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Have you got a question about smart meters? Post your questions to Paul Nickson, Commercial Director of British Gas Smart Metering and you'll be entered into a draw to win £100 voucher for John Lewis - ANSWERS BACK

(73 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 19-Sep-13 09:20:11

Paul Nickson MBE is going to be on-hand this week to answer questions about smart meters, whether its about how they work or what you can expect on the day of installation. Post your questions to Paul before midday on Wednesday 25th September and you'll be entered into a draw to win £100 voucher for John Lewis. We'll upload his answers on 2nd October.

Paul Nickson is the Commercial Director of British Gas Smart Metering and joined the company earlier this year. His focus within British Gas is to make customers aware of the smart meter roll-out, the benefits of smart meters and how they can get the best out of being a smart meter customer. Paul says: I believe that smart meters represent a tangible opportunity to make energy simpler for our customers as they bring the benefit of insight into gas and electricity as well as eliminating the need for manual meter readings. Im looking forward to answering your questions so that youre aware of what smart meters represent for our energy future. The upside for me is that Ill learn more about what matters to you in the context of this program and your top questions or doubts.

This Q&A is sponsored by British Gas

Tianc Tue 29-Apr-14 15:26:33

Oi, Paul.

Didja see that Heartbleed hit the internet-connected thermostat, Nest? "It's Crazy What Can Be Hacked Thanks to Heartbleed", Wired, Apr 2014).

Nest are saying that it won't affect users. Which is exactly what MNHQ was saying at the beginning of Heartbleed week. By the end of the week things were a little different: Mumsnet and Heartbleed as it happened.

What Heartbleed did was expose passwords, and all your lovely encryption during transmission won't protect against that. If someone's harvested the Nest passwords, they can presumably now get into Nest accounts.

The MN benevolent hackers used it to spoof Justine and alert MNHQ.

I wonder what the Nest hackers will do?

Still, at least Nest only controls the central heating (bad enough). Imagine getting control of every socket and device in the house.

lionman Wed 02-Apr-14 20:41:14

Iwould like to know why there is a problem with the software of the smart metre i got it installed in January and it was not letting me in to the gas readings,i phoned and was tol it is a software fault and the I.T. department was on it i phoned to-day and was told it is still on going .if i do not see any readings then i take it i will not be billed for Gas.

Regards
Alex

John1730 Thu 10-Oct-13 19:01:37

We have had a electricity smart meter for about 6 months now and what I like about this when I am not at home is my wife does not have to let anyone in to read the meter. Also highly recommended is the remote heating control over the internet enabling the consumer to control the heat in your home. We will be in New York in January so we will be able to monitor our home and adjust accordingly and also if the boiler packs up we will be able to book an engineer online. Our wonderfull neighbours will let them in. Embrace this technology!

HeatherMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 08-Oct-13 10:06:25

Congratulations Madamecastafiore you are the winner of the £100 John Lewis voucher. We'll PM you with info about how to claim your prize.

SuperiorCat Mon 07-Oct-13 18:15:32

Tianc, I noticed that a lot of your other questions were just completely ignored.

Well Paul, you've done nothing to sell the idea of a smart meter to me.

Tianc Mon 07-Oct-13 18:06:39

No, Paul, that's not what "bricked" means.

It means to turn a piece of technology into an unresponsive brick, as in the example I gave of Sony DVD recorders. (See also Wikipedia: Brick (electronics), but any of your technically literate staff would have told you, if you didn't understand the example.)

The point about a bricked Smart Meter is that it cannot be upgraded 'over the air.'

Did you not know this?

PigletJohn Mon 07-Oct-13 17:42:11

The reply to my question about Smart Meters asking if it would enable the supplier to cut off my electricity remotely said

"No. ..... it will be possible to disconnect the meter remotely "

So the word "no" was incorrect and should have said "Yes"

HeatherMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 07-Oct-13 17:38:00

Paul's answers have now been uploaded. Thanks to everyone who posted questions.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:33:19

PenguinBear

Hi Paul, I love my smart meter. We had it installed a few weeks ago and it is certainly saving me money. What I love the most is how you can see exactly how much you are using at any one time. This has really helped us to illustrate to the children how important it is to switch lights off and how everything we turn off reduces what we are using!
I like tracking how much I have spent in a day and what percentage I have used that day. I also like the coloured lights at the too which change with the useage. So far mine has been green and sometimes amber. How much would I need to be using to turn the light red?

