The Government must urgently cut smart meter roll-out costs

by , Campaigns Officer Energy & Home 7 October 2014
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Have you had a smart meter installed in your house? The official roll-out’s due to start next year, but we’re concerned about the £10.9bn cost. That’s why we’re calling on the Government to urgently cut costs.

Energy meter

A number of energy suppliers, including British Gas and Eon, have already started installing millions of smart meters up and down the country. However, the full roll-out won’t begin until the end of 2015. If everything goes to plan, we’ll all have gas and electricity smart meters in our homes by 2020. But, with you and me footing the bill, what’s being done to ensure we’re getting value for money?

We’ve previously called on the Government to pause the smart meter roll-out so that costs could be properly assessed. The roll-out was delayed for year. But now that the programme’s set to begin in earnest in December 2015, we’re calling on the Government to do all it can to cut the costs that will ultimately end up on your energy bill.

Three ways to cut smart meter costs

Today we wrote to the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, ahead of his speech at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference, to make him seriously consider cost cutting measures.

The Government says that competition between suppliers will keep costs down, but with the energy market undergoing a full scale investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority, we’re not convinced.

So, as part of our Fix the Big Six campaign, we have identified three ways in which savings can be made:

1. The Government should explore using economies of scale to drive down costs. The meters themselves are one of the biggest costs for the roll-out, yet suppliers are currently buying meters separately. A centralised approach could save hundreds of millions of pounds.

2. A coordinated approach to the installation of meters in multi-occupancy buildings, such as flats, is required to reduce disruption and cost. Otherwise, there could be an unnecessary duplication of effort and costs, with visits from multiple suppliers.

3. Suppliers are required to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to install meters in every home by 2020, but it hasn’t been made clear what this means. Suppliers need early guidance from Ofgem on what lengths they have to go to so that they can improve the efficiency of the roll-out and avoid disproportionate costs.

Get smart on smart meters

Smart meters can be a very good thing, giving you more accurate billing and control over the energy you use. But that doesn’t mean we should be writing a blank cheque to have them installed in our homes. The Government, energy suppliers and Ofgem must get to grips with the smart meter programme to ensure we’re not paying over the odds. Otherwise it’s in danger of spiralling out of control.

Have you had a smart meter installed? Has it led to more accurate bills, or made you think twice about how much energy you use?

181 comments

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John Wrennall

Does anyone know how much power these smart meters consume as opposed to the current units?
Are these meters just another way of getting more money out of Joe Public?

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Alan Henness

The consumption of them will be tiny and very likely to be around the same as current meters.

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Alf Robinson

Joe Public always ending up paying.

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Geoff

If I have a meter installed by one supplier. What happen if I can suppliers will the meter be compatible?

Will I have to pay directly for my smart meter or is the cost born by the supplier and then we all pay through our bills?

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deegeepee

All suppliers and meters will be compatible to a certain degree. Some higher level functions may not be used by competing companies for example, so the meter may only transmit readings rather than full cost data. The data is collected by an independent party for all meter manufacturers and electricity suppliers, and the electricity supplier retains control to the meter via a contract (much like a mobile provider does)

The cost is born by the installing supplier company, and will likely be merged into the customer bills, but I think from my work at eon that the savings the company make by not having to walk the route and collect readings will pay for the meter. So as far as eon were concerned, there will be no direct bill increase. I suspect other elec companies will be saying the same.

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neville

Does anybody know if energy company employees will be able to monitor live, when we turn every thing off as we leave the house and when we turn it on when we return? When we go on holiday because the power has been off for a few days?
I am not sure this is a good idea.

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deegeepee

Yep. The monitoring is done direct at the meter. You don’t turn your meter off, you only have access to turn your consumer unit or fusebox off, so the meter will maintain connectivity (subject to mobile access) whilst you have everything switched off.

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Dave, Newcastle.

On 4th June 2014,I was annoyed to receive an email from our new energy supplier, Ovo, stating that we had to have a smart meter installed. We then received telephone calls from the third party metering firm named Lowri- Beck trying to make an appointment to do the work “on behalf of Ovo”. It was eventually agreed that we do not have to have a smart meter at present ” but it will be necessary by 2020″.. I am very happy reading our present meters once a month and not having Big Brother watching us all the time. I would also be very concerned if installation of a smart meter would mean that we needed a new smart meter every time we move to a new energy supplier.

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malcolm r

Dave, as far as I know smart meters will not be compulsory. The energy company may install one but not activate its functions if you don’t want them.
The meter will be universal – not changed if you change supplier.

