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How much are smart meters costing you?

smart meters

Which? research shows that energy companies would need to work round the clock – installing 24 smart meters per minute – in order to meet the 2020 roll-out target. Guest author Steve McCabe MP tells us why this isn’t good enough…

I was interested to read the investigation into smart meters in the last month’s edition of Which? magazine. It outlined concerns about delays in the development of the Data and Communications Company (DCC) wireless network – a key part of the UK’s smart metering network.

However, claims made by the DCC and government ministers that the problems are all behind them, were left unchallenged. My view is that their reassurances are less than convincing.

Slow progress, spiralling costs

Back in November, the Chief Executive of the DCC told the parliamentary committee responsible for scrutiny of smart meters legislation (which I sat on) that real progress was being made.

We were led to believe that 250 second-generation meters had been connected to the network, only for a freedom of information request to reveal that just 80 had been connected and that most of these were in the properties of staff members!

I’m becoming increasingly concerned about the DCC’s costs, which have risen by 56% over the last three years. Other than intervention for costs that can’t reasonably be shown to be developmental or administrative, there seems to be little the government or Ofgem can do to control these costs.

It’s equally important to recognise the role of Meter Asset Providers. They are the ‘middle men’ who provide smart meter asset management to energy suppliers and they have a vested interest in driving up the rental costs energy suppliers pay for their meters. The market they operate in is a significant factor in the loss of functionality customers experience when switching and their role in the roll-out programme is deserving of closer attention.

Are smart meters increasing energy bills?

The government estimates the roll-out of smart meters will produce economic benefits of £16.7 billion, with savings of £47 on the average domestic annual bill by 2030, through using less energy.

I don’t doubt the potential benefits of smart meters, but I worry that what the government is selling as cost saving for consumers is fast turning into an unnecessarily expensive project – one that will increase energy bills in the short to medium term.

A growing number of energy suppliers are already blaming increases in energy bills on the cost of installing smart meters, including Scottish Power, SSE and Centrica.

Be clear about the costs

I recently argued that the government should require energy suppliers to include on every household’s energy bill the amount they pay for the smart meter roll-out. Without this information, how are we to know that we aren’t being fleeced?

We deserve to know whether there are still cost savings for consumers and how the functionality issues surrounding the DCC’s network are going to be resolved.

I’ll be continuing my fight for greater transparency and consumer protections, and I encourage those of you who are concerned about your energy bills to ask your supplier how much the smart meter roll-out is costing you.

This is a guest contribution by Steve McCabe MP. All views expressed here are Steve’s and not necessarily those shared by Which?.

What do you think?

Are you concerned about the cost of your energy bills? Do you think energy suppliers should tell you how much the smart meters roll-out is costing you?

Comments

I had a British Gas smart meter, it worked fine. Then I changed to Ovo and their so called smart meter is rubbish. After a few months I took it out and threw it in a draw. All it ever says is estimated, and never changes, whereas the BG one showed actual usage.

reptile says:
9 April 2018

Early last week I had a letter followed a few days later by a phone call from npower. The letter told me they were coming to fit “Your new Smart meter”. I was very angry as last year I was ‘hassled’ on more than one occasion to confirm their chosen date to fit an SMET1 – which I knew were not reliable and had software issues. I told them by phone that I was not interested but might consider the SMET2 when the problems and compatibilities were resolved – this was confirmed in writing by me early last year.
I was polite relying to the recent phone-call but made it crystal clear that they were incompetent, did not inspire confidence and were ignoring my efforts. They claimed that there was no records of my turning their ‘generous’ offer down.
I believe as many, that under the guidance of capita, SMET1 meters are being pushed out to get rid of faulty stock and will be charging for them in our bills. Also presumably making a financial killing for the contract in rolling this stuff out!
As with any wireless system there are security breach opportunities too, so let’s make our government ‘fes-up’ to what is really going on and what the unedited costs are to consumers and tax payers.
Just because this crap is convenient (mainly for big business and government tax revenues), it does not at all mean it is a ‘good’ thing!

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Colin G says:
10 April 2018

My advice – Avoid like the plague. Nothing is as reliable or accurate as the old mechanical meter. It can’t be hacked. It can’t over read. It can’t be remote controlled. It can’t report your activity every minute. It cannot cut off your power remotely. And it costs £12 not £420. Not everything needs to be done with I.T. These systems will all crash in the future.

