Up to now, I haven’t really thought that much about smart meters.

I knew they were something to do with broadcasting meter readings, but that was about it.

The other day, I was browsing the Interweb and came across a mention of smart meters at Captain Ranty’s place which contained a link which I dutifully followed.

The title of the article set alarm bells ringing – “Consumers unaware of smart meters ahead of EU-wide roll-out”.

As I read the article, the alarm bells became a deafening clamour.

What for example is this – “smart meters could become compulsory across Europe”?  What is this talk about a “mandatory roll out”?

I decided to do a little more investigating.

My first search produced a clatter of web sites that broadly fell into two camps.  There were a few sites that were banding over backwards to tell us the benefits and telling us to ignore the doubters, and then there were the doubters who pointed out the drawbacks.

I always get a little suspicious of campaigns to tell us the benefits in advance as usually it means they are worried that they are about to get a lot of bad press.  Frankly the pro-smart meter crowd failed to impress me.

What are the benefits of the smart meter?

The only benefit I could find is that it will put a lot of meter readers out of work.  Outside that, I couldn’t find a single one.  There is a lot of waffle saying that the power companies need precise information on what power is being consumed and where.  Why?  They already know what the demand level is, so reading an individual’s meter isn’t going to tell them any more.  They say that readings will be more accurate.  Why?  The meter reader usually jots down pretty accurate figures from my meter so why should electronics be any more accurate? If I get an estimated bill, it doesn’t matter as it will be balanced by the next bill.

What are the drawbacks?

Well, a lot of sites out there waffle on about radiation from the radio signal, but I don’t worry about that.  I already have a mobile phone and a wireless computer network so I am fairly well irradiated anyway.

What does concern me is the inferences that can be drawn from the meter readings.  If the system is hacked [and all systems can be hacked] then any would be criminal would instantly know when the house is unoccupied for any length of time.  Even ignoring the criminal element, who else is going to have access to the readings?

Who is going to pay for all of this?

Well that answer to that is simple – we are. We will either have the cost lumped onto or power bills, or it will come out of our taxes.

I have two questions I would like answered.

1. Why is the EU insisting that these meters be mandatory?

2. Why by their own estimates are they prepared to force us to pay €51 billion in order to save between €26 billion and €41 billion?

There is something very suspicious about the whole business.

Like most things from the EU, it stinks.

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Power crazy — 13 Comments

  1. When at home in Ireland I’ve received about three bi-monthly ESB bills each year that were actually based on meter readings. All other bills were Estimates. They subsequently adjusted amounts due in later bills. My modern home was built with an outside meter that the meter readers could open with a key to jot down the units consumed.

    If they mechanise/computerise the reading of meters it’s going to put meter readers out of a job, but also, as in the case of withdrawing door-to-door mail deliveries, it will be another blow to the informal security of rural dwellers. Society in urban and rural areas is becoming too impersonal. Community-building infrastructure needs to be sustained, not dismantled.

  2. Your mobile phone isn’t irradiating you all the time, smart meters pass on messages from outlying meters in towards a central collection receiver so may transmit for very long periods. Your router by comparison is very low power.
    But smart meters can also be used to ration supply by turning them off or reducing your allowance when, for example, the wind isn’t blowing. Is that good enough reason to explain the compulsive rollout?

  3. Ger – That is an excellent pont about breaking the isolation.  The fella who calls here is always bright and breezy and dying for a chat, so I look forward to his calling.  As you say – just another nail in the concept of community.  Occasionally he misses out for some reason and I get an estimated bill.  That doesn’t bother me in the slightest as it is always corrected by the next reading.

    Woodsy [42] – One thing I wondered about was the actual physics of the data collection.  I would assume that the meters would have to use the mobile phone network as that is the only thing that covers virtually the entire country?  I confess I wouldn’t be too happy at the extra radiation, not least because it is something entirely outside my control.  After all I can switch off my phone and network any time I please [and often do].    As for the idea of rationing my usage, they can go fuck themselves.  If they want to blank the entire area then that is one thing but picking on individual houses is another matter altogether,

    Those fucking Greens have a lot to answer for.  Roll on Piano Wire Day.

  4. Well obviously there won’t be enough electricity to go round!   When we start relying on wind-power we’ll still have to have constant back-up running as the wind won’t blow all the time – and even if it did we’d need to cover the entire country in them to get enough power.  They produce pretty much nothing by comparison to conventional power stations, and we’re all going to have to have our power rationed if they keep insisting on using them.

  5. @Ger
    This is a very good point Ger, I never thought about that, yet it’s a very important aspect.
    For me this is the biggest drawback of internet – ignorants blabbing about things they obviously don’t have a clue about. Which is what you just did – and by the way, what does it have to do with a topic of meter reading?

  6. Apart from actually hacking the software in the meters, there is always the good old reliable Faraday Cage.  All you would need is a fine wire-mesh cage placed around the meter and connected to ground!

    Jedrzej – I don’t know if Meltemian is that far off the mark.  I have seen quite a few reports on those wind farms and they are notoriously fickle.  And with society totally dependent on electricity, there are going to be major problems with reliability of power, with many observers predicting constant rolling brownouts or blackouts.

  7. The interior of castle O’Hare has some fairly thick stone walls so my wifi doesn’t work well in some rooms.  I therefore bought myself some adapters that carry the LAN signal through the mains.  Rather than use mobile phone networks it would seem plausible for these smart meters to use the grid, in which case a Faraday cage isn’t a lot of good.  It should however be possible to block the signal by introducing some noise in the right frequency range.  I’m sure some clever sparks will come up with such a device.

  8. Hah!  Same problem here – a two foot thick solid granite wall between the front and back of the house.  I ended up with two networks! 

    As for the meters – sooner or later some smartarse will find a way around them.  Maybe I’ll be that smartarse?  😈

  9. jedrzej,
    Meters =  Smart Meters  =  Power Rationing Enabled,  (because there won’t be enough for everyone all the time)
    See, there is a connection.  

  10. @Meltemian
    Yea, but how did you get from the topic of obviously worrying idea of electronic meters to wind farms? Where is the connection? Also, who proposes that we “start relaying on wind power”? 
    “They produce pretty much nothing by comparison to conventional power stations” – not true. 10% of electricity in Germany, that’s a collosal amount. A big wind farm is equivalent to a nuclear plant. Now, nobody proposes that we should _relay_ on windpower, but it really is a great and clean power source. And, fortunately, on the rise. 
    I know GD hates wind mills, so I stop my advocating rant here. He would look at them with more affection though if he happened – like me – to come from a country where over 90% of electricity is produced from coal.

  11. jedrzej,
    Wow!  A whole 10 per cent?  
    You still don’t seem to realise that there needs to be back-up running constantly so it can step in when the wind DOESN’T blow.  That means you are either doubling the equipment or cutting the supply.  Even as back-up conventional power is necessary or the power cuts will have to happen.   Thorium reactors look like the best bet for the future.  

  12. Meltemian,
    First of all, you didn’t answer my quetions: how did you even get to this topic and why? Who proposes that we “start relaying on wind power”? You are valiantly attacking a strawman for a reson which remains unclear to me.
    But once we are there. If you had any clue about this topic, I mean any, you would know that 10% in a country of the size and economy of Germany is a colossal amount. Seriously. Also, it was 1% just 10 years ago. So, yes, wow.

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