Energy and Climate Change CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Catarina Geoghan (SMR111)

Summary

It is of great concern that the nationwide installation of wireless smart meters is still being considered by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, despite the WHO,s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorisation of radiation fields from mobile phones and other devices that emit similar nonionising electromagnetic fields as a Group 2B “possible” human carcinogen. As pointed out in the recent European Environment Agency publication “Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation” -

“The IARC carcinogenic classification also appears not to have had any significant impact on governments’ perceptions of their responsibilities to protect public health from this widespread source of radiation.” (Summary, p. 31)

It would be a very significant step forward if the UK Government would take a lead in showing regard for the public by delaying smart meter roll-out until a wired solution that meets GB requirements becomes available.

According to “Part 1 of the government response to the consultation on the second version of the Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications”, a wired HAN trial is currently underway in order to cater for properties where wireless solutions will not achieve satisfactory propagation. In order to protect the public from the possible, and perhaps probable, health effects of wireless smart meters, roll-out needs to be delayed until these trials have been completed and a wired solution for the meters is available. This would also address concerns about privacy.

Response to Questions

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

The roll-out of wireless smart meters could result in a huge waste of money. If in the next few years microwave radiation becomes classified as a 2A probable carcinogen, existing wireless smart meters would need to be replaced with suitable wired meters.

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?

The potential benefits of being able to monitor energy consumption without being exposed to a health risk would only be available once a suitable wired technology has been developed.

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?

Yes, there is a strong possibility that suppliers will gain considerably more than consumers from smart meters.

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

Lessons should be learned from the few smart meter implementations that have been achieved using wired fibre-optic transmission.

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

Yes, once these are wired.

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

No comment.

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

No, not until suitable wired meters are available.

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 messengers should not be involved until suitable wired meters are available.

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 smart meter roll-out in the UK is that suitable wired meters are not yet available. In order to avoid the pitfalls that have hindered roll-out elsewhere, roll-out should be delayed until suitable wired meters become available.

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

Levels of public awareness are still very limited, and the fact that most people are not aware of the probable health risks, and will not be informed of these, is of great concern.

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

This is not an issue until suitable wired meters become available.

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

Concerns about health are not being addressed adequately. Although consumers will have the right to opt out of having a meter installed in their own property (if they already know that they have this right), they will still be affected by wireless transmissions from smart meters in neighbouring properties in densely populated areas. Concerns about privacy are not addressed either as long as meters are based on wireless communication.

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

Consumers’ concerns about wireless smart meters are growing as a result of world-wide reports of health effects.

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

Short-term commercial benefits will be at the expense of customers who will be forced to pay for the roll-out through increased bills.

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 as long as the approach is based on a wireless communications strategy.

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

Ongoing success of roll-out can only be measured once a suitable wired solution has been implemented.

February 2013

Prepared 26th July 2013