but in reality no such thing actually exists.

To his credit, he has worked out that batteries can only work for an hour or two, so have little relevance other than helping out at peak times. To their eternal shame, Gosden and Ambrose never understood this, despite the fact that they were supposed to be “Energy Editors”!. Presumably they assumed batteries could just go on supplying electricity for days and weeks.

Hopefully Ross Clark will make the final logical leap, and work out that we need a proper dispatchable source of power to fall back on when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine.

50 Comments
  1. dennisambler permalink
    September 19, 2020 10:34 pm

    “It is hard to think of other examples where such large sums of spending have been incurred by govt policy, without the slightest scrutiny” until Covid along….

    • dennisambler permalink
      September 19, 2020 10:34 pm

      until Covid came along…

  2. cajwbroomhill permalink
    September 19, 2020 10:36 pm

    The vital fact omitted is that the UK puts out quite negligible greenhouse gases.

    Therefore, zero carbon and everything it would need is as futile and troublesome as it is costly.

    Long pastl time to repeal the Climate Change Acts.
    Covid-19 and greenery interact expensively, but such greenery must go, with no disadvantage.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      September 20, 2020 11:21 am

      If you can get a majority in the Commons to repeal the worst piece of legislation in living memory then good luck to you!

      If I were the Prime Minister (“which, thank the Lord, I’m not, sir”) I would be rolling Energy into Industry and Environment into Rural Affairs and appointing ministers in both places with the skill and persistence to sideline the CCC and bring the Environment Agency to heel. (On second thoughts I think I might abolish everything with ‘Agency’ in its title, likewise all the “Of”s — Ofqual and Ofcom, etc. Government control should be exercised by government!)

      But then my first priority would be to put an end to taxpayer grants for and lobbying by unaccountable pressure groups — which would most certainly include Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. I think I just saved Britain a fortune!

      • Robert Jones permalink
        September 20, 2020 4:35 pm

        Mike,

        This sort of bold thinking could stop the UK’s ‘Climate Emergency’ dead in its tracks and see you ennobled in the House of Lords before the end of the month!

      • charles wardrop permalink
        September 20, 2020 6:29 pm

        The Taxpayers Alliance,, should take up these points, vital for the financial (and mental) health of the UK.
        Paul and you surely would get a very sympathetic hearing and the TPA a campaign of the greatest importance, surely sidestepping the grenblob’s misunderstandings, mendacity and corruption.

  3. Joe Smith permalink
    September 19, 2020 10:38 pm

    The French smart meters are called Linky. They are even more opposed, they lock their remote meter cabinets to stop unasked for installation. They also have a standard sticker to warn no permission for installation is given.

    • Harry Davidson permalink
      September 20, 2020 10:53 am

      You cannot refuse in the UK. They simply declare that your existing meter is ‘defective’, then you either accept a new meter or they disconnect. Actually our company meter was defective, bills went down by 30% after they changed it out.

      • Patrick Harcourt permalink
        September 20, 2020 12:42 pm

        A correction. Actually, consumers are entitled to refuse to have a smart meter installed if they wish and this is written into law (as I understand). I have refused to have one installed with my provided E.ON and they have accepted this.

      • September 20, 2020 3:49 pm

        Harry, That’s wrong you can refuse. I have done so.

      • steve permalink
        September 20, 2020 5:29 pm

        Wrong. You have the right in law to refuse one. I have done on a number of occasions – most recently 3 days ago when I received a letter informing me of an installation appointment for a date in October made without my knowledge by my energy supplier Utility Warehouse. I phoned them immediately and instructed them to cancel the appointment. If anyone turns up for that appointment they will be told in no uncertain terms to get off my property.
        i have also written to the Co complaining that they have no right to coerce people into having so called smart meters.

  4. Jackington permalink
    September 19, 2020 10:45 pm

    In the same paper today is a full page (broadsheet) telling readers to ask their energy supplier for a smart meter today… because smart meters help give Britain greener energy – meaning more wind and solar and less coal. Strangely, no mention of who inserted the ad.

    • Neil Sherry permalink
      September 22, 2020 3:17 pm

      Having had a Smart meter installed without permission – conned! Have I the right to request its removal and reinstate the older type?

  5. Matt Dalby permalink
    September 19, 2020 10:53 pm

    I must have had at least 4 letters in the last year telling me that my wonderful new smart meter is ready to be installed. I’ve ignored all of them, if only they would just give me the money it would cost to install one. If they can help solve the problem of supply shortages by turning off our power how long before the government makes them mandatory. Sadly Corona Virus has shown them how authoritarian they can be with little opposition, and will only encourage them to become more so. If they can fine you thousands of pounds for repeatedly refusing to wear a mask or self isolate what’s to stop them imposing similar fines for not having a smart meter or trying to use too much energy.

