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Over 30 years Experience in Home Technology!

    The Hidden Problems With Smart Meters....
by: Rod Buck
What Are Smart Meters?
You may have been told by your gas or electricity supplier that they are coming to install a "Smart" meter in your property. The stated purpose of these is that you will be able to see at a glance how much you are using, and as the meter can communicate through the Internet, there will be no more "estimated" bills.
Smart Meter
Sounds a Good Idea?
That would seem to be a good idea, wouldn't it? No more estimated bills, and and no nasty surprises when the Real readings catch up with the Estimated amounts that you have been paying.

The Hidden Nasty Surprises!

However, there are some hidden functions in these meters, (and some major problems with the design and operation of them) which the Government and the Suppliers have kept VERY quiet about, and from everything I have seen, I believe it is NOT in your interest to allow one to be fitted in your home.

Let's first deal with the technical problems, then we'll get onto the sinister design purposes of these things.

If You Change Suppliers, Your Smart Meter May Not Work...

There is no rule forcing suppliers to use the same design or type of meter, so if your supplier fits a smart meter, it does not have to fit one compatible with other suppliers. This may make changing suppliers that much more difficult - it will mean at least a year of Estimated bills, while you wait for your new supplier to change the meter to one that suits THEM.

Now, I ask you, does your Supplier WANT you to change to a rival? Nope. So, do they have a strong incentive to fit a meter unique to themselves, which will make your switching difficult? Yes!

Many Older Smartmeters Will NOT Work At All, Anyway!

At the start of the campaign to have Smart Meters, the Government were in such a hurry to get the system going that they opted for an early off-the-shelf technology or Type 1 meter.

Why were they in such a rush?

They could see power cuts looming up because of daft windmill policies and the premature EU-forced closure of coal-fired power stations - and Smart Meters were a devious part of their solution - although, like the EU, the supposed "benefits" were advertised, but the real purpose has been kept hidden - see below.

After about a million of the old Type 1 meters were installed, but then they were superseded by the later, more hi-tech Type 2 meters. Now that the data wireless network that the meters talk to has been built, it turns out (April 2017) that the network will not actually talk to Type 1 meters, so they are essentially useless!

All type 1 meters will have to be ripped out and replaced, at a cost of over a Billion pounds!

This may make the whole daft and devious scheme unaffordable, thank goodness.

And if you wonder why i say that's a good thing, carry on reading, below to see why....

Do You NEED to watch Your Consumption Constantly?

Watching your consumption minute-by minute may thrill Government Ministers, but most of us have a LIFE to get on with. All the trials of these meters have proved that, after the first week or two, when curiosity wanes, people stop watching their usage completely.

After all, what can you do to reduce what you use? Only change your appliances for new expensive "Energy-Rated" ones, and how often can you afford to do that? Most of us aren't wasteful in the first place. We need to run the fridge, the freezer, the central heating pump, regardless. We need to do the ironing when we need to do it... After changing your old light bulbs for LED ones, which use only about 8% of the electricity, there's not much else you can do to reduce bills without expensively changing your appliances...

(Unless you do what I do, and many others do, get an Economy 7 meter, and run your washing machine and dishwasher on night time electricity at 7p/unit instead of daytime at 17p/unit. There is a built-in timer in most washers etc that helps you do this. Saves a FORTUNE, as these things use the most electricity by far of anything you have)

So, what's the point of these new meters?

Other Problems with Smart Meters...
Security is Poor
The system is very far from secure - weak encryption and no definition of who can, and cannot, access your meter. It could be hacked, and your supply turned off maliciously.

I understand all meters use the same password, so anyone who knows that password can presumably hack into YOUR meter with a little effort. I surely don't need to spell out all the problems with THAT?
Burglars' Delight!
Here's one to make you think: If you meter is hacked, and someone - ANYONE can find out your current consumption and patterns of consumption, then it is easy to work out when your house is empty - when you are out at work, or (even better) away on holiday!