I received an email yesterday asking me to “Please confirm your appointment now ” for the installation of a smart meter and Npower ” can only guarantee we’ll be able to fit them if you confirm this date or choose a new within the next 5 days “.
The whole email is written in such a way, that I suspect many people would feel pressurized into accepting a Smart Meter whether they want one or not or understand what is involved. In fact as I told Npower when I rang up to say that I did not want a smart meter, the email is close to ” sharp practice”. After some discussion, I am now on the Npower “Smart Meter Refusal” list.
Incidentally there is no indication in the email as why a smart needs installing, apart from listing the possible advantages to Npower, and certainly no suggestion that my existing meter needs replacing .
All in all, a misleading and unsatisfactory approach by Npower. I have also seen cheaper energy tariffs offered by various other suppliers, based on having to accept a smart meter which should also be sharp practice.

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Smart meters are not compulsory, and can be declined, but the energy companies are putting a lot of pressure on consumers to have them installed.

In selecting a new one-year tariff with SSE it was an unavoidable part of the acceptance that completion of the on-line order automatically registered my interest in a smart meter. I have no need for one and no desire to have one so I shall resist any attempt to make an installation appointment.

Which? could have pushed for advertisers to make it clear that it is not necessary to have smart meters, but they seem to have been too busy pushing us to switch to cheaper tariffs – which are all inflated by the cost of the smart meter roll out.

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I see EDF has just announced a price rise of about 2.3% to its standard variable tariff, citing “EDF Energy continues to face pressures with energy, policy and the costs of installing smart meters all increasing significantly since last summer.” as justification.

After the scare tactics of the Big Six energy companies were exposed – telling potential smart meter customers that they were a legal requirement – Utility Warehouse are now trying to scare us by telling us that ‘your meter is at an age where it’s at risk of becoming unsafe or inaccurate’. Mine is only 17 years old and works perfectly. But I don’t trust smart meters. My friend came home to find her house in darkness and her B.Gas electricity meter smouldering and sparking in her meter cupboard which is inside her house. I wrote to B.Gas on her behalf and they jumped to it straight away sending an engineer and eventually offering her compensation.

The issue isn’t just a question of costs (that’s the govt’s own fault for introducing such complicated specifications and using Crapita to manage the issue), but of data.

1. The data they create is accessible to too many parties. Meter data belongs to a consumer, and the National Grid, the DNO, Gas Transporter, Import Supplier, Export Supplier and a rather arbitrary ‘Other User’ can all access the information from a Smart Meter, with very little thought into who gets what, but most importantly the consumer isn’t either a party to access their own data nor can they decide exactly how and what other parties get. For example, the National Grid has no need to know which meter or your actual meter readings, just which substation you’re connected to and your current Power Factor, Reactive Power and Active Power readings at any instant. Meanwhile, a supplier has no need to see Reactive Power and Power Factor, but they only need to see your Active Power register every half hour. With the other information, they can do exactly what OVO actually advertise they do: analyse when and what appliance you use in your home! The fact that a consumer has no way to choose who and how each individual party gets access to data is a gross breach of privacy, the DPA and GDPR.

2. The supplier is the least trustworthy party in the energy industry, and who’s objective it is to get you to use as much energy as possible. Therefore getting them to push fairness and economy onto consumers is a forked tongue.

3. While consumers have the right to determine frequency of readings, suppliers can simply log instantaneous readings rendering the entire check and balance of the frequency of readings pointless. In fact I would want my supplier getting a reading every half-hour, but I don’t want them being able to see or do anything else with my meter.

4. Without a complete rollout, smart meters aren’t a reliable reference nor particularly useful for the National Grid. The only way smart meters can actually ‘save money’ is if the National Grid can wholly rely on them and take out wastage and refine the balancing of the supply much more accurately, and also be able to identify losses in distribution. This means we collectively use less energy as a nation, and thus cheaper for all. So having and allowing for an incomplete roll-out stymies the only way a Smart Meter can actually save us money directly.

5. All other countries rolling out smart meters are done through the DNOs, yet we’ve chosen to rely on a specification written by British Gas and use a completely different technology to any other country, thus increasing costs.

6. The law allows people to own their own meter, meaning you can control and service and manage your own meter. However, there’s absolutely no mechanism allowed by the energy industry to allow you to do this, with any meter, let alone a smart meter.

7. The HAN is a private network that uses the Zigbee protocol. Zigbee is standardised by the IEEE as 802.15. Wifi on the other hand is IEEE 802.11. Suppliers worry that by allowing a consumer to access the HAN they can disconnect their Gas meter, not realising it’s supposed to be in the consumers’ interests to keep everything connected. There is also too much fear about security – it’s the consumer’s security that is in question, not the supplier’s.

