Smart meters: good idea or a lot of hot air? – U.K. Telegraph

If anyone needed convincing about the insecurity of Britain’s energy policy, then the news that some of our biggest wind farms were last week producing just enough power to boil a few hundred kettles should help.

It is the obvious flaw in the system: when the wind does not blow, the turbines either produce no electricity, or even become net consumers to keep themselves going. Supporters of the rush for renewables say that August is typically a month when winds are light – but no more so than June, July or September. They argue that most of the time, wind turbines produce clean energy – but the question for an advanced economy like ours is whether they produce anything like enough, especially in view of the subsidies they   receive.

However, help is at hand. We are all going to be equipped with smart meters, so we will know how much energy we are using and can adjust accordingly.   Advertisements to this effect from the big power suppliers are appearing everywhere. So, this must be a good idea, mustn’t it? Instead of trying to decipher the numbers on an ancient electricity or gas meter buried deep in the Stygian gloom of a broom cupboard, we will all have state-of-the-art digital display units telling us that someone has left the TV on, or that the daughter of the house is drying her hair upstairs.

The smart meter project will be one of the most extensive infrastructure programmes ever seen in the UK, with the aim (set by the EU) of installing them in 80 per cent of homes and small businesses – some 52 million buildings – by 2020. At one point, it was going to be compulsory to have one, but the Government thought this would be an intrusion too far. Still, with the suppliers pushing them like mad, most of us are going to get a smart meter whether we like it or not.

Earlier this month, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced the preferred bidders for this monumental task, which will involve the removal of millions of existing meters and their replacement with electronic devices able to communicate remotely with suppliers who can take readings at regular intervals. In theory, this should mean no more estimated readings that leave you £300 in credit with your I can see the advantages of metering. Yet I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to cost me more, not less.

True, at the moment, trying to work out the best-value energy suppliers is almost impossible. Our home is supplied by Marks & Spencer, for goodness sake – the result of an encounter in one of their food stores between my wife and a salesman promising all sorts of goodies, including discount vouchers that we only received after chasing them up. Looking at our bill now, it is no cheaper than when we were with British Gas.

So a smart meter seems like a good idea: customers can automatically receive favourable tariffs that reward them for using energy during off-peak periods, though I can’t see many doing the laundry at 3am.

Yet this programme is going to cost some £12 billion – and the bill is to be passed on to the consumer. So if we really are to be up on the deal, we must be about to get some pretty good bargains as a result. Indeed, DECC estimates it will deliver overall benefits of £18.8 billion, giving a net gain of almost £7 billion.

Still, a number of energy experts aren’t convinced. Alex Henney, who worked in the electricity industry for many years, tells me that when a group of consultants carried out a cost-benefit analysis in 2007, they calculated a net cost of more than £4 billion. He also insists that the system being introduced here will be twice as expensive as in Italy and Spain.

“We have devised the most complex roll-out in the world, relying on suppliers to provide the meters rather than the network company,” says Henney. “This increases the cost of capital and requires an additional large database, which will lead to errors and confusion as we switch suppliers.” He adds that people could be given live information on their energy use via the internet or smartphone apps much more cheaply.

Henney told a Commons energy committee inquiry that “the project is likely to be a shambles which will have negligible consumer benefit”. The MPs, however, concluded that we should indeed gain overall, although they conceded there may be resistance. Some people, for instance, object to the idea of having what amounts to a spy in the home, believing it could be used to find out about other activities. This seems excessively paranoid – but after the data-mining scandals of recent months, who knows?

Ostensibly, smart meters’ main purpose is to make us use less energy and contribute towards a low-carbon future, along with wind turbines and other renewables. Perhaps they will – but at a cost. Germany recently decided not to follow the EU’s 80 per cent target for smart meters because it would be too costly for consumers. That is something to bear in mind when you next hear a minister promising to help people who find it hard to pay their fuel bills.

There is one thing to remember, however: when the energy supplier comes knocking on the door to install your new smart meter, you can always say no thanks, and stick with the dumb one under the stairs. Whether anyone will ever come and read it for you is another matter.


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15 Responses to Smart meters: good idea or a lot of hot air? – U.K. Telegraph

  1. John Suffield says:

    Please people do not let these meters get into your country, we have been fighting this battle in British Columbia, Canada for a couple of years and most people took the meters but those who refuse are going to be charged about $400 a year for them to come and read your meter. Many low income and seniors are now bullied to get the meters because they cannot afford the extra tariff.
    There are health concerns with these meters and they have not been addressed.

  2. julie winn says:

    they should not be installed until thoroughly investigated. Even if damage to ears is minimal the constant low frequency noise is very bad for stress levels. Living in the country is now no longer an option when you are at risk of someone setting up a few turbines on the property next door to you.

  3. Linda Nemeth says:

    We all have to strive to maintain freedom of choice not just with smart meters but in all matters that impact people in their daily lives. If we don’t do this democracy will be a thing of the past and ordinary people will have no say in any aspects of their lives. We need to ‘take back our power’ literally.