This ability is a burglar's delight - imagine being able to tell exactly WHICH properties are unoccupied! Almost as good a giveaway as those people that put up notices on Facebook telling everyone they are away in Lanzarote for two weeks. They wouldn't do it if they realised how easy it is to find out someone's real address - as stalkers have done for years now.

But in the case of a Smart Meter, they will have your address, too.... by the way, it need not be a hacker penetrating your meter - just a dishonest employee of the Supplier... who can access the info about useage very easily, and has your address - to pass on to his burglar mates for a slice of the action? Under the old meter system, there is no point, but with a Smart Meter, there is that vital info about whether you are at home or not. Got to be worth maybe £100 a pop... the burglar can avoid any suspicious lurking about the address, trying to establish whether it's empty or not. (This often attracts attention). He can just roll up, acting as a delivery man, or whatever.. and - straight in.

I am REALLY surprised no one in Government has thought of this before propounding such as dangerous scheme. Mind you, they are politicians, a bit much to ask common sense from them, isn't it?
You Will Be Drowned In Marketing Junk
Your supplier will probably be allowed to use the data collected from your meter for Sales and Marketing purposes - and, as they probably have your mobile and email details, and certainly your address, you are setting yourself up for a blizzard of marketing blurb hitting your phone, computer, and letterbox.

Indeed, the Government has just announced that anyone who has NOT switched suppliers in 3 years will be placed on a list of non-switchers, and this list will be given to all energy suppliers to help them market their schemes to you. It is very difficult to opt out of this system.

So, be prepared for a deluge of marketing guff, courtesy of your smart meter! The Government and other suppliers will know exactly what you use, how you use it, when you use it, and when you changed suppliers last.

I don't know about you, but I don't WANT everyone and his wife knowing all my personal business, and sending me a stream of regular junk mail telling me that I could save XXX on my gas and electricity if only I did XYZ...

Do You? Anyway, the last time I switched suppliers, it was a nightmare of reams of bills, estimated bills, repeated meter readings, (which no one seemed to take any notice of), letters, phone calls, and God knows What, that went on for about 6 months. Ending in a surprise bill for £400 six months after I thought it was all settled - which I promptly got cancelled.

(My personal recommendations are: Have NOTHING to do with Utility Warehouse (which is a Multi-level selling scheme, and which got all my bills wrong, besides charging me twice what they estimated), and on the other side of the coin, do try Co-op Energy, which have been, for me, miles cheaper, as well as answering the phone swiftly, and in English (and NOT in Bangalore, after 15 minutes of wading through phone menus, either!).

I can't believe the Government are organising things so that it's almost impossible for you to avoid this deluge of junk mail, all because you are satisfied with your supplier! But they ARE, and one prime way to frustrate them is to refuse a smart meter.
What's NOT a Problem With Smartmeters?
There are scaremongers out there that claim these meters are a health hazard, because they "emit copious amounts of radiation". Cobblers. They are similar to an Internet Router, Mobile Phone, or other UHF wireless device. There is no measurable health hazard. Have you noticed all the hooha about "Mobile Phone Masts" and "Radiation" has died down? Yep, that's because people have conspicuously NOT been dropping in the streets like flies, as predicted by the alarmists. It's nonsense.

TV transmitter engineers and mobile phone transmitter engineers have been exposed to FAR more of this "radiation" than anyone, for 60 years now, and they have NO higher death or ill-health rate than anyone else. (Well, they fall off the masts from time to time, and that tends to be fatal, but its nothing to do with the "radiation".)
Now What About The Sinister Purposes I Mentioned?
This is where it gets more than a little creepy.

It is all about the innocent-sounding phrase "DEMAND MANAGEMENT"

This all goes back to our old friends, the Green lobby, who have managed to get all our cheap, efficient coal-fired power stations to close in the next few years - followed by many of our ageing Nuclear stations (which are already 7-8 years past their design life).

