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Anyone having a gas/leccy meter replaced with a Smart Meter? Something you need to know

(74 Posts)
Tianc Sun 23-Oct-11 19:09:15

As requested, a thread about Smart Meters.

The power companies are intending to replace all electricity and gas meters with Smart Meters starting this year (govt prospectus). They're loudly selling this idea as energy-saving, because Smart Meters have big screens to show your energy consumption.

But Smart Meters do an awful lot more than that. Including things the companies are keeping rather quieter about.

Smart Meters will be reprogrammable remotely. If a power company thinks you owe it money - or makes a typo - it will flick your meter over to Prepayment mode and load it with whatever it thinks your debt is (see p16).

Currently they cannot do this without physically installing a prepayment meter, for which they need a court warrant to access your premises. So they have to demonstrate to a neutral body like a court that they are not talking complete bollocks. And they very often talk bollocks because power company records are notoriously shite (phantom meters, zillion pound bills, and a Mumsnet Classic).

Plus going to court, installing meters, etc, costs money, and meanwhile the company's not getting paid, because the consumer can simply decline to pay an obviously bonkers bill. So the current set-up focuses their little minds somewhat on sorting the problem out.

With Smart Meters, tick a box on your account and lo! your meter is a prepayment one loaded with the debt of £944994594984 they've decided you owe.

There are also other v serious problems with reprogrammable Smart Meters, including that they're potentially hackable and brickable. The cybersecurity people like Prof Ross Anderson are doing their nuts about it. Meanwhile Ofgem, which is supposed to represent the consumers' interests, has in fact been tasked with pushing through the change.

TBF, some of the Smart Meter functions actually are trying to tackle genuine problems, but in such a way the remedy may be far worse than the disease. Other functions are purely for the benefit of the power companies.

I'll shortly do a list of papers from the consultation process and other useful reading, and also try to précis and reference the major issues.

garlicBreathZombie Sun 23-Oct-11 19:16:47

Thank you so much for doing this Tianc.
Are there any email-your-MP campaigns and other protests one could join?

yok2t Sun 23-Oct-11 19:22:30

Bloody hell! I had no idea.blush Thank you for the information!

Tianc Sun 23-Oct-11 19:52:20

"Who controls the off switch?" V readable paper by Ross Anderson, prof of security engineering at Cambridge.

"Smart Metering Implementation Programme: Prospectus" The full prospectus from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Of particular interest in the DECC prospectus may be the chapter Consumer Protection.

Engage Consulting Briefing Note: Smart Metering Implementation Programme: Prospectus Short summary (6 pages) of the prospectus, much more readable.

Smart Meter Roll Out: Risk & Optimism Bias Project; Annex One ? Smart Metering Risk Assessment Boring document about financial risk, not security risk, but includes some gems like § "A risk exists that the customer benefits associated with the rollout of smart metering are significant in the early stages of the rollout, but that these benefits reduce over time. International evidence of smart metering demand response trials has shown this to be a known phenomenon."

"Smart meters 'may not cut energy use'" BBC article explaining the point above.

"Hackers hit 'at least five oil and gas firms'"
"Internet-based attacks on critical systems rise "

Smart Meters will make this much, much worse, because whereas single large computer systems in a single data centre can be dealt with centrally, if a hacker managed to "brick" every British Gas Smart Meter remotely, fixing them could require physical visits to reboot/replace every single last little one.

Quote from second article: "We asked [utility company IT execs] what the likelihood was of a major attack that causes significant outage. That is one that causes severe loss of services for at least 24 hours, loss of life or personal injury or failure of a company. Three quarters thought it would happen within the next two years."

brokenwingedflier Sun 23-Oct-11 19:54:25

I think that there is still some room or 'consultation', until the end o' this month.

Tianc Sun 23-Oct-11 20:02:09

Don't yet know of any campaigns, garlic, tho maybe you can find one (I stopped trying after a while).

The problem is so few people bloody know about it. And those who do are often the "shiny shiny flashing lights oooooh" enthusiasts who are thrilled at the idea of techno control for their home, and haven't asked the hard questions about When It Goes Wrong.

I did ask Prof Anderson if he'd consider putting out a press release, and he said he'd done so and the press had completely ignored it.angry

garlicBreathZombie Sun 23-Oct-11 20:40:49

Oh, dear sad

There have beenloads of protests against them in America, I found. They don't seem to have stopped the spread of the damn things.