    • Anenome Ofglobalgov says:

      Smart meters are death meters. Your article does not address the health and safety issues at all! Look around the world where countries are fighting this imposition. These meters are catching fire from NZ to USA. Their microwaves are making people ill and their long term effects have not been tested (cancer for one). Do yourselves a favour and watch the incredibly informative new video documentary “Take Back Your Power” which is online. In Victoria, Australia where smart meters were initially installed there have been 90,000 people protesting this forced imposition. Find out why by watch Take Back your Power, it is being viewed in large groups by communities all around Australia. It is very dangerous to have smart meters and especially for babies. Also, bills are soaring all around the world. It is a con. Its purpose is not what you are being told. Deception abounds. Research the facts. Keep your analogue meter no matter what and cage it in as we are doing here in Australia. Check out the website ‘Stop Smart Meters Australia’ and get wise. Your health and life depend on it.

  4. Tez says:

    Reads to me as thought the poor old Poms are going to cop the same crap from Big Brother as we have in here in Vic. God help them!

    • Cedar Wilde says:

      But at least the Poms can choose not to have one of these devilish devices!
      (Since POM stands for Prisoner of her Majesty isn’t it more the case that we are descended from P of H M than that the English are Poms? Always wondered about that)

  5. 1vimana1 says:

    Wind energy is great,
    and so is wave energy as well, I love wind energy,it’s free and even a few simple wind mills of around three to four feet will give you good electrical back-up power if the sun is not shining if you are fortunate enough to have, say enough car-batteries in good order linked into your home wind generating plant. You can run your telly and or your fridge on this power if you have your Rectifier and filters in good working order.


  6. 1vimana1 says:

    So in Britain my old and beloved home it seems that the people of Britain still have a choice of whether they want to keep their safe and trusty and passive Analog Electric Meter, well thank God for that ! Not like here in Victoria Australia where so many people have been and still are being bullied terribly to allow a now proving to be Type 2B Carcinogen Causing and not so smart Meter/s on their privately owned home and or small business property or properties.

    All I can say to you citizens of Victoria is this, ” Keep your Electric Meter Boxes safely padlocked with an Industrial Padlock at all times, and only then get up your $167,000 Dollar Legal Common Law and Commonwealth of Australia Anti-Trespass Signs, one on your Electric Meter Box and one on your front fence or gate. Also send off a Registered Letter with strong but polite wording to the C.E.O of the foreign owned Electric Power Company for your area and another to the Victorian Minister for Power Mr Nicholas Kotsiras and another to Mr Mark Feather of the Department of State and Development Business and Innovation (D.S.B.I and state in these letters of yours that your refuse them permission to install a deadly Type 2B dopey and deadly Microwave and not so-smart Electric Meter at any time. State that you have joined the Common Class Action Group to SUE them for Bullying You for this Deadly to Humans and All Life, dopey so called Smart Meter which is a Carcinogen Causing piece of FILTHY Equipment and an Incendiary Meter as well.
    If you want to, like me, you can phone this slippery Mr Mark Feather of the D.S.B.I and politely speak to him stating that you refuse to take a dopey and deadly Electric Microwave ‘so-called smart meter’ which is not smart in any way at all and tell him as did I, that he and his ILK are all breaking the LAW by trying to force these accursed machines on the people of Victoria.

    What you need to do is to get confident and do as I have done and bone up on the LAW if you are not sure, and quote it to him which I did. Once I’d done this, I’d knocked his cocky smile off his face.

    It’s that simple…….Just look up the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 from the Internet and the Victorian Gazette, and read it right through very carefully, and the Charter of Human Rights, then look up Brodie’s Law. Please read all of this right through not once but a few times as I and many others have done . When you have done this you will have girded up your loins for the coming Fight and you will be able as was David in the Old Testament to SLAY these evil statement, they the wicked make to constantly try to keep you under their thumb, so to speak !
    It’s worked for me and so it will for you. Just follow my instructions, that’s all thou needst do !


    Richard Leschen = 1VIMANA1, Any questions please phone me 03 5352 3639. ( 9 AM to 5 PM ) or Email me at……

    • Northern Suburbs Resident says:

      Today I spotted a man on the street with an orange vest. I recognised the two red squares on his back being part of the Servicestream logo. He was a smart meter installer for Jemena. I got out of my car and entered the business establishment that I saw this person go into. He was checking out the analogue meter inside the offices. I asked the business owner a question re his services and took his business card. I went straight home and rung the business owner. I told him I was the person who had just taken his business card. I asked if the Servicestream person in his office was there to install a smartmeter. He said yes. I told him that smartmeters are not law as he was being told but that you can refuse them and that you can ask the installer to leave. I explained a few more things and he was so grateful.

      Later in the afternoon I visited this business owner and was pleased to find that he had sent the installer away packing. What happened next was just magic. I gave him a copy of page 16 of the following document being the page of the Victorian Government Gazette showing Order in Council that says Distributors must use best endeavors to install remotely read interval meters.