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wavechange

Installing smart meters and not using them might help those who have various concerns, but it obviously would not address the very high cost of the roll out. It’s about time for the government to ask us if we want smart meters, giving honest information about the costs, perceived benefits and possible concerns. It’s something simple enough for us to understand and provide useful comment on.

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2 Hughes

The recent comments would indicate that there is a lack of support for, general suspicion of, and misgivings about, the roll out of so called smart meters. Whether it is politically futile or not I think the Consumers Association should have made (and be making) a robust challenge to the Government on this issue. As many have observed, £10-11 Billion could be better used.

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Norman Naylor

The idea that a smart meter will help me save energy is ridiculous. I’m sure that the readers of Which? and a large proportion of non – readers alike, will already have taken steps to mitigate the crippling cost of electrical energy. I don’t need a meter and I most certainly do not wish to pay for one to remind me that electrical energy consumption has to be paid for. This expensive (to consumers) government initiative will raise the cost of energy further and add to the bank balances of the energy suppliers, meter manufacturers, installers and associated shareholders.
It really surprises me and concerns me that Which? is not opposing wholeheartedly this heavy handed and highly questionable attempt to conserve energy.

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lemaiz

Can I make a suggestion? Unless I’ve missed something, in this thread there has been no support for or defence of smart meters from commentators. None. I’ve seen nothing to suggest anywhere that they are complusory.

We could all refuse them when offered, and spread the word on social media and the like for those we know to refuse them too.

Which? is a respected organisation intended to defend the consumer. Can anyone from Which? say whether they believe mass-refusal would be bad for the consumer, at least until we have a much greater confidence that they are worthwhile? If their benefit is primarily to the suppliers, their cost should NOT be added to our bills.

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deegeepee

You can refuse them, but you will not be able to then move onto the Smart Metering tariffs that may prove cheaper.

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Denys

British Gas fitted smart meters in our house in February .The meters are more difficult to read than the old ones, especially the electricity meter. It now has a string of 22 readings in succession on a liquid crystal display, only one of which is of interest. Each is on for about 10 secs. so the whole sequence takes about 2.5 minutes to go through. I find this almost impossible to read as our meter is in a position in a dark corner near the floor. One needs a torch to read it and I wear bifocals!

In principle this would not matter as we also have touch screen display which in principle gives the gas and electricity reading. The gas is OK, except that it updates fairly infrequently, but the electricity reading in only useful at night as I have solar panels which generate up to 2.4 Kw. There is clearly a flaw in the software as the consumption shown goes up with the solar power generated. I think we are being charged for what we actually consume from the grid, but I am not sure! Add to this that the touch screen is pretty awful and the extra goodies which aught to help me by giving graphical analysis of consumption are hopeless on the 4 inch screen.

I’ve asked BG for instructions on the electricity meter and have complained more than once about the display device incorrectly treating my solar power, but to no avail.

The only benefit I have from the smart meters is that BG are able to bill me on actuals. The down side is that I have great difficulty getting an electricity meter reading during daytime.

I can see that BG benefit from getting actual meter readings direct and as they get it very frequently they can get a better understanding of the demands on their system. I presume that all 22 electricity meter reading are sent to them on the mobile phone link, but I have no idea what use they make of them all, although things like actual voltage and power factor at this end of the supply chain could be useful. But we will be paying for this expensive installation (It took about 1 man-day to install.) and the phone link can’t come for nothing. I would have thought that something much simpler would have been much more appropriate. These days a phone/tablet app would be better than the little meter.

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Ed

I am picking up on the linkage between smart meters and solar panels. At present because we dont have a smart meter there is an assumed home consumption figure (I believe it is 50% although my Owl software seems to differ on this). Will it be the case that once a smart meter is installed we will be paid on “actuals” for electricity exported to the National Grid? For example if we are away on holiday consumption is minimal and we export more to the grid but still on get a return on the nominal 50%.

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David Thomas

Also an OVO customer, but smart meter a tiny bit too wide so needing main supply breaker to be moved right by a a few inches for which there is space. Electrician refused to move,and so in limbo. OVO requires meter to be installed, and consider OVO should meet any related small costs. Opinions on this welcome.

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Dobun

What exactly does a ‘smart metre’ do? How does it do it? What are the advantages over my existing metres? Are there really proven cost and/or ecological benefits benefits? Who will be the beneficiaries, the supplier or the consumer?

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Hilary Porter

It seems to me from everything that I have read about smart meters that they will be of benefit only to the suppliers and at extra cost to the consumers. The suppliers will not have to send out people to read the meters, but knowing how business works, any savings will not be passed on to consumers who, one way or another, will still be paying for the equipment. It has been written that consumers will be able to see what electricity etc they are using and will be able to make savings. DUH. Those who do save will already be doing so and those who can’t be bothered won’t.