Wondered what extra advice you have to help reduce spending on electricity and what else I could be using my smart meter for?

Many thanks smile

The red traffic light on your smart energy monitor operates at a standard usage of 4kw. Depending on the efficiency levels of your appliances if you were to use a tumble drier, a kettle and a hair drier at the same time youd probably go above that threshold.
For more information on power hungry appliances check the Energy Saving Trust website: http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Electricity/Products-and-appliances

If you have smart meters then your smart energy monitor will let you see at a glance how much gas you’re using too and how much this is costing you. By tapping on the screen you can choose to have a view per individual fuel or both. You can also check your £&p view “now” or “so far today” which I think gives you the most comprehensive insight into your usage and costs. My advice is to set a budget (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI0_2xoLXzQ&list=PLUbxnTyy5NQmLpl2ijla97v1OAbxCWkWt&index=10 ) for gas consumption this winter: you can do this by either selecting the desired maximum expenditure or by letting the device recommend a target budget for you according to your household profile.

If you’ve opted in to providing us with half hourly meter readings or daily readings, you’ll also be able to look forward to receiving a personalised guide to your energy – your Smart Energy Report. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyX29iOz23c&list=PLUbxnTyy5NQmLpl2ijla97v1OAbxCWkWt This breaks down your gas and electricity consumption to show you more detail as to where you are using your energy and also provides personalised energy efficiency tips that can help you save even more money. This usually comes a week after your first bill and can also be accessed online at any time.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:32:37

LindySfarne

Could uyou tell us please whether the data collected will be passed on or sold to government depts or private companies?

It feels like nothing we do is private any more.

Like with standard meters, the data smart meters record is just gas and electricity readings. Consumers have a choice about how much energy consumption data is collected, either every half an hour, daily or monthly apart from where it is required for billing and other regulated purposes in full compliance with the Data Protection Act. British Gas as your energy company, and the energy networks, will be able to see enough of the data to allow us to send you accurate bills and carry out other essential tasks. We will tell you what we use the data for when we install your smart meter and we’ll remind you about this about once each year. We might need to disclose information to satisfy legal and regulatory purposes, but will only do so in compliance with the law. You’ll be able to decide to provide your data to other companies - switching websites, for example - if you want them to give you advice on the best tariff for you. That’s up to you and is not something that British Gas would get involved with. Any data that we do collect we would never sell on to third parties or use for marketing purposes without your permission as that is prohibited by legislation.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:32:19

everydayineveryway

What research has been done into the harmful effects of emissions from Smart Meters? Please link to it.

Has a fund been set aside to compensate people who have negative health effects from Smart Meters, if it is proven in the future that they adversely affect customers' health?

At British Gas, we would never knowingly install something that would be detrimental to our customers’ health. A lot of appliances we use today emit electromagnetic radio-waves – from televisions, to microwaves baby monitors and mobile phones. We believe Public Health England (formerly, the Health Protection Agency) whose purpose is to protect the nation’s health, to be the most reliable and credible source of information on this topic. They state that the radio-wave exposure from smart meters are lower than from the appliances mentioned above, and likely to be thousands of times lower than from a mobile phone. Their website states: ‘the evidence to date suggests exposures to the radio-waves produced by smart meters do not pose a risk to health’. www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/Radiation/UnderstandingRadiation/UnderstandingRadiationTopics/ElectromagneticFields/RadioWaves/SmartMeters/

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:31:45

Tianc

OK, this was supposed to be Qs for British Gas. So here are mine.

" What is your Disaster Plan for Smart Meters being "bricked" en masse in an adverse remote reprogramming incident?

" Will you be asking customers to reboot the Meters, or will British Gas technicians have to access premises to reboot or replace every BG Smart Meter installed in the UK?

" What is the predicted timescale for 100% of people affected to have fully functioning, up-to-date Smart Meters after such an incident?

NB An adverse reprogramming event could be a malicious attack or simply a failed software update or bad interaction with third party app, as happened memorably to RBS, NatWest & Ulster Bank last year, and to Sony DVD recorders this July.

