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NOW CLOSED Fancy seeing if you and your family could save energy? Sign up to try smart meters from British Gas - £100 for taking part!

(48 Posts)
KatieBMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 28-Jun-13 16:20:54

We're looking for 3 families to experience first-hand British Gas smart meters over three months, to see if you could cut down the energy you use.

Here's what British Gas say: "Smart meters by British Gas help customers transform their relationship with energy. This is because they come with a handy smart energy monitor that shows the energy you're using as you use it. Gas and electricity consumption is shown in pounds & pence, kWh/CO2 and can be tracked over time. Being in control of your energy use can help you make choices to cut down on waste and monitor how you improve on energy efficiency.

"Upgrade to smart meters has been adopted by the UK Government as a way of helping consumers have more control over their energy use and spending, while also helping meet environmental and security of energy supply objectives. The programme aims to install smart meters in all homes in Britain by 2020. British Gas is leading the way in upgrading customers to smart meters and helping them enjoy their benefits as soon as possible."

For this project, we're specifically looking for families whose house can be upgraded to smart meters - this means each family must fulfil the following criteria:

- Live in a house with credit meters (not pre-payment or Economy 7 meters)
- Have both gas and electricity accounts with British Gas
- Live in an area that has a strong mobile network signal
- Have a meter that is easily accessible (e.g not located behind kitchen units, walls or any other immovable object)

Please only sign up if you fit the criteria outlined above.

The selected families will be asked to add feedback to a thread on Mumsnet over a three month period. Each month you and your family will be set a new challenge to change one habit in your energy consumption and report back on how you're finding it.
Every MNer who takes part and who adds at least 3 sets of feedback will receive a £100 John Lewis voucher as a thank you.

So, if you'd like to take part and believe you might be eligible to have smart meters installed, please sign up here.
We will be in touch with those selected in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks and good luck,

MNHQ

PS - even if you're not selected you can apply for your own British Gas smart meter here

Indith Fri 28-Jun-13 17:23:55

sad no gas in my village.

Tianc Fri 28-Jun-13 17:40:56

You don't need a smart meter to monitor your energy consumption.

You can just get a clip-on monitor like these, which not only display your usage but in some cases can download the data to your PC.

Smart meters are not about showing you your energy consumption. They are about giving the utility company more control of your home.

Among other things, they are reprogrammable. Which has several bad effects.

One is that if you dispute a bill, the utility company can switch you over to pre-payment without your permission and without having to convince a magistrate that they're behaving sensibly. (See multiple MN threads about utility companies including British Gas charging people £££££ and refusing to accept they've made a mistake.)

But more fun, they are reprogrammable in a variety of ways via an ordinary mobile phone SIM (which is why BG are demanding mobile coverage). Which means they can be broken into by a hacker simply dialling the number. Once the installed base is large enough, smart meters will be ideal for cyber attacks. And of course they're vulnerable to ordinary software glitches, like last year's Natwest/RBS/Ulster Bank debacle.

More info, mostly from the Dept of Energy and Climate Change's own documentation, on this thread: Anyone having a gas/leccy meter replaced with a Smart Meter? Something you need to know.

Tigerbomb Fri 28-Jun-13 20:27:43

There is absolutely no way I would have a SMART meter in my house

Blimey shock

Jellykat Fri 28-Jun-13 22:51:53

Agree with Tianc and Tigerbomb

LoveBeingUpAt4InTheMorning Sat 29-Jun-13 02:37:59

But can you refuse to have one?

CairngomRockHunter Sat 29-Jun-13 05:39:51

Not for me thanks. I have read too much negative information about them.

Prawntoast Sat 29-Jun-13 07:16:03
Tee2072 Sat 29-Jun-13 08:03:55

This does not sound good. 2020 is not that far away, either...

Prawntoast Sat 29-Jun-13 08:24:32

the article I linked to stated it would be voluntary, hmmm we'll see. I hadn't realised about the security issues until I read the thread that tianc linked to. I can't think of any real advantages for us in having these in our homes.

mercibucket Sat 29-Jun-13 19:00:34

if anyone is with bg for both gas and electric, can i suggest they
1 register with topcashback
2 do a search for cheaper gas and electric via one of the sites on topcashback
3 see how much extra they might also get in cashback
4 change to cheaper gas and electric companies

KatieBMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 01-Jul-13 14:44:40

Hi Tianc, thanks for your comment. British Gas have asked for the following to be posted in reply:

"Hi Tianc - we’re glad to take this opportunity to explain what smart meters will do for consumers across the country, and while we’re at it clear some of the myths that are often found on the net around smart metering technology.

