Smart Meters Offer Best Hope Of Cutting Energy Use

Smart meters may have received some criticism lately, but they are still the best hope to reduce energy use in homes across Britain, and an opportunity to apply technology to solve a pressing problem, according to Pilgrim Beart of AlertMe.

The government’s programme to roll out smart meters to every home in the land was presented as a high-tech way to reduce energy consumption by balancing supply and demand, while turning off what isn’t being used. However, last week, the idea got knocked by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC),which wanted to see some more reliable maths behind the energy the scheme claims it will save, and by Which? magazine, which described the thing as a potential “£11  billion fiasco”.

Figures in context

With exquisite timing, Beart popped up later that week at the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) in London, to give a lecture which put forward the case for domestic smart meters in the context of the whole country’s energy use.

Beart previously ran research and development at Splashpower, which tried and failed to commercialise induction-based charging for devices. He is now founder of AlertMe, a home security company that has re-invented itself, expanding its home technology brief into energy management. AlertMe’s products measure home electricity use, but also hook up to home broadband and allow users to remotely manage it and control devices through smart plugs.

Beart’s lecture wasn’t a product pitch, though. As this year’s Clark Maxwell lecture on energy, he presented an overview of the country’s energy use, the part domestic energy plays in that, and the role of intelligence in bringing that under control.

Before the lecture, speaking to TechWeekEurope, he brushed off the concerns of Which? and the PAC. “None of them are saying call a halt to it,” he said. “They have just raised concerns.”

The costs of smart meters are a price worth paying, he said, even though they will be higher than Which? expects.

“The price will go up to around £15 billion,” he predicted. However, even then, it will be worthwhile, in the context of a national domestic energy bill of £26 billion, he said. The smart meter roll-out will put in 53 million meters (gas and electricity meters for each household),  and the cost will be spread over the next ten years.

The point is, that while some people are dubious about the real benefits from smart meters, Beart is a believer. If smart meters are done the right way, he thinks they really can save substantial chunks of energy.

“There have been 130 smart meter programmes in the world so far,” he said. “Most of those were put in by the utilities, for the utilities.” This sort of installation can provide remote and more accurate meter readings, and improve efficiency, but only to the extent of about three percent, he said.

Thirty of the world’s smart meter roll-outs have given the user an in-home display, said Beart, and these have provided much greater benefits: “an eight percent saving on energy used in the home. ”

The figures, he said, came from a study from energy think tank VaasaETT, which published this study in May 2010, detailing the potential conflict of interest between utilities and their customers.

The point is that nothing can be saved until it is measured, and the information made available to those who can act on it. Smart meters may cost £300, and that cost will be passed to the end user, but if they make an eight percent saving on their energy use, said Beart, they will pay for themselves in three to four years,while delivering a benefit to the nation in reducing demand.

In his lecture, Beart pointed out that “negaWatts”, or energy saved, are much cheaper and are about one eighth the price of generating new Watts of electricity. The potential of local generation, in-house combined heat and power, and other measures, can’t be fully realised until the intelligence is there to make best use of each Watt that is produced.

Over the last fourty years, our energy consumption has crept inexorably up, along with our lifestyles, and so far moves such as energy-saving lightbulbs are only marginally damping down that growth.

The application of analytic, measurement and control will bring an efficient IT sensibility to the problem he said, and he is optimistic it can all work out.

“We must try for a 2020s lifetsyle with 1970s energy consumption,” said Beart. “In the end, efficiency is good for all of us.”

Peter Judge

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

View Comments

  • THAT IS A LIE.

    So-called smart meters do NOT save energy. That is a Utility company LIE.

    SMART METERS ARE ONLY GOOD FOR UTILITY COMPANY EXECUTIVES

    Concepts and theory sounds great, but upon closer inspection:

    A. Utility bills are increasing where smart meters are installed, not decreasing.

    B. Customer information from smart meters is NOT formatted for customers and does NOT change customer behavior towards conservation.

    C. The cost - benefit of smart meters is horrendous and is being promoted to profit the utility companies and their suppliers, not customers, our society or our environment.

    D. The Smart Grid does NOT use or require a smart meter on each home. The necessary smart information can be gathered much more efficiently and timely and inexpensively at energy distribution points. (The smart grid does not care or need to know how much power any one home uses.)