    • Bloke back down the pub permalink
      September 20, 2020 11:30 am

      I have frequent phone calls offering smart meter installation and they always seem dumbfounded when I tell them I don’t want one. BTW, as the demand side response requires a different type of meter, I presume it is one that can distinguish between different sockets, or at least different circuits, which would allow it to cut off supply to high demand items without , for example, turning the lights off.

  6. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    September 19, 2020 10:54 pm

    Substitute the word “nuclear” for “plastic” in a scene reminiscent of movie history:
    Plastic

  7. Tym fern permalink
    September 19, 2020 10:59 pm

    Well done, Ross!

  8. Pancho Plail permalink
    September 19, 2020 11:31 pm

    My smart meter has gone stupid since I changed supplier. I don’t plan to let them upgrade or replace it.

    • Duker permalink
      September 20, 2020 7:10 am

      What does that even mean?
      All mine does is record the energy used for each half hour period and send it to the supplier after midnight.
      Remember the electricity used must exactly match that generated for each milli second of the day. There is some inertia in the system but nothing like that for water, gas or data for phones or internet.
      As well the grid and local lines network has to be able to deliver that electricity, too much and the grid line or the local network is cut off in milliseconds.
      Currently I get cheaper power between 11am and 5pm , and again between 9pm and 7am.
      My electric hot water has always been supplier regulated ( turned off!) using a different method to the metering, mostly because the local lines network is overloaded , sometimes because of grid issues…power station faults of all types, sub station issues etc.
      You may think all its hunky dory, thats a dream world.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        September 20, 2020 10:56 am

        Do you live in the UK, Duker?

      • Duker permalink
        September 21, 2020 12:46 am

        No . But UK already uses ripple control to turn off some loads
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Load_management#Ripple_control
        The digital meters actually make the modern micro processor ripple controls work better than old mechanical relays.
        The system also stabilises grids. if you check the data from Grid companies theres always unforseen demand spikes and unstable power factor.
        Demand management should be used for a better more stable grid and unforseen events . Not because there isnt enough wind power due to foreseeable events.

  9. Phillip Bratby permalink
    September 20, 2020 7:10 am

    Of course Jillian Ambrose now works as ‘Energy Correspondent’ at the Grauniad, where her lack of knowledge of all things to do with energy will go unquestioned by the faithful greenblob.

  10. StephenP permalink
    September 20, 2020 7:51 am

    I have been getting all the advantages claimed for a smart meter for the past 10 years with an OWL meter which cost me £25 and I was able to fit myself by clipping the sensor around the cable feeding electricity from the dumb meter into the house. No need for any work involving the wiring.
    It tells me all about the current electricity usage, total usage since resetting and the cost of the electricity I am using.
    Why on earth is it necessary to have £500 spent on fitting a smart meter when apparently they depend on having a reliable mobile phone signal, which we don’t have.
    All the advantages seem to be for the electricity company sending meter readers around, time of day charging and including apparently being able to cut the electricity supply as a way of demand management.
    I get an email each quarter asking for my meter reading that only takes a couple of minutes to reply to, and very, very occasionally I get a visit from a meter reader to check that I have not been diddling the system.

    • Duker permalink
      September 21, 2020 12:51 am

      Thats not an advantage for most people. However your supplier isnt getting half hourly energy usage numbers for its particular customers in the areas they live. Its flying blind about how power they use as they buy power every half hour too and affects the price whether they can have a supply contract or have to buy on spot market as their customers usage and the suppliers buying have to match up. Once a month is not reliable enough

      • StephenP permalink
        September 21, 2020 7:07 am

        So the advantage of smart meters is for the electricity companies to plan their purchasing.
        Why do we have to pay for their installation through our electricity bills?
        If it makes their price for electricity a bit cheaper then they should carry the cost of installation.tsaving travel back to the end
        How much of the cost saving goes back to the end consumer?
        Does the cost saving help with offsetting the extra cost of renewables?

  11. John Peter permalink
    September 20, 2020 7:57 am

    I am looking at switching energy supplier. The best alternative deals have as a requirement that I agree to the installation of a smart meter. No way will I agree to this. The basic problem now is that the electorate cannot stop this madness by voting for a party with a sensible energy policy. Such a party does not exist. Where is the WWII survival instinct?

    • Duker permalink
      September 21, 2020 1:06 am

      Whats too lose …. they cant turn off appliances unless your appliances are ‘switchable’. If you have gas hot water and heating they cant turn that off, your fridge is highly likely to be switchable at all.
      Go for and get the better prices , you wont notice the difference without any appliances that cant be switched off. if theres a power cut because of a line fault you will all lose paower no matter for smart meters or not.