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Tim Lawrence

My provider OVO offered to install gas and electric smart meters at no cost to myself, made an appointment to fit on a Monday between 8.00am and 1.00pm on the 06.10.14 which should have took about 90mins I was told he was here 3 hours
engineer/installer turned up after having to give him directions and was told this would be his first job of the day to install both gas and electric and then pair them up something he had only done in the class room this then came apparent when he later informed me that he had damaged a kitchen unit door
after him informing me of this in which I didn’t get any details off him regarding the damage was only to contact OVO
well anyway a week later still no further forward other than have told OVO if there isn’t any progress on this by 17.10.14 will instruct them to remove their smart meters
so had installer fit meters on the 06.10.14 causing damage no details with any contact details at Siemens who are fitting them on behalf of OVO
Logged complaint/claim with them OVO 08.10.14 also have had a couple of conversation’s on the phone a rarity with utility company’s
wife spoke to Siemens who informs her no log of compliant at all from either installer or OVO
Siemens have also informed us that we have to leave it another 10 days before any likely resolving the matter
she decided to instruct our insurance company to put a 3rd party liability claim in against both company’s a process is easy enough to do but is better as she works for large insurance broker

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Gordon

James,(11/10/2014).
It may be simple and effective for you to perform as you describe, BUT there are many older people who could not get to their meter,….and then read it,…. or use an internet website.
You must keep in mind that there are other (large) categories of people that do not fall into the
ebullient “Thirty-something with cell-phone welded to their ear” group.
Turning to a completely different aspect of this smart meter saga, I am a little concerned about the cell-phone system being used for smart meter data transmission. The cell-phone system is progressively being used for more and more purposes than the original intent of Mr A having a quick word with Mr B. If the smart meter transmissions are to use this medium, then I think it will bring the day of the saturation explosion much nearer.
That is, of course, a problem in addition to the more immediate one of dead spots referred to in some other contributions to this discussion.

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Gordon

Malcolm r (11/10/2014).
I am afraid that in current times CEOs (or equivalents) come from the same stock, whether it be for nationalised industries, or for national or multi-national conglomerates.
In fact there is a merry-go-round for such people.
For either regime there is going to be an “excess” cost to the customer.
For the nationalised industries it may result from a somewhat reduced entrepreneurial ethos.
In the case of the privately owned organisation, there is the inevitable need to please the shareholders.
The political influence is a hazard for both regimes.
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As regards having to battle the privately-owned conglomerates by persistently switching, I have to tell you this. I really do have much better things to do with my life than be scanning deliberately confusing websites to find the (currently) lowest price for a kW/Hr.
AND of course, I am mindful of the many who do not have the facilities or capabilities to do this.
Whilst I might search for the best price for milk or bread, this should not be necessary for basic survival systems like heat and light…….(and water).

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malcolm r

Shopping around for best prices is nothing new. You used to have catalogues, telephone (if you had one), trudge between shops (or by car if you were lucky). Now a vast number of people can do this far more effectively and efficiently using the internet. The negative approach seems to be to deny people this facility simply because a minority can’t, or don’t do it. The positive approach would be to give assistance to those who can’t or don’t through family, friends, advice centres, charity groups.
It is not a big chore with energy – I have switched suppliers twice in the last 5 years, but have changed tariffs within my supplier a couple of times when prices have dropped – a quick job. I may not be squeezing the very best deal but I’m close enough. As you say you don’t want to spend a lot of time on it but whether or not you choose to do it depends on whether saving £100 a year is worthwhile for you.
Perhaps we should be looking at ways to help those without the ability to use the internet?

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Alan Henness

You’re right, Malcolm. There will always be those who just won’t have the capabilities or opportunity to shop online for the best deal and they will simply be paying more than the rest of us and therefore subsidising us. Helping others to get the best deal is good, but, to my mind, solves a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

I changed suppliers earlier this year and swapped tariffs as well, but didn’t find it particularly easy and I would consider myself very computer literate! Comparison websites are good (I used the one by Which? of course!), but why-oh-why do we need them in the first place?

I don’t think this is what I want: I don’t want those with the necessary skills and wherewithal and who have the time to spend get the best deals while the rest pay more for what is a basic, essential commodity of every day living. If we were talking about a luxury item, then I wouldn’t be too worried about it, but energy is something far too important to be left to the marketing tactics and latest deals of private companies.

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wavechange

I have switched energy supplier twice and switched tariffs several times. The second time I switched supplier was complicated and involved several phone calls and a lot of delay. Friends have also had problems.

I have read that many people have never switched supplier and know some of them. As Alan says, why do we have to do this? My view is that we should all pay the same price for energy, irrespective of the supplier. There is not much trust in energy companies and I believe it is time for the government to set the price of energy and let the companies compete for our service on the basis of customer service and anything else other than price.

