Campaigns against Smart Meters
There are a small number of campaigns against Smart Meters. Each campaign tends to focus on one particular reason to be against Smart Meters, let's look at the main reasons.
- Information Privacy: Some campaigns suggest that the data collected from Smart Meters could be used for unauthorised purposes. Most data collected will be for meter readings, a Smart Meter can collect meters readings frequently, say every 30 minutes, for sending back to your energy supplier. With such frequent readings there are concerns that someone could work out when you are away from home or work out what you are doing. Firstly no one other than the supplier can see your data unless you give permission and you can ask your energy supplier to only collect meter reading data at a particular frequency. For example if you are not on a complex product and don't want to observe the pattern of your own consumption, then you can ask your supplier to only collect data on a monthly basis.
What you want to do will be very much down to personal choice and your view on sharing your data with others. It's a common concern and decision we all have to make these days, especially with the rise of sharing so much information through social media.
- Radio waves: Some campaigns suggest that Smart Meters emit harmful radio waves. This could be relevant to you if you are one of the rare people who are sensitive to radio frequencies and have had to remove mobile telephones, and wireless devices from your home, otherwise there is no additional risk from Smart Meters.
- Economic Sense: Does it make economic sense to install Smart Meters; this is a good challenge as the government's own business case is weak. The main benefit is the benefit to customers reducing their consumption as they will have better visibility of their usage and cost position. Surveys testing the assumption have varied, many show that customer's consumption reduces initially and then goes back up as the novelty factor of a Smart Meter and In Home Display wears off.
In the longer term suppliers should offer more innovative tariffs which will provide a longer term benefit to those customers willing to change their pattern of use to save money.
- Inaccuracy: There has been evidence of some electricity smart meters not recording accurately when power controllers are used, such as light dimmers. Dimmers can control the power by chopping the power wave up resulting in a wave which is not a smooth sine wave and interfering with the measurement. Experiments have shown that smart meters using Rogowski coils or Hall Effect sensors over record the power used by up to 600% and some under record by 50% depending on the power usage characteristics and measurement technique used. Meters in the UK to the SMETS specifications do not suffer from this problem as they use a different measurement technology.
Questions & Answers
Can I refuse to have a smart meter installed?
Yes. You are under no obligation to have a smart meter installed in your home, and you can change your mind and accept one later. You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier. However there will come a time when only Smart Meters are available and so if your meter breaks due to a fault it will be replaced by a Smart Meter. See our Against page for information on why some people are worried about Smart Meters. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
Are smart meters safe?
Yes. Smart meters are subject to the same safety regulations and testing of any in-home technological devices, including baby monitors and mobile phones. Additionally the meters are secure having a security system developed by industry and government experts including GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre. A side benefit is that many safety problems are being spotted in peoples homes during installation of the smart meter which would not have been spotted without a visit. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
What will energy companies do with the information they collect about my energy consumption?
Under Ofgem codes published July 2013, you can dictate how much data your energy supplier can retrieve from your smart meter and whether your supplier can share that information with third parties. See our Customer Rights page for your rights on meter readings. You can also decide whether or not your supplier can use that information for marketing purposes. Just call your supplier if you want to check or change your preferences. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
Can my supply be turned off remotely?
Smart meters have the facility to remotely disconnect and reconnect both the electricity and gas supply. However most suppliers seem to have decided it is too dangerous to remotely disconnect or reconnect, as in the case of disconnection they cannot always be sure that the customer isn't relying on a supply for serious health reasons and in the case of reconnection the customer may have left a cooker on for example. (Updated: 2015-01-23)
Why are smart meters controversial?
Whilst earlier conversations about smart meters focused on safety (which you can read more about in Campaigns Against), more recent criticisms have sprung from how the government and suppliers are handling the roll-out. From cost to customer communication, the plan to get a smart meter into every home by 2024 has been a bumpy ride so far. In early 2014, EDF Energy, ScottishPower and npower called for a review of the roll-out, stating the cost to customers would be £1.8 billion. This, they said, was due to the "ambitious" deadline of every household in four years and the cost of the In Home Displays. The cost is ultimately paid by customers through measures on their energy bills. Instead, suppliers proposed, customers could link up their smart meter to their smartphone or tablet to save cost. In 2013, independent research commissioned by uSwitch found that 55% of us were "in the dark" about smart meters. That meant households did not understand what smart meters did and how they could benefit them. However, later studies of those with actual smart meters in their homes enjoyed more accurate billing and were more satisfied with their providers. (Updated: 2019-12-22)