A Smart Meter bricking would combine the worst of these events. The number of people affected would be similar to the RBS upgrade failure, which stopped transactions. But the problem couldnt be fixed centrally and each individual Smart Meter would have to be fixed separately, like the Sony units.

Oh, and cutting peoples power off has rather more serious outcomes than stopping bank transactions.

By ‘bricked’ I’m assuming you’re asking are smart meters secure? We have designed the whole of the smart meter system to be of a very high security level. Every component of our smart metering technology – from the collection of readings to the communication of the meter readings back to the supplier are all protected with a strong level of cryptographic keys and certificates in compliance with government directives led by DECC. We have consulted with top security experts to ensure the level of cryptography used in smart meters is as secure as it can be. I can also reassure you that we are constantly scanning the market place to ensure we continue to apply highly secure levels of cryptography when using smart meters.

Because of the wireless communication capability that a smart meter has, a lot of upgrades can be done ‘over the air’. This means smart meters can be upgraded without having to come to your property.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:31:12

flamingtoaster

Technology is wonderful if it works. What is the reliability rate of these Smart Meters? What happens if the electronic element of the Meter becomes faulty - does the whole meter - and thus the Gas go off?

I dislike the idea of anything simple and reliable being replaced by something much more complicated.

Some experts see smart meters as being more accurate than standard meters so they are seen to be reliable. Gas supply will not be interrupted if there’s a fault with the smart meter. Faults with smart meters will be detected remotely and fairly quickly as we will stop receiving your meter readings.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:30:47

LovesBeingOnHoliday

I am scared of smart meters; what if I couldn't pay on time; what if you made a mistake; what if there was a dispute?

Regulation doesn’t change with the introduction of smart meters, so you can rest assured that customers’ rights will be protected in the same way as they currently are today for the 3 scenarios you mentioned. We will not give you any less time to pay your bill.

If you were struggling to pay your energy bills, we ask you to contact us as soon as possible as there are numerous ways in which we may be able to help you and give you more time to clear any payments.

As for mistakes, it would be unrealistic to say we won’t make any, but it is reasonable to anticipate that there should be fewer errors in reading meters. If we make a mistake we’ll do everything we can to resolve it quickly, no matter what type of meter you have.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:28:14

SuperiorCat

Aren't smart meters just about savings for the provider?
Will the money you save by sacking the meter readers be used to reduce our bills? I'm guessing not...

No, there are many other aspects to consider. Benefits of smart meters involve:
a) individual consumers, wholl be empowered by better management of their energy and flexible tariffs to handle energy self-generation such as Solar PV;
b) communities, as small scale projects such as the Customer-Led Network Revolution trial new low-carbon solutions and load shifting that can help avoid building new power stations;
c) Britain as a whole, due to an improvement of our ability as a nation to ensure supply meets demand in the greenest possible way while meeting EUs carbon reduction targets.

We manage our costs closely to ensure we stay competitive on price as well as service. Because of the competitive market British Gas operates in, any savings we can make based on increased effectiveness can be passed onto our customers through lower bills. Our costs however, only form part of a customer’s bill, the majority of it is made up of wholesale gas and electricity costs.
This light bulb explains our costs in more detail: http://www.britishgas.co.uk/about-us/investing-in-britains-future/behind-the-bill/what-makes-up-a-bill.html

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:26:59

ShatnersBassoon

Is it really cheaper to install these new meters than to keep the meter readers employed? It sounds unlikely.

No more meter readings by eye, which is usually done by a meter reader is just one of the benefits of upgrading Britain’s energy infrastructure with smart meters. We have seen increased customer satisfaction, no more estimated bills and therefore less billing queries and the customer will be able to see their energy use and its cost in pounds and pence as they use it giving more clarity in where energy is being spent and control to reduce energy consumption. It’s all of these benefits and others together which leads to a benefits outweighing the cost of the smart meter roll out.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:26:04

VivaLeThrustBadger

Wow. I'm so glad I'm not with British Gas.

Hopefully other companies won't bring them in.

How many £millions more profit do you expect Smart meters to make for British Gas?

