Energy and Climate Change CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by BioSustainable Design (SMR50)

1. Summary

Cost and timescale predictions unrealistic.

Consumers reluctant to finance roll-out.

Roll-out unlikely to save energy or consumer’s money.

Needs of vulnerable overlooked.

Health and environmental issues improperly addressed.

Best practice initiatives ignored.

Public’s resistance to smart meters increasing.

Privacy and other human rights issues unaddressed.

RF/microwave radiation is a Class 2B carcinogen.

Safer metering systems available.

Smart meters increase risk of cyber-attack and more vulnerable to weather extremes.

Better value alternatives exist.

2. About us: BioSustainable Design aims to help create and develop healthier more productive environments and bio-friendly technologies.

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

4. No. It appears cost predictions will be exceeded negating consumer savings. Which? (2013): “the roll-out is being led by the energy companies with no checks in place to make sure that costs don’t spiral.”

5. One study on 8,000 smart meter installations found: few consumers with smart meters reduce usage to save money; <9% exhibited any peak usage reduction; overall energy reduction was statistically insignificant. “It’s devastating … The report shows zero statistically different result compared to business as usual” (Business & Management Practices 2011). Other studies found similar (PG&E 2011, TURN 2011, van Dam et al, 2010, Darby 2010).

6. There are additional consumer costs to consider. To obtain optimum functionality individuals would have to spend further money on communications devices, programmable communicating thermostats, appliance chips and other automated equipment. These further increase capital costs.

7. A realistic alternative, which would deliver greater value for money and consumer energy savings, is retaining/expanding simple time-of-day tariff schemes, educating people on how much energy different items consume and the benefits of switching-off appliances when unused. So far this low cost/low risk option that allows people to manage their energy use, save money and reduce emissions has been virtually ignored. Manually operating appliances when the price is low, instead of having smart appliances, is the consumers’ favoured way of optimising energy consumption (Paetz et al, 2011).

8. “On average … households spent £50–86 a year on their appliances in a ‘non-active’ state,” Energy Saving Trust (2012). Educating individuals to switch-off electrical appliances when not in use would potentially save two to three times more money and energy than the adoption of in-home displays and smart metering are optimistically predicted to achieve by 2015.

9. The benefits of consumers reducing their energy usage can be encouraged by measures that avoid smart metering and deliver far higher investment return.

10. In 2011 the IMF discussed the possibility of a double-dip recession in many advanced economies and advocated the need to reduce risk in investments (IMF 2011). Since then the UK has been going through a double-dip recession, and has presently avoided a forecasted triple-dip recession (O’Connor & Jones 2013).

11. Smart meters provide are a non-proven high-risk investment, which the general public is expected to pay for, at a time of great financial uncertainty and increased risk of unemployment.

12. In 2011 “The Worldwide Smart Grid Market in 2011: A Reality Check and Five Year Outlook Through 2015” stated that smart metering was the least financially attractive investment of all smart grid initiatives (N-ERC 2011). Since then apparent risks have increased.

13. The UK smart meter deployment is set to become the most expensive in the World (Datamonitor 2010). The National Audit Office (2011) suggests that there may be a risk of the roll-out escalating in cost by up to 200%. This is before the potential additional costs to the economy of: health, environmental, cyber-security, national security and increased vulnerability to extreme weather events are factored in (Jamieson 2012, 2012–11).

14. In 2011, UK energy customers were told they would have pay the £11.3 billion rollout cost ( 2011). This may cause a great resentment (particularly in a time of financial uncertainty), as a survey of consumers revealed 83% were not prepared to pay for smart meter installations (Which? 2010). Before that press release, only 15% of the public had welcomed them (uSwitch 2010).

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

16. Such customers are often, through necessity, already aware of how to reduce their energy usage. Smart metering appears unlikely to create the intended benefits its advocates suggest.

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

18. Vulnerable customers include those with health problems who may be detrimentally affected by smart meters. People who experience fuel poverty would benefit more from strategies that better address their real needs.

19. (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?