Dunno how you start an 'email your MP' campaign; I'll try and find out. We'd really need an actionable petition, I guess, but I haven't a clue about the mechanics of those. Are there any Westminster bods on Mumsnet?

gingeroots Sun 23-Oct-11 20:51:54

I wonder if this location is the best one for this thread ?
Should we ask MN ?

Tianc Sun 23-Oct-11 20:58:03

Yes, please do ask MN Toweres gingeroots, I really wasn't sure. But it would disappear if in Chat, and I think some people may hide Politics or not be interested in Property/DIY.

oksonowwhat Sun 23-Oct-11 21:03:21

Oh god! Really worried now. I think they are getting a court warrant to put a meter in my house, they have sent letters to that effect anyway. I owe them a quarters money. I was actually thinking i would be better off with a meter, but one of the old ones not one of these smart ones!!!! They are also charging me £240 to put it in apparantley!!!!

garlicBreathZombie Sun 23-Oct-11 21:04:45

This is jolly interesting: Article on Wired about worms that spread through the smart meter network.

I'm sort of thinking I ought to get some Calor gas shock

Tianc Sun 23-Oct-11 21:04:54

I have a suspicion the most effective way to stop them is to force the companies to get warrants to access homes to fit them. It will push the price up hugely.

If you look at §4.11.4 in that financial risk assessment linked above, the companies are quite worried about Consumers Saying No: "Failure to ensure customer engagement will have significant implications for both the costs and benefits".

PigeonPie Sun 23-Oct-11 21:05:27

So, can we, as the 'consumer', refuse to accept the installation of the meter in our homes when the letter comes telling us they're going to do it?

Can we question their efficacy with the energy companies?

I'm quite happy to give the company a fight if they haven't got the proper safeguards in place, but I think forewarned is forearmed and worth getting all the information we can.

Thank you for the heads up.

Tianc Sun 23-Oct-11 21:08:32

Really sorry, oksowhatnow, once they've got the court order I'm not sure what you can can do.sad

If you don't mind having a prepayment meter, then don't panic. The Bad Things are not going to happen tomorrow. And if we can stop them being allowed to use the remote reprogramming system (due to be switched on later, it seems), the worst problems shouldn't come to pass.

oksonowwhat Sun 23-Oct-11 21:10:17

I don't think it will work getting them to apply for warrants to put the meters in. My letter said they would apply for the warrant and i would be liable for the £240 cost. I also read in the paper that my local town had 12,000 warrants in court for electric companies applying to put meters in!!!!!! Didn't realise the implications of that but now it seems maybe this is the first stage of them getting the meters in peoples houses?

oksonowwhat Sun 23-Oct-11 21:12:08

Tianc, i dont really mind the meter as tbh its probably the only way i can keep up with my bills. But can we really try and stop it going any further than just the meter going in??? This is all so worrying. Thanks again for bringing this to our attention, most of us wouldn't have had a clue!!

Blueberties Sun 23-Oct-11 21:13:15

Wow! thanks. I've had a letter saying "my gas meter needs to be replaced". Is that part of this? I haven't bothered responding.

Thank you SO much.

crazynannawitchbitch Sun 23-Oct-11 21:14:43

I am worried as I already have a gas prepayment meter. Can they force me to have a smart meter?

Tianc Sun 23-Oct-11 21:30:32

oksowhatnow blardy hell! Yes, 12,000 warrants in a single town looks like enforced Smart Meter installations. Any chance you can link to the paper? (Don't if you're worried about anonymity of location.)

And while they have you over a barrel because of the acknowledged debt on yours, I'm shockshock if they think they can charge me £240 for a warrant for their meter.

Tianc Sun 23-Oct-11 21:32:36

crazynanna if you already have a prepayment meter, they own your ass. They can simply say, we are no longer supporting your current key or card, so you won't be able to make payments on the old meter.

Tianc Sun 23-Oct-11 21:34:15

currant key

Although also current key. smile

crazynannawitchbitch Sun 23-Oct-11 21:35:39

Fuck shock Is there owt I can do <shakes>

Meglet Sun 23-Oct-11 21:39:18

They can piss right off if this is as bad as it sounds.

Thanks for the heads up, I'm going to check it out.

Tianc Sun 23-Oct-11 22:06:52

Certainly can't do any harm to contact your MP, btw. I bet most of them have never even heard of this.

RustyBear Sun 23-Oct-11 22:12:44

You were right first time, Tianc. Currant is only for fruit.

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