Feeds

Stop this energy smart meter 'fiasco', UK.gov urged

Miliband's mandatory kill switches criticised

High performance access to file storage

So-called 'smart meters' are under renewed attack – this time from MPs and Which? magazine, which has recommended a halt to the programme.

Later in the week the Public Accounts Committee is expected to be critical of the ambitious scheme, which comes at a high (£11bn+) cost to consumers, and which critics say is based on shaky maths.

Labour leader Ed Miliband ordered the programme as one of his final gifts to the nation as Energy Secretary. It involves replacing all 53 million gas and electricity meters at UK homes and businesses. The new wireless devices, which call home, are touted as an environmental benefit.

But their sole advantage is strategic: they provide power companies with a remote 'kill switch' to the home. The Climate Change Committee report of a year ago noted that: "Meters will allow supply to be controlled remotely." And don't imagine this is some unfounded scaremongering: it's official.

The bureaucratic euphemism for this shortfall is 'energy unserved', and beginning in five years, the blackouts will begin. Three thousand megawatt hours of energy unserved, which is the shortfall predicted for 2017, means a city the size of Manchester will face a 15-minute blackout every winter night for a month.

When to expect cuts: estimating the UK's "energy unserved" (Source: DECC)

Which? has found that people don't trust the power meters, fearing a lock to a single supplier. It wants the programme halted until the costs can be better estimated. Last year the National Audit office cast doubt about its cost and effectiveness. It also cast doubt on the 'green' case for smart meters.

According to proponents, the new meters give the householder more information, and therefore reduce overall power demand. Forty per cent of the final guesstimated saving is said to come from this kind of behaviour – the rest comes from laying off human meter readers. It's essential to switch demand from peak to off-peak times. But not everybody can afford to monitor the usage on this kind of obsessive level, for example. They don't have the time or ideological commitment to count every milliwatt.

In addition, most domestic power goes on heating and cooking, and is therefore essential. The NAO found that conservation, the biggest selling point of the new meters, is unproven. The NAO identified "uncertainty, based on the evidence available so far, about the extent to which smart meters will result in changed energy use by consumers over a sustained period." The pilot didn't demonstrate value for money, the NAO noted at the time. Even DECC's own figures estimate a saving of just £23 a year by 2020, which doesn't take into account rises in energy bills.

So here we are, and it looks very much like the ID Card scheme all over again: a vast top-down technocratic exercise based on dubious cost estimates. Alas, when the Coalition took power, it vowed to accelerate the programme, rather than scrap it. But it's fortunate so far, in that the only significant public opposition to smart meters worldwide has come from the tinfoil hat brigade, fretting about 'electrosmog'. Isn't freezing the poor to death a rather stronger argument against them? ®

Andrew welcomes your mail.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.