Smart meters, which come with a smart energy monitor, register consumption and make energy visible for you – which can be an eye opener and massively improve your ability to monitor your usage.

Without knowing how much energy you use it’s difficult to keep on top of things and stick to a tight budget.

Re: the difference between smart meters and the energy monitors currently on the market

You refer to clipping meters, however that is a partial solution (only valid for electricity) and a much less clever one from a technological point of view, as a manual workaround is required in terms of having to download data to PCs.

Smart meters not only record gas as well as electricity, but with remote readings being sent to suppliers they allow for accurate bills and for an insightful energy usage breakdown to be sent to you. So you can make sense of your domestic expenses such as heating, lighting, cooking and appliances. And it finally brings the world of energy to the realm of 21st technology.

Re: Consumer rights

Smart meters are "reprogrammable", but this means it is much easier for customers to choose between credit and pay-as-you-go functionality. We can implement customers' choice without the inconvenience of them having to stay at home for a meter replacement.

Disconnections are very rare. When this is necessary, it will be possible to disconnect the meter remotely but for customers in payment difficulties, we will always look for alternatives to disconnection. One of these is prepayment, which can now be provided at minimal inconvenience to customers.

With smart meters, energy suppliers have no more powers to disconnect than with a standard meter. There are regulations covering disconnection for non-payment which require British Gas to offer alternatives and to avoid disconnection of vulnerable customers in winter, or pensioners, or homes where there are children under the age of 18. We will support customers in debt through accurate communications to ensure they’re fully informed about their options, while giving them the same amount of time to pay back their bills whatever type of meter they have. Also, we offer customers a wide choice of payment methods for paying charges which include cash and pre-payment. You can rest assured that British Gas follows Ofgem's rules on disconnection and this will be the same for customers with smart meters.

Re: Hacking and security

Our meters have been tested against physical attack and have been designed to be tamper proof. If the meter detects a tamper “attack” then an alert is sent to British Gas for investigation. British Gas smart meters also comply with the Smart Metering Technical Specifications protocol version 1.0 issued by DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change).

Smart meters have robust security features that protect customer data, which are simple consumption readings, at all times. These features include advanced encryption techniques (245 bits, currently used by internet banking too), which send meter readings by GPRS (the same technology used by your mobile) in such a way that it can't be intercepted and used.
We have partnered with Vodafone who operate their own security and provide us with a private network, which isn’t shared with any other customers. We then run an added layer of our own security over the top of this encryption.
So if you feel comfortable using your phone and laptop there’s no reason to be worried about smart meters.

For more information around the smart meter revolution and the benefits to consumers you can visit:

Department of Energy and Climate Change
Ofgem
Energy Saving Trust
Health Protection Agency
Energy UK
Green Alliance "

Tianc Mon 01-Jul-13 18:13:01

It will take me a little while to respond to all that.

But as a quick guide to the way we're being treated, check out this summary of what the DECC considers to be "benefits" of Smart Meters. (Smart Metering Implementation Programme: Statement of Design Requirements Ref p8)

_____________________________________
Table 2 – Impact assessment benefits
Consumer Benefits
Energy savings
Load shifting
Customer Switching
Time-of-use tariffs
CO2 reduction

Supplier Benefits
Avoided meter reading
Inbound enquiries
Customer service overheads
Debt handling
Avoided prepayment costs (domestic only)
Remote disconnection
Avoided site visit

Other Benefits
Reduced losses
Reduced theft
Microgeneration
________________________________________

It will not have escaped the keen of eye that, not only are "Consumer Benefits" in the minority - but most are not in fact benefits to the consumer!

The only thing benefitting the consumer is "Energy saving", by which DECC just means we'll decide to turn our heating down, lights off etc. Which, er, we can do already.

"CO2 reduction" means the govt may meet its carbon targets when we do this energy saving. Which might benefit everyone - or not, depending on the Chinese - but isn't a benefit to the consumer as such.

"Customer switching" just means we can still change power companies as now. (It's listed as a requirement because, done badly, smart meters could make it harder to switch.)

"Load shifting" and "Time-of-use tariffs". These are the meat of smart metering. There's a more detailed explanation at Points (3) & (4), pp2-3 on smart meter thread, but here's a summary.

