/ Home & Energy

Stop and rethink the smart meter roll-out

Last year your comments about the government’s plans to roll out smart meters leapt to our attention. Some of you clearly weren’t happy. Today we’re calling for the government to stop and review the roll-out.

Some of you were also upset with Which? – you wanted us to do more to challenge the government on its roll-out plans. Well we have.

We’re urging the government to rethink its smart meter roll-out until it has conducted an urgent review.

There were over 500 comments on last year’s smart meter Convos. Some of you stood up for the new technology and its roll-out into all our homes by 2019. But some vented your fury over the UK’s smart plan, with a key concern being the cost – projected to be at least £11 billion.

What a ‘smart’ community

As your comments poured in we decided to commission a thorough review. And while this research (carried out by the Centre for Sustainable Energy) was being put together we also made sure that other important bodies knew about your comments.

In one Conversation, someone said they didn’t think I existed! Well, I can assure you I do. Over the past few months I have attended meetings and industry events where I have stood up – not always to welcome attention – to say how many of you have told us on Which? Conversation that you’re concerned.

We also sent some of your comments to the Public Accounts Committee – probably Parliament’s most powerful committee of MPs – which has been investigating the roll-out. Industry and government reps have previously told me that it’s too early to discuss smart meters with the public, but I said that our Which? Conversation ‘smart’ community was well and truly up and running.

Energy suppliers read your concerns

One of the best moments for me was when I sat next to one of the top directors of a big energy supplier and saw him studying Which? Conversation on his laptop, rather than listening to the conference speaker.

He scrolled through cat avatars and the string of comments you had made. He would have read about your concerns that energy suppliers would benefit from the roll-out, but would consumers? He probably saw that some of you wanted more reassurance about health concerns and data privacy. And I really hope he read Chris’ comment:

‘I see no real harm in the concept of a smart meter, it’s this use for that £11 billion I’m not keen on, especially as times are currently tough. It would buy an awful lot of insulation.’

It’s time to press pause on the roll-out

Now Which? has said to the government that we think it’s time to stop the roll-out. The government’s current strategy is flawed and it must review its approach. We want the government to convince us that it will have full control over the roll-out’s costs, as we all have to pay for it.

And, as it stands, the roll-out is far too industry led, with the government seemingly crossing its fingers in hope that suppliers will install 50 million smart meters into all of our homes in the most cost-effective and responsible way. The energy companies need to be reigned in.

So, what’s the smart way forward? Stop the smart meter roll-out, government, rethink and demonstrate that you are leading this, not big businesses. As always, let us know what you think. We are listening.

Chelly says:
8 December 2013

I informed my power supplier Atlantic that I didn’t want a smart meter, they didn’t reply. I also phoned them and they were surprised at my ‘non compliance’. I know they will ignore my pleas so time to lock the gates and secure my meter behind a locked cage. Customers in the USA are complaining of feeling ill with the constant electromagnetic interference, it’s just awful and I won’t have it!

I expect these people who claim to feel ill as a result of having a smart meter have mobile phones, cordless phones, wireless routers, microwave ovens and more besides, so a little more electromagnetic radiation might not be significant.

The non-controversial reason for refusing to have a smart meter is the large cost involved.

Dave says:
8 December 2013

Absolutely agree Wavechange, that a major problem with SmartMeters is the ever-spiralling estimated cost, which in the light of yet another Government IT project failure (benefits system), is clearly money down the drain: crucially CUSTOMERS’ money: OUR money.

However, I feel that another major problem, which is related to the wireless technologies involved, is the (lack of) security of the I.C.T. infrastructure involved; a matter which I have heard absolutely nothing whatever about being addressed.

As regards illness – I don’t for one minute dismiss this as improbable or implausible – but I agree with Wavechange that it’s not much good complaining about the health issues if you are a mobile ‘phone user or have WiFi or microwave ovens as they are all the same technology (as are the methods for providing land-line telephone trunk connections, television and radio transmissions.)

Just another wee piece of information just in case you didn’t know, Capita has been awarded the DCC contract through a subsidiary Smart DCC Ltd.

I have some experience working with Capita software development, I once had to raise the point that passwords were being sent in plain text in transmissions of certain data.

That nails it for me!

Additionally the communications contracts for the North and South together will be £1.5BN over 15 years – http://www.computerworlduk.com/news/public-sector/3463967/capita-cgi-and-arqiva-amongst-suppliers-signed-to-build-121bn-smart-meter-grid/

Dave says:
9 December 2013

Thanks David (Ramsey) – the two crucial pieces of information are that Capita (widely known in the IT industry spelled with an extra r after the C, such is their reputation) are the “preferred” bidder and very near the start of the linked article where we have: “The initial costs will be absorbed by the taxpayer, ***as the utility companies refused to pay the smart meter roll-out bill***, despite the perceived benefits for customers and suppliers, like better energy management and less energy waste to help reduce carbon emissions.” Note the part I’ve put inside ***triple asterisks***.