We are, apparently, going to get our power from clean, safe Renewable sources, like Wind, Solar, etc.

This neglects the obvious fact that the wind doesn't blow WHEN we need it, and the sun certainly doesn't shine WHEN we need it either. In fact, in winter, the solar panels will be useless after 4pm, as the gloom gathers, just when everyone is going home and needing the power on to cook tea, put the telly on, and sit back with our feet up.

The cruel fact is that, even if we carpeted the WHOLE country with windmills, and replaced HALF our arable land with solar farms, it will not come anywhere NEAR replacing only two of our major power stations, let alone supply the nation's needs. Unless there is a rapid dash to build gas-fired power stations soon, then power cuts are almost inevitable in the next 5 years, as the coal and Nuclear stations are turned off.
Isn't This Criminally Stupid?
Yes, it is, because even if we had enough generating capacity from Renewables, we have absolutely NO storage capacity. We need storage if we are to rely on intermittent supplies like wind and solar - because they aren't there when we need them!

For example, in a typical winter "high pressure" weather system, such as we have just had in mid-March 2016, as I write this, there are very light winds, and thick overcast and cloudy skies that severely reduce the output of solar panels - they will produce only 10% of their possible power in these conditions. And the same goes for windmills in light winds.

These high pressure conditions can last for WEEKS. So if we rely on wind and solar to generate electricity, what is going to keep the lights on if wind and solar power are not there because of the weather?
Demand Management!
The answer, which the Government, and the suppliers (and particularly the Green lobby!) have kept very quiet about is Demand Management.

This is techno-speak for Charging You More At Peak Times, and Cutting You Off When There Isn't Enough Power. The Smart Meter is designed to split the day up into 15-minute segments, and charge you more - LOTS more - for electricity you use at peak periods. Like 7am-9am, when people are getting ready for work, and 5-8pm, when they are coming home, showering, and cooking their meal.

The meters also have the facility - you'll LOVE this - to CUT YOU OFF if there isn't enough power to go round.
Government Incompetence - And You Get the Blame!
Yes, can you believe it? Thanks to YEARS of Government incompetence, in that they should have been commissioning new Nuclear stations to generate carbon-free power 20 years ago - (if you believe carbon is the problem - I, and lots of scientists and economists don't). And they should have been planning lots of baseload gasfired stations to replace coal, again years ago, as gas stations generate much less carbon.

Governments did NONE of these things, and are now waking up to the fact that there are going to be severe power shortages. So, they aim to blame YOU for wanting such unreasonable things as a hot shower and a cooker that works when you need it to.

So, they are going to use Smart Meters to achieve this blame-shifting by charging you maybe ten times as much for power you use at peak times, in an effort to force you to alter your life habits to keep the lights on. And if that doesn't work, they can send commands out to the meters to CUT YOUR POWER OFF! For how long? Depends on the situation. Might be as little as 15 minutes, might be several hours.
Pay Extra To Stay Connected?
This ability of the supplier to cut you off, or overcharge you at certain peak times, (when you most need the power, like getting ready for work, or arriving home and making tea) leads to another rather-creepy possibility:
Bribe Your Supplier To Avoid Cuts!
If the supplier can charge you extra, or cut you off, at any time of day, what else can they do?

Well, for one, they could sell a Gold membership - where you pay extra, say 200 a year, and are then immune from power cuts or overcharges!

This is more than a little disturbing, and hardly seems fair either, and, no supplier has ANNOUNCED any such scheme, but you can bet your boots they've THOUGHT about it! I'm a businessman, and I saw the possibilities as soon as I heard about what Smart Meters could do.

I used to be on Dating Sites a few years back, and this was a common pricing strategy on there. Pay a Gold membership (twice as much) and you get all sorts of advantages - more prominent listing, better-selected profiles of more-attractive women, (who had ALSO paid extra!) etc, etc.