  12. Phoenix44 permalink
    September 20, 2020 8:58 am

    The Greens and the politicians have worked out that by the time the true cost – not just higher prices but blackouts, reduced local mobility, no flying, no long journeys, reduced choice in food – becomes clear to the public, it will be too late to go back.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      September 20, 2020 9:26 am

      What did we use for lights before candles, Daddy?
      Electricity, son…..

  13. In the Real World permalink
    September 20, 2020 10:18 am

    To put the whole thing into perspective .
    The total generation capacity of the country is something under 50 GWh . If the demand goes above that at any time they have to use interconnectors , pumped/battery storage and diesel generators .

    In 2016 a government committee concluded that , electric domestic heating would need 200Gwh , so that idea was put aside .
    If all of the private cars / light vans went EV , that would require about 250GWh if they all plugged in together .

    This is why the idea of smart meters is being pushed .
    I believe the present ones only have 1 contacter which means that the whole supply to each property can be shut off when the load gets to high .
    Although they have been talking about new ones with extra contactors so they could shut just a high load circuit , [ EV charger etc ] .

    So they are now starting to admit that the whole electric system will never cope with the Green insanity , and getting people prepared for the widescale blackouts that will be coming .

    • Duker permalink
      September 21, 2020 4:41 am

      my country already has 80% renewable mostly due to the wonders of hydro. We have had ripple control of electric hot water ( natural gas is limited to cooking mostly) for generations.
      Now we have smart meters for their main purpose, give half hourly usage numbers and sent to supplier without meter readers.
      Hot water is turned off for around 20 min on rotation over the winter peak, its not noticed by most people but is a boon for local lines and grid supply, the main purpose.

  14. Gamecock permalink
    September 20, 2020 11:57 am

    ‘who have worked out the real reason why electricity companies are so keen to install them in our homes: they want to ration our electricity.’

    Clark is a dick, trying to lay this at the feet of the electric companies. His beloved government is the problem.

    ‘It ought to be obvious that if we are going to rely on intermittent sources of energy we are going to need massive investment in energy storage.’

    Stopped reading. Massive investment in that which produces nothing is insanity.

    ‘at least one seems to have woken up’

    He still believes. He is just concerned about implementation.

  15. September 20, 2020 12:11 pm

    Clark is pondering the wrong dilemma. Instead of:

    INTERMITTENT ELECTRICITY GENERATION + SMART METERS + BATTERY STORAGE

    vs

    INTERMITTENT ELECTRICITY GENERATION + SMART METERS + POWER CUTS

    The real choice should be

    INTERMITTENT ELECTRICITY GENERATION

    vs

    RELIABLE ELECTRICITY GENERATION

    And I know which option most folk would choose.

  16. Ben Vorlich permalink
    September 20, 2020 6:33 pm

    What seems to be ignored by everybody is that batteries have to be charged. So if you have enough battery storage to run the grid for 24 hours and for 48 hours they supply 50% of demand at which point they have to be recharged. The grid has more than 100% demand while they charge, say it has to be done in 24 hours ready for the next windless January day. So that’s double a normal day’s consumption for those 24 hours.

  17. ianprsy permalink
    September 20, 2020 6:42 pm

    If this EU suicide pact is enacted, it won’t just be steel bought from abroad:

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/09/20/eu-climate-plan-sets-stage-explosive-rise-carbon-prices/

  18. Batnet permalink
    September 20, 2020 8:59 pm

    Late 2018 I was offered a range of options by MSE’s Cheap Energy Club. My old tariff was about to run out. All the top 5 on offer insisted on ‘Smart meter required to be fitted’. I asked to MSE and CEC that they gave the additional option ‘NO Smart meter required’ in their filters. They claimed that they could not do that.
    In my reply I wrote:
    “I have no intention of ever allowing anyone to fit a smart meter into my house. Apart from simple things like they are still, today, fitting Smets 1 meters when they should have started the Smets 2 rollout in April 2015 with Smets 3 in 2018 sometime, and swapping suppliers makes the things go dead, etc etc I regard them as a ‘spy in the house’.

    The real aim of Smart meters is not to help the consumer to save money. (There are claims that the real average saving will be as much as £11 per household per year) It is to lull the consumers into a false sense of security, to lead them into thinking that they own their own consumption and can do something about it. No one I know who has a Smart meter gets past the ‘3 week rule’ – after the initial excitement, gazing at it every time someone turns something on or off, they get bored and it goes into the kitchen drawer. Very intelligent people, very clever people, very wise people and the lesser mortals like myself, admit that it is ‘in the kitchen drawer’, often well within the ‘3 week rule’.

