Smart Meters Bill

Written evidence submitted by an individual who wishes to remain anonymous (SMB01)

I firstly want to quibble the wording of your call for respondents: this bill affects all of us, if the compulsory roll out goes ahead, and thus all of us will have one in our homes or place of work. They will be therefore, part of every part of our indoor lives, whether at church or the sports hall, and their effects felt, whether in our person, our pocket, and our privacy.

This is an important point in policy making and calls for having our say generally, and very pertinent in a democratic society.

Many worldwide have deep concerns about smart meters, and oppose the government led roll out of these in this country in the coming years.

The government should not enforce any particular device, it’s not appropriate for it to do so.

Hence your questions about the bill have to switch from who has what powers and roles to – should this happen?

I make no apology for quoting international data and research, as this is important it seems that the UK has been slower and more reticent to speak out about the whole range of effects, but I remind that the issue is global.

One of the major points against this move is that it’s is a non-people led roll out, with decisions made and enforced centrally, over matters which have no reason to be. This is not compatible with the kind of society we claim to live in. There should be no obligation on consumer nor industry to have a smart meter, and the voices against should be listened to.

The public always wonders why such decisions are made, and if there is not only an industry advantage which is not to ours, but how having a compulsory uniform device has other uses. For four years, we have known officially (if not suspected unofficially) that our and other country’s intelligent agencies use our household devices to conduct surveillance on us. We are also aware that smart meters, which are suspected of being used for this purpose, are being discussed not long after the much-opposed investigatory powers bill was passed.

There are also concerns about enforcement using smart meter data, 3rd parties being sold it without public consent, and that the meters bounce our information around a network – to whom might this be leaked? A grass roots group points out that:

"This mandatory device on our homes will track more private information than a GPS affixed to a criminal’s car, even though the US Supreme Court Case recently determined that a warrant was needed in the GPS case." [1] This shows how grave the smart meter issue is. As some meters also involve downloading on personal computers, there are even greater privacy risks and concerns about what can be harvested and for whom.

And yet, having a national grid connected to every building means that other bodies can take control. Thus, in a time where terrorism allegedly justifies the surveillance and other intrusive powers of the state, smart meters are a gift to bodies of a sinister nature.

It is true too that smart metering can be used for others to take control of our bodies. NHS health studies about the use of smart meters were alarming, – that "without interaction from the patient" – does that imply knowledge and consent – "our novel technology assesses an individual’s personal physical and mental-health by monitoring their electricity usage at home." "For example, an Alzheimer’s patient leaving an oven on or person suffering with depression remaining awake at night." So, boasts Mersey Care earlier this year. [2] This is Orwellian and is based on many presumptions about wellbeing which ought to be outside the scope of this consultation and issue. Our health is not a reason to use reconnaissance and to treat people on that basis – again, in a way that might benefit corporations rather than the public. I consider it an aberration to use the device for this matter – not a breakthrough. Note again how it distances the public from those giving them a service. It seems our health services, unlike those in other countries, are encouraging the use of smart metering both in their own profession but to employees. Again, we wonder why.

There is also sufficient health risk evidence for there to be many international campaigns and some American states have banned smart meters. The World Health Organization classes smart meter emissions as a class 2b carcinogen (May 2011), among other matters, but energy company staff either lie or are misinformed about the effects of these meters.

I know people whose health has been severely affected by smart meters and the erratic powerful energy they transmit. New Hampshire against Smart Meters says: "People across the United States with AMI smart meters on their homes are reporting ringing in the ears, insomnia, strong headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, memory loss, anxiety and pain which began occurring after smart meters were installed".

It also seems a large waste of resources, that we are forever being told are finite, to have this £11bn roll out. Some green, customer focussed energy companies have pointed out that the roll out affects the prices of energy they’ll have to offer. Thus, the price will affect especially small companies and customers, once again potentially hitting the poorest.

A Canadian study [3] suggested what many customers have reported: that bills enlarged with use of a smart meter. The savings is in not employing meter readers and in being able to argue that since a smart reader is right, so must a bill be, thus trying to cut down complaint and collections related resources. It can also give the power to shut off service remotely, thus not needing a customer to let you enter to do so. This is all company, not consumer led.

It is interesting to note that such studies are so rare, when it along with health concerns, the affect of smart meters on consumer bills would seem the obvious issue to look into.

Smart meters should be for those who choose them, with full facts available – not just the perceived advantages, which are coupled with direct debit payments. This is a move away from pay on receipt of billing, with banks and energy companies gaining from direct and automated bank transference. The move this way without smart meters has led to so much misbilling, that it might be a created undesirable state to pave the way for the acceptance of smart metering. we are aware of this and concerned about it. we also note that it puts the control into companies and banks hands, rather than the consumer.

There have also been concerns that smart meters raise, not lower, energy consumption, and have negative affects on wildlife, as well as humans. Unlike other electromagnet field emitting devices, we can’t control these or switch them off.

Smart meters around the world have caused fire and exploded on several occasions [4] and have had to be removed or replaced in their thousands, but it is not something reported often in mainstream media. This again causes questioning of why governments are is so invested in these devices that it promotes them on one level – we have seen many adverts for them – and discourages the facts against teh.

There is also the concern about compulsory entering and fitting, which causes distress, property damage as well as a violation of citizens’ right.

We can foresee the step towards time of day pricing, and the already existing issue of guilt about usage. This there is more scope for unfair money making and the sense that the customer is to blame for their own unassailably high bills.

Those who dismiss the smart meter concerns have never been able to engage with evidence in my experience and are those who have vested interest in their widespread use. It is like a drug company claiming that the research shows their product to be effective. They are unlikely to disclose ineffectual, let alone dangerous results, can influence the research being done (as they often pay for their own). Where it is both lucrative and stands to gain hegemony or on another level – such as the clandestine wishes to use a device for domestic espionage – the detractors’ voices will be muffled.

We note that many of the examples of evidence and argument smart meters are up to 7 years old, but that the research, articles and outcry have been ignored to forge ahead with a plan that is unwanted by many – again, the lack of democracy is urgently drawn to your attention.

Small, consumer led groups against smart meters therefore are not to be discounted.

It is they who point out how smart meters break laws and constitutions about basic rights – such as the European Convention of human rights on several counts.

There is a bigger debate to be had about the energy industry and why a free natural (and some would say God given) resource is being harnessed, privatised and sold back to us, ensuring that we need it and punishing us if we can’t pay for it. Power, not just heat, poverty has caused all manner of households and businesses great misery as well as waste of resources.

November 2017


Prepared 22nd November 2017