So, Which?, come on, it’s there in print, it’s plain to see, and as you think you’ve just helped to persuade the government to get back a paltry £50 per household off the over-inflated energy bills, which will be given back by virtue of the tax payer again, not the energy companies, let’s see some serious lobbying and major publicity about yet another blatant example of not only energy companies profiteering but also of taxpayers paying over the odds for another government IT plan which has all the hallmarks of failure writ large upon it before it starts.

Actually I posted the URL as it gives financial info but Capita were awarded the contract earlier this year (october I think) BTW its Ramsay!

Matthew says:
9 December 2013

Health is surely more important than costs Wavechange.

Jeffrey Smith Institute for Responsible Technology
“The big ban in Europe over GMO came not from governments but from food companies. In February 1999 a gag order was lifted on a scientist and the scientist was doing research on GMO to figure out a test for the safety.”

“He accidentally discovered that they were extremely dangerous and within 10 days caused massive health problems to rats. He went public with his concerns and was a hero for 2 days at it’s prestigious institute. Phone calls came from the UK Prime Ministers office to the director that ended up causing him to be fired the next day. Silenced with threats of a law suit. The gag order lifted in 1999 by an order of Parliament. A firestorm of media about the health dangers. Within 10 weeks the tipping point of consumer rejection was achieved in Europe.”

“Uni Lever, Nestle, followed by every other food company committed, to not feed Europeans derivatives of GMO. The same companies feed Americans and Canadians and others the derivatives of GMO because we haven’t raised a stink because the information about those health dangers has not been widely circulated on those continents.”

Companies could be putting profits before our health, which is business-as-usual.

Health affects

Health affects

I agree that health is more important than cost, Matthew.

To claim that there is a health issue with smart meters, you need strong evidence and some individual reports and efforts by pressure groups is not enough. It is far better – I believe – to stick to facts that cannot be disputed, such as the huge cost of installing them. In the UK we can opt-out of having a smart meter.

I am opposed to GM plants but I believe that the effect on human health is perhaps an area where the evidence is weakest. After all, most of us are eating some undeclared GM components because there is no requirement to declare them. The manufacturers have said that it is impossible to keep food free from GM. Governments may accept this argument, but I certainly don’t approve of this.

Our understanding moves on. I have in front of me a leaflet produced by the (UK) Department of Health in 2000. It says that “…the UK Chief Medical Officers strongly advise that where children and young people do use mobile phones, they should be encouraged to:
– use mobile phones for essential purposes only
– keep all calls short – talking for long periods prolongs exposure and should be discouraged.

Likewise, at one time the use of GM bacteria and yeasts was considered a considerable threat. Use of these GM organisms in industry is subject to controls but they are used to produce a considerable number of pharmaceutical products. Look at a list of the insulin products prescribed to diabetics, for example, and the majority are produced by GM organisms. But the fact that GM bacteria and yeast have been shown to be safe does not show that genetically manipulated higher organisms such as plants will also be safe. I reckon we are along way off proving that this is the case.

To conclude, I reckon that anyone who wants a smart meter should pay for one.

Dave says:
9 December 2013

Oooh! Sorry David – many apologies for the misspelling.

Must have been watching too much Neighbours! Never mind, when they’ve got SmartMeters in (if they ever manage that) they’ll know what I’m watching and probably even which letter I’m typing and will be able to cut me off for misspelling DumbMeter.

Just came across this paper – http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/Papers/meters-offswitch.pdf

its a nightmare, I tell you all

Here is a MUST READ for you all – http://www.nickhunn.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/11/Smart-Metering-is-FCUKED.pdf

If this doesn’t make Which sit up then I am afraid we are all FCUKED

Derek H says:
11 December 2013

Yes, this does need a serious response – but is anyone at Which? listening anymore ? It would be fascinating to see a point by point response, pointing out any errors or accepting facts/arguments which do stack up. It’s a bit frightening because it sounds like the normal UK shambles.

As each post is approved first then one must assume that someone is still reading this convo

… If it has a URL in it!

Having discussed a letter sent to my aunt telling her a smart meter was going to be jnstalled – ( a statement rather than an option) with her energy supplier. I found out that the smart meters supplied are non standard , if you want to move to another supplier the software will not work thus the smart is no longer smart.. So bang goes your freedom of choice. The government is surely blind and deaf to this problem. Needless to say when the supplier realised they were not just dealing with an elderly lady back down . I told them in no uncertain terms that a smart meter would never be installed in my aunts home until everything is standardised and all health, costs and privacy issues have been resolved

Hi all, just so you’re aware, and apologies for the delayed response, smart meters are very much on our radar. We are still investigating the roll-out and the issues around it. One of the reasons we are doing this is because of the comments you have made. Thanks, Patrick

Patrick, I hope you have read David Ramsay’s recent web references re Smart Grids and vulnerability to cyber-attack. All this is going to happen when the renewables cause power cuts, the eco-hoards delay fracking our technically inept politicians win an election. I will probably be past caring then but my grand-children wont.

