Smart Meters – coming to a boiler near you

As reported by the BBC today, Energy Secretary Ed Miliband is set to announce the government's roll-out of Smart Meters in Parliament this afternoon.

Smart_meter For those unaware, the Smart Meter is a small device which provides users with a visual display allowing them to see exactly how much electricity and gas they are using and, importantly, then relays the data straight to your energy provider. It does this through the use of mobile phone technology and is several times more accurate than our current power meters.

While I can see some of the positives in using this technology, there also number of flaws in the proposal as it stands that are making us very nervous about this announcement.

The first is the estimated cost – £9bn (or £340 per household) for an annual average saving on your electricity bill of £28. This cost will not be handled solely by the government, so our tax money might be safe(ish). But if the £9bn is being borne by the energy companies, we all know it is going to be passed on to the consumer with much higher energy bills.

The second, and the problem more relevant to Big Brother Watch, is the complete vacuum in the plans where privacy and data is concerned.

To date the focus of the government and energy companies has been on making sure the customer cannot tamper with their Smart Meter. What there isn't is any guidance on how the information is being stored and who has access to it - but I suspect we’re looking at yet another database.

Then there is the issue of the government being able to access data which can actually tell a lot about your daily routine – the switching on and off of lights indicates when you leave the house etc.

The fear is that in a few years’ time the majority of households could find their homes harbouring a device which gives the state unfettered access to our energy habits and the accompanying ability to hold us to ransom for the amounts of electricity we consume.
Radio5logo I do not accept that in order to save our environment we have to sacrifice our right to privacy. At present the Smart Meter project looks poorly thought-through and potentially very dangerous.

I was on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday debating the merits and faults of Smart Meters with Business Correspondent, Nick Cosgrove and CEO of First:Utility, Mark Daeche. To listen to the discussion click the link below (approx 8 minutes long).

Dylan Sharpe on Radio 5 Live
By Dylan Sharpe

In the United States they have been having this debate for some time. I would urge those who are interested to read more about the privacy and intrusion fears over at Fausty's Blog.

Posted by on Dec 2, 2009 in Databases, Privacy | 13 Comments