Smart meters are being installed as part of a necessary technological investment in Britain’s energy infrastructure. There are some benefits for energy suppliers but because of the competitive market British Gas operates in – the UK energy market is seen to be one of the most competitive in Europe – and because we know that one of the key factors in choosing an energy supplier is price, wherever we make savings, we’ll pass them onto consumers.

Customers also directly benefit from smart meters. They mean there’s an opportunity for customers to save energy through reducing their energy consumption. Oxford Economics estimate reductions of about 5% which leads to about £65 off their average dual fuel bill. smarterfuture.outsideline.co.uk/oxford-economics-nfographic.jpg

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:24:55

pussinwellyboots

I'm interested i'm anything that helps me reduce energy use and save money. However seeing some if the negative comments on here I'd like to see answers to these concerns.

As a duel fuel consumer we switch our suppliers annually to get the best tariff. Would being signed up to a smart meter prevent me from doing this? Would I be tied into a lengthy contract with british gas able to raise prices?

Gas customer, having smart meters doesn’t affect your ability to switch supplier or move to a different tariff which we might have on offer. Your contract is quite separate from your meter. You can choose a fixed term contract if you like fixed prices, or a variable price if you like to change supplier frequently. Your smart meter will not affect this but it might include a wider choice of tariffs that are not available to customers with conventional meters.
If you switch to British Gas from a previous supplier by signing a contract for a specific tariff then you’ll be subject to the terms & conditions of that contract, irrelevant of the metering technology used in your home.

Smart meters will also open up options for different and flexible tariffs in the future:
www.britishgas.co.uk/HelpAndAdvice/LookUp/?SXI=4,CASE=2312

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:22:29

Bergamont

Hi Paul,
Can you explain how a smart meter will save me money? And can I still switch suppliers when one is installed?

Thanks

Having smart meters does not in any way prevent customers from being able to change supplier. We have been deploying smart meters since 2009 and over this time our customers have not raised any concerns to us about their ability to switch to another supplier when they have a smart meter.

However, as not all suppliers are rolling out smart meters to the same extent as British Gas, if a smart meter customer were to move supplier today their smart meters would simply revert to standard operation and they will no longer be able to enjoy the benefits of smart meters (i.e. accurate bills without meter reads by customers or suppliers and personalised energy efficiency tips and advice[smart energy monitor displaying usage).

Within the next few of years, once other suppliers are fully rolling out smart meters, systems will be introduced to allow customers to move between suppliers swiftly and keep their meters in smart mode.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:21:12

DorothyBastard

Do you have a schedule for roll out, or can I choose when to have them installed?

We started by taking a phased approach with our smart rollout and have begun installing smart meters in households where old meters are nearing the end of their operational life. Here, instead of replacing them with another standard meter, we will upgrade the meter to a smart meter. We also try to prioritise those among our customers who have registered their interest online.
If you want your home to be upgraded to smart meters, with just a few clicks you can register your interest now on our website: www.britishgas.co.uk/new-smart-experience/register-interest.html

Alternatively you can wait until we contact you to arrange for one of our Smart Energy Experts to carry out the meter upgrade as part of our phased roll out.
Find out more here. www.britishgas.co.uk/HelpAndAdvice/LookUp/?SXI=4,CASE=3570

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:19:17

CheeryCherry

How much will it cost to have the meter installed? And will this pricing be clear and standard? We had British Gas install our central heating last year, and were told how great the remote controls were that were compatible with our new boiler .... then were shocked that they charged us £200 extra! Will this meter be compulsory and can I opt out of the 3rd party details?

Smart meters are being installed as part of a free nationwide upgrade for all residential and small business customers. The cost of smart meters are comparable to that of standard meters, and form part of our business operating costs just as is the case for standard gas and electricity meters today.
We explain our costs through this light bulb: www.britishgas.co.uk/about-us/investing-in-britains-future/behind-the-bill/what-makes-up-a-bill.html and metering costs form a small part of the distribution costs and installation costs.

However the cost of the smart meter roll-out is outweighed by the benefits of, for example, not having to send out meter readers, fewer calls to contact centres and consumption savings for customers, leaving a net benefit estimated by the Department of Energy & Climate Change of £6.7bn for Britain.
Oxford Economics estimated this net benefit to be even higher at around £14bn and that customers can reduce their energy consumption by 5% which leads to a £65 saving every year based on the average dual fuel bill.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:12:36

PigletJohn

Is it true that a smart meter enables a supplier to turn off a customer's supply as and when they consider it necessary?