8. Suppliers can at a whim change your meter to prepayment, economy 7 style or shut off electricity, or what happened to me, reset the meter’s readings to zero! None of this should be allowed without 3rd party arbitration (e.g. a court order) or the consumers consent. And why a supply can reset and effectively tamper with what is basically an odometer, that in a car is illegal to tamper with, is beyond belief!

So basically they are so invasive and damaging to consumers they’d be absolutely mad to agree to install one. If the energy industry was regulated and ruled properly, it’s costs for distribution and metering like this would be significantly less. Instead about a third of our bills pays for wastage and worst of all, we can’t do anything about it!

Therefore SMETS3 needs to be quickly ratified with full firewalling of all data emitted from a Smart Meter and firmly in the consumer’s control over all aspects before Smart Meters are even remotely beneficial to consumers and the nation as a whole.

Well said, agree entirely, I even asked for a copy of the test spec and results but was refused

Ea says:
24 May 2018

I need some help please

I received an email this week from Eon, saying I must replace my existing meter with a smart meter

Here’s what it says

“We need to upgrade your electricity meter to our new self-reading smart meter.
Why are we changing your meters?
We have an obligation to install smart meters for our customers as part of a government led nationwide upgrade programme”

Is this true? Is the government forcing us to have smart meters in our homes?

How do I refuse a smart meter and can I go to Trading Standards or someone else for help?

You certainly can refuse to have smart meters for gas, electricity and a display unit installed: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/do-i-have-to-accept-a-smart-meter

It seems to be a collaborative effort between the government and the industry, and it is costing all of us a fortune. Even if you decline smart meters you will be contributing to the roll out and the companies are still allowed to install smart meters that may not work properly if you change your supplier.

I’ve not seen/heard/read any advertising for smart meters that says you can decline them.

I will be interested to learn what reaction you get from e.on when you decline the smart meters. I’ve only got smart meters because they came with the house and now they have been replaced because I switched from e.on to Ovo. 🙁 In my previous home I had an offer of smart meters and there was no problem with declining.

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I’ve been interested in this since I discovered that companies were not telling customers that it is not necessary to have smart meters fitted. I don’t know whether the government or the energy suppliers are pushing us all to have them, at considerable cost to everyone – maybe a joint effort.

I think it would have made more sense for customers to pay if they wanted a smart meter (they can help users monitor energy use) and for them to be provided for those who are struggling with paying their bills – they could help remove fear of the next bill and to understand that anything to do with heating uses most power.

My current company, Scottish Power, did tell me that the “upgrade” was optional – so I turned it down.

That’s encouraging. Looking back at emails I found several from Ovo, in this style:

“Hello xxxx,

Our smart meter engineers are currently taking bookings to install smart meters in homes near you. Installation is free and booking in takes seconds. We plan to stay well ahead of the government’s timeline. They want a smart meter in every home by 2020 – so apply now to beat the rush.”

There is a link giving additional information (now expired) but I don’t think it mentioned that smart meters were optional.

Ovo installed one at our house, ignored my warnings that there’s no mobile reception, so it would never work, went away, it didn’t work, returned around 12 months later, removed the thing and installed a ‘normal’ meter. Might have saved them a bit had they consulted first to find out whether they would work in the mountains.

Since moving recently, SSE are frequently sending e-mails to say that their engineers are in the area [I’ve yet to see them and wish to install our smart meter so please book it a.s.a.p. All such requests are ignored but presumably as the deadline for achieving the government’s installation target draws nearer their approaches will become more and more demanding. I don’t really care whether or not smart meters are installed but it seems an unnecessary expense at present and if it is not obligatory then I shall continue to ignore the messages. I am capable of reading a meter and submitting the readings so would prefer to retain my mental faculties a little bit longer.

I wonder if anyone has surrounded their smart meters with a signal blocker?

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The cost of the roll-out of smart meters is enormous and the bill is being paid for by customers, whether they want these meters or not.

Unfortunately the original (SMETS1) meters are not compatible with the systems used by some energy companies and if a customer switches supplier their smart meters can become dumb, requiring replacement with a newer type (SMETS2).

Companies have been allowed to carry on fitting SMETS1 meters: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/smart-meters/article/smart-meters-explained/smart-meter-roll-out?utm_expid=.lx8E3xoQQKaELpsviF8grg.0&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F I wonder if it would have cost less to scrap the meters in stock rather than fit them and then have to replace them with SMETS2 meters.

Will SMETS2 meters need to be replaced by SMETS3 meters before long?

“What has the Government said?
Richard Harrington MP, parliamentary under-secretary at BEIS, brought up the scheme in the House of Commons on Tuesday, after reference was made to MSE’s previous coverage of smart meters.