      Click to access GG2007S200.pdf

      I had it highlighted with a yellow marker. When this man saw this and digested it, it was like the the lights had gone on in the room for him. The picture had fallen into place for him and he knew that the so called mandate was only upon the Distributors to use their best endeavors and that the customer was not obligated by this “mandate” so called. So he knew that if the Distributor, in using their best endeavors with the customer failed in their aim to install a smart meter that they had to move on to the next customer. I then gave him a copy legal advice that has been received on this matter and it really consolidated the picture for him. Also info re health effects etc.

      I really recommend astute intervention if an installer is trying to deceive a customer into allowing an installation. We really ought to do such service of consideration for one another. As a useful brochure or pamplet in it’s own right which can be given to educate others, I really recommend people print out a copy of page 16 of this copy of the Vic Government Gazette

      Click to access GG2007S200.pdf

      And with a yellow marker (or any other color), highlight the following
      Section 14.1 (a) …….each distributor must use its best endeavours to install a
      remotely read interval meter……….
      (Put an emphasis on “best endeavours”)
      Section 14.1 (b) …….then, for the purpose of considering whether the distributor has used its best endeavours
      Section 14.2 (b) …….each distributor must use its best endeavours to install……….

      Really really handy to have copies of page 16 with these highlighted sections. This man really really appreciated what I had done. He was able to see it for himself quickly. In actual fact he had already locked his meter box at his home (the only one in his street) and had had several previous visits from Jemena at his business including today. If Jemena had managed to install that smart meter today, this man and his staff would have been sitting at their desks all day long literally a couple of feet from that smartmeter and would be copping the FULL PELT of the emitted radiation pulses from those radio frequency microwave transmissions that we have proved are occuring at least several times a minute all day long every day. This is a man I had never seen or known before today and yet today we bonded.

      • Sick Of Their Lies says:

        Excellent work Northern Suburbs Resident.
        Out and about, fighting crime wherever you see it.
        Another happy customer saved from the dreaded “smart” meter rollout, after intervention by your good self.
        Rest well tonight NSR, knowing you have achieved great things today.
        It’s a great feeling knowing there are people like yourself out there, taking the time to educate members of the public about this. Well done, and keep it up!

    • Northern Suburbs Resident says:

      And yes, I also gave him a copy of Brodie’s Law.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Distributed energy production ensures that there is always wind coming from at least one source. that is why it is important that wind farms are spread around the country.
    Distributed energy supply is also a risk management strategy against the risk of terrorism. which is the major reason that the US military is adopting wind and solar. – because it is reliable. and difficult to target.
    Wind energy is currently cheaper than coal fired power stations to construct and supply. which is why there are thousands around the world being installed. – ie billions of dollars being invested.
    In Australia, ALL the Coal fired power stations and hydro electric generators were 100 taxpayer funded.
    IN contrast, Wind (and solar) are almost entirely privately funded, with a small or zero amount of government assistance..

    I am not sure why SSMA has decided to smear wind energy. as it really has little to do with smart meters.

    By the way, 30% of South australias baseload energy is produced by the wind, with no associated side effects.
    Wind energy is free, clean and fantastic

    • Stop Smart Meters Australia says:

      In publishing this article, SSMA had no intention to “smear” wind energy. The posted article is predominantly about smart meters, NOT wind energy.

    • Democracy or Pathocracy? says:

      There are several quick points which I would be happy to clarify if given the opportunity to do so. Quote: “Wind energy is free, clean and fantastic”.
      No, nothing is free and clean. The initial capitol outlay for the wind farms is enormous.

      The turbines require much copper which has a huge environmental impact (although copper can be recycled). Many wind farm turbines use Nedodymium which is a rare earth, produced in China. China’s rare earths processing has had serious environmental concerns, as has Lynas Corporation’s rare earths processing facility in Malaysia (which will be supplied by ore from the Mount Weld mine in Western Australia).

      As well as the environmental concerns of processing the ore (which is commonly found with radioactive elements such as thorium), the high cost of neodymium is also presenting trouble for manufacturers relying on them, such as China’s Goldwind.

      Health effects of wind farms: Cape Cod town residents claim to be hit by ‘wind turbine syndrome’

      ‘Wind turbine syndrome’: fact or fiction?

      Symptoms, including tinnitus, ear pain and vertigo, have been reported following exposure to wind turbine noise. This review addresses the effects of infrasound and low frequency noise and questions the existence of ‘wind turbine syndrome’.
      This review is based on a search for articles published within the last 10 years, conducted using the PubMed database and Google Scholar search engine, which included in their title or abstract the terms ‘wind turbine’, ‘infrasound’ or ‘low frequency noise’.
      There is evidence that infrasound has a physiological effect on the ear. Until this effect is fully understood, it is impossible to conclude that wind turbine noise does not cause any of the symptoms described. However, many believe that these symptoms are related largely to the stress caused by unwanted noise exposure.
      There is some evidence of symptoms in patients exposed to wind turbine noise. The effects of infrasound require further investigation.
      PMID: 23331380 [PubMed – in process]

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