20. Actively listening to what they have to say and addressing their concerns.

21. (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?

22. Refer to Jamieson 2012, 2012–11 (Hard copies provided).

Executive Summary (pp.7–19).
Public perception (pp.20–23).
Human Rights (pp.41–48, 71–76).
Health Matters (pp.77–130, 208, 211–222).
Environmental Concerns (pp. 131–144).
Security of Supply—Vulnerability to Space Weather, Manmade EMP & Cyber-Attack (pp.145 & Addendum pp.1–23).
Privacy/Security Concerns (pp.167–173).
Specification, need for “opt-outs” & wired alternatives (pp.22–40,174–177).
Smart Meters, HAN & smart appliances (pp.178–185).
Severe cold weather events (Jamieson 2012).

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

24. Public awareness is increasing. Support for smart meters appears to be declining.

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

26. No.

27. Privacy: The Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications and the Draft Communications Data Bill (2012) fail to adequately address privacy issues related to smart meter communications data. The UK Government presently wishes to access all smart metering information. This highly intrusive plan would allow it access to highly detailed information on all individuals’ lifestyles and whatever they are doing in their homes in real time (as well as through historical load data collected with such systems).

28. Unlike conventional meters that measure total energy use through day and night tariffs (which are normally read four times every year), smart meters allow energy use to be read with far finer granularity. The UK industry’s draft technical specifications for smart meters state a requirement for real time information every 5 seconds for electricity and every 30 minutes for gas (SMDG 2011). The intended access to, and retention of, such data by the UK Government appears in direct contradiction to EU Privacy Law and Human Rights legislation (Anderson & Fuloria 2010).

29. Every electrical appliance has its own energy fingerprint readable by smart meters. Those accessing such information from smart meter data, either legally or illegally, have indications of the appliances individuals have and how often they use them.

30. Real time surveillance of all homes: Paragraph 3 of Section 13.10 of DECC Impact Assessment (IA) DECC0009 (DECC 2012) declares, “The availability of data to suppliers, particularly at a half-hourly level, raises some potential privacy issues.” The present requirement for provision of data at 5-second intervals (SMDG 2011) raises for even more cause for concern. This taken alongside the ability of technology to infer what members of the general public are doing in real time in parts of their own homes, and store data collected on what they have done in the past, represents a true threat to privacy and democracy. It was recently shown that hacking into a smart meter could even allow identification of the movies played by occupants (Wisniewski 2012).

31. As noted by Quinn (2009), “high resolution electricity usage information can be used to reconstruct many intimate details of a consumer’s daily life … [there are many ways], that information could be used in ways potentially invasive of an individual’s privacy.”

32. European Convention of Human Rights: “… it [is] imperative that proper consideration is given to individuals’ fundamental rights to privacy,” EC (2011). Under EU Data Protection Law, consumers’ rights to privacy “may not be overridden”. A court in the Netherlands has already determined that the mandatory collection of non-essential fine-grained smart meter data—such as the UK seeks to collect—is against European Human Rights. That ruling has led to mandatory smart meter installation being halted in the Netherlands (Cuipers & Koops 2008, 2009).

33. UK—Human Rights Act 1998: The proposed collection of fine-grained data from smart meters would breach Article 8—Right to respect for private and family life. In the Draft Communications Data Bill (2012) the following is declared, “ … communications are covered by the notion of private life and correspondence in Article 8(1).”

34. The case of Malone v UK (1984) 7 EHRR 14 (paragraphs 83 to 88) provides some limited guidance on the application of Article 8 to State activities concerning meter data: “.... a meter check printer registers information that a supplier … may in principle legitimately obtain … By its very nature, metering is therefore to be distinguished from interception of communications, which is undesirable and illegitimate in a democratic society unless justified.” Emphasis added by present author.

35. The quotation from the Draft Bill appears to incorrectly imply that use of fine-grained smart meter data obtained in such a fashion is therefore justified, desirable and legitimate. This appears misguided, particularly as such data can reveal so much about individuals’ private lives to third parties without their express consent being given—Refer to Table 1.