He said: “The SMETS1 and SMETS2 meters have been much discussed, and I can confirm that a software program is being developed that will allow full conversion between the two.

“That will be done remotely, so customers who have had the meters installed will not have to worry about people coming to their house and changing them again.”

We have asked whether there will be any charge to upgrade the meters and are waiting to hear back from BEIS.

Should I wait until SMETS2 comes out to get a smart meter?
Given that energy firms are rolling out SMETS2 from early 2018, it’s likely that these will start being released before the software to switch a SMETS1. You could, however, get a SMETS1 smart meter now and upgrade it once the software is released.

My gas and electricity smart meters and the display unit were all replaced with new ones when I changed supplier. The guy who fitted them told me that some companies are still fitting the old ones. I don’t have much faith in government and industry finding solutions that will minimise the cost of the roll out.

How long does it take to write a software program for this? It hardly seems a complicated task – essentially getting two computers to communicate.

It’s not the writing, it’s working out how, with limited storage they can update the software for the full functionality whilst keeping the meter operational, especially as the default is if the meter fails to communicate to home base then it will cut you off as I understand it.

Malcolm quoted: “Should I wait until SMETS2 comes out to get a smart meter?
Given that energy firms are rolling out SMETS2 from early 2018, it’s likely that these will start being released before the software to switch a SMETS1. You could, however, get a SMETS1 smart meter now and upgrade it once the software is released.“

I wonder if this is happening. The chap who fitted my replacement smart meters (a contractor for my energy supplier) had already replaced plenty of old ones. It’s not just the meters that are replaced but also the display unit. I’m looking for someone who would like my old display, which is still in good working order.

I wonder how they will handle GDPR and Smart Meter Data, see – http://eulawanalysis.blogspot.co.uk/2018/03/data-protection-and-smart-meters-gdpr.html

I also wonder how the cost of the IHD is going to be handled?

IHD?

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Thanks duncan. The only thing Google brought up was Ischemic Heart Disease.:-(

I cannot see how most people would use their smart meter (and IHD) to reduce their energy bill. Would you reduce cooking, not wash clothes so often, reduce tv watching……? But there may be firm evidence that they do work.

However, it will not be long before domestic electricity will be charged at different tariffs that will change depending on time of day – half hourly. So it will be expensive when everyone wants to use it, and cheap when they don’t. Only a smart meter will allow you to be charged that way.

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Malcolm – Having had the benefit of using smart meters I believe they can help by making us aware of our energy consumption. I inherited smart meters with my present home and the first thing I learned from the display was that electricity consumption was considerably more than expected. A quick check established that the previous owners had left an electric radiator on in the conservatory. I might not otherwise have discovered that for a few days. Then I discovered that the burglar alarm was still drawing power though the previous owners had said that they had not used it since the house was new. I removed the fuse, which they could have done 18 years earlier. Normally I switch off upstairs radiators during the day but if I forget it is soon apparent from the display. It also reminds me if I have left a fan heater running in my garage, which I use as a workshop. If I accidentally leave the heating on rather than turn it down at night and in the morning I know how much this has cost me. Of course, if you don’t look at the smart display, you might as well unplug it and save a little energy.

I would have preferred if customers were expected to pay for smart meters, and though it has been interesting to have them I don’t think I would have paid. In contrast would be happy if they were given to anyone who is struggling to make ends meet. Many people fear what their energy bills will be after a period of cold weather and being able to see how much energy you have used that month could allay fears.

I think most people struggling to make ends meet would not have conservatories, burglar alarms and garages 🙁 However, point taken, but I think those who bother about energy bills would already be aware of turning unnecessary lights off, the oven off when it has finished (ideally a little before) and would be careful with heating, washing and drying. Would others know what their smart meter was telling them and what action to take? Many, apparently, know that they are on a significantly more expensive tariff than they could be, but take no action to change, and save money. But if there is proof that smart meters do give the majority information on which they act and really save money I’ll think again.

The roll out is reckoned to cost £12 billion. Assuming 23 million households that is around £500 each. The claim is that the benefit will be £6.7 billion over the cost. The only tangible benefits I see are remote meter reading (replacing jobs) and the introduction of half-hourly tariffs. I believe the latter is one reason they are being pursued as, if people really do make use of their meter’s information, they may choose the time of day they use high power devices like cookers and dryers to take advantage of cheaper unit charges.

I wonder, though, how many will understand half hourly charging, organise their lives around their smart meter to choose to cook, wash and dry off-peak? For the many who do not and who will end up using a lot of their electricity at peak times – expensive unit charges – I wonder how much their bills will increase?

