Feeds

Gov 'smart meter' plans: Sky box in charge of your house

Smart for energy companies, crippled for users

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Analysis The UK government has unveiled its plans for so-called "smart" energy meters, to be compulsory throughout Blighty in future. The proposed technology appears like excellent news for energy companies, offering them many options to cut costs and perhaps carbon emissions. Chances for consumers to be truly "smart", however, aren't part of the plans - ordinary users are set to remain locked out of the short-term energy market.

The government actually announced plans for universal smart metering last October, but this week has brought us the detail of what Whitehall has in mind. The next stage is a public consultation, in which everybody gets a chance to sound off and - just possibly - get the plans amended. It might be quite a good idea for consumers to do so; thus far it appears that the energy industry's ideas have been listened to. By contrast user groups seem to have focused mainly on the costs of introducing the new kit, rather than what it will actually do.

The actual specs on what the "smart meters" will be like is found at Section 3 of this pdf. The government would like, in outline, to see the following things:

1) Capability for remote meter readings, meaning that energy companies needn't sent out employees to take readings.

2) Two-way communications "between the meter and the energy supplier or other designated market organisation". This would allow "remote configuration and diagnostics, software and firmware changes" - in other words the thing will work like a Sky or TiVo set-top box, under the control of its master authority outside the home.

3) Home-network abilities, allowing an in-home meter display and possibly the ability to watch one's meter reading on other devices such as computers, TVs etc.

4) The ability for energy firms to cut off supplies remotely. Gas meters would probably include a remotely-operable shutoff valve for this purpose.

5) Ability to measure "exported" electricity, as when a house sells 'leccy back to the grid - perhaps from a plugged-in electric car or other storage system. Similarly the meter must be able to work with microgeneration equipment so as to let people sell electricity to the grid.

6) The "ability to remotely [ie from outside the premises] control electricity load for more sophisticated control of devices in the home". The grid authorities already have some ability to "manage demand" - ie ration energy supplies - but they plainly want more tools to this end.

The government sees the meters being under the authority of a central body along the lines of the national grid, rather than by the power companies themselves. However, the central authority would hand off control of various functions to the suppliers, or implement them at the suppliers' request.

So far, it's very much a wish list for the energy companies. They get to lay off all their meter-reading employees, and very probably move to universal, fully automated, paperless billing. Administration attendant on losing or gaining customers, disputes over meter readings, or cutting off those who don't pay becomes hugely simpler for them. This removes a major part of their in-house costs - actual energy generation is usually handled by different companies, or different parts of the same group.

So what's in it for the consumer?

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.