Now, if Dating services can offer you extra if you pay more, I don't see why Gas and Electricity suppliers wouldn't think of it too. After all, Internet providers like Plusnet, Talktalk, Virgin, BT, all offer you tariffs where if you pay more, you get more data allowed, and faster traffic rate.

They also, if you pay more, make you immune from "throttling" - the practice of reducing people's data rate (how many Megabits per second) in the evenings, when demand is highest. What? You didn't know they do this? Yep, they do! And they allow you to escape from throttling if you pay more.

So why wouldn't your Gas and Electricity supplier do the same?

But, remember, you can prevent your supplier using this strategy on you if you DON'T HAVE A SMART METER IN THE FIRST PLACE!
Tell Them To Get Lost!
If you refuse to have a smart meter, you frustrate these plans to overcharge you, and cut you off at peak times.
What if They Get your Bill Wrong?
Suppliers are notorious for making billing mistakes, and demanding huge amounts from people when they are based on Estimated readings, or maybe erroneous actual readings (my meter reader once made a typo on my gas meter entry, and they charged me 1750, out of the blue!).

At the moment, if your supplier goes so far as to want to cut you off, they have to ask for entry to your property to do it. Or ask for a warrant from the magistrates, which you can challenge.

So, you are in a fairly strong negotiating position. It's a LOT of hassle for them to cut you off.
But If You Have A Smartmeter, They Can Cut You Off Remotely!
Yes, if you have a smartmeter, they can press a button back in Billing, and cut you off until you pay up! Given THAT sort of power, do you think they are going to listen to your point of view about how they got your bill wrong?

No, me neither.

So why on Earth would ANYONE in their right mind WANT a smartmeter?
Are You Allowed to Refuse a Smart Meter?
Yes, you are! You can insist on retaining a Dumb meter, or, if they no longer do them, a Smart Meter with all the Smart features disabled.

A government code of practice, rolled out in July 2013, sets out the minimum standards that energy suppliers have to follow when installing smart meters into customer's homes.

The code allows you to make choices on how much data your energy supplier collects from your smart meter; whether your supplier shares details about your energy consumption with other organisations; and whether your supplier can use your meter readings for sales and marketing purposes.
What if My Supplier Says I HAVE To Have One?

They will probably do this - and they will move heaven and Earth to try and convince you that it is compulsory -

"It's a Government scheme - you have to have one"
is what friends of mine were told.

However, you just have to point out the Code of Practice of 2013 gives you the right to refuse. I would tell them that on the phone, and follow it up with a Recorded Delivery letter refusing consent to have your meter changed.

Some years ago, we had the old Off-Peak meter, where not only did you get a much cheaper overnight rate - cheaper than Economy 7 - but you also got an afternoon boost from 1:30pm - 4:30pm, which nicely topped up your Nightstore heaters (remember them?) for the evening.

One day, out of the blue, engineers arrived to "change your meter mate, for a new one".

I had been warned about this by friends, who had allowed it to be changed, and had been then put onto Economy 7, paying a higher rate for off-peak power, but also losing the afternoon boost!

I refused politely, and sent them away. They protested that they HAD to change it. In fact, I found out later they got a bonus payment for every one changed, as the electricity company gained a lot financially from the change. For the next 2 years, we had a BARRAGE of letters, phone calls, and unannounced visits, all trying to "Change Your Meter". I had to warn my wife to call me instantly if anyone got too threatening, so I could dash home and send them packing. In the end, we threatened to call police if they carried on hassling us.

As will happen to you now, they had NO power to FORCE us to change, but tried their best to convince us we HAD to accept the new meter with the new tariff.

My advice to you is: refuse, and keep refusing. It's in your interest to do so.



For Further Information...

Call me on: 0114-287-8936 or 07971-846-153 for a chat, or email me on telespeed@tspd.org.uk

Rod Buck

Rod Buck

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