The UK's Institute of Directors (IoD) calls for Smart Meters scheme to be ‘halted, altered or scrapped’ to avoid ‘unjustified, over-engineered and expensive mistake’.
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By Institute of Directors (IoD), UK | see original article
britain-iod
The UK’s leading business network of company directors has issued a damning report and warning against the UK’s planned “smart” meter rollout.

IoD calls for Smart Meters scheme to be ‘halted, altered or scrapped’ to avoid ‘unjustified, over-engineered and expensive mistake’

The Government’s rollout of Smart Meters, digital energy meters designed to provide real-time usage statistics, should be “halted, altered or scrapped” to avoid a potentially catastrophic government IT disaster, the Institute of Directors warns today.

In a major new report entitled “Not too clever: will Smart Meters be the next Government IT disaster?” the IoD brands the £11bn scheme, the largest government IT project in history, “unwanted by consumers, devoid of credibility and mind-blowingly expensive”. The business group calls on an incoming government to review the project and “consider a fresh start”.

iod-report-smart-metersView or download the IoD report:
Not too clever: Will Smart Meters be the next Government IT disaster?
(PDF, Released March 27, 2015)

Summary:

  • Smart meters are the largest UK Government-run IT project in history, and the most expensive and complex smart meter programme in the world.
  • The risks of such a huge programme with so much complexity are staggering.
  • The pace of technological innovation may well leave the current generation of meters behind and leave consumers in a cycle of installation, de-installation and re-installation.
  • Three assessments of the programme by the Major Projects Authority have not been published. This is unacceptable.
  • It is imperative to move towards a cost-effective smart meter rollout by embracing one or all of the following cost-saving and simplifying measures:
    1. i) Halting the smart gas meter deployment;
    2. ii) Removing the requirement for an in home display;
    3. iii) Reduce rollout to only those homes that have a high energy usage;
    4. iv) Abandon attempts to stretch the rollout to flats and tower blocks;
    5. v) Make the programme genuinely voluntary;
    6. vi) Abandon the programme altogether and develop a smartphone app that allows customers to take their own readings.
  • Over the years, the ambition and scale of Government IT projects has not been matched by appropriate management and planning.
  • 80 per cent of surveyed IoD members believe Government’s ability to deliver successful IT projects is poor.

The Smart Meter programme, which has the hugely ambitious target of installing 100 million new pieces of kit in homes and business by 2020, was initiated by Ed Miliband as energy secretary in 2008, following an EU Directive, and confirmed by the Coalition Agreement in 2010.  The report’s author, Dan Lewis, Senior Infrastructure Advisor at the IoD, calls the political consensus “a conspiracy of silence among politicians in thrall to big ideas and even bigger budgets”.

Lewis continues:

“The professed aims of the Smart Meter programme are laudable, and we all recognise the benefits of reducing consumption and increasing energy awareness. But there is little credible evidence to suggest that a scheme of this size and complexity will achieve those goals.”

The IoD report highlights a number of key concerns:

  • Despite the EU Directive, 11 nations have ruled out electricity smart meters and only 5 are pushing ahead with the 2020 target for gas meters. In contrast, as is so often is the case, the UK has gold-plated the Directive.
  • The government refuses to publish any of the reports on the programme by the Major Projects Authority.
  • The cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Department for Energy and Climate Change is so heavily redacted as to be almost unreadable.
  • The Smart Meter network would be vulnerable to cyber-attack and disruption.
  • Introducing time-of-day pricing to shift consumer demand will only work with price increases that are not politically realistic. Retail consumers really can’t change their energy consumption that much.

The report places the rollout of Smart Meters within the context of previous large-scale IT fiascos, including the infamous NHS National Programme for IT, the eBorders Programme and the BBC’s disastrous Digital Media Initiative.  Furthermore, a recent survey shows that 80 per cent of IoD members rate the ability of government to manage large IT projects as “poor or very poor”.

Dan Lewis adds:

“This scheme is far from smart. The dishonourable roll call of government IT projects that have haemorrhaged vast amounts of taxpayers’ money to no discernible effect needs no further additions. Consumers will not forgive the already unpopular energy companies for a costly programme which fails to deliver and ends up making them poorer. Without a change of direction, whoever wins the general election is at risk of overseeing a spectacular failure in the next parliament. They would be well-advised to consider a fresh start.