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malcolm r

Why pick only on energy? Many spend far more on food, housing, transport – all essentials. Should government set the price for all those as well?

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John Ward

I go along with Malcolm in general on this point because it does pay to shop around and we can limit the range of the search to selected companies if we prefer and filter our requirements; but I also wholly support Alan’s comments about having to go through this exercise for energy supplies which are a basic and essential utility and I should have thought companies should be under some sort of obligation to ensure we are on the most favourable tariff for our requirements [e.g dual fuel. meter reading reporting, paperless billing, etc] without having to take specific action if we choose to stay with our existing suplier.

I have switched suppliers several times [sometimes because of poor service rather than for a price advantage] and I have recently changed tariff with our present supplier [with effect from 18/10/14] following receipt of a notification that a new fixed-price tariff would be more economical than our current tariff. However, since exercising that option three weeks ago I have received notifications of two further fixed-price tariffs [Versions 8 and 9] that are said to be even more economical but I do not know – and I haven’t had time to investigate – whether for v8 this is in comparison with our existing tarriff, or with the new v7 that we are changing too later this week; it is also not clear whether the new v9 is better than the new v8 or whether either of them is merely better than the original tariff but is worse than v7. Confused? I certainly am. I expect the information can be derived somehow but I doubt the diferences are more than fractional and it is possibly not worth worrying about. But the point is that the ordinary consumer cannot tell, at a glance, what is best for them even with their existing provider and if new tariffs are going to be offered every couple of weeks we have no chance of keeping on top of it because each tariff change overlaps the previous one in terms of the period from announcement to implementation.

We are entitled to be at ease over energy supplies without being penalised for it or made to go througfh an administrative labyrinth.

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Alan Henness

True, and, although a few big supermarkets generally control the market, I’d have thought there is more consumer choice in food with many alternative shops/markets/etc where food can be cheaper. With energy, we are limited to a few generators and a handful of suppliers (who add little value) all ‘competing’ with each other – and those who need to save money don’t really have the option of generating it themselves by installing a wind turbine or solar panels because of capital costs, although reverting to wood or coal might be an option… :-)

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Alan Henness

@John Ward

It is not – and can never be – in the interests of a company whose focus has to be on maximising profits for shareholders to provide clear and unbiased information to consumers… There is no such thing as the Sovereign Consumer.

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wavechange

Malcolm wrote: “Why pick only on energy? Many spend far more on food, housing, transport – all essentials. Should government set the price for all those as well?”

Unlike the examples you mention, electricity and gas are the same products for everyone. Differences between the calorific values of gas supplies are irrelevant because is sold by the kWh.

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malcolm r

wavechange, that was not my point – although as you mention, it petrol and diesel are essentially the same products and an average motorist will spend around £1700 a year on them – more than a mid-user on gas and electricity.
The point I was making is that many ordinary people will spend far more on other items – say £5000 on food, £5000 on commuting, probably at least twice as much on mortgage or rent. If you want government controls then these will be ones to target.

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malcolm r

John, suppliers are beginning to routinely inform us of revised energy prices that may be more advantageous; lately tariffs have been reduced as energy prices fall. This is surely something we all want to know? If they did not publicise lowere prices we would be having another conversation slagging them off.
You are right – the changes may be marginal – last night for 5 minutes on line I changed to another tariff saving £25 a year. You can take it or leave it of course!

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wavechange

I’m keen to do something about the extensive criticism of the energy supply companies, Malcolm.

Not everyone commutes and not everyone has a car. My view is that we should be encouraging people to live near their place of work so that they can walk or cycle rather than commute. If I recall correctly, you are keen on organisations moving out of London etc. to be nearer people seeking employment.

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John Ward

Quite so, and I suppose a price set by the Regulator would not have to be universal – companies could presumably sell their product cheaper if they wished [although I am not in favour of volume discounts] or dearer if they could get away with it. I suggest that every supplier would, however, have to offer the Regulator’s Tariff in return for approval to market energy according to other tariffs. I think the bundling of services and payment options is here to stay and so long as a standing charge for network and infrastructure remains payable to the supplier and not to a grid company, and the government’s levies are collected by the energy suppliers and remain unfairly allocated, then misunderstanding, confusion, and deliberate bamboozlement will prevail. One easy way to partly deal with this problem woyuld be to have much more explanation in the gas and electricity bill of its different components. Our Council Tax bill itemises separately the amounts required by the county council, the district council, the town council and the police authority – no increase in any component can be passed off in an overall total. For energy, it should be much more obvious how much is being taken by the government and on what basis so that there is a measure of accountability. I am not on the side of the energy companies but I think they are getting the blame for charges set by the government; since in itself that reduces the transparency of the energy companies’ own charges perhaps they are happy with the situation. Likewise, generation, transmission, distribution and other infrastructure overheads should be visible and not hidden in a complex tariff. As it happens, I don’t think the pursuit of profit is the biggest worry – in reality the margin is not that great and, in any case, who would want to have an energy contract with a company struggling to survive financially? It’s the crunching together of all the numbers and the fragmentation of the result according to time, place, payment method, bill choice, price structure and so on down to the last digit before multiplication according to consumption that makes the whole thing incomprehensible and ultimately non-comparable.

