Not so smart: ‘Smart meter said I owed thousands’ 

Posted: March 5, 2017 by oldbrew in Energy, Incompetence, Measurement
Electricity usage - one of these may cause a shock.

Electricity usage – one of these may cause a shock.

A woman has spoken of her surprise when her smart meter quoted thousands of pounds for a day’s usage of gas and electricity, due to a system error, reports BBC News.

Jane Allen was one of many confused customers who posted the strange readings from their SSE smart meters on social media. One customer’s display showed more than £30,000 for a single day.

SSE apologised and said no customers would be charged “the extra amounts resulting from errors”.

Smart meters send information on energy usage back to the supplier. They let the customer know how much electricity or gas they are consuming each day – and how much it’s costing them – in real time.

But for some customers, the readings have been somewhat higher than usual over the past week.

Jane Allen, from Portsmouth, has had her smart meter for around five months. But on Wednesday, she started to notice the strange activity.

“I was quite frightened to be honest – thinking it could be a gas leak,” she said. On Sunday her meter stated she was on £36,448.29 for the week – far beyond the daily £3.80 her family usually use.

“My worry is that they are going to try and get that sort of money out of my bank. Ms Allen called SSE who assured her “not to worry”.

Usman Hussain, whose meter suggested he had used £9,576.98 of energy on Friday, wrote on Twitter: “Think my SSE Smart Meter for energy and gas may be having slight problems! Either that [or] a neighbour has started nicking my leccy or gas.”

For the reading to be accurate, Mr Hussain would need a home bigger than Buckingham Palace – which, with 775 rooms, was billed £1m for a year.

The average annual bill for a large house in the UK is £1,486.

Full report: SSE glitch: ‘Smart meter said I owed thousands’ – BBC News

  1. Jaime Jessop says:

    I wonder if we will find out in due course whether the ‘error’ was an inherent hardware or software fault in the meters or whether the ‘error’ was introduced via the network, in which case one has to wonder how easy it is for malicious employees to bump up customers’ bills or indeed how easy it is for non-employees to hack into the network and cause chaos.

  2. I think I would prefer a smart meter to a rotating mechanical disk. One sends an SMS to my supplier and the other sends a man to read the meter! One is always up to date and you only pay for what you use, the other is always playing catch up!

  3. oldbrew says:

    Which of the meters in the picture would you have more confidence in?

  4. Smart meters are a way of outsmarting the gullible customers into paying far more for their electricity & gas. Or to put it another way – they’re a final desperate attempt to avoid massive power cuts due to insane levels of costly unreliables on the network.

  5. oldbrew says:

    This is not looking like an isolated cock-up…

    Utility Week reports: ‘Shock’ bills and ‘alarming’ supplier letters mar smart rollout

    Citizens Advice reports on significant and increasing consumer concerns with smart meters.

    “Overall, billing cases for consumers with smart meters more than doubled between 2015 and 2016”

    20 per cent of consumers said they were not told that smart meters are optional.

    Next week, Citizens Advice is due to publish a report revealing further challenges for smart metering, particularly in relation to the experience of vulnerable customers.‘shock’-bills-and-‘alarming’-supplier-letters-mar-smart-rollout/1296982

  6. catweazle666 says:

    “One sends an SMS to my supplier and the other sends a man to read the meter!”

    Not mine it doesn’t.

    My energy supplier(s) email me monthly to read my meters and enter the readings on a form.

    I think in the past ten years there has been one check on the meter readings by a meter reader.

  7. All this is mostly scaremongering, mechanical or electronic they are just counters, they count Watthours and display the result. Would anybody prefere the old cash registers at the Supermarket to a modern electronic system? Both could be incorrect if fed the wrong data. Personally I validate my daily use age and know exactly how many kWh I use in a day(max 10) I also publish this data on the net:

    Because I understand what the system it’s unlikely I would subject to errors, especially big ones. So all you people out there I would suggest you keep track of whatever meter you have and work out your daily consumption. At least it will build up your confidence in this new method of monitoring power usage and consumption.

  8. So your only chance of an error is you enter the decimal place incorrectly!

  9. Stephen Richards says:

    For the reading to be accurate the price would have to be very high. That is the point of smart metres. In the future they will limit your bills by cutting you off.

  10. ivan says:

    Smart meters are not as smart as people think neither are they very secure – script kiddies can hack them with ease se expect some very strange readings and even being cut off.

    There are other problems as well and it roll out is costing much more that the original estimate and could still go higher.

