Energy and Climate Change CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Richard Phillips (SMR15)

This paper is written as a formal submission to the Commons Select Committee on “Smart Meter Roll Out”. It is written entirely by myself, based only on the material I have been able to garner form the web.

1. The progressive introduction of sources of renewable energy by HMG has been accompanied by a variety of administrative measures to reduce the electricity power requirements of the country. This connection is not generally recognised, but is never-the-less a real one.

2. Two of these measures have been stated as being directed to “energy efficiency”.

3. A limited number of households have been the recipients of free roof insulation, and in the form of the Green Deal, other households are offered Government loans (repayable) to carry out similar insulating work. A third system is also favoured by HMG, that of the installation of “Smart Meters”.

4. Details of these meters is not easy to find. Indeed they are manufactured to the specification laid down purchaser, by the individual electricity manufacturer.

5. HMG declare that their purpose is to inform the consumer, in greater and more informative detail, of the manner in which they are using their electricity, and thus how they may adjust this in the interests of greater economy.

6. Of this the smart meter is not capable. They do not in any way inform the householder of the power consumption of individual items in use. For this purpose a second monitor is needed. They do, however, inform the householder of gross consumption, and the cost thereof.

7. Much is made by HMG of the “Two Way” communication between householder and power supplier. I have not been able to determine how the householder, is able in any realistic to communicate in any fashion with the power company, but the basic ability of the power company remotely to terminate supply, is a basic function of all Smart Meters.

8. Since the meters are manufactured to the specification of the installer, two additional parameters will be open to him.

9. First, it is possible, since there are, at the moment, two tariffs in common use, depending upon time of day, for the supplier to provide for more than two tariffs, and even to alter tariffs at will. This latter may be considered “necessary” by the supplier to, since it is a free market, pass on any increases from the generator. Shortages of supply could be an influence in this respect, and under present Government policies, a shortage of power supply is seen by the author as inevitable. This quote appears in a document on grid management, sponsored by SPREEE; “increased use of demand side services enabled by SMART meters”.

10. A second parameter which may demanded, is the ability to limit the supply to any household. This could well be achieved by a current detection and termination mode in the meter. Thus the whole household could find itself without electricity if its demand exceeded a specified amperage, set remotely, at the will of the supplier. There are certainly houses in France where a similar system exists, if too many devices are switched on at any one time, and their total power demand exceeds a predetermined limit, the whole supply is switched off, and has to be re-established manually. This can be very distressing to the householder.

That these two options are open to the supplier is emphasised by the sentence in the DECC GovUK web-site: “However, there are a number of other technologies available. A decision has not yet been made on the technology (or technologies) that should be used when smart meters are rolled out to everyone”.

11. It would thus be convenient for the supplier, if the present policies of HMG were to result, as I maintain they will, in shortages of supply, due to renewable energy which cannot meet essential demand, to be able remotely to control domestic supplies. This circumstance is aggravated by the rolling closure of nominated fossil fuelled power stations under the LCPD. This is in spite of the fact that the original function of the LCPD was to control particulate emissions from waste incinerators. To this requirement HMG added control of CO2 emissions.

Summary

12. I find it difficult therefore to detect any meaningful advantage to the consumer, other than the convenience of automated meter reading. There is, however, notable advantage to the supplier of having considerable control over the supply of power to the consumer. Additionally, the consumer will be obliged to fund the costs of the meter. (In the navy of old, sailors could be made to plait the whip used to flog them).

13. I am a retired research scientist, having spent the last 35 years of my professional career at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire. Since retirement I have continued to take a keen interest in all energy matters, and have a wide circle of very experienced contacts in all aspects of the industry. I have thus acquired a wide knowledge of the spectrum of energy matters from nuclear generation to renewables. I became, by examination, an Associate of the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1954, and was elected a Fellow in 1971.

February 2013

Prepared 26th July 2013