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malcolm r

wavechange, yes, I am keen to locate businesses and public services around the UK to spread the housing burden and costs and to get people commuting shorter distances. However it is a long term solution and I don’t think politics is geared up for it. How do we get such changes to happen? Surely far better than perpetuating commuting between major cities by projects such as HS2?

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malcolm r

John Ward, I totally agree that all the components that make up your energy bill should be explained. I have tried in several posts to look at this point and give information I have found. A criticism of Which? is they have not done this, which can lead to an unbalanced discussion.

Information such as you require is published.. You can look on the Ofgem website, but I found this useful document on the nPower site: http://www.npower.com/energy-explained/

I’d like to see as many components not directly linked to your energy consumption removed from your energy bill, including smart meter costs.

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John Ward

My 4:43 pm “Quuite so . . .” post was in response to Wavechange’s at 1:49 pm – hot topics produce jagged threading!

Turning to Malcolm’s 4:19 comments, I should have made it clearer that I am entirely in favour of suppliers sending us notifications of new tariffs and I have indeed been able to take advantage of them. Perhaps I am expecting too much in wanting the company not only to tell me about a better rate but to actually move me onto it as a default option but with an opt-out facility if I want to stay where I am. I agree with your remarks about criticising the suppliers if they didn’t tell us about new tariffs – we can’t have it both ways and they have been heavily criticised for dragging their feet on following falling energy prices. So long as it remained the best tariff for our requirements compared with the same company’s other tariffs, i would have no objection to the suppplier automatically switching us to a higher cost tariff without further action needed on my part, although I suspect that would not be acceptable to everyone.

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wavechange

Malcolm – We managed to get to work before we had cars and public transport, and that was without the benefit of computers and other forms of communication. I am certainly not a supporter of HS2.

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wavechange

John – I take your point that energy pricing is not a simple issue but I do think the industry needs to be taken in hand because companies will never act in the interests of the consumer, as Alan has said. That’s why I’m keen on the government having a role in setting prices of electricity and gas.

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John Ward

I was momentariy tempted to say something about HS2 but I would suggest it be put up as a separate Conversation. I was only vaguely wondering whether there will be enough electricity left to run it and whether it will get any more cars off the road . . .

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Clive, Newcastle

Utilita installed a smart meter at my mother’s house – she is 92, disabled, frail and housebound and cannot manage her finances (I have to do it from 300 miles away) or operate the in home device. My key compliants are: (1) they turned up to install it without any confirmation (she hadn’t read their letter) and told me she had no choice but to have it installed, which I now know is wrong; (2) failure to check that anyone realised it was a pre-payment meter (we didn’t, so her electricity went off); (3) MOST IMPORTANTLY, when I asked them whether she could revert to paying bills by direct debit rather than pre-payment, they said it would cost 20% more for her gas and electricity (is this right??). It might still save money as Utilita had a habit of over-estimating readings and needing to be pestered repreatedly to refund credit balances – saying they would do it and then not doing it – of, at one time, over £1500. But this is at least partly offset by the need to keep it well topped up – otherwise, being at a distance, I would have to ring Utilita for a reading every few days. Obviously the company pushes smart meters because they are getting the money in advance. Because of my mother’s circumstances they are getting the money even more in advance and swelling their profits further. Ironically last time I looked Utilita came out as one of the better companies in a Which survey. I know I could look at switching supplier but why should any company think it can behave like this?

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Phil

This is a copy of my post under an older conversation with a different title but it seems relevant here:
The benefits of smart-meters are all to the energy companies who will make great savings by not employing meter-readers. Further savings will be made by improved assessment of energy demand ( and by billing more accurately, thus reducing complaints to be dealt with by staff. Addition 23-10-2014)
Any cost of installation should be met by investors and Companies should not be permitted to load any part of the cost on consumers.

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malcolm r

Cost of a business expense always come out of revenue, so the customer will always pay. If the government pays for it, the taxpayer – the customer – still funds it.