    More problems

  11. Stephen Richards says: March 6, 2017 at 9:02 am

    For the reading to be accurate the price would have to be very high. That is the point of smart metres. In the future they will limit your bills by cutting you off.

    smart meters do not have the ability to control your use of electricity they are just a meter that reports usage to the provider and I think to the consumer if required.

    The do NOT enable load shedding

  12. hunter says:

    “script kiddies” is a great name! I am going to forward it to a computer software engineer I know.
    Smart meters are all over Houston, Texas metro area. So far they seem to be no big deal.
    That said, I am a big believer in the idea that anything can be abused will be abused.

  13. oldbrew says:

    ‘script kiddies can hack them’

    And if one can be hacked, all the others of the same type can be – using the same hack.

  14. oldbrew says:

    Alan B says: ‘All this is mostly scaremongering, mechanical or electronic they are just counters, they count Watthours and display the result.’


  15. Bitter&twisted says:

    You would be dumb to have a “smart” meter.
    Here’s why;
    It can be hacked
    It can switch off your supply
    Its installation is a £250 tax on everyone
    It is prone to “glitches”

  16. oldbrew says:

    ‘…every smart meter being deployed in the UK includes a relay which can disconnect the household from the electricity supply. This is controlled by the utility and makes life easier for them by allowing them to manage connections and disconnections from a computer terminal rather than having to send an engineer out to gain access to the house. It’s part of the savings that they claim justifies the deployment of smart meters.’

  17. I think most people have made up their mind on this subject without any real evidence. All automatic systems can go wrong, if you are really worried get a second meter to validate the first one. Seems to me a lot of people will blast wifi 200 meters down the road for everybody to see and worry about one SMS message a month. No problem logging onto an unprotected Wifi in Starbucks where everyman and his dog can watch what you enter into your Bank account. I have every confidence in the power meters I use, single and three phase but I suppose it does depend on the manufacture.

  18. I have never seen a smart meter with an 100 amp circuit breaker included to interrupt the main supply to a property, why would anybody do this? Just as you are in the shower or cooking the dinner, updating your bank account online the company turns off your whole supply. Think of the claims and repercussions of doing such a thing. This whole discussion is ridiculous!

  19. I think the meter on my car has been hacked, it’s just gone from 99998 to 00002 and I have only just been up to the Post Office.

  20. oldbrew says:

    “Smart meters are essentially crap computers in a crap box”

    Maybe they’ve improved since 2013? Or…

    How the Smart Meter ‘Remote Disconnect’ Can Cause Fires
    Posted on August 25, 2016
    ‘smart meters should open the door to flexible pricing that means we can use solar and wind energy when it’s plentiful.’

    You’ll have to pay more when it’s not windy?
    – – –
    British Gas says:
    With smart meters, energy suppliers have no more powers to disconnect than with a standard meter. On those extremely rare occasions when this is necessary it will be possible to disconnect the meter remotely

    AB says: ‘why would anybody do this?’

    How about – not enough power available to go round?

  21. Stephen Richards says:

    thefordprefect says:
    March 6, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    You are of course wrong as usual. So steeped in the AGW, save the world nonsense, you cant hang on to reality.

    The smart metre has no purpose in life if it is there just to be read. They will cost £billion or so to be installed throughout the UK with the sole purpose of controlling energy use either through higher segment pricing or through brownouts by subscriber.

    They just don’t want users to see that yet. That’s why this is an annoyance to them.

  22. Bob says:

    Alan Beresford says:
    March 6, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    (I think most people have made up their mind on this subject without any real evidence.)

    Well Alan, why would I want a smart meter, that floods my home with RF, feeds my personal data to the energy company and to anyone else that is prepared to pay for it, have the capability to switch off individual smart appliances now coming on stream, have the capability to switch off all my power when for the last 50 years I have been happy with a mechanical meter that appears to be reasonably accurate and does none of this. What will happen if you need to charge your electric car at a time the energy company deems unacceptable, by the way all those free home charging points also feed data back to the supplier.

  23. OK I give up. Smart meters are crap computers in a crap box! What! This is just gobbledegook! What do you mean?

  24. oldbrew says:

    Try this from the Telegraph today.

    Smart energy meters giving readings up to seven times too high, study finds

    Smart meters are giving readings up to seven times higher than the energy consumed by households when connected to energy-saving light bulbs, according to scientists.

    A study conducted by the University of Twente Enschede in the Netherlands, has found that five different types of smart meters produced readings up to 583pc higher than the actual energy used.

    It is the first ever proof that smart meters, which the Government wants in every household by 2020 to improve the accuracy of people’s energy bills, are producing readings which are too high.

  25. catweazle666 says:

    “Because I understand what the system it’s unlikely I would subject to errors, especially big ones.”