36. Paragraph 5 of Section 13.10 of DECC0009 (DECC 2012) takes a similar relaxed attitude over use of fine-grained data declaring: “We have also committed to the principle that consumers should have a choice about how their data is used and by whom, except where it required to fulfil regulated duties.”

37. Article 8.2 may be violated through the weakening of “national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country” by introducing smart meter technology which may be hacked by rogue nations, terrorists and criminals—analogue meters cannot be hacked.

Table 1



Potential use (partial listing)


Efficiency analysis, monitoring of electricity usage & load for forecasting & bills

Electricity usage advisory companies

Promoting energy conservation & awareness measures

Insurance companies

Determining health-care premiums based on unusual behaviours, that might indicate illness


Profiling for targeted advertisements

Law enforcers

Identifying suspicious or illegal activities

Civil litigators

Determining when home occupied, by how many parties & activities undertaken


To verify lease compliance

Private investigators

Monitoring for specific events

The Press

Information on famous individuals’ movements & lifestyle


Determining behaviour that might indicate creditworthiness


Identifying best times for burglary and identifying high-priced appliances to steal

Source: SGIP (2010).

38. Health: Health conditions for which increased RF/microwave exposure may be a risk factor include: Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Autism and Infertility (Jamieson 2012–11). Numerous health issues are being reported as result of exposure to radiation from smart meters. Excerpts from a survey documenting effects noted after roll-outs are shown in Figure 1. Refer to hard copy of EMFSN (2013) for testimonials.

39. Peer-reviewed research indicates detrimental health effects at exposure levels lower than those created by smart meters (Jamieson 2012–11, Oberfeld et al, 2004).

Figure 1


*Figures reflect whether individuals or members of their homes experienced health impacts (n=318).

40. Increased RF/microwave radiation exposure may have significant effects on health, productivity, well-being and the national economy. As an example, 49.1% of respondents to the above survey stated that they, or members of their homes, experienced sleep problems after installation of smart meters (SDA 2011). The annual cost of chronic sleep deprivation is £1.6 billion (Bupa 2010).

41. Increased exposure to RF/microwave radiation linked with sleep problems (Eger & Jahn 2010, Hutter et al, 2006, Oberfeld et al, 2004). Simonenko et al, (1998) noted exposures of 0.1 µW/cm2an intensity recorded 3m from a smart meter—could cause insomnia.

42. Lack of sleep may be a causal factor in premature ageing, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression and other mental health problems, and can tax the immune system. Long-term sleep deprivation also increases likelihood of accidents.

43. Article 14—Prohibition of discrimination: It may be contested that data derived from smart meters may be used for discriminatory purposes by third parties (SGIP 2010).

44. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations 1989).

45. Article 16.

46. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.

47. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

48. The surveillance monitoring of children’s activities that would occur through the use of fine-grained data collection obtained from smart metering is in direct contravention of Article 16.

49. “Human rights must be part of all policy making,” UK Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA 2006).

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

51. Evidence exists of consumer concerns growing as more individuals become aware of the risks of smart metering (eg EMFSN 2013).

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

53. Unlikely for reasons documented in present evidence and elsewhere.

54. (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?

55. No. DECC has ignored best practice initiatives, lessons from roll-outs overseas and concerns raised by “third-party trusted messengers.” Its current approach may result in a metering system highly vulnerable to hacking from criminals, terrorists and rogue nations that may prove detrimental to health, well-being and environment. The proposed metering system also appears more vulnerable to severe weather events than the system it was designed to replace (Jamieson 2012, 2012–11).

56. (16). What criteria should DECC use to measure the ongoing success of roll-out?

57. Robustness against: cyber-security issues; solar and man-made electromagnetic pulse (EMP) events; and extreme cold weather events (Jamieson 2012, 2012–11).

58. Compliance with human rights, in particular:

UK—Human Rights Act 1998 (Jamieson 2012–11).

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Sections 29 and 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (UK Government 2011).

