An Engineer in Wonderland – More smart meter nanny please?

smart-meter-thumb.jpgGood thing 1…
By allowing in-home energy meters to be installed, smart meters could help the population save energy – and should eventually become part of a smart grid which will be able to handle more wind and solar power. *

Good thing 2…
The government recently released a smart meter framework to get everyone’s beans in a row.
It urges energy utilities to get the displays in soon, without waiting for the national billing infrastructure.**

Good thing 3…
At least three metering giants have got together, and are inviting more to join, to sort out all the ZigBee message protocols early so all the meters and displays will work together, whoever makes them. 

Not such a good thing…
The government has specifically stated that it will not be compelling utilities to install electricity and gas meters on the same day.

A smartly metered abode will look a bit like this:


So there is no problem for the electricity company.

It can install the electricity meter, the communications and the display.

The customer gets their display that day, and the utility company gets its cost-saving billing back-channel as soon as the metro area network is up and running.

But pity the poor gas company.

It gains nothing if it installs a smart gas meter, until the electricity company installs the electricity mater and the communication hub.

No hub means no billing back-channel, so no cost savings until the electricity company puts in the communications hub.

I suppose it could gain some customer brownie points by installing and communication directly with a home energy display – all the ZigBee hardware would be there.

To get both brownie points and billing data, the gas company could install a communications hub as well – at lease one meter maker is working on a stand-alone communications hub.

But this means tapping into the mains up-stream of the electricity meter, which almost certainly means removing the existing electricity meter temporarily during the operation – so all the cost of replacing both meters without renewing the electricity meter.

Gas companies will have a good excuse to sit on their hands for quite a while.

And lastly, with separate installations the dwelling gets disturbed twice.

Now, I hope I have misunderstood the situation, and some commercial pressure somewhere will cause the energy utilities to sort out co-installation between themselves.

If not, the Department for Energy and Climate Change could help the whole thing along by mandating whole system installations on the same day.


* Once quite anti-nuclear power, Professor David MacKay’s brilliant free book Sustainable Energy – without the hot air convinced me that the world needs nuclear fission alongside energy conservation and renewables.

** It goes so far as mandating an easy-swap communication interface for the home-to-metro area network modem in the communication hub, so that no one has to worry whether metro comms will eventually be GPRS, BT/Arqiva 400MHz, or whatever.

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Tags: Wonderland

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