“Consumers do not want the meters, they have proved a costly mistake in countries where they have been rolled out, and the Government is withholding key details about their costs and benefits. This makes for a programme which is devoid of credibility, over-engineered and mind-blowingly expensive. Perhaps the only reason why the cost and ambition of this project has not become a national scandal already is because of a conspiracy of silence among politicians in thrall to big ideas and even bigger budgets.”

A key area of concern outlined in the report is that the technology behind the scheme is untested and some parts will likely be obsolete by the scheduled switch-on date of 2020. The new wireless standard, ZigBee, which is being developed for Smart Meters is complex and expensive compared to the better-known Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Each property will also get an in home display, but there is scant evidence of consumer demand. British Gas found that only 60% of customers looked at their displays even once a month a year after installation.

Recommendations

An incoming government should consider the following changes:

  • Stop the smart gas meter deployment – only a handful of EU nations are planning to deploy gas smart meters by 2020. This would save billions of pounds.
  • Remove the requirement for an in home display – expected to cost £800m in total, the displays will be out of date in a few years. Far better to connect smart meters to people’s phones, tablets and PCs
  • Limit the rollout to homes with high energy usage – those who use more than 5,100 kWh of electricity, and 23,000 kWh of gas a year have much more to gain. This would reduce the scale of the rollout by 80%.
  • Abandon attempts to stretch  the rollout to tower blocks – the most technically challenging aspect of the project with the lowest potential returns. This would remove seven million homes from the scheme.
  • Make the programme genuinely voluntary – offered to customers at their own expense, not subsidised by all.
  • Abandon the whole programme and develop a smart phone app instead – look into developing a smart app which would convert a photo of their current mechanical meter into a meaningful number for the suppliers. This would cost tens of thousands of pounds rather than billions.

Lewis added:

“We know that an incoming government will be under intense financial pressure, having to find further cuts to public spending. This does not fit well with increasing energy bills for a project that has such unrealistic targets, such large costs and such uncertain benefits.”

iod-report-smart-metersView or download the IoD report:
Not too clever: Will Smart Meters be the next Government IT disaster?
(PDF, Released March 27, 2015)

Josh del Sol Beaulieu

Josh del Sol Beaulieu is the creator of Take Back Your Power, a documentary about 'smart' meters which won the AwareGuide Transformational Film of the Year, the Indie Fest Annual Humanitarian Award, and a Leo Award. In 2017, Josh co-founded InPower Movement, pioneering a process using commercial liability to halt harmful technology such as 'smart' meters, 5G and mandatory vaccinations. Josh is passionate about human rights, consciousness, decentralized energy, safe technology and being a dad.

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4 comments

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  • I think the people of the US and Canada should realize the very real dangers to HEALTH, since we are coming aware of the very real dangers of fire and destruction of household equipment, including computers, from this NON-UL Approved equipment. The EU countries apparently are opting out, except for 5 –

    but there is no mention of HEALTH dangers, including fires – this article only mentions high cost and grid vulnerability. Cheers!

  • ALL “smart” function equipment should be BANNED world wide, period. Smart phones, smart meters, smart appliances, and nearly everything labeled “smart” utilize pulsed digital carrier waves and RF frequencies that are proven to be biologically harmful or fatal. It’s time to put the genie behind bars…

  • Smart meters and a big ugly cell tower 1/2 mile away have killed me. After awhile you get the hint that this is exactly what ‘they’ want I probably won’t make it till Christmas. I hope they are happy. It’s what I get for not being able to work and feed their ravenous greed anymore.

    • MIZ Patriot my husband and I are having huge health problems because of the Smart Meters plus we just found out there is cell tower on a pole 100 feet from our home, this cell tower is used by Ameren to transmit all these smart meter readings from 5 miles away with a 360 degree radius, we were shocked to find out what had been causing all these symptoms, and Ameren did not even tell us they were placing a cell tower near our home, we contacted Ameren and demanded that they remove this cell tower and smart meters, we are still waiting, and still suffering every night, the symptoms are Insomnia headaches, vomiting, dizziness, vertigo, sharp stabbing pains, rash, fatique, just to name a few. it is August 18th 2015. We live in Missouri.