Energy and Climate Change CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Stop Smart Meters (UK) (SMR39)

1. Are the Government’s cost and timescale predictions for roll-out realistic and will it deliver value or money?

At Stop Smart Meters (UK) we believe that the costs of a Smart Meter roll-out will be more expensive than predicted and that the consumers will bear the brunt of that bill in the form of higher energy bills. We may already have seen this, this winter, as British Gas, who have already begun their roll-out, saw consumer bills rise significantly. We cannot see how this scheme will be value for money as the costs of installation will far outweigh any savings by consumers for many years, and these savings are relying on consumers changing their behaviour, not on any intrinsic energy saving by the Smart Meter itself. Also, if the Smart Meters are wireless the constant transmissions that occur 24/7 in the WAN and HAN will, in fact, be wasting energy and therefore costing money.

2. What are the potential benefits of smart meters for consumers, and what barriers need to be overcome in order for consumers to realise them?

We do not believe that there are any benefits to consumers from Smart Meters. We have already been contacted by many British Gas customers who have had Smart Meters installed recently. Some are already complaining of much higher bills (one restaurant owner was nearly put out of business when her bills doubled after Smart Meter installation and her MP had to intervene to persuade British Gas to reinstall an analogue meter). Others are complaining of acute health effects after installation, such as insomnia, headaches, nausea. We do not believe consumers should be persuaded or coerced into accepting something that has little, if any benefit to them, and may have serious, detrimental effects. The government should terminate the Smart Metering Implementation Programme before more money is wasted and more lives are ruined.

3. Is there a possibility that suppliers will gain considerably more than consumers from smart meters? Is enough being done to ensure that any financial benefits accruing to suppliers will be passed on to consumers?

At Stop Smart Meters (UK) we believe the only beneficiaries will be the suppliers, who will be heavily funded by the taxpayer to meet the cost of the meters, and will then be able to get rid of their meter readers (thus saving money), and will be able to charge individual customers peak rates at times they use more energy, thus making more money from consumers. As far as we are aware nothing is being done to pass benefits from suppliers to consumers.

4. What lessons can be learned from successful smart meter implementation and usage elsewhere in the world?

As far as we are aware, the experience of other countries has been far from successful. Thousands of people in the US, Canada and Australia have complained of rising bills and/or serious health complaints—insomnia, headaches, dizziness, memory and concentration impairment, anxiety, nausea, tinnitus, fatigue, seizures and arrhythmias—since they had Smart Meters installed. There are grassroots Stop Smart Meter movements in Australia and the US and British Columbia, and many local communities, counties, an island in Canada and the state of Idaho voted against, and have not installed, Smart Meters, such was the concern of residents. A recent study in Canada found 80% of Smart-Metered homes received higher bills after a year, often over 50% higher.

5. Will smart meters empower customers to take greater control of their energy consumption?

We believe that, in the medium to long term, Smart Meters and the home display will have little or no effect on consumer energy consumption. The same effect could be realised far more cheaply by just issuing each household with a plug in energy display, which can already be bought over the counter for a few pounds, and which is not linked to the utility meter.

6. Will consumers on pre-pay meters obtain the same benefits from smart meters as other consumers?

As the benefits to the consumer of Smart Meters are not clear or proven, this question is not answerable.

7. Should vulnerable customers and the fuel-poor be first in line for smart meters so they can get the benefits sooner?

From the submissions above it is clear that vulnerable customers and the fuel-poor have the most to lose, from the higher bills and the constant exposure to microwave (radiofrequency) radiation from wireless Smart Meters. RF radiation was classified by the WHO as a possible (2B) carcinogen in May 2011 and the Council of Europe called for an “Immediate reduction in exposure to EMFs by children” in the same month, calling for the “precautionary principle” to be applied to this and other vulnerable groups to prevent a public health disaster akin to tobacco, leaded petrol and asbestos.

8. What is the best way of involving third-party trusted messengers, such as charities, consumer groups, community organisations, local authorities and housing associations in roll-out?

Trusted third-party messengers should not be used by the government to brainwash and coerce the public into accepting something that may do them serious harm, both physically and financially.

9. What are the potential obstacles to rolling out smart meters in the UK and how should these be addressed? What pitfalls have hindered roll-out programmes elsewhere and are we doing all we can to avoid them?

The obstacle to a successful roll-out is the public becoming aware of the whole picture and hearing the harrowing stories from US, Canadian and Australian citizens, whose lives have been blighted by the installation of Smart Meters. A responsible UK government would investigate and take notice of these experiences and learn from them, not try to impose Smart Meters on an unaware and unsuspecting public.

10. Are levels of public awareness of and support for smart meter roll-out increasing?

There has been no real public consultation, perhaps with the intention of getting the meters installed before the public realise what has happened. Most people, when presented with the realities of Smart Meters reject the concept. Word of mouth will spread the reality that Smart Meters do not deliver on their promised benefits, and this will result in the programme failing.

11. Is enough being done to increase consumer awareness about smart meters? Could DECC’s consumer engagement strategy be improved?

Published literature we have reviewed to date identifies only purported benefits of Smart Meters and makes little mention of associated problems, particularly health risks. This is despite DECC and Consumer Focus having held a workshop on “Potential Health Concerns linked to Smart Metering” on 23 February 2012. At this workshop scientists in this field and pressure groups gave presentations raising some very serious concerns about health threats posed by the radiation emitted by Smart Meters. In DECC’s follow-up posting to the consultation process, there was no mention of the February meeting, or the health concerns raised.

12. Are consumers’ concerns about privacy and health being addressed adequately?

From (11) we contend that the health concerns are not being addressed at all. There is no mention in any of the literature from DECC of the proven safe distance from one or more wireless ‘Smart’ Meters for humans and animals, or the duration of safe long-term exposure in hours per day. There is also no mention of proven safe exposure levels for pregnant women and children or the impact of multiple Smart Meters on RF safety levels in apartments/terraced housing etc. Dr David Carpenter, Director of the Institute of Health and Environment, from the University of Albany, New York says “We have evidence that exposure to RF radiation...increases the risk of cancer, increases damage to the nervous system, causes electrosensitivity, has adverse reproductive effects and a variety of other effects on different organ systems. There is no justification for the statements that Smart Meters have no adverse health effects”.

Regarding privacy there has been little to reassure consumers that their data will be secure or private. Also remote disconnection by the utility provider becomes much easier. Wireless devices are easy to hack, so consumers’ home and device usage will become available to energy companies and hackers. In the US this data has been made available by energy companies to 3rd parties eg police, marketing departments and insurance companies. This is very concerning.

13. Is there any evidence that consumers’ concerns about smart meters are declining or growing?

From our discussions with the public we believe that consumer concern is growing fast.

14. Will the commercial benefits of smart meter roll-out be captured within the UK?

Commercial benefit is not beneficial for the consumer.

15. Will DECC’s current approach to roll-out, including on procurement and establishment of the central Data and Communications Company, deliver an optimal data and communications strategy?

Not from a consumer point of view. The only way to protect data from theft or loss is not to collect it in the first place. Data breaches will happen. Even GCHQ have warned about the strategic threat represented by Smart Meters and concern about cyber-warfare is growing. A plan to put UK home energy and water supplies onto the Internet is utterly reckless.

16. What criteria should DECC use to measure the on-going success of roll-out?

The success of the roll-out should not be an aim. Instead the aim should be to improve the quality of life of the public and to educate people about saving energy.

February 2013

Prepared 26th July 2013