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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

Tianc Mon 23-Sep-13 16:07:27

majssu, Time-of-Use tariffs will make energy costs much more complicated.

The price of energy will change several times a day. It may not even be at the same time each day.

aaaaagh Sat 14-Sep-13 17:13:44

Sorry - haven't read the whole thread - but my Smart meter is my Brain.
When you're not using something turn it off! Unplug it and don't leave it on stand-by. I don't need a machine to tell me that!!

frankjames Thu 29-Aug-13 11:40:13

Reading this thread has made me fairly resistant to smart meters.

Before giving energy companies more information/control over our energy usage they should gain consumer trust by publishing simpler, easily comparable tariffs to make energy companies truly competitive.

majjsu Tue 13-Aug-13 19:32:10

I think anything making energy simpler and easier to understand the costs is great. I have a Finance background, am confident working with numbers until I review my energy, it is way too complicated. Doing a comparison between suppliers is a nightmare. This new meter sounds ideal, shame my supplier isn't issuing one!

alialiath Tue 06-Aug-13 13:15:23

It's worrying about the radiation, especially if you have someone in the house that's already battling cancer, dementia or is pregnant. I will not be convinced to get a smart meter until there has been more research into the long term damage, especially if you're already in an at risk category.

Tianc Thu 11-Jul-13 21:03:09

shock Oh no! So they cleaned you out and you don't even know if you really owed the money?

Lioninthesun Thu 11-Jul-13 20:23:55

Thanks Tianc I know that a prepayment meter works out more expensive and the thought of having no gas/elec with a small child asleep wasn't thrilling! I ended up using the last of my savings to pay them, as they were threatening to put me onto the prepayment meter and wouldn't allow me to do a DD until the full amount was paid. I am now apparently £300 in credit, but too scared to take it out even though I could really use it this month. I have no back up now! Besides boiler and immersion have decided to break over the last 6 weeks and we are having to go swimming to shower or use friends houses. I can't afford a new boiler, because it would have cost the disputed amount I ended up paying BGAS. I still feel very angry at them to be honest and very glad to have switched.

Tianc Thu 11-Jul-13 19:57:47

Lioninthesun, thank goodness you didn't listen to British Gas trying to persuade (lie to?) you to change to a prepayment meter.

IIUC - and BG is welcome to correct me - if you went onto a prepayment meter, they could just have loaded the disputed £££ onto the meter and deducted it alongside current usage, no payment no power.

Whereas at the moment you can withhold the disputed amount - and complain to the Ombudsman if the dispute is not settled within 8 weeks.

Hope all is now resolved, Lion.

Tianc Thu 11-Jul-13 18:47:04

Sorry for the delay. Herewith the next instalment...

Re: Consumer rights

Switching a meter between credit and prepayment is hardly a frequent event for most householders. Less frequent than the visual meter inspections the energy companies are required to conduct every two years for safety reasons.

To suggest remote switching is a meaningful "consumer benefit" of reprogrammable smart meters is a sign of the paucity of British Gas's arguments.

It’s also very hmm that they’re trying to portray prepayment meters as not a form of disconnection.

Disconnection every time payment runs out is the raison d'être of prepayment meters. Indeed Ofgem wrote to the energy companies in 2010 ("Interim guidance ? remote disconnection and remote switching to prepayment") making clear they consider full disconnection, load limiting (aka trickle disconnection) and the installation of prepayment meters all to be potential "stopping of supply". However, prepayment meters circumvent the explicit regulation that energy companies are not permitted to actively disconnect pensioners, families and vulnerable people during the winter. Which is how this bloke with learning difficulties ended up without hot water or central heating for an entire winter.

I’m also not impressed at BG planning to remove practical safeguards and telling us to "rest assured"hmm because regulations still exist.

The energy industry doesn’t exactly have a history of abiding by regulations, or showing administrative competence. In fact 18 months ago BG?s Chief Executive was asking customers for forgiveness, agreeing with Eon and EDF that the industry has a long way to go to create trust.

Hardly surprising.

Two energy companies have recently been fined millions of pounds by Ofgem for mis-selling and three more are being investigated.

• Energy companies continue to demand back payments for more than a year when their billing was at fault, even though their own code of practice bans this.

• One lucky MNer woke up to find an energy company had amended her Direct Debit to take £800-odd quid out of her bank account without any warning, breaking banking regulations and IIRC breaching the one-year back payment rule as well. (Chat thread now alas gone).

• The energy companies are infamous for their inaccurate records. Among other things, they don’t know where their meters are, as another MNer discovered ("British Gas are bastards and i hate them and they smell of poo."), and she’s by no means unique. Those happen to be BG examples, but there’s no shortage of others in consumer sites and columns.

• Worse, energy companies often seem incapable of correcting their records or halting proceedings even when they’ve agreed they are at fault. Again, no shortage of examples, but I feel Lisa Ferguson spoke for us all when she took British Gas to court for harassment. (BG settled out of court – but only after two years trying to block the case. As one of the appeal judges put it, "5. British Gas says it has done nothing wrong; that it is perfectly all right for it to treat consumers in this way, at least if it is all just done by computer.")

