Smart meter offer roll-out over next ten years

  TopCat® 22:15 21 Nov 2007

is promised by the government. Will record daily power use between supplier and consumer where, in a two year trial by Ofgem, reasonable consumer savings have been made with a little thought. The article - click here - states these meters will be offered but I think they should be made compulsory for every home and business. There's no mention of charging for each one fitted, but I'll be most surprised if there isn't one.

Would you take up the offer? I certainly will if I get the chance. TC.

  realist 23:45 21 Nov 2007

Well, if everyone had one of these the TV Licensing people could scrap their Detector Vans.

It's the electronic equivalent some nosey-parker Government inspector knocking on the front door to tell us to turn down the central heating, but then I gather Gordon has plans to send a real inspector from his proposed "Green Homes Service" to tell us to do that anyway!

  jack 09:40 22 Nov 2007

'There's no mention of charging for each one fitted, but I'll be most surprised if there isn't one. '

If it costs - we pay one way or the other.
Switch some appliances off from stand by makes sense
However not all recorder type devices have the necessary back up battery's to retain settings if the power is off- so until that aspect is universally adopted there will be some left on stand by all the time.

  skeletal 11:39 22 Nov 2007

Oh dear, here we go again; a true story in basis, but so many distortions as the true facts get passed around that you don’t know what to believe.

Here are the facts about smart meters:
1. Smart meters you hear about are invariably electric; gas ones are much harder to do, but are very slowly appearing. Some are new technology and will require much testing. Initially, it is likely that a gas smart meter will be an existing technology meter fitted with an “add-on” device that will either talk to a local smart electric meter, or directly via mobile phone technology, to a data collection agency.
2. Some countries already have them (i.e. electric), but their infrastructure is totally different from the UK. Other countries have a single energy supplier (remember the “Gas Board” and “Electricity Board”?) which means they can use a single technology that is universal over the entire country, or a large area of a country. We have competition in the UK, so you may get your energy from E.ON, but your neighbour from nPower. Technologies that use Power Line Carrier, or Mesh networks rely on a concentration of the same equipment; this cannot be guaranteed in the UK.
3. The idea that such meters are “spies” is utter and total nonsense.
4. There is no way a current smart meter will determine what equipment is currently switched on. I’m interested in the prototype mentioned in the BBC link and will investigate further. I suspect it collects data from local transducers attached to the cables of key appliances. Even if it is all true, it won’t appear as part of an integrated meter for a long time.
5. Current smart meters can transmit overall consumption data, usually by low power radio, to a home display unit (HDU). This can help a consumer see when there a periods of high energy usage. Data transmitted to the data collector may be presented on a web site for the consumer to examine in more detail.
6. There is much hype about how much energy such meters will save. They will not save a penny; what they will do is indicate to a consumer their usage which in turn will enable them to modify their behaviour (e.g. turn off rather than standby). I estimate this will reduce energy usage by around three percent overall (i.e. nothing like “30%”!).
7. Electric smart meters have the ability to measure export, but people are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think they will be able to sell electricity from their B&Q windmill to the grid. Even sillier is the notion that a gas smart meter will enable you to export gas into the grid (it has been talked about!).
8. One great thing about them is the ability to have a more accurate bill, possibly every month. This will be an end to the outrageous estimated bills.
9. The other thing they will do is enable multiple, and time shifting, tariffs. Thus, if it is known that a cold snap is approaching and there is a big footy match on that will cause a power surge at its end, it is possible a message can be sent to the HDU warning consumers that the price of electricity will rise on the evening of xxDec. Thus, consumers will not turn on, say a tumble drier in that time period. This will offset the higher base load due to the weather, and the peak of the match can be met from current generation, rather than require the need to bring on the more expensive short term generators to cope.
10. The meters are more expensive. It is likely they will be installed in the same way as current meters (i.e. you are unlikely to be asked to pay £100 when the meter man comes to exchange your meter) and, yes, in the final analysis, the consumer will pay by a slightly increased charge somewhere.
11. I hope that pre-payment meter functionality will be simplified. This type of consumer will be able to purchase credits via the mobile phone network. This is a massively complex area, not only technically, but also socially. Because PP meters are much more expensive currently, we have the irony that the most vulnerable members of society paying more for their energy.

Hope this helps!


  TopCat® 13:47 22 Nov 2007

You've certainly put some meat on the bones of this story with your clarification! :o)

Whenever this roll-out commences, I hope the powers that be come up with an intelligent, sensible system that meets every requirement for all consumers. They need to get this right from day one! TC.

  skeletal 14:27 22 Nov 2007

It is certainly the intention to have an easy to understand system. However, you would not believe how hard it is to make something simple!!

As just one simple(??!!) example, we are currently trying to decide the best way to demonstrate how much energy a consumer is using. A really simple idea is three LEDs, so green is hardly any energy, amber middling, and red lots. However, if you own a really big house with a heated swimming pool, your green would be a small house’s red!

Or, perhaps you relate today’s usage with yesterday’s. So if, today, you use less than yesterday, you would show green; but would you do that and re-calculate every 6 minutes to compare with yesterday’s six minutes, or an hour, or based on a whole day? If you bring gas into it, if you demand a reading every six minutes (to transmit via low power radio to the HDU) you will put a high demand on the battery (the big problem with gas is you need its smart functions to be battery powered). Our current thinking is that gas consumption may be updated half hourly as a compromise since, mostly, gas appliances react much more slowly to consumer input e.g. if you reduce your thermostat by one degree, you would not see an instant reduction in gas.

Or, how about a bar graph? Good, but one we are looking at ATM, has a log scale; we understand that, but are questioning whether an “average” consumer knows what a log scale is.

And so on...!!

Actually, if anyone starts getting interested in this thread, I would welcome any thoughts on user may get what you want (or not as the case may be!!!).


  VCR97 20:17 22 Nov 2007

One thing which has always puzzled me is why meters are always assumed to be accurate. Mine is around thirty years old and has never had a calibration check.

  skeletal 21:29 22 Nov 2007

I can speak more for gas meters than electric (but I believe electric is not too far removed from my comments). They are surprisingly accurate over the long term but can, and do slowly drift. The various meters are sample tested on a continuous basis and statistical methods are used to pick up problems, so, if batch XYZ from manufacture ABC has too many “dodgy” meters they will be replaced.

Also, meters are replaced on an age basis, but the population is so large that there will always be some that are older than they should be.

Some industrial type meters can still be in perfect working order, and still well within calibration after 25-30 years. In rare cases (i.e. someone forgot to put oil in (industrial only, not domestic)) a meter can be wrecked in days. Given they can be up to £10,000, it’s a mistake you don’t want to make too often.

Any consumer can request a meter check, but if it proves OK (which it will most of the time) the consumer has to pay for the test. A faulty meter will be replaced and the test will be non-chargeable.

The proposed smart meter roll-out will mean it likely that the meter population will be, at least in part, renewed. This is, surprisingly, not easy to predict right now, as some technologies being tested can be used with an existing meter.

Apart from the technical issues I highlighted earlier, there are complex commercial issues as well. It may be cheaper to completely replace a meter, or update part of it. This will depend, amongst other things, on the meter’s expected life.


  VCR97 20:25 23 Nov 2007

Thanks for that. I keep a watch for any readings which seem unusual.

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