In olden days the spinning disc served as a rate meter. Then we could see if we had too much kit taking power.

I expect that the cost of the roll-out will be greater because each time old smart meters are being replaced to allow compatibility with new suppliers this will approximately double the cost per household.

I don’t know how many people would choose to use electricity when surplus is available and costs are lower, but those with storage heaters do this. Those I know who have solar PV prefer to use the washing machine and dishwasher when the sun shines rather than at night to make use of free electricity. If users are to be encouraged to use their washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers while they are asleep, it’s essential that these are built to prevent fire spreading if a fault occurs.

According to government sources, those with SMET1 will get a free online software upgrade to make them compatible. So it will not cost double, if that is true.

I know, but unmodified SMETS1 meters are still being fitted. It might be a good idea to update them before any more are fitted.

The real issue of cost IMHO is that the longevity of a smart meter is likely to be of the order of 10 years maximum whilst the analog (mechanical) meter would last at least 20 years.

I suspect therefore that the charge for installation being recovered via the bill will be a continuous drain on ones income as they will need the money to keep replacing them!

Depends who is writing and testing the software (Capita anyone?).

I would agree, but perhaps the software isn’t ready (and likely never will be). In any case even if the software is proven and available, with the meters fail due to update problems.

Also if the meters can be updated with software from the DCC (Capita) who is to say that the software cannot be updated by a rogue agent!

Allowing automatic software updates via the network is highly dangerous, the update should be made manually via a visit of an experienced engineer (I did say experienced!!).

I consider it unsatisfactory that the current series of TV adverts about smart meters give the impression that only with a smart meter can a household use less energy and make cost savings: only if intelligently used by a sensible consumer. The display unit might show the consumption in a more accessible manner but it won’t put you on a better tariff or change the supply to a cheaper provider for you. Now that would be smart!

According to the radio this morning Grant Shapps (Chair of the parliamentary British Infrastructure Group) has said that the smart meter programme is of little use to consumers (who are paying for it) and only of real use to the energy companies (who are not paying for it). The programme is expected to cost at least £12bn, some of which has already been spent.

The original estimated average annual saving of £47 per household in energy cost is now said to be nearer £11 and falling. As each smart meter costs around £400 for each consumer it will take about 40 years just to recover the cost, not allowing for the cost of meters needing replacement during that time.

We cannot turn back now. And whoever foots the bill, the cost will end up with the consumer. Has anyone got any real idea what benefit smart meters will bring?

The only one I have also probably favours the energy companies. They will be able to record energy usage in half-hourly slots throughout each day, and charge different amounts for energy depending upon time of day and demand. I doubt many users will be savvy enough to adjust all their usage to get the cheapest result (off peak). When do you do your cooking, watch TV, boil the kettle? Will you use your washing machine, dishwasher and tumble dryer in the night when you’re in bed and electricity is cheap? If its cold during the day will you avoid using your fan heater to top up the heating when its cold?

Perhaps a good time for Which? to examine the whole basis of smart meters, see whether in general anyone who has them has made verifiable savings, and decide what they can really do for us.

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I really would like to see a cogent case put together to justify the cost of our smart meter roll out. Like HS2 we’d probably see a heavily redacted report preventing the awkward bits from getting into the public domain (i.e. to be seen by those paying for it). We’d call it “cost benefit analysis”. I’m pretty sure the costs will outweigh the benefit by quite a margin, but you never know. Someone might produce convincing figures based on reality rather than conjecture.

Colin says:
29 August 2018

Definitely a LANDMARK but :-

1. Security of data cannot ever be guaranteed. There is no “city” or “police dept” there are PEOPLE who are EMPLOYEES and they handle data. I am one who handles huge amounts of data. These employees are ordinary people. This is a can of worms. I DO NOT WANT TO GENERATE THAT DATA AT ALL FROM MY HOME.

2. For the purpose of network management, “load balancing”, “predicting demand” etc it could be useful to know the load on a block or city level, but it is NOT required for individual homes every 15 minutes. I suggest the city needs to PROVE their need to the court for collecting data on this level of granularity i.e. individual homes. I suggest the true purpose IS surveillance.

3. The judge said “Were a city to collect the data at shorter intervals, our conclusion could change”. This part is only understood by computer experts and it’s huge. WE ONLY HAVE THEIR WORD FOR IT THAT THE DATA IS BEING COLLECTED EVERY 15 MINUTES, and that the data consists only of meter readings. Unless the software in the meter is made public for scrutiny, it is impossible to know how frequently readings or other queries are being taken, or even WHETHER THE BILLING IS BEING DONE ACCURATELY.