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Phil

So you are content to see customers guarantee the funding of an investment, not a necessary expense, to increase the profit margins of Power Companies!

I have no problem with investors of their own money taking a risk in the hope of gaining a profit.

‘Pure’ capitalism is one thing, but this is more akin to the behaviour of Robber Barons.

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malcolm r

Phil,, I was simply suggesting a fact, not supporting smart meters (which I believe have been imposed on us and the industry by the governement.) Where else will the money come from?

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David Gwynn

We have lost generating capacity through problems at nuclear power stations and a fire in cooling towers at Didcot B. The Government support smart meters as a means to reduce the requirement to build new power stations. Smart meters can monitor our minute by minute useage, so at periods of high demand the electricity supply companies could increase the tariff in the hope that we rush round switching things off to save money and hence reduce demand on the generators. Which does not seem to have picked up on this possibility and because a lot of us are basically lazy the peak demand tariffs will have to be set high to get us off our backsides. I for one will not have a smart meter fitted.

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Industry insider

David Gwynn, you’re quite correct. I’ve sat in government and industry meetings, and DECC and OFGEM representatives know, and are more than happy with the fact that smart meters will enable what are called “time of use tariffs”. So the same clowns that are busy insisting that more than four basic tariffs of a standing charge and flat rate is too confusing for consumers are plotting to bring in the mechanisms by which consumers will be exposed to tariffs that vary several times per day, and seasonally. The failure of Which to see this, expose it, and oppose it is a disgrace.

From an energy supplier perspective, we aren’t rolling our smart meters for our own good – it is an onerous, expensive and thankless obligation, passed into law by the last government, but enthusiastically supported by the current shower.

And another of Which’s failings is claiming that you can’t be remotely cut off with a smart meter. A smart meter is by design a remotely managed multi-function device. If a customer is in arrears or a bad credit risk, they will be moved onto a pre-payment meter, but with a smart meter the status of the meter can be changed from standard credit meter to a pre-payment meter with an arrears recovery tariff, all done remotely at the tap of a key. Then non payment results in immediate self-disconnection.

The vast costs of the smart meter roll out aren’t supported by any evidence or logic. Their primary benefit of (maybe) letting customers see how much they use can be done with a £30 energy monitor, and the spineless acquiescence of Which to this expensive nonsense is a disgrace. And from evidence of some tens of thousands of smart meters, I can assure you that smart meters are associated with no worthwhile reduction in gas use, and a reduction in electricity use in the low single digit percentage range.

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Alan Henness

There is surely enough here – and particularly so many unanswered questions – that Which? need to do a thorough, independent and in-depth investigation into smart meters, why energy companies want them, what they can and can’t do with them, the real advantages to the companies and to consumers what the savings might be and why the Government is paying for them.

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Dave, Newcastle.

I have just written to the chief executive of our new energy supplier, Ovo requesting him to put a stop on intimidating correspondence demanding to install a smart meter when we are perfectly happy with our present easy to read modern meters.

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Jan Evans

We were offered a smart meter by Eon and accepted. However they then told us that the meter would not work for us because we have solar panels and a FIT arrangment. They need to sort this out.

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VanessaWG

I am frankly disgusted and very disappointed that the latest edition of Which? magazine is so uncritically supportive of this new technology. Why is Which? so behind the curve when so many people are questioning smart meters on grounds of human health, privacy, and cost?

The cost of each meter is £220 according to a recent Sunday Times article and energy companies have already admitted that this cost will be passed on to householders. Serious health problems are linked with exposure to smart meters in homes, and these meters have even caused fires in Canada and the US. The fact is that a simple energy usage meter from Argos or Amazon can help a household monitor its energy usage, these cost far less and have no health risks.

 It is also useful to realise that nearly half of European United countries have decided against a large scale roll-out of smart meters, calculating that the new technology can be poor value for money.

There is no way that I will allow a smart meter to be installed in my household based on all that I have read so far. The only people to benefit from them are the energy companies, not the consumer.

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VanessaWG

Just as a PS, there is a useful website which collates the various articles and reports opposing smart meters, stopsmartmeters.org.uk

Opponents have no axe to grind except public interest.

By comparison, there is considerable SELF-interest on the part of the energy companies bullying people to accept smart meters and feeding a lot of balony. Shame on British Gas for a start in this respect. More people need to realise that we don’t need to be bullied into conserving energy, we will do it naturally by common sense measures, not dangerous devices supplied by energy giants.

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Alan Henness

If by health problems you’re referring to issues caused by the wireless communications, then there is no good evidence that this is a source of any health problems. For a very readable discussion on this, see Nonsense about the Health Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/nonsense-about-the-health-effects-of-electromagnetic-radiation/

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Alan Henness

Unfortunately, having no axe to grind does not mean that the information they give is accurate.