    The real reason Smart Meters are being pushed is ‘control’. By the time Smets 3 meters are installed, the technology should be in place in most homes (as they renew/replace the old worn out equipment) for the energy companies to selectively turn off appliances via the Smart Meters. A signal received via the mobile phone system will cause freezers/washing machines/heating systems/air con units etc to turn off to save energy, not for the householders’ but for the energy suppliers’ benefit. They won’t have to produce as much energy, cos they can save by switching individual appliances off, remotely. That cake I just put in the oven – ruined”
    I got the impression that MSE and CEC were not impressed.
    Some of the minor details I had had, have not come to pass, but the overall scheme is still ongoing.

  19. john cooknell permalink
    September 20, 2020 9:26 pm

    Technically switching load off and on needs a bit more thinking about, than the simplistic thinking on display so far from the idiots in charge. My experience of such things is below.

    When you switch back on the initial demand will be higher than the peak you just chopped off, as the load inertia will be there waiting. The peak then builds as all connected equipment ramps up with inherent high starting loads, if this isn’t controlled you end up in a bit of a mess as the source cannot cope and you may start to take out protection systems.

    This is very similar to the outages caused by suddenly losing generating capacity, the protection operates to protect systems from damage, because it doesn’t know that in a few seconds everything will have settled down.

    • Duker permalink
      September 21, 2020 1:16 am

      I dont think you are a high voltage electrical engineer to know enough how these things really work. The little I know is that computers control the switching as people cant react fast enough. Not much point of system stabilising after 30 secs if the equipment has been damaged in the meantime, especially in the generator itself let alone the equipment in industry or ultities.

  20. Ste Boardman permalink
    September 20, 2020 10:01 pm

    When Government is encouraging greater use of electricity, whilst barely managing current demand, you have to wonder if they’re expecting a drastically reduced population in the near future?

  21. ianprsy permalink
    September 21, 2020 8:43 am

    Is the Telegraph starting to get the essage?

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/09/20/one-million-smart-meters-given-going-dumb-fix-millions-remain/

  22. Ray Sanders permalink
    September 21, 2020 9:09 am

    Meanwhile Jillian Ambrose (with aid of Graeme Cooper of National Grid) manages to claim the UK generates 3,000TWh per annum – only incorrect by an order of magnitude.

    “The National Grid estimates that electrifying all road transport, aside from heavy goods vehicles, would require less than a third more energy than Great Britain’s current demand of around 3,000 terawatt hours “which the grid could easily cope with”, according to Cooper.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/21/uk-plans-to-bring-forward-ban-on-fossil-fuel-vehicles-to-2030

    • In the Real World permalink
      September 21, 2020 10:24 am

      The national grid would like to have the public buying EVs , so that they can use batteries that someone else has paid for as grid storage for possible times when demand is low , & to take back power when demand is high ,[ V to G ].

      But this could only work if nobody drives their EVs , and only charge up when told to .

      If about 2 million motorists plug their cars in when they come home from work in the evening , then the grid goes down , unless the smart meters shut their supply off .

      And with the present range of smart meters , this would mean shutting down the whole supply to each house . They hope to have the later type of meters fitted to everybody
      ” soon ” ??? so that they might be able to just shut down the car charger circuit .

      But the claim that all vehicles could be EVs and get charged up is just total lies ,

  23. Nigel Sherratt permalink
    September 21, 2020 10:23 am

    The latest wheeze is connecting your EV to the grid so you can rent out the storage and get a better deal. Chances of the battery being flat with no juice to charge it just when you need the car are pretty high I think.

  24. Tim the Coder permalink
    September 21, 2020 12:40 pm

    As an added joy to this fiasco, the ‘smart meters’ are based on old mobile technology (2G/3G) which the mobile companies are in the process of replacing with 4G & 5G.
    Not just adding, but replacing 2G/3G spectrum usage with 4G and 5G usage.
    So even if your smart meter is in mobile coverage when installed, it soon won’t be!
    Time for more meter replacements methinks. Great for the meter factory and the installers, not so good for the punter who pays for it all.

  25. Tim the Coder permalink
    September 21, 2020 12:44 pm

    I suspect there is a market opportunity here for jammers, to put next to the ‘smart’ meter to ensure any ‘cutoff’ signal fails to get through.
    A small radio package (perhaps from a data dongle) and a Raspberry pi….

  26. Colin permalink
    September 27, 2020 8:21 pm

    One other correction is that the miners were not to blame. It was the incompetent union crushing tactics and micro management by M Thatcher mis-handling the situation and devastating switch to the so-called service economy. This without a transition plan. Releases of government documents has supported the dishonesty with which the government acted. While the unions reacted badly, there was little reason to act in any other way, since reason was out the window.

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