Opposition to costly, privacy-invasive, and hazardous utility “smart” meters – electric, gas, and water – has been worldwide since they started being deployed over a decade ago. Year after year, experts expose over and over again “smart” meters aren’t accurate, beneficial to consumers, essential for “energy efficiency” or safe (see 1, 2, 3, 4).
Earlier this year, issues and complaints started frequently being reported in the UK particularly regarding the forced installation of prepayment “smart” meters (see 1, 2). Politicians also started expressing their concerns about higher charges and more disconnections. In September, a survey revealed that UK consumers were experiencing increased anxiety after “smart” meter installation. More recently it was reported that millions of UK “smart” meters will soon be obsolete and need to be replaced. Of course, short life-spans seem to be the norm with these horrible devices.
Smart meters were touted as the solution to energy bean counting, and while there have certainly been some success stories, a new report has discovered that as many as 7 million smart meters will fail when older cellular networks are shut down. What exactly will this situation lead to, why does this demonstrate the dangers of poor engineering when relying on short-lived technologies, and how can engineers rectify such mistakes going forward?
What exactly will this smart meter situation lead to?
It is no secret that I personally detest smart meters, not because they are able to track energy usage in real time, but because they are given the label “smart” when they are anything but provide little benefit to the end-user and cannot be used to provide reliable energy savings by reducing consumption during peak usage (having said that, this is more of a fault with energy providers). To add to the rage, many energy consumers are finding that energy companies have installed smart meters against their knowledge, or worse, find that their smart meters fail in a spectacular way, charging users thousands of pounds in energy usage that was never actually used.
The Financial Implications and Consumer Concerns
The financial burden of the smart meter failures is not to be underestimated. With a staggering seven million meters on the brink of obsolescence due to the phasing out of 2G and 3G networks, the costs associated with hardware upgrades are set to soar. The recent government report underscores that these costs will, unfortunately, fall on the consumers. This raises pressing concerns about the transparency and equity of the entire smart meter initiative, and whether consumers were adequately informed about potential future costs when the meters were first introduced.
However, if future smart meters can be connected to smart home systems, provide better energy rates, and introduce real intelligence into the energy consumption industry, then they have an immense capacity to do well. Of course, future smart meters will need to utilise different technologies than those currently in use, and all consumers will periodically need to get their meters updated.