There are plenty of videos showing with Radio Frequency detectors that the smart meter is emitting radiation every few seconds. We don’t know the content of this transmission until we can see that software. We have also seen that meters are still transmitting after we’re told that they have been “dumbed down”. Many people have received much higher bills and this is probably due to problems with the software, some of which may be intentional. As long as the software is not made public (open source), we cannot know. We are totally at the mercy of the utility. they can literally bill us for any amount they like!

4. Here in the United Kingdom,
Here in the UK we have Theresa May’s appalling Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which means that the data WILL be forwarded to every government organisation for the purposes of “crime prevention”. Again these are ordinary PEOPLE who are EMPLOYEES and they handle the data and so is a can of worms. This is blatantly a warrantless search and contravenes European Convention on Human Rights Article 8 and there are hopefully to be modifications in October.

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. . . we have the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation which has been incorporated into UK law.

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Let’s try to be positive, Duncan. The GDPR will prevail post-Brexit as it will be essential for trading within Europe and with other countries. Any company that does business in the UK or has operations here will be bound by the GDPR. That is a good thing.

Mr Trump is not a permanent fixture. The UK Parliament will not authorise a trading pact which is, on balance, detrimental to UK interests and to our ability to do business with our biggest trading partner right on our doorstep and largely in our own time zone.

Are you in receipt of inside information on the US/UK trade talks, Duncan, or just speculating on rumours? I don’t expect you to answer that in case you incriminate yourself.

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Given the realisation of many in the US about Trump’s failings it may be his demands will be of little consequence to us in the not-too-far-distant future. We can only hope.

Which? update certain Convos from time to time. It would be useful if they would update this one on smart meters – the cost, the programme, their usefulness (or not), value for money (or not) and whether their only real advantage is to allow the use of hourly or half hourly charging. If the latter, maybe they will consider the complexity of then estimating future bills when you have no time-related usage history.

For over a year now i have been trying to get a Smart meter fitted by SSE, but as i’ve got Solar panels they claim that as yet they cant fit a meter when the property has panels installed.If this is the case is it right that i should have to pay for the instalation of other peoples meters on my bills.

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I don’t know the technicalities of how smart meters cope with imports and exports of electricity in properties with solar panels, but on the question of paying the levies so that other consumers can have smart meters when you cannot I presume that you are drawing some electricity from the grid. The levy is pro rata to [a percentage of] the cost of your nett consumption after any feed-in to the grid. The more you export as a percentage of your overall consumption the lower will be your electricity bills and therefore the less you will be paying into the smart meter funding obligation. This does all rely on accurate and reliable metering equipment correctly set to register your intake from the grid and offset it with the units supplied back to the grid with the right unit prices applied for the feed-in tariff and the nett consumption tariff which is all you should be paying. This is badly complicated by the experience of many householders who find that their energy company delays crediting the FIT payments but draws by direct debit payment in full for the consumption recorded by the meter. This should eventually rectify itself over time but with the FIT paid in arrears it is always going be difficult to know exactly where you stand and becomes a concern if you move to make sure you get any outstanding FIT credits.

The situation with gas is much simpler because there are no feed-in complications.

I keep ignoring the increasingly desperate [and misleading] messages from my energy supplier urging me to make an appointment for them to install smart meters. I can’t see the point, don’t need them, so I don’t want them. I expect in due course they will become compulsory but until then we shall carry on in blissful ignorance of our current consumption. It’s not as though the electricity bill is worth worrying about in the scheme of things; gas is the biggie, and the annual telephone/broadband/computer costs are higher than the electricity bills.

Does anyone find smart meters particularly useful, apart from eliminating the chore for many of having to read their conventional meters? It does mean an end to estimated bills, and potentially unpleasant surprises.

I’ve just had them installed. Although it tells me how much fuel – kWh / £ – I use over any chosen period I don’t see how this information is going to help me save energy in any significant way. The heating might be on for too long perhaps, but I can deal with the timer without a smart meter if I choose; other items have to carry on as normal, like cooking, hot water, the kettle, washing machine, fridge freezer…I’ve seen nothing that would really make an impact on my bills apart from a red electricity warning when I may have inadvertently left a cooker ring or the oven on – useful, but worth £12bn?

The best way to save money – until everyone does it – is to switch to the best tariff. The best ways to save energy, if you can afford it, is in home insulation, double glazing, draught proofing, low energy light bulbs, don’t use your tumble drier and all those other tips that don’t need a smart meter to implement.
I agreed to have mine installed – why not? No cost to me. However I will be changing my energy supplier this month and the meter will lose much of its functionality until there is a “firmware update next year perhaps”.

