UK: EDF customers heading for surprise winter bills after smart meters failed to send data for four months

EDS deflected responsibility for its faulty equipment on to customers. EDF told Computing that it is the responsibility of the customer to check if payment amounts are correct. Furthermore, we were also told that customers should be using a ‘belt-and-braces approach’, and should continue to take manual meter readings – all of which completely defeats the point of smart meters for the customer.

…And, though it pains us to say this, we have to echo what EDF advised us. If you have a smart meter, with any supplier, don’t assume it’s working. For peace of mind, take manual readings twice a year and submit them, just as you did before.

From Computing.co.uk

March 9, 2017
By Chris Merriman

EDF customers to be made to pay for smart meters found to be not so smart

Smart meters installed in the homes and businesses of EDF Energy customers have failed to send meter data back to the company since November last year. In consequence, customers could be hit with surprise winter bills.

The problem stems from a faulty firmware update released last on 5 November that EDF has admitted will have affected “a lot” of its smart meter customers.

The meter is supposed to sync with the paired electricity meter using the Zigbee protocol. This is meant to upload meter readings at regular intervals over the mobile network using a SIM card. However, this has been failing to pass the information on.

As a result, EDF is being told by its customers’ smart meters that no gas being used.

It is, Computing has been told, a known problem, but one with no resolution in sight.

However, affected customers have not been proactively informed about the issue. When questioned this week why EDF smart meters, which are supposed to be designed to take the guesswork out of billing, had left customers with massive debits over the winter, EDS deflected responsibility for its faulty equipment on to customers.

EDF told Computing that it is the responsibility of the customer to check if payment amounts are correct.

Furthermore, we were also told that customers should be using a ‘belt-and-braces approach’, and should continue to take manual meter readings – all of which completely defeats the point of smart meters for the customer.

EDF have said that they did warn customers at the time that there might be temporary errors on their display but that it would not affect their bills. However, the problem has now been running for four months.

Although the company claimed that 85,000 customers were successfully updated and less than one per cent failed, it hasn’t divulged the exact number of potentially affected customers.

All homes in the UK are due to have smart meters installed by 2020 under government legislation, but the scheme has been beset by a plethora of problems, including incompatibility between meters installed by different suppliers, leading to forecasts that the target will be missed by miles.

Unless they meet the SMETS1 standard (which current EDF meters do not by default) by changing provider, the meter may fail to function as “smart” and customers will end up taking their own meter readings anyway – just as EDF customers are being advised to do now.

In a statement, EDF claimed: “We are aware that in some rare cases the meters no longer communicate with our systems. We are in the process of identifying whether there are additional actions we can take to fix this issue, and will ensure that all efforts will be taken to ensure the smart meters work as they should. This may include replacing the smart meter if necessary.”

The company added that when a firmware drop fails, it will be re-sent until it works.

In March 2016, GCHQ was forced to intervene over the poor security in smart meters leading to the new standard. IoT devices have been beset by problems of security, and although smart meters are isolated from the rest of the home, this provides even less chance of the end user detecting a fault.

The current advice we can offer is that if you’re offered a smart meter, check with your provider that the models they are currently installing are SMETS1 compliant. If not, decline until they are. If you have a smart meter, check regularly online that your bill is being updated (you can opt for readings as often as twice-hourly with some companies) or if you’ve been given an energy meter, check that.

EDF have told us that they will be rolling out SMETS1 compliant meters later in the year, but existing smart customers won’t have their meters replaced as they intend to add SMETS1 compliance via the borked firmware update (slightly ironically).

And, though it pains us to say this, we have to echo what EDF advised us. If you have a smart meter, with any supplier, don’t assume it’s working. For peace of mind, take manual readings twice a year and submit them, just as you did before.

Some of the information in this article was given to us by EDF’s customer service team who were dealing with us as customers, rather than journalists.

We have asked EDF for a statement in our official capacity, particularly asking why it had failed to inform customers after the firmware drop borked their meters, especially over winter when the largest bills will be ratcheted up.

Their initial response from a spokesperson was: “Our aim is to install a smart meter for every single customer that wants one, helping them to save energy and money.

“Unfortunately, in a small number of cases, smart meters can experience problems that result in limited functionality. Where we have identified smart meters working with limited functionality, we are working to resolve these for customers as quickly as possible.”

EDF also pointed out that some meters have been affected by a secondary problem, as well as the upgrade failure, although the symptoms and outcomes are the same.

Smart meters also don’t have a great track record for reliability and, unofficially, customer services has admitted that re-attempting a firmware drop is a manual, not automatic, process that could take up to two weeks.

What’s more, the success rate of resends has, thus far, not been good either.

http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/3006131/edf-customers-heading-for-surprise-winter-bills-after-smart-meters-failed-to-send-data-for-four-months

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Michigan: Sen. Patrick Colbeck talks about security problems and other threats with Smart Meters

8 minute testimony by Michigan Senator Patrick Colbeck on the vulnerabilities of smart meters. He has a highly technical background in aerospace and states what many of us have said for years regarding their threats to individuals and the grid.

