An update on Smart Meters – January 2020
I’m having my house renovated and this requires my incoming electricity cable to be relocated to a new external meter box. The network company will be doing this tomorrow. However, they say they are not allowed to reconnect the smart meter – only the supply company that I pay for electricity can do this. I transferred my account to a new, small supply company some time ago, and when I eventually got through to them, the guy I spoke to didn’t know what to do. I phoned again and clearly he’d put the problem on the ‘too difficult’ pile. After several further calls (all involving long waits on the line) and emails I got through to a helpful girl who said that they needed at least two weeks’ notice. Luckily I had copies of my emails showing they’d had much more than that but hadn’t dealt with it. Now, it seems that they are going to have to call out the meter fitting company as an ’emergency’ as the house will be without heat, light or power once the cable is disconnected.
I’m sure the story can get worse, but fingers crossed that I’m wrong. I wonder if they will fit a SMETS2 meter? I bet they don’t!
Update November 2018:
A recent (Nov 2018) article in ‘Private Eye’ describes the real purpose of ‘smart meters’: they will allow retail electricity pricing to vary every half-hour. The idea is to regulate demand, thereby reducing the need for booster generators and to maximise the use of renewable energy at times when it is most plentiful. For example, you can charge up your electric car or boost your hot water, and are thus storing energy locally, saving the power companies from investing in storage and reducing the peak load on the power grid.
However, there is opportunity for ‘Big Brother’ to probe further into our lives: apparently researchers at Liverpool John Moore University have been looking at usage records and noted that if someone is turning devices on and off randomly, this could be evidence of dementia. Of course, the honest and true person has nothing to fear!
The benefits of Smart Meters?
Back in 2016, Scottish Power bombarded me with material implying that smart meters would be compulsory by 2018 and I should take the opportunity to get one fitted whilst they were ‘in my area’.
There was the usual blather about how quick (no more than an hour or two) and easy it would be to get it fitted and how much money I could save. So, foolishly, I agreed. The fitter came at the time appointed. I’d already emptied the tins, bottles and gadgets from the kitchen cupboard and powered down my computer and network – not particularly quick or easy – so he could get to work immediately. After a while, he didn’t seem to have done much. I think he’d taken out the company’s fuse. The new meter is in a small plastic box which easily fitted into the space on the fuseboard, where there had originally been a large old-fashioned meter. I’d had the consumer unit and wiring replaced not long before, when I’d had my kitchen re-fitted. After quite a while, he fitted the new meter onto the existing tails from the company’s fuse. But something was bothering him. He said he would have to fit new tails, I have no idea why, but I rather felt that he thought it might be possible to somehow bypass the meter. It took an unconscionable time for him to do this, but after elaborately fitting tamper-proof tags onto all the covers, he pronounced himself satisfied. It was time to replace the gas meter, which is in a box outside. This meant taking the box off the wall, which was a big job as a vine had gone behind the box and entwined itself through various holes. After I’d cut the vine off (not his job), the box came off the wall and the meter was replaced. Was that job done? You’re joking!
After doing further elaborate leak tests, which I had to witness and sign for, it was now time to get the gas meter to talk to the electricity meter and for the electricity meter to talk to the remote station, via the GSM network. After fiddling for ages with an app on his mobile, he called ‘Sandra’ at the electricity company, and after a considerable amount of discussion, several long waits and more calls back and forth, it was set up. The ‘One or two hours’ had become four or more hours and he was well late. He needed to get home, so he shoved a badly photocopied sheet of illegible instructions into my mitts and scarpered. I don’t blame him.
Now, I had been assured that this smart meter would save me money. Hundreds of pounds. I don’t know how it was going to achieve this. Instead, it almost cost me a divorce! I said to my partner, ‘Oh, look, that red light shows we are using a lot of electricity’. To which her reply was an uncompromising, ‘Well do you want your dinner, or not?’
In fact, it did show that electricity is only a small part of our energy consumption – it is gas for heating that is the big expense. Well, I already knew that, and had already turned the thermostat down as far as I dare! To some extent, doing that was self-defeating, as we seem to have mysteriously acquired several electric fan heaters and a new duvet!
But at least I wouldn’t have to be bothered by meter-readers, as the energy company would get the readings remotely. Oh yeah?
Within a few days, a meter reader turned up. ‘No, Sir, we have to read your meter regularly, it’s the law!’
Not long after, Scottish Power put their prices up by a serious amount and I decided to shop around. I found a small new supplier who was about the same price as Scottish Power before the price increase. ‘You will have to submit monthly readings, Sir’. ‘No, I have a smart meter, just take the readings from that.’ ‘Sorry, Sir, we don’t do smart meters’. ‘That’s OK, it has already been fitted, you only need to take the readings.’ ‘Sorry, Sir, we don’t have the capability.’
I phoned several other big suppliers, and learned to my disbelief that the smart meters are dedicated to individual suppliers!!!
This is incredible! Since you can save far more money by switching supplier than by taking a cold shower and sitting wrapped in damp towels with a cold supper in a freezing house, why has the government permitted this massive disincentive to switching? What a con. And the cost has been foisted on us, the consumer! I’m aware that there is supposed to be an upgrade ‘in the future’, but this has already been delayed twice and given the trouble that the fitter had, will it even work?
For a while after switching, I was still able to get the meter readings from the ‘in-house display’ but now the gas meter reading is not changing. So I have to go outside, open the meter box and try to find the meter reading. On the old meter, there was a big, bold, cyclometer display, unmistakeable even in the dark. The new meter has a tiny LCD display that seems to show a lot of gibberish. It has left and right cursor buttons but it is entirely unclear what they do or what the display shows. After a few random presses, I found a number that looked like a plausible meter reading (see the image above) and sent that off to the company. No doubt the burly meter reader will be round before long. We’ll see what he says.
How can the government get away with this? We’re mugs!