My view is the £12bn could have been better spent on improving home and business energy efficiency or on funding new sources of green energy. What do those who have got smart meters think? Have they found them worth the cost?

Phil says:
2 November 2018

Well there is a cost to the consumer, £420 per household sneakily added to our bills. The savings will be made by the suppliers who are under no obligation to pass them on to their customers.

Experience has shown that after a while the novelty of the monitoring unit wears off and people slip back into their previous habits. A friend has a smart meter but it’s in a box on an external wall. The only way he can get a signal on the monitor is to squeeze himself into a corner of the utility room. The meter isn’t communicating with the supplier either and it’s the third one they’ve had.

My supplier e-mails me when a reading is due, I submit the reading to their website, they e-mail the bill and I pay it by card on the website. Very little fuss really and no estimates, I could set up a direct debit if I thought I could trust them not to overcharge me.

We had our smart meter removed.

We had our smart meter removed“. Why was that?

Phil rightly says we pay for the meter, but we do so whether we have one or not so refusing one does not really have a great financial effect – unless done en masse.

Which? supported them. “A smart future So far we’ve seen just the tip of the smart iceberg. Smart meters bring huge potential for you, your energy company, and the wider energy system. For you, a smart meter is the means to get in-depth information about your energy use – for example, how much you’re spending on running your flat-screen TV. Studies are being done into how smart meters could alert you if elderly relatives are showing signs of dementia (by revealing unusual patterns in eating and sleeping shown by electricity use), or dangerously under-heating their homes in winter.“. They may have been right. Is there any evidence that we have saved money (energy) and that energy provision is being better planned?

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/smart-meters/article/smart-meters-explained/smart-meter-roll-out – Which?

This was one of the unfortunate penalties of being in the EU – “Member States are required to ensure the implementation of smart metering under EU energy market legislation in the Third Energy Package. This implementation may be subject to a long-term cost-benefit analysis (CBA). In cases where the CBA is positive, there is a roll-out target of 80% market penetration for electricity by 2020.” Would we have joined in but for the EU? Was there a real economic case for them?

The cost may be greater than the figure given by Phil because companies were allowed to continue installing SMETS1 meters long after it was established that they may not continue to work if you switch supplier. I inherited smart meters when I moved home in 2016 but they were replaced with new ones when I changed supplier. We have been told that it may be possible to update SMETS1 meters without replacing them but I have met others who have had their smart meters replaced with new ones.

We could have saved the cost of the roll-out by letting customers pay for smart meters if they wanted them, but the energy companies must take most of the blame because their advertising does not make it clear that no-one has to have smart meters fitted.

The main advertising i have seen were the stupid cartoons from smartenergygb, an organisation set up by the government to promote the smart meter roll out. Encouraging smart meter take up is essential if the government is not to fall foul of the EU. But I have no idea what penalties might be waiting if we fail.

The Informer
Posted on: 31/07/2018

A report from the British Infrastructure Group of Parliamentarians has warned that the roll out of smart meters could cost £1 billion more than previously estimated due to delays.

The paper said savings for dual-fuel customers could be as low as £26 a year and that the rollout was “almost certain” to miss its 2020 deadline.

Difficult to estimate the individual cost savings as they go into both domestic and business premises. I would have thought business and organisations, and certainly the larger users, would already have devoted expertise to minimising their energy use, and that smart meters would be of little help. However, assuming there are 26 million premises where they will eventually installed, at around £13bn, that’s an average cost of £500 per premises.

For domestic users that implies a payback period of over 19 years, assuming the meters last that long. and that’s without factoring in the interest costs in servicing the capital outlay. That is not a sensible economic case.

However, perhaps some experts can explain to laymen why they are deemed worthwhile.

As I have said before, I think smart meters could help those who struggle to pay their bills, helping them to budget better and to understand how much electricity and gas are consumed by various items in their homes.

I have posed the question about the benefits of smart meters and am looking for evidence to support their claimed benefits. I am not at all convinced that those who would use a smart meter in the way you suggest are not already prudent enough to understand the energy consumption of their appliances. It is, of course, not only their energy rating that matters but the time they are in operation. The smart meter does not directly tell you that; it only aggregates all energy usage. For gas it does not operate instantly; there is a half hour delay (on my meter) before the use appears on the display.

The evidence of late suggests a saving of, at most, £26 a year. That’s likely to be just over 0.3 of a unit a day of average electricity use. However, the unit cost of that electricity will have been increased to the struggling householder to fund the cost of the smart meters. Maybe some of that cost would have been better used to help struggling and needy consumers pay their energy bill and to make their houses more energy efficient? Invested to save energy rather than make meter reading simpler?

