Excerpt of analysis by TheRegister.co.uk
On 23 June, the village of Alfriston in the South Downs hosted Get Wired, an event celebrating old-fashioned wired analogue power meters – or, more accurately, opposing their replacement by new wireless “smart” meters.
Organiser Stop Smart Meters UK is worried about radiation, privacy, safety, higher bills and people losing control over their homes.
The group’s fears are not shared by most politicians, and certainly not by the power industry. It plans to put 53 million smart meters into homes in England, Wales and Scotland by 2020 (Northern Ireland has its own policy).
The rollout will go far beyond a European directive that asks conditionally for 80 per cent coverage by this date. But some experts are raising doubts about the plans – and not just the health risks.
The UK’s smart meter scheme was introduced by Labour leader Ed Miliband, when he was energy and climate change secretary. The last government had a habit of chucking big technology schemes at problems; the difference is that this one made it off the drawing board – unlike a 2006 brainwave from Ed’s brother David for carbon rationing credit cards – and survived the current government’s cull of such schemes, which took out the likes of identity cards.
Your home, their network
The Coalition government has delayed and tweaked Miliband’s scheme, but still wants energy suppliers to replace each ‘dumb’ gas and electricity meter with a ‘smart’ one.
One smart meter in each home will send power usage information to a new Data Communications Company, which will go live in autumn 2015. That usage data will be transmitted from homes largely using Blighty’s mobile networks – although wired communications will be used in particular locations including blocks of flats.
The wide-area networking technology and the meters themselves are still being procured, with each energy supplier buying its own meters, so many technical details have not yet been decided.
One detail that has been confirmed is for a “home area network” (HAN) in each house, using ZigBee networks at 2.4GHz and 868MHz. The HAN will allow the main meter both to act as a relay for a second meter’s usage monitoring, and to serve information to an in-home display (IHD) so Britons can monitor their power consumption from their sofas.
The suppliers are enthusiastic about the scheme’s potential to save both the public, and them, money. Estimated bills and visits from meter readers will be a thing of the past, says Lawrence Slade, chief operating officer of trade body Energy UK, and the visibility of consumption will stop people wasting power: “One of the reasons we’re doing this is to help consumers understand their bills better,” he says.
While he confirms that a smart meter would be used in the process of cutting people off from their supply, Slade adds that their introduction should lead to fewer disconnections, as the improved data will make it possible to spot and manage payment problems earlier.
But what if someone other than power companies, such as foreign governments, worked out how to hack into the meters and cut people off? Slade says this “should not be able to happen”, while conceding “I don’t think you can say, hand on heart, that nothing will ever happen”.
Read the full story at UK gov’s smart meter dream unplugged: A ‘colossal waste of cash’ • The Register.