His testimony was in support of House Bill 4220 for opt-outs.

At the end of his testimony Rep. Darrin Camilleri asked:

…I guess my question revolves around the issue of national security. So if other states are using Smart Meters, which they are, and they’re already susceptible to hacking the grid, as they are — this is the concern we’re raising today — what would change if Michigan were to go away from Smart Meters, having only analog meters? And how would that impact national security?

Sen. Colbeck:

Well, first of all, it would take one point of failure out of the equation. So that’s the Smart Meter, which is that basic building block.

http://www.senatorpatrickcolbeck.com/speeches/

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Radiotelemetry and wildlife: Highlighting a gap in the knowledge on radiofrequency radiation effects

From Science Direct

Science of The Total Environment

Volume 543, Part A, 1 February 2016, Pages 662–669

Review
Radiotelemetry and wildlife: Highlighting a gap in the knowledge on radiofrequency radiation effects

Highlights

  • Radiotracking may induce negative effects that can bias the results.
  • Effects have been documented on survival, reproduction and behaviour.
  • The only causative factors considered were the weight and the attachment type.
  • Radiofrequency radiation (RFR) has not been considered to date.
  • The possibility that RFR may be responsible should be investigated.

Abstract

Radio transmitters and associated devices may induce negative effects that can bias the results of ongoing research. The main documented effects of radio transmitters on animals include reduced survival, decreased productivity, changes in behaviour and movement patterns and a biased sex ratio. The only factors that have claimed responsibility for these possible damages are the weight of the radio transmitter and associated devices, and the attachment type. The electromagnetic radiation produced by radio transmitters has not been considered so far in research. There have been no studies evaluating the effects of non-ionising electromagnetic radiation (radiofrequency signals) necessary for tracking, although the problems found were significantly associated with the length of time that animals had been carrying their radio transmitters. Similar problems as those in radiotracked animals have been found in numerous studies with animals exposed to radiofrequency radiation for a sufficient amount of time. Laboratory scientists investigating the orientation of animals know they have to shield the place where experiments are performed to prevent interference from man-made radiation, as anthropogenic signals may distort the results. It is paradoxical that, at the same time, field scientists investigating the movements and other aspects of animal biology are providing animals with radio transmitters that emit the same type of radiation, since this may affect the results concerning their orientation and movement. This paper identifies gaps in the knowledge that should be investigated in-depth. The possibility that the radiofrequency radiation from radiotracking devices is responsible for the findings should be considered. Considering this factor may allow researchers to best understand the long-term effects found.

Image for unlabelled figure

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969715310548

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UK: ‘Error’ causes SSE smart meters to tell customers they’d spent £20k on gas and electricity in just one day

From the Sun

March 5, 2017
By Kathryn Cain

The company said no one would be charged extra due to the fault.

CUSTOMERS were being quoted thousands of pounds for one DAY’s worth of gas and electricity due to a cock up with one energy company’s smart meters.

Panicked consumers began posting pictures of their devices, given to them by energy provider SSE, on social media – with one showing a charge of almost £20,000 for a single day’s usage.

Smart meters send information on energy usage directly back to the supplier letting people know how much gas and electricity they are using each day as they use it.

SSE apologised and said none of its customers would be charged the extra amounts, which apparently were down to an “error”, reports the BBC.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39169313

Posting on Twitter, one customer, Usman Hussain, said his meter had suggested he had used £9,576.98 worth of energy on Friday.

He said: “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.”

According to the Beeb, 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.

A spokesman for SSE told the broadcaster: “SSE is aware of the issues affecting a small number of our smart meters.

The issue will be investigated as a matter of urgency and no customer will be charged the extra amounts resulting from errors with the smart meters.

We would like to apologise to any customers if this has caused distress.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3013040/error-causes-sse-smart-meters-to-tell-customers-theyd-spent-20k-on-gas-and-electricity-in-just-one-day/

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Netherlands: 750,000 Liander smart energy meters may give wrong readings, errors of up to 600%

Leferink told the paper he had reported his initial findings to Liander in 2015.

From Dutch News
March 5, 2017

Some 750,000 ‘smart’ electricity meters installed in Dutch homes over the past few years may not work properly, according to researchers at Twente University and Amsterdam’s hbo college.

They found that in some cases, the electricity usage measured by the devices in laboratory tests was wrong by almost 600%.

‘The inaccurate readings are due to the energy meter’s design, together with the increasing use of modern (often energy-efficient) switching devices,’ Twente University said in a statement. ‘The energy meters we tested meet all the legal requirements and are certified.

These requirements, however, have not made sufficient allowance for modern switching devices,’ Twente professor Frank Leferink said.

Network company Liander has admitted there are problems but says it impossible to determine where the meters have been installed, the Volkskrant said.

Solar panels

Liander says the problem centres on meters installed between 2012 and 2014 and that large companies are the most likely to be affected. However, households with solar panels and electric cars are also likely to have been hit.

Consumers association Consumentenbond said it is ‘absurd’ that Liander is leaving the problem with consumers. ‘They should be actively looking for the faulty meters and looking at eventual compensation,’ the organisation told the Volkskrant.