Matthew says:
25 June 2014


Makes my urine simmer. She asked a few questions and then pushed some smart meters. “We’ll all have em by 2020 folks”. Who paid her told her to say that.

No we won’t ALL have them as they won’t get me to accept them unless they meet my needs regarding disclosure of software test plans and results along with me being in control as to when I submit my information in bulk every 3 months.

I will NOT have this spy in my home and if the health effects that are being reported even if only my neighbours have them installed and it affects myself or wife then I will take legal action to prevent their use close to our home.

Mike T says:
11 October 2014

There appears to be no sign of the Westminster mob taking any notice of all these very valid comments. We are just being railroaded into this stupid meter. Is it time, general election time, to get this into say UKIP’s agenda?

Matt says:
15 October 2014

UKIP want Thatcherism- they’re an establishment party. Ignore them.
This has to be stopped by homeowners.

In case anyone missed it, David Ramsay posted a very interesting link 10 posts back at 10:26.


A few points from the article:

Ongoing costs as technology quickly goes out of date.

Incompatibility between technologies.

Security – Could a hacker or disgruntled employee switch off large numbers of meters causing damage to the grid and leaving users with no power? Is our data secure?

Too many fingers in a very complex pie.

Problems with radio and wireless.

Set to become the next government IT disaster.

It’s a common observation – smart metering is always greener on the other side of the fence, because savings are a future illusion that can be conveniently massaged to balance the numbers.

In the US and Canada, utilities which have deployed smart meters have publicly stated that their only value has been in detecting illegal cannabis farms; hardly a good reason to blow £11 billion on a national deployment. Surprisingly it’s about the only benefit DECC have not factored in.

Richy walker says:
25 October 2014

What about homes with PV panels? We currently have to send in readings and receive credit for the electricity we generate. Will the new smart meters have the capability to factor in the generation and will this show on the IHD?

I received my copy of the mag today.

What a poor quality of article, most of the concerns in this convo were missed or glossed over.

It has left me feeling exactly as before that Which support the role out unconditionally.

Derek H says:
29 October 2014

I entirely agree. The article was superficial in the extreme and was solely concerned with cost which, while relevant, is not the most important issue. Though the four most important questions, hacking, the technology etc, were raised on page 24 under the heading ‘Your Concerns’ we were simply fobbed off with answers from what I presume is the industry body which were quoted as gospel without comment. Where were the Which? people involved with this matter ? Why were they not investigating and answering ‘our concerns’ ?

Dave D says:
29 October 2014

Absolutely agree with above posts – Which? have never made it sound as though they are interested inthe real concerns and I have always felt that they are puppets ofthe Govt and industry. At the very least this report serves to greatly substantiate that misconception …. IF it is a misconception. Waste of space.

Cynthia Walker says:
2 December 2014

We had a smart meter fitted over 12 month ago by British Gas and we have found it beneficial but low and behold it has stopped working. Phoned British Gas to report it and the first call we made we were told to unplug it and leave it off or 24 hours and it would reset itself, made no difference. Second call we made it turned out that it’s actually a fault with the main meter and it had passed no readings on to them for over two weeks, so we then had to give a gas meter reading and an electricity reading to them so they could prepare a bill as it was due now. It will now be passed to the fault team but she could give no time scale for this, if they can’t fix the problem they will write to inform us that it has become a dumb meter and we will revert back to meter readings manually. So we are now left waiting……all a bit pointless, wish we hadn’t bothered having one.

Smart meters. Why aren’t meters checked regularly by trading standards like petrol pumps and shop scales? If a new meter is fitted then it ought to come fully tested?? Why should you pay to have it tested?

my energy company first utility,asked me to have smart meters fitted,as we have a choice l said no.after seeing a programme on bbc, about smart meters not giving accurate meter readings, l am sticking to my simple and safe meters.

In early February I had a Siemens Electricity smart meter installed through First Utility.
Installation was professionally done and I had been told by FU that after a short delay my usage could be reviewed hourly through an AP on my iPad/Iphone. Well, 1 month later and following numerous calls and promises of call backs, none of which happened. This morning after a further call to FU, I have been told that if I want to view my usage on any thing other than a monthly basis I must buy a wireless monitor from B&Q or a high street DIY store to do it!
In sheer frustration I called Siemens this morning who say give it a month and hopefully the information on line will start to work. What a complete waste of time, I have no faith in the technology and far less in the capability of First Utility to deliver their promises.