I do agree energy companies do have a vested interest in installing smart meters, but that does not mean they are harmful to health.

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wavechange

The high cost of the smart meter roll out is enough of a reason to stop it. Many of the other reasons for not wanting them are questionable (e.g. health effects, as Alan has pointed out) and will do little to provide a credible case for opposing the roll out. Let’s keep it simple.

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malcolm r

I am sure that this has gone too far to be stopped. Which? appeared to have been supporting smart meters but only cribbed at the cost. Since many here (including myself) do not believe they will do much for the consumer I wonder why our consumers association has taken this stance. Would it not be good to seek members views before promoting a particular point of view on issues that are of such importance – since they represent us? Just a thought :-)

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wavechange

I suspect that you are right, Malcolm. If Which? was going to launch a strong opposition to the roll out of smart meters they should have taken action before now. It would be great if members had the opportunity to vote on important issues.

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william

Malcolm Don’t forget that’s exactly what Which did for the Fixed means Fixed campaign and the general public voted to be able to leave penalty free rather than to have a Fixed means Fixed. Was just a shame that they ended up with neither unless you’re prepared to have a big fight on your hands. Admittedly which should at the point of the vote renamed their campaign too.

Maybe they just need to ask a select few, rather than all the sheep.

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Dave Rumley

I do not have a smart meter but about four and a half yeas ago N Power supplied me with a meter that fits in the meter box and is connected by a band around the main cable coming in, which in turn gives me a reading on a dial that is plugged into the mains. This shows me what power is being used at any one time, and will give me a daily reading and a weekly reading. The only was that it is useful is that i can see at a glance if it using more than i think it should be, which usualy means I have left a light on. I am using Utility warehouse for my gas and electricity supply, and about the last day of each month e-mail my meter readings and the end of the next month, by D/D I pay for what I have used only and no more. It could not be more simple.

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Chris

I’ve followed with interest the debate about having a smart meter or not and found the Which? video about this most interesting, all the more so because it featured First Utility, my supplier. They contacted me in Aug 2014 to say they wanted to install an electricity smart meter in my home!
With the video in mind I changed my initial thought of refusing the device and agreed to an install on 15th Aug.
I have two points to emphasise – firstly, don’t expect a IHD (in home display) with your new smart meter because neither First Utility or Siemens the supplier installer acting for them will supply the device. Go buy your own is the message ! ! !
Secondly, you may not even end up with a smart meter being installed ! The installation engineers (2 of them) tested the mobile phone signal strength at my meter box position and declared it insufficient to maintain a reliable connection.
The outcome is I have a lovely new DUMB meter. I’m starting at zero again on the new meter which means all the consumption data on ‘My Account’ with First Utility has vanished. !!!!!

So much for the roll-out of smart meters to all homes by 2020. And how annoyed am I going to feel watching my bills rise by the suggested £200 to fund the cost of smart meters for everyone else who can have one and benefit from it.

Governments, grand schemes and technology – don’t you just love it !!!!!

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VanessaWG

As a householder, I am worried about cost of smart meters being passed onto consumers, but as a mother of young children I am more concerned about health effects. There is evidence from the US, Canada and other countries that smart meters emit 140 -800 times the radiation that mobile phones do. Many class action cases have been taken out in the US by people claiming that health problems started only when smart meters were attached to their homes. It is important to avoid quack medicine and unproven claims,but anecotal evidence of harm coming from so many ordinary citizens already exposed to these meters surely merits examining further?

If they are without risk to health, then the smart meter companies should be prepared to sign an affidavit to each householder receiving one, to say that they are safe and that if subsequent health problems are reasonably linked with exposure to emissions from smart meters, that they will compensate families financially. I bet that would end the smart meter roll out overnight!

There is no way that I will accept a smart meter in my home – and a final point, if they are so good then why have most European countries, after examining the pros and cons, decided AGAINST using them?!

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Alan Henness

@Vanessa

As far as I’m aware, all properly conducted scientific studies have not shown that there is a risk from smart meters. If you have a link to that evidence from the US and Canada, please provide it so we can look at it.

There are also no credible claims of electrosensitivity, but what there has been is a lot of scaremongering.

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VanessaWG

To flip your argument on its head, Alan, rather than prove they are dangerous, how about we employ the precautionary principle and first prove that they are SAFE?! The fact is that smart meters are a new form of technology and largely untested so anyone who tells you they are safe doesn’t [yet] have scientific proof of this and in the Uk at least, a ‘suck it and see’ mentality seems to be driving the debate. By contrast, there is a growing body of proof and scientific evidence of damage to health caused by exposure to RF/MW radiation, see these links for more information:

http://stopsmartmeters.org.uk/live-blood-analysis-observable-effects-of-rfmw-radiation-from-smart-meter/

http://stopsmartmeters.org.uk/there-is-no-justification-for-the-statement-that-smart-meters-are-safe-dr-david-carpenter/

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Alan Henness

Yes, we could, Vanessa. Will you employ the precautionary principle and give up using your PC until someone proves it is safe?