I have been opposed to the roll-out of smart meters from the start, though I acknowledge that those struggling to pay their bills may be able to benefit from them. Since smart energy displays can display actual cost of energy they remove the fear associated with what the next bill will be, which affects many consumers.

You cannot generalise on what savings may be made, Malcolm. Someone who believes that it is more economical to leave the heating on 24/7 could save a great deal of money.

I am quoting published figures, not generalising. Of course some will maybe save more, and some less, but the point is whether the scheme makes financial sense overall. I don’t think it does but would welcome contributions that provide evidence.

If you are strongly opposed to smart meters, why did you allow their installation? My smart display updates about once a minute for gas.

I am questionning their cost effectiveness. Neither I, you nor anyone else will prevent their continuing roll out by not using them so opposition is rather pointless. Instead, I would like to see whether they have any real point. I have said elsewhere that they will allow half hourly readings and, at some point, permit the application of half hourly tariiffs. This may help better predict energy usage and may also help active consumers. I have also said earlier above, https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/smart-meters-roll-out-2020/#comment-1549937, they have some current (minor) useful attributes in my view.

However, I am keeping a relatively open mind by asking others for their experience of smart meters and whether they have saved them energy in a way that other methods would not. https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/smart-meters-roll-out-2020/#comment-1549958

We have, unfortunately, had the smart meter roll-out imposed by the EU so I wouldn’t necessarily place the responsibility at our government’s door. I would just like to see if their cost can be justified.

Smart Energy GB sees the rollout differently:

“Millions of people around the country are already using smart meters to bring their energy bills down. They are fitted at no additional cost, exactly as our old analogue meters were. The government’s most recent cost benefit analysis shows that by 2020 the average household will see annual savings on their energy bills of around £11 increasing to around £47 by 2030 thanks to the smart meter rollout. The government and Ofgem have said that they expect energy suppliers to pass any savings onto consumers.

So maybe the £26 a year projected saving is now £11 – which means a payback of the cost of the meter that will take over 35years. The meters won’t last that long, so even more expense. They don’t explain why the saving will increase to £47, unless that indicates that energy costs will be rising very substantially.

I’m not sure whether my smart meter display is good for my stress levels (or anyone else’s). Now I am always drawn to it when I walk in the kitchen, and my anxiety is briefly raised when the normal green display has gone….RED. What is happening? What have I left switched on? Ah, it must be the dishwasher heating, or the washing machine. Phew.

Maybe it will change. But I think I was quite happy having a known monthly direct debit that should cover all my costs; one lot of initial stress while the increased cost hit home, but then a year of relative calm.

No one has yet contributed convincing reasons why smart meters are really good and worth the money, not even Which? Surely there must be points in favour?

“No one has yet contributed convincing reasons why smart meters are really good and worth the money, not even Which? Surely there must be points in favour?”

NOT really, they provide far better outcomes for the Utilities IMHO. I honestly believe that it should be the Utilities paying the £11Bn + to install and NOT the consumer, however, the weakness here is that they would put prices up to cover the cost!

If installed and if/when they can actually talk to their mothership, smart meters can spare those on pre-payment tariffs from having to find and then take the gas or leccy key to the shop each time they need to buy a top up.

So they end grief over lost keys…

But, if/when the network connection is broken, the back up method of topping up can involve typing a long series of digits into either the meter or into the touchscreen display.

So there are limited benefits for some households….

https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/smart-meters/article/smart-meters-explained/smart-meter-roll-out:
…….”So far we’ve seen just the tip of the smart iceberg. Smart meters bring huge potential for you, your energy company, and the wider energy system…………………”

The current information seems to be that smart meters are costing each household at least £374 (paid for through our energy bills) and are likely to show an average saving of no more than £11 a year. Significant savings are not likely until 2030, apparently.

Smart meters do, of course, offer advantages. The means to charge half-hourly tariffs, for example. But “Smart appliances connected to the grid in future could be used to help manage surges in demand (for example, millions boiling the kettle at half time during the FA cup final) by switching off momentarily,….” . I think I’d prefer adequate capacity by investing in bigger renewable sources.

However, Which? are in favour of them. I would like them to explain in detail exactly what actual savings can be made and how. I am currently left wondering whether £11bn+ of roll out costs would not have been better spent at the moment if the EU hadn’t insisted on the UK implementing the programme. We might, if we’d waited, at least have had universal smart meters; mine sits there totally useless after I switched supplier.

However Germany says its not cost effective, there was always the ability to reject on cost/benefit!