Smart Meters - should we be so excited

So, I love a gadget as much as the next man, and was rather keen on the idea of a smart meter. However, as time’s passed, I realise that there’s no point for me - I keep my usage as low as I can, and no amount of feedback is likely to influence that any further. And, while the idea of remote reading is cool and makes sense, it really is no effort to submit a monthly reading.

The other big influencer on me has been the cost. Yes, no customer is directly charged for the switch, but the overall cost will be charged back to customers. That’s the big con - as one who will not have a smart meter, I’ll be paying for those that do. :confused:

And interesting to read the reports this week about the cost savings being over-stated and the costs being much higher than expected, this does appear to be building up to be a real loss to the customer.

I’m still a happy Bulb customer - both the prices and customer service are ace - but the Smart Meter mania is definitely not for me. Am I the only one?

I guess it depends on how easy your meters are to access. In my previous house they were both next to each other in a cupboard next to the front door, but I’ve previous lived in a flat where you had to go down into a dark basement (with no light) and get into the meter cupboard which was invariably locked and although our flat key was supposed to open it, it didn’t. Smart Meters would have been wonderful in this situation.

I am coming from a household that has Smart Meters and I will miss the functionality, using the In-Home Display regularly to realise that the missus has left her straighteners on, etc.

I’m definitely a fan, but can appreciate they’re not for everyone!

Hi @Alec - they will definitely reduce our costs with regards to dealing with issues created by a lack of readings, or incorrect readings. They will also be a great thing for people who struggle to read meters or don’t want to. But they are expensive. The bigger picture has to be active demand management, which will allow consumers to schedule usage for particular times to save money according to the demand on the grid. I’m not sure how soon this will appear in practice, but it opens up a range of possibilities for better management of energy demand. We have waited for 2nd gen so they are at least switchable, the current ones seem to be a waste on that front.

It was reported today to say the savings to customers possibly isn’t as great as was anticipated, only about £11 per year.

And there’s the rub - high costs (which all customers are paying for, despite the "it’s free” claims) producing negligible savings. Just doesn’t stack up for me…

I will await the 2nd generation unit before agreeing installation .

I'm still a happy Bulb customer - both the prices and customer service are ace - but the Smart Meter mania is definitely not for me. Am I the only one?

I am with you on this one. I have never from a customer point of view understood the enthusiasm they have gained other than marketing hype. I guarantee a smart meter would not save me a single penny. Like a few members on here I have monitored my utilities for a few years now.

Going off topic but if the dots get joined we could be putting ourselves into a sticky corner,the technology of today may be clever but we could be heading to a very much more controlling environment taking this scenario.
Internet banking…they can turn off your access to money remotely, think Cyprus and the recent nationwide banking disaster.
Smart meters could be turned off.
Mobile phones can be turned off remotely as they have done previously to stop communications during riots.
Internet can be turned off or heavily controlled as they have done in Turkey.
So at the flick of a switch we have no access to money no heating and no communications. As the saying goes “be careful what you wish for”

Am I the only one?
Certainly not. It's a typical government IT fiasco, with a current estimate of c. £20 billion. :o It's a networked system running on software - ergo - it's going to be hacked. For a fraction of the cost, households with inaccessible meters, or those with meters in a locked basement etc, could be provided with non-networked meters that transmitted readings to a portable device in the home.

Apparently there is a ‘waiting list’ of customers who have requested smart meters. To save future unnecessary communications, might I suggest that we also have the opportunity to register as non-participants?

I definitely agree with the point made by @scudo that many people, who have a keen eye on their utilities, may not experience a direct cost saving due to usage reduction.

There’s an additional point to be made regarding the benefits to the grid, by opening up the possibility of knowing when in the day electricity is used. With the integration of renewables on the grid, and the integration of EV vehicles charging from the network, there is a real need to incentivise electricity usage at ‘off-peak’ hours.

Whilst this won’t manifest necessarily in a direct cost saving for a consumer, it does represent a large cost-avoidance. Without these measures, the distribution and load balancing costs of the grid would grow massively and without the smoothing of the demand curve this would manifest as higher bills for everyone.

I also dont care for the in home display. Current smart meters have the capability to remotely shut off utilities. Sure the energy supplier will say we’ll never switch you off but the capability is definitely there.

I’ve heard of gen 1 meters being interfered with by Led bulbs and all of my bulbs in the house are now led it smart lights.

I don’t mind the fact that my current usage is being sent directly to energy generators so they can better understand current usage of the nation. But for me. I definitely don’t want such a critical utility in the hands of someone else.

I've heard of gen 1 meters being interfered with by Led bulbs and all of my bulbs in the house are now led it smart lights.
The issue is not so much LEDs, but how some meters were measuring power.

I know the story you’re referring to though and it was abroad rather than the UK. No meters being installed in the UK have been found to have such problems AFAIK.

The technicalities of the issue is that there’s a difference between apparent power and true power. All UK meters should measure true power, which measures both the voltage and the current at any time. Cheap LEDs often use capacitive dropper supplies which create a much larger apparent power draw than their “actual” true power draw. Better LEDs are generally less of an issue.
(https://learn.openenergymonitor.org/electricity-monitoring/ac-power-theory/introduction)

Some commercial meters measure apparent power and suppliers sometimes charge extra if the power factor drops too low. A very low power factor for a large power draw can have an effect on the stability of the grid.

Smart meters can, and still could be, a big positive for UK energy, but I’m a little annoyed at the Government and the industry for not seeing their potential early enough. I’ve seen the following issues reported:

  1. The first gen meters will stop working correctly if the household switches supplier, even though the Government started encouraging households to switch supplier not long after the first meters were rolled out. The legislation did not account for this and as such you could argue that the first gen meters are a complete waste of time and money.
  2. The second generation meters have been delayed and I think this may mean some suppliers struggle to meet the 2020 deadline.
  3. Some suppliers have mis-sold the smart meter, e.g. telling people they have to have them, which isn’t true.
  4. Some suppliers sub-contracted the meter installation and it has been reported that units have been installed dangerously and have caused electrical fires.
  5. The message of their benefits has been oversimplified by the industry and Government which can make people think that just having them installed will save them money, which is obviously nonsense.

Each of these issues combined has reduced public confidence. Nonetheless I still think they are worthwhile, and the push towards renewable energy will see their true benefits. I think each of the issues above is already someway to being sorted out, and hopefully people will embrace their benefits, which are:

  1. No need for meter readings
  2. More information about when and how energy is being used. This can be used by households to help reduce energy consumption in the future by changing use of existing appliances (don’t fill the kettle, put clothes on the line when it’s sunny etc), work out how which devices are most energy intensive and buy more efficient ones next time they are due to be changed (white goods in particular give the biggest wins here) - this will over time save households money
  3. Different tariff possibilities (e.g. British Gas Freetime which gave free energy on weekends if you have a smart meter), hopefully legislation will allow many different possibilities here for every shape of household and business.

There are more possibilities but it really depends on how the sector uses the devices in future.