Do you really want your energy provider to see you when you shower?

Concern for privacy: an expert fears that smart meter technology may eventually give energy providers the ability to act as the fictional big brother.

A little-known code that governs smart meters includes details of sweeping powers that could take over customer accounts.

It reveals that the technology is available to the network of meters that could allow suppliers to attack credit balances accumulated by consumers, turn supplies off remotely, raise prices and even switch problematic customers to a prepaid plan. The authority to use these functions has not yet been granted.

Nick Hunn, an expert in wireless technology at London-based WiFore, fears that this will eventually give power providers the ability to act as the fictional Big Brother in George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty Four. .

Concern for privacy: an expert fears that smart meter technology may eventually give energy providers the ability to act as the fictional big brother.

Concern for privacy: an expert fears that smart meter technology may eventually give energy providers the ability to act as the fictional big brother.

He says: "No one is telling us about all the additional features hidden within the smart meters that give control to the suppliers, besides the possibility of adjusting the charges, it provides the opportunity to spy on when the energy is being used and on what (for example, if you take a shower or a bath) and when.

"The industry is forcing households to spend billions on devices that benefit the supplier more than the customer, it seems a little Big Brother.

THE GREAT ROLL-OUT

The news of the additional potential powers comes as a result of a critical report on the deployment of smart meters from the British Infrastructure Parliamentarians Group (BIG). Chaired by Grant Shapps, Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield, he says the nation is spending £ 11 billion on "obsolete" meters.

The group of all parties, supported by 93 parliamentarians, also believes that the annual savings that customers obtain from the payment of gas and electricity through a smart meter has decreased from £ 26 to only £ 11. Want the energy regulator Ofgem ensures that providers transfer all savings from the launch of smart meters to customers instead of pocketing cash for themselves.

Campaign: TV star Maxine Peake is the voice of the ads

Campaign: TV star Maxine Peake is the voice of the ads

Campaign: TV star Maxine Peake is the voice of the ads

The widespread anxiety about the smart metering program and the control role that energy firms are playing in the process have not deterred the lobbying group sponsored by the Smart Energy GB government.

He has spent millions of pounds on advertising, including in recent weeks the voices of the acclaimed actress Maxine Peake, in an attempt to stop the wave of hostility against the project. The goal is to install 53 million smart meters in homes and small businesses by the end of 2020.

Smart meters allow a provider to talk to them remotely using radio waves. They benefit customers since the technology includes a separate handheld monitor that is stored in the home. Linked to a meter, it shows the amount of electricity and gas that is used almost in real time.

It is expected that the monitor, usually stored in the kitchen, will help households cut utility bills when they realize that electrical devices consume energy unnecessarily, such as when electronic items are left on hold. Smart meters also put an end to estimated bills and the need for customers or suppliers to read.

TAKING CONTROL

The Mail on Sunday has discovered that meters are not just to save money. They have the potential to allow suppliers to take control of a customer's account, the details of which are found in an industry-backed code of conduct for energy providers known as Smart Energy Code.

It can already be used to add credit to a customer account. But an additional "functionality" that could be activated in the future includes allowing suppliers to cut off electricity or gas from a home without visiting the property. Providers can also add debt to a meter, remove credit in an account, change the charge charged, or convert the meter into a prepaid device.

Protest: Mail on Sunday reports showing that devices are not as smart as they might seem

Protest: Mail on Sunday reports showing that devices are not as smart as they might seem

Protest: Mail on Sunday reports showing that devices are not as smart as they might seem

Protest: Mail on Sunday reports showing that devices are not as smart as they might seem

Protest: Mail on Sunday reports showing that devices are not as smart as they might seem

The energy companies claim that although the smart meters already installed can use some of these functions, they are not "on". But smart meters that offer prepaid options could be installed next year.

The industry regulator, Ofgem, is also exploring price increases for "time of use" in which energy tariffs could change every half hour, depending on the demand of the national grid. This could be monitored and controlled by smart meters. The findings will be published next year.

An Ofgem spokesperson says: "Smart meters can help consumers control their energy use." A usage time fee could allow households equipped with a smart meter to save money using electricity at a cheaper time of the day, like during the night ".

Energy providers insist that they will not activate any of these additional functions without the regulator's permission, and that in many cases the technology is not in place to do so. Moving customers to the prepayment will only be a "measure of last resort".

Keith Anderson, CEO of Scottish Power, says: "Smart meter functions, such as taking half-hour data, have the potential to benefit consumers by offering real-time savings."

PROBLEMS

Opportunity: change of expert Jane Lucy

Opportunity: change of expert Jane Lucy

Opportunity: change of expert Jane Lucy

Currently, "first generation" smart meters are being implemented. Known as SMETS 1, with SMETS for technical specifications of Smart Metering Equipment, they have been widely criticized. Up to 10 percent does not work due to poor mobile reception, while up to half "becomes silly" if someone changes to another provider, thus losing remote access functions.

It is assumed that the announced replacement (SMETS 2) works for all providers, so that customers can keep the same meter. But it has been plagued by problems. Only 9,000 have been installed, and not all the work.

Jane Lucy is the founder of the Labrador energy exchange service. She says: "The industry is talking at length about the real reason for the delays with SMETS 2. My opinion is that the technology is not yet solid enough." She also believes that the additional "functionality" options demanded by energy providers: a & # 39; proposal for modification & # 39; for the code: add complexity and can delay new meters.

Lucy says: "The potential for providers to take control of household energy bills should be carefully monitored." With a dispute, perhaps if you move home, you could use an intelligent meter to allow a provider to take money. , even when you are not the one owing the outstanding debt. "

She adds: "Of course, smart meters can provide an opportunity for households to take control of energy bills and save money, but they are less profitable than simply switching to a more competitive supplier."

The government declared in 2009 that all houses in Britain should have a smart meter by 2020 at the latest. However, despite a large advertising budget of £ 224 million, focused on promoting its positive characteristics, this deadline is now unrealistic.

So far, just over a third of all households, around 11 million, have a meter installed. The deadline is expected to be extended, a recommendation made in the parliamentary report.

Last week, Citizens Advice suggested that 2023 would be "more realistic."

The Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is responsible for the policy of smart meters. He confirmed that "a proposed change in the Smart Meter Code" was raised in February of last year to allow providers to add additional functions. He stated that he will make a decision on the proposal "in due time".

Citizens Advice says: & # 39; You do not have to accept a smart meter if you do not want one. One option is to have a meter installed but ask that the "smart" functionality be turned off.

Robert Cheesewright of Smart Energy GB, the organization that promotes the launch of the meter, says: "Smart meters mean the end of estimated billing and allow people to better understand the use of energy."

(function() {
var _fbq = window._fbq || (window._fbq = []);
if (!_fbq.loaded) {
var fbds = document.createElement(‘script’);
fbds.async = true;
fbds.src = “http://connect.facebook.net/en_US/fbds.js”;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0];
s.parentNode.insertBefore(fbds, s);
_fbq.loaded = true;
}
_fbq.push([‘addPixelId’, ‘1401367413466420’]);
})();
window._fbq = window._fbq || [];
window._fbq.push([“track”, “PixelInitialized”, {}]);
.