In September 2011 Electric.co.uk news reported that a study carried out over a 12-month period looking at thousands of families who were using smart meters found that these smart meters had a very little impact on energy consumption.
In March 2016 the intelligence agency, GCHQ, intervened in the rollout of smart meters to demand better encryption to protect UK electricity and gas supplies. GCHQ recommended that the system be re-visited after spooks cast their eyes over the plans and realised that power companies were proposing to use a single decryption key for communications from the 53 million smart meters that will eventually be installed in the UK.
The agency was concerned that the glaring security weakness could enable hackers, once they’d cracked the key, to gain access to the network and potentially wreak havoc by shutting down meters en masse, causing power surges across the network. The security flaws would have been particularly catastrophic as the UK’s expensive smart metering system doesn’t just automate meter reading. It enables power companies to engage in power management and even to cut people off remotely if they haven’t paid their bills.
The £11bn scheme is expected to save consumers £26 per year, notwithstanding the £30 cost of a proprietary wireless device to get minute-by-minute readings direct from the meter.
In other words, the UK has opted for an insecure smart metering system that is one of the most expensive, while offering the least scope for savings. Though, in 2017, reports of very high daily bills, up to £30,000 a day were reported. On Sunday, a woman from Portsmouth reported that her meter stated she was on £36,448.29 for the week – far beyond the daily £3.80 her family usually use (BBC news 5th March 2017). SSE apologised and said no customers would be charged “the extra amounts resulting from errors”.
In experiments on smart meters carried out by Professor Frank Leferink of the University of Twente in 2016, five of the nine meters gave readings that were much higher than the actual amount of power consumed. Indeed, in some setups, these were up to 582 percent higher. The greatest inaccuracies were seen when dimmers combined with energy saving light bulbs and LED bulbs were connected to the system.
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