This "benefit" consists of being able to do your laundry or have a shower or cook during notified hours, on particular days, rather than any time on any day.

You may be underwhelmed by this being described as a "benefit"! Because right now you can use what you like, when you like. That's about to change.

The power companies, backed by DECC, are about to attack demand for power by hugely putting the price up during peak demand, or when the wind doesn't blow. Ie like Economy 7, but without the predictability. And for gas as well as electricity.

It's rationing of power by ability to pay.

Now maybe, if we had a national debate, we would decide that ability to pay is the best way to ration an essential good like power, rather than, say, per capita, or a mix of both. Then again, we might decide that a rationing method which will have little impact on the rich and SAHPs, but disproportionately hit the poor and those who can't choose when they do laundry, cook, etc, is not a great way forward.

Either way, we should be having that national debate.

I don't notice much national debate in either of British Gas's posts. Nor the word "rationing."

But I do see the word "benefit". The primary people benefitting from smart meters are the power companies. Who in addition to DECC-sanctioned rationing have snuck through a raft of functions (more on other thread) of benefit only to themselves, not UK energy efficiency.

As this DECC impact assessment (p2) states, "Total consumer benefits amount to £4.64bn and include savings from reduced energy consumption (£4.60bn), and microgeneration (£36m). Total supplier benefits amount to £8.57bn and include avoided site visits (£3.18bn), and reduced inquiries and customer overheads (£1.24bn)."

Bumpstarter Mon 01-Jul-13 19:41:30

Wow, this is such an interesting thread!

(marking place)

Tee2072 Mon 01-Jul-13 20:05:34

What about homes without gas, Tianc? Oil heated and electric ovens/stoves?

Tianc Mon 01-Jul-13 20:27:14

I think oil is something you buy separately and store in your own tank, isn't it, Tee? Unless it's piped to your home, and metered, I can't see it being affected by smart meters. So that would remain an independent heating source (as long as you don't need mains electric to pump your oil or oil-fired central heating, of course!).

Water on the other hand, is definitely in the sights of the smart meter planners. (See 6.24, p39.)

Sorry, I realise my post above may have sounded misleading. DECC's current Plan A is that you will "choose" not to use power at peak times because of price, rather than suffer an actual power cut.

But pricing will make it a rather forced choice for many people - and for those with prepayment meters the lights really will go out as the peak charge burns through your credit.

And then there may be complete power cuts as well.

QOD Mon 01-Jul-13 21:07:22

W e had a clip on one

Nearly lead to divorce

So no. Just no.

Tee2072 Mon 01-Jul-13 21:33:35

Good point Tianc although I do think most, if not all, have electric pumps to move the oil to the furnace.

So perhaps this will reverse the gas revolution back to oil. I know a lot of houses in our area have converted to gas, including ours (private rent), in the last 5 years.

Interesting.

Lioninthesun Mon 01-Jul-13 21:45:52

Dear god - B.GAS do both my elec and gas and have righteously screwed me over in the last year. At one point my bill was £1555 for 2 months worth and they said I would need to pay to get someone out to check the meter was working. No way I am going to let them have an excuse to charge me even more! They were trying to convince me to get a key put in as it would work out cheaper shock which I am pretty sure breaks a few misrepresentation laws in itself.

bemybebe Mon 01-Jul-13 22:03:02

Nice job BG

dontwanttobefatandforty Mon 01-Jul-13 22:24:02

would not touch BG with a 10ft barge pole, I say stay far far away!

threepiecesuite Mon 01-Jul-13 22:59:47

BG are the dearest of the lot, and snidiest to boot.
Thanks for the comprehensive info Tianc, I feel very well-informed now.

Solo Mon 01-Jul-13 23:36:38

Mercibucket what do you mean about TopCashBack please? I'm registered with TCB and have BG for both electricity and gas, so would be interested to know! TIA!

Tianc Tue 02-Jul-13 08:55:17

Indeed, QOD. So you'd be thrilled to know that part of British Gas's broader "smart home" plan is that you - or someone else - can turn your heating up or down while not at home?

As The Guardian put it, "a boon for those who fear their partner overheats the home while they are at work."

I think MN Relationships board might actually combust...

(BTW, to the British Gas "head of innovation" in that article: I manage to keep my house from freezing without arseing around with texts turning heating off and on all the time. I just set the blooming thermostat system properly.)

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