Smart Meter Update
By NICK HUNN
“Hello, this is the British Electricity Smart Meter hotline. You are number two million, four hundred and sixty eight thousand, two hundred and twenty three in a queue. We’re sorry your smart meter has disconnected you and that you have no electricity. We are working to upgrade the firmware in all of our smart meters and hope to have your power restored sometime in the next six months. Thank you for your call.”
It’s the scenario that no-one in the energy industry wants to talk about – the day that Britain’s smart meters go wrong or get hacked and millions of users lose power. It will probably never happen, but some things have such appalling consequences that we shouldn’t design and deploy something that makes even that small probability possible. But we have. And nobody appears to have thought about making sure it’s possible to recover from it.
The GB Smart metering specification grew out of a British Gas specification, published in 2010, which owed more to the potential for customer acquisition than any advantage it gave to personal energy efficiency or grid management. With mis-selling contracts on the doorstep being the industry’s main route to customer acquisition, they saw the ability of smart meters to offer tailored tariffs as an important advantage. Within a year, doorstep selling had been outlawed, but that original specification lived on, morphing into the amazingly complex GB Smart Metering Program.