    Ah, you do, do you?

    So explain this.

    I can construct you a black box with an input and an output, you can connect a load – say an electric fire – to the output, and plug the inlet in to a suitable mains socket. You can bring two electricity meters, fasten one to the input and one to the output. It will be very clear to you that the meter on the output shows a considerably lower reading than the meter on the input. In fact, should I so wish, I can even arrange that it goes backwards – thus apparently creating electricity.

    How much will you pay me for this magical device?

  26. I cannot defend all the smart meters produced recently because I don’t know how they work. I can tell you however today my Solar Panels generated 12 kWh today, I paid for 4 kWh and I exported 5 kWh to the national grid. I can validate these values and compare them with my smart meters on my main incomer and also my Solar smart meter. My system has been running for 4 years now and I believe all these values are correct. Maybe you can dispute them though.


  27. I think so seeing as I designed my system, Wrote the script (programme) and installed it, I also trust my meters (Diris A40). God knows what’s in you Black Box and I’m not going try and explain it. Maybe you could send me one? Think I will definitely give up know as you lot have worn me out, you will have to try again tomorrow.

  28. oldbrew says:

    We could call it teething problems, but if we’re spending £12 billion on something it should be fit for purpose before installing it.
    – – –
    SSE says its smart meter problem only related to the display, not the metering itself.‘routine’-upgrade-behind-sse-smart-meter-gaffe/1297172

  29. Dave Ward says:

    Alan Beresford says:
    “I have never seen a smart meter with an 100 amp circuit breaker included to interrupt the main supply to a property, why would anybody do this?”
    “I cannot defend all the smart meters produced recently because I don’t know how they work.”

    Perhaps you should do some investigating. Download one of the many variations of UK Smart Meter Specifications available on the web – such as from this link:…data/…/SMIP_E2E_SMETS2.pdf

    The you can read all about their capabilities. For example:

    5.4 Physical Requirements
    ESME shall as a minimum include the following components:
    i. a Clock;
    ii. a Data Store;
    iii. an Electricity Meter containing one measuring element;
    iv. a HAN Interface;
    v. a Load Switch;
    vi. a Random Number Generator;
    vii. a User Interface; and
    viii. where installed with a Communications Hub provided by the Data and
    Communications Company, a Communications Hub Physical Interface (this
    may comprise a Communications Hub Physical Interface forming part of
    GSME where present at the time of installation in the Premises).

    “v. a Load Switch” NOW do you believe us??? The same remote cut-off device applies to gas meters as well… It’s primary purpose is to allow the supplier to disconnect service if you don’t pay, or transfer you to a PAYG tariff WITHOUT having to send an engineer to your premises. But in the event of grid supply constraints it could also allow load shedding.

  30. Ok Where to start, if I was designing a smart meter it would have the following:
    1. Has to be accurate, today a lot of new devices e.g Dimmers, LED dimmers, X10 (which I use to control my home), Ethernet power line carriers all mess about with the phases. All can cause problems with the metering, X10 sends out a pulse when the voltage passes 0 volts 50 times a second, dimmers actually clip the phases. All can cause problems on a poorly design meter. I have never seen a problem on my smart Landis Gyr meters and don’t forget the utility company actually pay me for generated power otherwise it would cost them.
    2. I would definitely include a load switch for future devices if it has a volt free output to loadshed. I’m retired now but in my day billing was done in half hour periods so if the max demand had to be triggered we had to predict the useage per minute and loadshed to stop high billing charges, expensive if we got it wrong. These loads were mainly non critical loads such as Chilled Water systems or any unimportant systems. In this case who sets the value and to what really depends on what the meter is connected to. Not really the conspiracy you suggest, also the contact would have to be connected to a breaker of least 100 kW. Think you would know if that happened.
    Last point, When I was active professionally in this field any system would take say 6 months to develope and six months testing, today its 6 months to develops and out to the field and let the users feed back the problems. – not ideal I think you will agree – end of rant!

  31. catweazle666 says:

    “God knows what’s in you Black Box and I’m not going try and explain it.”

    Given your self-proclaimed expertise in all matters electrical with particular emphasis on metering theory and practice, I’m surprised you are unaware of the concept of ‘power factor’, the dependence of the power-measuring circuitry in the meter on its value, and the way that altering the power factor of the load that the meter ‘sees’ can drastically affect its behaviour.

    As to the problems with the ‘smart’ meters mis-reading, if – as I suspect – they rely on the power factor of the load to measure its consumption, they have almost certainly entirely failed to take into account problems with highly non-sinusoidal current waveforms caused by the effective demise of the old transformer-based power supplies and the increasing prevalence of semiconductor devices such as duty cycle based power supplies, DC-to-DC convertors and sundry other advanced devices.