This magistrate, in one session this year, refused 50% of an energy company’s applications for entry warrants to switch meters. More from him/her and comments at ?WARRANTS OF ENTRY AND APPLICATIONS TO DISCONNECT UTILITY SUPPLY?

• Incompetence and sharp practice aside, Ofgem points out, "Where the supplier has the ability to remotely disconnect or remotely switch the customer to prepayment terms, there is no operational need to physically visit the premises. However, visiting the premises is often the only way vulnerability can be detected."

But knowing all of this, British Gas et al would like us to set aside existing physical and procedural safeguards when they forcibly switch people to repayment meters, because doing so remotely is cheaper for them? Ah, get lost.

Trigglesx Tue 09-Jul-13 07:28:49

Hmmm... I signed up for this, but perhaps I will withdraw.. Not sounding good

Showtime Sat 06-Jul-13 14:08:06

Thanks for the info Tianc, good of you to do the hard work and translations for us.

Tianc Thu 04-Jul-13 13:44:38

[minor diversion]

Someone's just drawn my attention to a reason that price is a very flawed way of rationing essential goods.

"Until such time as energy costs so much that more people consciously monitor their usage - in the same way that they currently regulate their petrol consumption for example - people will continue to be less caring of the energy they use and what it costs," according to "smart metering expert Chris Martin of Pinsent Masons".

But as wealth is so varied, there simply isn't a number you can plump for, which will persuade the well-off to change their behaviour but not be devastating to the poor.

Indeed this is why we have income-related fines for traffic offences, etc. So the flaw is a well-known one.

Tianc Wed 03-Jul-13 20:54:53

Actually I shouldn't take the piss too much. The coming power shortages are a serious problem and need to be coped with.

But using that as cover for some of these functions... hrrumph. The power companies are being very norty boys and girls.

So, no change there.

Tianc Wed 03-Jul-13 20:48:11

I bet British Gas / EDF / Scottish Power / etc don't! grin

threepiecesuite Wed 03-Jul-13 20:25:54

Tianc, I think I love you.

Tianc Wed 03-Jul-13 19:26:52

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

Yep, clip-on monitor currently only for electricity – and I can even get an in-line plug-in version to monitor precisely the fridge socket, for example. Gas use is pretty easy to identify (heating, cooking, hot water), but a monitor to save me visiting the gas box for readings would be mildly useful. Don’t need your proposed smart meter functions bundled with it, though, ta all the same.

You are also correct that plugging in a USB lead is less technologically difficult - and more secure - than shipping data out by mobile to a third-party data warehouse and back via an account on the interweb.

Sometimes the simple answer is the right one. For the householder, at least. Maybe not the utility company.

And I’m grin at this sudden desire for accurate bills. That and regular readings are not something utility companies have exactly been bothered about in the last few years, are they?

Actually, accurate monthly billing could be achieved by a non-programmable meter sending a monthly total over a (one-way?) comms system. This technology has been around for while, is cheaper and creates less risk than the overall smart system being proposed.

But accurate monthly data isn't what you’re after, is it, British Gas? Because on 28 Oct 2011 you submitted this statement to Parliament asking for “default access to half-hourly data”. Which is essential for Time-of-Use pricing. Interestingly, you also want this permanent, default access to every household’s half-hourly data for “appliance-by-appliance level analysis”. Supposedly so you can hand out energy-saving advice.

That’s a jolly expensive Big Data sledgehammer to say, “Your TV uses XX Watts”. Although of course managing our energy consumption will become an awful lot more complicated when Time-of-Use comes in, and its associated complex tariffs.

Btw, British Gas, TOU is one of they key purposes of smart meters, but you don’t seem to have mentioned it in your OP.

Why is that?

BonzoDooDah Tue 02-Jul-13 23:36:10

thanks Tiac .. very interesting reading. And scandalous!

Lioninthesun Tue 02-Jul-13 19:01:58

I've just done the Uswitch and saved just under £300 a year! Should have done that ages ago! It's all based on what BGAS take a month which is x3 what I paid last year per month so hoping it will work out even cheaper tbh as I suspect it was way off.
Thank you for reminding me to Uswitch smile

QOD Tue 02-Jul-13 18:50:34

Oh remote heating ..... Imagine .... There I am in Egypt in December, dh and dd at home .... Click .... Off goes the heating. Ok I'm in.

Solo Tue 02-Jul-13 16:20:46

Ah, ok! thank you!

mercibucket Tue 02-Jul-13 09:53:34

if you go to tcb and search on utilities, there are comparison websites like 'which' and 'uswitch'. click on them and search for your cheapest energy supplier.
then have another look at topcashback utilities. you might get more if you sign up via,for example, npowers own tcb link, than via uswitch
you could do the same on quidco as well
sometimes you get 100 quid via the cashback sites, which is a big saving!
i doubt bg would be the cheapest option for dual fuel for many people
why mess around saving pennies with smart meters when you could save pounds with a cheaper supplier

Tianc Tue 02-Jul-13 09:28:33

Right. Am now working on reply to BG's post.

Many apologies for slowness: I can't do much each day, and want to make sure stuff is properly referenced.

mrsdinklage Tue 02-Jul-13 09:20:24

So - no one is getting caught in the rush for a smartmeter then grin

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.)

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!

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