There’s nothing like an energy crisis to bring out the urban myths about what’s stealing all of our electricity. The most prevalent of these is the concept of vampire or phantom power, where devices which are left plugged in or on standby are demonised, with the claim that they consume kiloWattHours of energy, pushing up our bills. Given that electricity prices in the UK look set to triple this year, that’s a big worry. However, many of the figures I see being used to support this are decades old, which means that some of the advice being given is misleading or downright wrong. So I thought it would be a good time to look at exactly how much power our devices actually take, so that people can make informed decisions.
GB Smart Metering hits the halfway mark
It was all meant to be done and dusted by the end of 2018, with smart meters installed in every home in Great Britain, with an extra two years to finish off the “difficult” ones. That was quickly revised to make the end of 2020 the target date, since when it has been consistently pushed back as the industry has struggled with executing a badly thought out programme. Last month, the latest figures released by the UK Government for working smart meters (the graph excludes the ones which have been fitted but aren’t working), show that we haven’t quite made it to the half-way mark yet, with electricity smart meter fittings approaching the 50% mark, with gas lagging slightly behind. It’s taken around 8 years to get this far, which suggests that we probably won’t have the rollout complete this side of 2030. Whilst the number of installations is increasing, within the next few years, the connection technology they use looks as if it will become obsolete, so we’re going to have to start replacing or upgrading many of those already installed.
Smart Meter update – Let’s do a DDOS
If you’ve been following the GB Smart Metering story, you’ll already know that it is one of the worst examples of a Government led IT disaster, which has already cost the taxpayer around £20 billion. In the latest twist to the sorry saga, we have just had the bizarre phenomenon of National Meter Reading Day, when millions of energy consumers effectively performed a Distributed Denial of Service attack on the 31st March, by submitting their energy readings. It resulted in the websites of most of our leading energy suppliers crashing.
The background to this is that consumer energy prices in the UK have just taken a substantial hike. On the 1st April, a price cap enforced by the Government was lifted, allowing energy suppliers to raise tariffs. On his popular Money Show Live TV program, Martin Lewis urged customers to make a note of their meter readings on 31st April and to submit them to their supplier’s website. The following message went viral:
Mad, Wacky and Compelling. MWC is back.
In 2020, the Mobile World Congress was one of the first victims of Covid, denying over 100,000 attendees their annual spring outing to Barcelona. Two years, later, it’s one of the first major exhibitions to stage a credible come-back. It’s not as big – the GSMA, who organise it are predicting around half the attendance figures. Despite that, hosting 50,000+ people for a four day conference and exhibition is still a major step back to normality.
It’s great, if a little strange, to be back. Enforced mask wearing makes serendipitous networking difficult, but the surprise is how busy it is. At the start of the first day, entry queues stretched around the front of the exhibition halls, and by mid-morning it felt busier that you’d normally expect on the opening day. It is smaller; there are empty gaps in the halls, and it’s absorbed the 4YFN startup event, which is a definite move for the better. But it was busy, with a bustling vibe, giving everyone the feeling that the constraints of Covid are behind us.
Introducing Bluetooth LE Audio – the book
Just before Christmas, the Bluetooth SIG published the final documents in the first release of Bluetooth LE Audio. It’s been the largest single development in the history of the Bluetooth specifications, taking around eight years and comprising 25 new or updated documents, with over 1,250 pages of specification. Its aim is ambitious, the intent being to provide the platform for the next twenty years of wireless audio development.
NetZero nepotism – Boris’ COP26 cop out
Back in 2010, I was the CTO of a small energy startup, designing connected domestic energy sensors, along with some fairly hardcore data analytics, to help consumers work out what was contributing to their energy bills. It was a fairly crowded market as small companies saw the potential for promoting energy efficiency to consumers and investigating ways to use emerging battery technologies to smooth out household demand and reduce cost. Few of those companies survived. Energy suppliers acquired some, then shut them down as they realised that persuading consumers to spend less money didn’t really fit well with their business model. The energy suppliers also had bigger issues, such as dealing with the Government’s impending Smart Metering programme. A few of the startups have survived and were looking forward to renewed interest arising from the UK hosting the COP26 summit.
A couple of months back I started to hear from them that promises to be involved in the events surrounding COP26 were being withdrawn, because space needed to be allocated to other companies that were “closer” to the Government. It seemed that what you knew was less important than who you knew. NetZero nepotism appeared to be kicking in. It felt reminiscent of what we saw at the start of the pandemic, where companies with engineering expertise were asked to help design and build ventilators. A few months later, those efforts were quietly put on the shelf. Instead, contracts for PPE and Test & Trace took precedence. They were easier for Government ministers to comprehend than real engineering, so could be packaged up in marketing campaigns and handed out to the Friends of Dominic and Matty. This week’s damning report from the Public Accounts Committee has described Test & Trace as “muddled, overstated, with an eye-wateringly expensive budget of over £37 billion, which has failed on its main objectives”. That £37 billion is not vastly different from what the equally muddled and overstated Smart Metering programme will have cost the consumer by the time it’s complete, showing that the Government is not generally the best judge of who can deliver, or the way to do it. If we want to achieve our NetZero objectives, it’s vital that we don’t go down the same route.