    Instead of having a big cob of iron with a lot of copper wire wrapped round it, modern PSUs rectify the AC and charge a capacitor to a given voltage controlled by the fraction of a clock cycle that the rectifier is connected to it. I suspect this messes up the waveform that the meter senses, not to mention the possibility of all sorts of spurious harmonics being generated.

  32. oldbrew says:

    ‘today its 6 months to develop and out to the field and let the users feed back the problems’

    Wouldn’t work in the airline industry. Plus there must be a cost to public embarrassment.

  33. I’m well aware of Active and ReActive power but not sure this is the place to discuss your Black Box. Self proclaimed knowledge, I suppose your referring to my website, the modbus driver and RS485 comms links I have developed over the last few years since I retired, but I guess you aimed it as a put down. Regards the aircraft industry the company I actually worked for for 40 years makes the flight decks for Airbus and Boeing. And afraid that’s the end of my contributions to this discussion, Best of luck with your Black Bus perhaps you will publish the results on your website for us all to see.

  34. ivan says:

    Apparently the problem is the use of quasi switch mode power supplies in such things as CFC lamps, LED lamps and other power saving devices and the full switch mode power supplies in computers and TVs also cause about a 5% higher reading than they should.

    So much for green policies.

  35. catweazle666 says:

    “I suppose your referring to my website”

    I was unaware you had a website. Why on Earth do you believe I would have any interest in it or bother looking it up anyway? From your comments I very much doubt I could learn anything from it.

    As to the ‘black box’, given your boasts about your astonishing skill and experience, I’m surprised you are incapable of understanding a simple device based on altered power factor.

    Anyone who has a grasp of the way that an electricity meter functions will be well aware of the theory and practice. There is a device based on the same technique that is used to protect three phase AC motors, three units like common rotating domestic meters with small ratchets on the shaft are coupled to the motor feed, any imbalance in the phases will cause one of the rotors to rotate backwards, tripping the ratchet, operating a relay and stopping the motor. There will be a diagram in practically any standard electrical engineering textbook, in fact.

    The devices used to be well known and be on sale in the seedier sort of pubs. There was a case made the national press when some idiot ran his meter back past zero and ended up with an astronomical electricity bill.

    Also, the reason there is a power factor correction capacitor in large inductive devices such as arc welders is to ensure the correct amount of power is metered.

  36. TomO says:

    More at The Register

    Smart Meters Prove to be Dim March 6th

    faulty smart meters tend to get scrapped instead of being offered for examination and that utilities don’t make their equipment available for testing, don’t document the devices well, and tend to rely on proprietary software

    This resonates for me – I had an old meter in a house I bought and after a couple of years I noticed that it seemed to be reading rather high…. so – I checked it. Pulling all but one circuit , two Flukes and an old school 2kW electric radiant bar heater proved it was going twice as fast as it should.

    I asked for it to be replaced and sent off for checking – it was replaced OK…. but after ……. tumbleweed……. a request for the test results of the defective unit was met with “we’ve lost it”.

  37. Russ Wood says:

    I don’t know how UK ‘smart’ meters communicate with the supplier, but some years ago in a Johannesburg suburb we were inflicted with smart meters as a test. These communicated between the in-line metering unit and the control and communications panel by (apparently) a Bluetooth (TM) frequency, and the control panel was read by a similar concept with the receiver in a patrolling vehicle. Then something went wrong! Car, gate motor, alarm remotes and other devices that relied on Bluetooth frequencies suddenly stopped working! Apparently a whole spread of frequencies were being jammed in our suburb. It finally turned out that the jamming source was these ‘smart’ meters, which then had to be reprogrammed, preventing them from doing their job of load reduction.
    So – BEWARE! These things can have a (destructive) mind of their own!

  38. oldbrew says:

    We seem to be still at the guinea pig stage with these devices, some of them anyway.

    Internet-connected ‘smart’ devices are dunces about security
    March 9, 2017

  39. oldbrew says:

    Editor’s letter: Fears becoming reality for smart rollout

    Storm clouds are gathering over the national smart meter rollout as cost concerns and complaints escalate.

  40. Kim says:

    I live in the USA. In California. These meters aren’t secure. There’s no encryption of the data it sends out about you. They are easy to hack. If someone hates you they can make you pay ABD financially break you. This is what is happening to me. My power company I’ve been customer since 1982 doesn’t assure me everything going to be ok. No they don’t help me at all. They threaten. They don’t come out to my house to look. They shut my power off. ?