    E. The vast amount of unnecessary and nearly useless information to be handled and stored may actually raise energy usage.

    F. This massive Billions-of-dollars smart meter program (that we pay for) will leave NO funds for programs that would truly bring energy saving solutions and the public will not be receptive to real solutions after being burned by these Smart meters.

    Must-See 4-minute youtube video on Smart meter privacy violations.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8JNFr_j6kdI

    Lots of good info at
    emfsafetynetwork.org

  • SMART METER PRIVACY VIOLATIONS.
    1. Must-See 4-minute youtube video on Smart meters
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8JNFr_j6kdI

    SMART METER HEALTH PROBLEMS AND CANCER.

    2. The WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION May 31 2011 placed the Non-ionizing radiation coming from Wireless smart meters (& some other wireless devices) on the Class 2-B Carcinogen List.
    http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf

    3. The NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH Feb 2011 found biological changes in the brain after only minutes of exposure to non-ionizing radiation.
    http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/8/808.abstract

    4. LABORATORY SCIENTISTS have observed
    (1) Human Cell Damage
    (2) DNA Chain Breaks
    (3) Breaches in the Blood-Brain Barrier
    from levels of non-ionizing radiation lower than emitted by WIRELESS Smart meters.
    http://electromagnetichealth.org/electromagnetic-health-blog/cc-video/

    5. INSURANCE COMPANIES won’t insure smart meters due to biological damage seen by scientists they hired. 
 TV Video (3 minutes)
    http://eon3emfblog.net/?p=382


    Cell Phone use and other devices are Voluntary and can be shut off at the user’s discretion, but Smart meters mounted on homes are emitting radiation 24/7 and can not be shut off.

    6. WIRELESS SMART METERS – 100 TIMES MORE RADIATION THAN CELL PHONES.
 Video Interview: Nuclear Scientist, Daniel Hirsch, (5 minutes)
    http://stopsmartmeters.org/2011/04/20/daniel-hirsch-on-ccsts-fuzzy-math/

    7. WIRELESS SMART METERS – CANCER, NERVOUS SYSTEM DAMAGE, ADVERSE REPRODUCTION AFFECTS. 
Video Interview: Dr. Carpenter, New York Public Health Department, Dean of Public Health, (2 minutes)
    http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=3946

    PG$E, California’s Utility Monopoly, recently admitted that each smart meter transmits radiation between 10,000 & 190,000 times each day.

    This corrects previous false statements repeated often by utility companies across the country.


    NOTE: many of the tests on non-ionizing radiation (the type of radiation emitted by smart meters) have been done using devices other than smart meters because smart meters have only been in people’s homes for a very short time.

    But as a Wireless smart meter emits 100 times more radiation than a cell phone, it is not difficult to project. If a machine gun (smart meter) fires 100 bullets in the same time that a pistol (cell phone) fires one bullet, it is not difficult to project the harm that the machine gun can do, even if the tests were done with the pistol.

    CUSTOMER UTILITY BILLS AFTER SMART METERS INSTALLED.

    8. Skyrocketing Utility Bills after installation
    TV News Video (3 minutes)
    http://www.bakersfieldnow.com/news/63581287.html?tab=video

    NATIONAL SECURITY RISKS DUE TO SMART METERS.

    9. CIA Director James Woolsey calls Smart grid “Stupid” due to National Security problems caused by so-called smart meters.
    News Video (1 minute)
    http://www.energynow.com/video/2011/08/10/preview-mix-james-woolsey

  • Smart Meters Offer Best Hope Of Cutting Energy Use??? - ABSOLUTE RUBBISH

    Smart Meters are one way of making sure your bills are not estimated and you don't pay for services you don't use. Make no mistake, there's a more benefits to the utility companies as they don't need to outsource their meter reading.

    If your concerned about health matters some companies send SMS alerts and allow you to enter your meter readings on line which, as long as your careful, should yield the same effect.

    So, what is the answer?

    Easy really, monitor your appliances with an electricity monitor and turn off what you don't need.

    You wouldn't leave your car running in the drive so don't leave appliances running when you're not using them!

    Also, check your bills and check your contracts. Make sure your getting the best deal and if you can afford a bit extra choose a supplier that generates power from renewable resources.

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