New smart meter tells Brits exactly what they already know
Live 'leccy stats from the cloud to save 'millions'
We're all going to be much richer thanks to British Gas, which will push kit from Cambridge startup AlertMe into 10,000 homes this summer. The rollout will reach the rest of the energy giant's ten million customers in the autumn.
Not that AlertMe is guaranteed to be supplying all the kit, which will integrate with smart meters to display customers' gas and electricity consumption. However, being selected for the trial is a significant win even though the two companies already work together - AlertMe provides 'leccy consumption displays to some British Gas punters.
British Gas, in common with the other UK suppliers, is committed to fitting so-called smart meters to homes over the next seven years. Those meters can be read and controlled remotely, which has sparked some security fears, but AlertMe's touchscreen-fitted component is supposed to be the friendly customer-facing side of the tech: by telling us how much we're using, it's hoped to radically reduce our energy consumption.
"Big data innovation to provide simple, personalised insights, to help consumers save millions on energy bills," says the press release in breathless prose, in the knowledge that the only thing preventing us from switching off lights, or hanging the washing out on a line, is the lack of a Web 2.0 front-end to tell us how much juice we're burning.
"We can take the smart meter information, put it in context and make the most relevant recommendations to help customers make simple decisions that can save them a lot of money," says AlertMe, which also offers a Zigbee-based hub and monitoring plugs (£50 and £25 a pop respectively) that tie into the company's servers (over the user's broadband) for rendering into web browsers or the inevitable iPhone app.
One can't help but notice parallels with the government's vegetable helpline, which was intended to encourage people to eat vegetables but was little used. It turns out that most of us know we should eat more greens and less fat, but we still choose not to. Being reminded about our electricity usage might remind us to cut back, but the monthly bill is often enough for that and it's a game of diminishing returns.
But the government, along with industry, thinks differently and is pinning a lot on the promise of smart consumption monitoring, and if we don't all respond to the gentle chiding of the iPhone app then there's always the smart meter itself which could cut off the supply without so much as a knock on the door. ®
But the government, along with industry, thinks differently.
I not sure the government or industry cares what the customers think. It's being rolled out for their benefit, not ours, and they damn well know.
The rest is just marketing spin to make you think you want it. This prevents the uproar that would otherwise be created by the fact that we've got to pay for something the majority of us really don't need.
I really dispair for the future of the human race sometimes. Any idiot that doesn't have some idea of the relative consumption figures of these devices should be put down for the sake of the human race. I can see it being difficult between like devices, but others.....really. If they can't work out that things with heaters in them (e.g. kettles, washing machines etc.) take more than consumer electronics, they really need shooting.
By the way, all the studies show that energy displays don't work at all. They initially reduce consumption by around 10-20%, then after a period of time (3-12 months depending on customer), it reverts to normal for almost everyone. Only the very diehard greens continue with the reduction. The reason is simple. It's initially a novelty and people like the idea of paying less. However, after a while, people simply get fedup with watching a meter all the time and it dictating their lives, so simply stop. Then, consumption goes back up.
It's all a complete waste of time.
It'll only work when ...
It'll start to have an effect when phase 2 kicks in. What few supporters of the tech are talking about is what smart metering is really there for - demand management. Not persuading us to switch a few lights off etc, but real demand management where people will think twice before putting the oven on for Sunday lunch, or putting a load of washing on.
When all the windmills stop turning (as they do in those calm, bitterly cold spells), and we've no nuclear left, and the coal stations have been shut down to meet EU legislation, and Russia puts it's foot on the gas hose ... Well we'll be short of lecky - anyone else remember the rolling power cuts of the 70's ?
What will happen is that lecky costs will rise - dramatically enough that few will be able to afford to use it. So magically, wind power will still be seen to be working, but only because people have turned everything off and are sitting in the dark. If that fails, then the smart meters allow a more fine grained remote turn off facility that can plunge individual houses into darkness and cold (yes cold, gas is no use if your boiler is switched off - and those with combi boilers will find themselves with no hot water either).
Government claims smart meters won't be compulsory - but I bet the disincentives (by way of vastly overpriced tariffs) to not having one will be huge.