How can I prevent you installing a smart meter in my house?

No. With smart meters, energy suppliers have no more powers to disconnect than with a standard meter. On those extremely rare occasions 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. With smart meters it should be possible for us to help customers having difficulty paying much earlier. Also anyone with a smart meter will be able to choose pay-as-you-go to help them manage their budget. If a customer is having difficulties paying their energy bills, we ask them to contact us at the earliest opportunity so that we can help them as soon as possible.
British Gas follows Ofgem's rules on disconnection and this will not change for customers with smart meters.

There is no legal obligation on individuals to have one, but anyone refusing would miss out on the benefits. When we get in touch with you to schedule your home’s upgrade simply tell us you’d rather not have a smart meter. The rate of satisfaction of the customers we’ve upgraded to smart meters is 55% higher than those on standard meters.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:10:31

MackerelOfFact

Are smart meters optional? Will there be a full changeover at which point the traditional meters will no longer be used at all?

The Government requires suppliers to roll out smart meters as standard to homes and small businesses across Britain by 2020 but there is no legal obligation on individuals to have one. If a customer is opposed to having smart meters installed and they inform British Gas, we will take them off our roll-out list. We believe that they will be very empowering for customers though and that the benefits will be great. Without them, information on usage and spending is only available to most customers four times a year, when their bills arrive. With smart meters, customers will be able to track their energy spending between bills and will avoid any nasty surprises or inaccurate estimates.

Manufacturing of standard analogue meters will cease in the next few years, so that yes by 2020 they will no longer be used. Customers who prefer not to have smart meters will simply have smart meters without any communications operating.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:08:01

Spirael

Given that meter boxes are not completely sealed and are sometimes located in stupid positions at ground level, what will happen if the electronics of the smart meter are damaged by damp/frost? Will the meter shut down and stop providing gas/electricity to the property?

When we first moved in to our property it had a card gas meter which had gotten damp/frozen and stopped working. Until the meter was replaced, we had no gas supply - so no heating or hot water - for over 24 hours in the middle of winter!

If/when smart meters become more commonplace, will there be a 24 hour support line available to help in such circumstances? Currently the normal support lines close at 8pm and the emergency provision don't want to know unless there's a gas leak!

As with traditional meters, smart meters are covered by UK product specifications and EU safety legislation. This means that smart meters have undergone rigorous tests during the manufacturing process.

If the meters at your house are located outside, the smart meters will need to be housed in outside cabinets (common in most new builds in the last 10 years) or in a ground level meter box. Our Smart Energy Experts would inspect this location prior to installation to ensure water ingress is not an issue to the new smart meters. We would not fit smart meters if they were directly exposed to the elements, though they are designed to be safe and resilient in most environments. Like with the standard meters you have in your home at the moment, if a smart meter is faulty, we ask you to contact your energy supplier as soon as possible so they can fix the problem.

At British Gas we offer a 24 / 7 cover within British Gas Smart Metering and we can have one of our Smart Energy Experts with you day or night within a few hours, this is supported by a call centre, also operating 24 / 7.

PaulNickson Mon 07-Oct-13 17:06:03

MothershipG

My existing meters are in a very awkward place and would cost a ridiculous amount to move. If I get a smart meter can I choose where it goes?

Does it have to be in the same place as the existing ones and if it does how often will access be required seeing as reading can be done remotely?

The smart meters would need to be fitted in the same location due to the incoming supply points for both gas and electricity. We can on occasion move them slightly at no cost but there would normally be a charge for moving them over longer distances. Once your home is upgraded to smart meters, energy consumption readings are retrieved automatically so there’s no need for a meter reader to attend and access the property. You can check how much energy you are using in pounds and pence as well as your meter readings through your smart energy monitor – which you can keep in a convenient place in your home – any time, so the need to get to your meters will be greatly reduced. When we fit your smart meters we will need the existing meters to be accessible of course. And we will come along to do a visual safety inspection every few years, something that is required by Ofgem.

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