59. Effects on health parameters documented in EMF Safety Network survey (SDA 2011) and Oberfeld et al (2004).

60. Assessment of impact of smart metering on the Prime Minister’s National Well-being initiative.

61. References

Anderson & Fuloria (2010), On the security economics of electricity metering. 18pp.

Business & Management Practices (2011), Smart grid test underwhelms; In pilot, few power down to save money.

Bupa (2010), Bupa “How Are You Britain?” report.

Cuipers & Koops (2008), Het wetsvoorstel “slimme meters”: een privacytoets op basis van art. 8 EVRM, Universiteit van Tilburg.

Darby (2010), Smart metering: what potential for householder engagement? Building Research & Information, 38(5), pp. 442–457.

Datamonitor (2010), Me-too mindset drives smart metering to $5.7 billion,

DCA (2006), Guide to the Human Rights Act 1998: Third Edition, studyguide.pdf

DECC (2012), Smart meter roll-out for the domestic sector (GB), DECC Impact Assessment (IA)

DECC0009, April 2012,

Draft Communications Data Bill (2012),

EC (2011), Article 29, Data Protection Working Party Opinion 12/2011 on smart metering,

Eger & Jahn (2010), Spezifische Symptome und Mobilfunkstrahlung in Selbitz (Bayern), Umwelt-Medizin-Gesellschaft, 23(2), 130–139.

EMFSN (2013), Smart Meter Health Complaints, EMF Safety Network,

Energy Savings Trust (2012), Smart Meters,

Human Rights Act 1998,

Hutter et al (2006), Subjective symptoms, sleeping problems, and cognitive performance in subjects living near mobile phone base stations, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 63, 307–313.

Jamieson (2012), Smart Meters and Weather Extremes,

Jamieson (2012–11), Smart Meters—Smarter Practices, (2009), Smart meters not to be compulsory in Netherlands,

National Audit Office (2011), Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General HC 1091 Session 2010–2012. 40pp.

N-ERC (2011), The Worldwide Smart Grid Market in 2011: A Reality Check and Five Year Outlook Through 2015.

Oberfeld et al (2004), The Microwave Syndrome—Further Aspects of a Spanish Study. EBEA Congress.

O’Connor & Jones (2013), Britain slides back towards recession. The Financial Times,–66d0–11e2-a805–00144feab49a.html#axzz2JycpGrRG

ONS (2010), Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, 2010 Statistical Bulletin, Office for National Statistics.

Paetz et al (2011), Tomorrow’s households: How do consumers react to a smart-home environment? 6th International Conference on Energy Efficiency in Domestic Appliances and Lighting (EEDAL).

PG&E (2011), Radio Frequency FAQ, Pacific Gas and Electric Company,

Quinn (2009), Privacy and the New Energy Infrastructure, Social Science Research Network, 09, 1995–2008.

SDA (2011), Wireless Utility Meter Safety Impacts Survey,

SGIP (2010) NISTIR 7628, Guidelines for Smart Grid Cyber Security: Vol. 2, Privacy and the Smart Grid,

Simonenko et al (1998), Influence of electromagnetic radiation in the radio-frequency range on the health condition of an organized collective. Voenno-meditsinskiy zhurnal CCCXIX(5), 64–68.

SMDG (2011), Industry’s Draft Technical Specifications,

TURN (2011), Smart Meters: Dumb Idea, Turn Consumer Advocates,

UK Government (2011), Equality Act 2010,

United Nations (1989), Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2011) £11.3 Billion smart meter cost to be met through customer bills.

uSwitch (2010), research—survey conducted by YouGov online.

van Dam et al (2010), Home energy monitors: impact over the medium-term, Building Research & Information, 38(5), 458–469.

Which? (2013),

Which? (2010), Consumers not prepared to pay for smart meters,

WHO/IARC (2011), IARC classifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, WHO Press Release 208.

Wisniewski (2012), Smart meter hacking can disclose which TV shows and movies you watch, nakedsecurity,

February 2013

Prepared 26th July 2013