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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.)

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 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.

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

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

Ah, ok! thank you!

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.

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

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

thanks Tiac .. very interesting reading. And scandalous!

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?

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

Tianc, I think I love you.

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

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

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 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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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 21:03:09

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

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.

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!

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.

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!!

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.

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