Dark-field blood microscopy is unscientific quackery.

Do you have any good evidence?

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David

The major difference, as far as I can see, is that Vanessa’s PC is proven to be very useful and is established technology used by billions, whereas smart meters appear to just cost a lot and have so far proven next to useless.

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Alan Henness

As I understand it, smart meters use a gsm data connection. This is what mobile phones use for text messages. It would appear that a smart meter is as safe as a mobile phone (and there is no good evidence of any health issues from them).

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lemaiz

It may or may not be full of facts, but the danger of sites like stopsmartmeters is they look for all the world like the screamy tinfoil hat panic sites that appeal to the perpetually scared or outraged, sent up so well by the likes of DHMO.org

The fact is there are plenty of very easily justifiable reasons to want to avoid or refuse smart meters, most of which have already been noted above, without having to resort to fearmongering-style techniques.

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wavechange

Alan wrote: “It would appear that a smart meter is as safe as a mobile phone (and there is no good evidence of any health issues from them).”

The big difference is that a mobile phone is generally used near the head whereas a smart meter is some distance away. Thanks to the inverse square law, the intensity of radiation from a phone will be much greater.

I totally agree with your view about scaremongering and misuse of science. The cost of the smart meter roll out is unquestionable and should enough on its own to stop the waste of money.

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Alan Henness

A good point about the distance, wavechange!

No idea why I’ve not done it before, but just checked what your QR code is… :-)

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Twiglet21

I was offered a smart-meter by British Gas in October 2011. I had just installed a solar PV system on my house and informed British Gas of this and asked them to check if their smart-meter works with Solar PV systems, I was told yes, their smart-meters were designed to work with solar panels. Roll forward to February 2012 when British Gas arrived to install the smart-meter. I informed the British Gas ‘electrician’ that I had solar panels and showed him the isolation switches and generation meter. He immediately started scratching his head, rang HQ and promptly announced I couldn’t have a smart meter as the British Gas models don’t work with solar PV installations. I’ve not heard any more about smart-meters from British Gas since then.

I also subsequently found out that if you do have a smart-meter fitted, your electricity supplier then stops paying the supplier payments for electricity supply back to the grid from your solar panels. This is only a small amount as you get about 3p/kwH from your supplier but does show that as they get real generation / supply data rather than assumed data, there is an impact. This will have a small overall impact on the ROI for solar PV investments.

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malcolm r

Jobs for meter readers will go, along with the income tax and NI they pay. Are these jobs being replaced by people in the UK manufacturing smart meters?

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Whitwams

We should all be very concerned about smart meters and Which should review its support for the conception which is aimed at smoothing out national energy use through the day. When I left school in 1953 I worked in a small textile plant which had a conventional three phase meters used in association with maximum demand indicators. When the maximum demand rose to X amperes, the price of each kW (kVA) trebled and the works owner switched off the big motors and as we were paid on piece work, our pay stopped. Domestic consumers were subject to rota`d disconnections to stop the distribution network from crashing. Families returning to cold homes on winter evenings had no light, cooking or radios and the scale of deprivation had to be experienced to be understood. These were the post war years when the country was re-building the generating/supply capacity and distribution networks which had been devastated by the lack of investment* between WW1 and WW2 and WW2 itself. By 1990, the system achieved secure and affordable supplies. The privatization of the gas and electricity industries has imposed the present situation where foreign investors – AND GOVERNMENTS – own our networks and demand profits which hitherto were re-invested. This privatization was to have protected consumers from exploitation by the use of statute and regulation. In practice, the owners have operated cartels similar to the oil industry and which have been imported from the USA where such skills have defied all attempts break up. The introduction of smart meters will enable suppliers to apply prohibitive prices when they have failed to provide the generating and supply and distribution capacity. It heralds a marketing utopia where demand can be adjusted to suit supply. Why should suppliers bother to forecast, plan and *invest when demand can be throttled. And all of this will be agreeable to a government besotted by the absurd fiction of renewable energy from the winds and tides which are available for only 30% of the time. I beg you to stop supporting (“educate consumers” ! ) the Government`s introduction of smart meters and please warn consumers of the cost implications; I wish your organisation best success in getting the regulator to break the oil industry cartel that has resulted in the situation that the October 2013 Which magazine reports.

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