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Smart Meter
Image: Ian Britton

Not so smart meters

The already delayed plan to install smart meters across the UK took another blow this week as the technology proved to be considerably less smart than has been touted.  According to Mark Thompson at the Yorkshire Post:

“Big Six provider SSE said it had launched an urgent investigation into the errant devices, one of which warned a customer they had bust their daily budget by nearly three million per cent.”

SSE customers began posting complaints to the company’s social media feeds after their “smart” meters began quoting thousands of pounds worth of gas use.  In the worst case, one customer was told they owed £33, 183 for a single day’s gas; followed by £27,022 for the following day.

Nor are UK households alone in experiencing problems with smart meters.  In Holland the consumers association Consumentenbond has raised concerns about some 750,000 not-so-smart meters fitted in Dutch homes.  According to Dutch News:

“Researchers at Twente University and Amsterdam’s hbo college… found that in some cases, the electricity usage measured by the devices in laboratory tests was wrong by almost 600%.”

The problem for households is that we have no choice other than to rely on the readings given by meters (smart or otherwise).  So these known cases of wildly inaccurate readings may be just the tip of the iceberg.  Smaller errors are far more likely to go unnoticed.

The news is a setback to government plans for a universal roll-out of smart meters which will allow the National Grid to disconnect people at will, and pave the way for differential energy pricing in which in a scarce energy future, wealthy households will be able to pay a premium rate to prevent power cuts.

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