Leferink told the paper he had reported his initial findings to Liander in 2015.

The Dutch government wants all homes to have a smart meter by 2020.

http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2017/03/750000-smart-energy-meters-may-give-wrong-readings-errors-of-up-to-600/

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Netherlands study: electronic energy meters’ false readings almost 6 times higher than actual energy consumption

The greatest inaccuracies were seen when dimmers combined with energy saving light bulbs and LED bulbs were connected to the system.

From University of Twente, Netherlands

March 3, 2017

Some electronic energy meters can give false readings that are up to 582% higher than actual energy consumption. This emerged from a study carried out by the University of Twente  (UT), in collaboration with the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS). Professor Frank Leferink of the UT estimates that potentially inaccurate meters have been installed in the meter cabinets of at least 750,000 Dutch households. This is published in the scientific journal ‘IEEE: Electromagnetic Compatibility Magazine’. 

In the Netherlands, traditional energy meters (kWh) – the familiar energy meter with a rotating disc – are being increasingly replaced by electronic variants (which are also known as ‘static energy meters’). One well-known variant of the latter is the ‘smart meter’. The Dutch government wants smart meters in every household by 2020. 

ACTUAL CONSUMPTION

For quite some time now, rumours have been rife about electronic energy meters that give excessively high readings in practice. This prompted Prof. Leferink to investigate electronic meters, to see whether they can indeed give false readings. Together with co-workers Cees Keyer and Anton Melentjev from AUAS, he tested nine different electronic meters in this study. The meters in question were manufactured between 2004 and 2014. The meters were connected, via an electric switchboard, to a range of power-consuming appliances, such as energy saving light bulbs, heaters, LED bulbs and dimmers. The researchers then compared the actual consumption of the system with the electronic energy meter’s readings.  

582 PERCENT

In the experiments (which were entirely reproducible), five of the nine meters gave readings that were much higher than the actual amount of power consumed. Indeed, in some setups, these were up to 582 percent higher. Conversely, two of the meters gave readings that were 30 percent lower than the actual amount of power consumed.

The greatest inaccuracies were seen when dimmers combined with energy saving light bulbs and LED bulbs were connected to the system. According to Mr Keyer (lecturer Electrical Engineering at the AUAS and PhD student at the UT)  “OK, these were laboratory tests, but we deliberately avoided using exceptional conditions. For example, a dimmer and 50 bulbs, while an average household has 47 bulbs.”

EXPLANATION

The inaccurate readings are attributed to the energy meter’s design, together with the increasing use of modern (often energy-efficient) switching devices. Here, the electricity being consumed no longer has a perfect waveform, instead it acquires an erratic pattern. The designers of modern energy meters have not made sufficient allowance for switching devices of this kind.

When they dismantled the energy meters tested, the researchers found that the ones associated with excessively high readings contained a ‘Rogowski Coil’ while those associated with excessively low readings contained a ‘Hall Sensor’. Frank Leferink (Professor of Electromagnetic Compatibility at the UT) points out that “The energy meters we tested meet all the legal requirements and are certified. These requirements, however, have not made sufficient allowance for modern switching devices”. 

CONSUMERS

Any consumers who do not trust their energy meter can have it tested by an ‘Accredited inspection company’. However, if this inspection shows that the meter is functioning properly, then the consumer will have to cover the costs involved. Yet the standardized test does not make allowance for waveform-contaminating power-consuming appliances. As a result, according to the researchers, it is an unsuitable method for detecting false meter readings. Prof. Leferink and Mr Keyer advise any consumers who doubt their meter readings to contact their supplier, who then will pass the complaint on to the power grid operator. 

STUDY

The study, entitled ‘Static Energy Meter Errors Caused by Conducted Electromagnetic Interference’, are published in the scientific journal ‘IEEE Electromagnetic Compatibility Magazine’. The Van Swinden Laboratory (the Dutch Metrology Institute), which carried out a countercheck, has confirmed these results. The study was conducted by Prof. Frank Leferink (Professor of Electromagnetic Compatibility at the UT), Cees Keyer (lecturer at the AUAS and PhD candidate at the UT), and Anton Melentjev (at that time, a student at the AUAS).

JOOST BRUYSTERS

https://www.utwente.nl/en/news/!/2017/3/313543/electronic-energy-meters-false-readings-almost-six-times-higher-than-actual-energy-consumption

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Also,
http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2017/03/750000-smart-energy-meters-may-give-wrong-readings-errors-of-up-to-600/

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ToxiCity: life at Agbobloshie, the world’s largest e-waste dump in Ghana

Where is the accountability?

From RT

Published on Jun 1, 2016

E-waste, the term given to discarded electronic appliances, is often shipped by developed nations to poorer countries such as Ghana. RTD visits the country’s most infamous dumping ground, Agbogbloshie. Locals call it “Sodom and Gomorrah” after the infamous Biblical sin cities. Its air and soil are polluted with toxic chemicals, while extreme poverty, child labour and criminal gangs are also rife. Learn more https://rtd.rt.com/films/toxicity/

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