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:

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Meter Reading day Thursday 31st March 2022.

EVERYONE needs to take gas and electricity meter readings on March 31st. Regardless of what type of meter you have, smart or otherwise. Ideally a photo of both meters showing the readings and meter serial number.

Submit the meter reading to your energy supplier right away. If for whatever reason you can’t submit that day.  You should have photos as evidence of meter readings and the date they were taken. It’s going to be a very busy day for suppliers, and you might not be able to submit readings that day.

Remember Thursday, March 31st, 2022, is National Meter reading day.

Please pass to all your UK Friends and family members

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In Britain, the Government started their smart meter programme in 2010, with the promise of installing smart meters in every home by 2018.  That target has slipped quite a few times, and continues to slip more as installation rates are falling, but currently, around two thirds of homes have working smart meters.  I would like to think that those 22 million households with working smart meters realise that they send accurate readings to their energy suppliers every day, making National Meter Reading Day unnecessary, but it seems they don’t.

This is all a rather damning indictment of Smart Energy GB – a misinformation company, tasked by the Government to perform an Orwellian marketing job to persuade us that smart meters are useful.  They’re currently trying to do that with adverts featuring Einstein gurning in the bath.  If anyone can explain that link to me, I’d appreciate it, but someone in power obviously thinks it’s working, as they’ve let Smart Energy GB burn through almost a quarter of a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money.   They must also believe that their messaging works, as they didn’t appear to see the need to refute Martin Lewis’s advice as unnecessary.  Maybe it’s time to consider if we really need Smart Energy Gone Barmy to waste any more of our money?

The sad thing is that only around 43% of people with a smart meter think their smart meter is worth it.  Given that people are told that the meters are free, that’s quite an interesting statistic, as it means they think that a free gift is worthless.  If the respondents to that survey had been told the real cost of their smart meters – which is heading towards £600 per household, which is added invisibly over time to their energy bills, I suspect rather more than 43% would be dissatisfied.

But putting that aside, there are a couple of interesting observations to come out of National Meter Reading Day.  The first is an obvious mistrust of energy suppliers.  There’s nothing new about that – they’ve been loathed for decades.  That’s something that should have been recognised at the start of the smart metering programme, as they should never have been involved.  In every other country in the world, smart meters have been installed by the utility networks, which have done it more efficiently and at much lower cost.  It has created an unnecessary challenge, culminating in the farce that’s National Meter Reading Day, as whatever messaging is put out about the benefits of smart meters, it will be discounted, because they are associated with the least trusted industry in the world.

But there’s a second interesting message in National Smart Metering Day, which is the expectation that “you might not be able to submit readings that day”.  In other words, those promoting it were fully aware that if everyone tried to log onto their supplier’s webservers at the same time, and kept on trying, the servers would fall over.  In hacking terminology that’s called a Distributed Denial of Service attack.  According to the National Crime Agency’s website, “The Computer Misuse Act 1990 makes it illegal to intentionally impair the operation of a computer or prevent or hinder access to a program/data on a computer unless you are authorised to do so. This means that Distributed denial of Service (DDoS) and similar types of attacks are criminal under UK law.  If you conduct a DDoS attack, you could receive a prison sentence, a fine or both.”

What’s interesting is that it doesn’t talk about organising one, so Martin Lewis is probably off the hook, but several million householders could potentially be banged up for unwittingly following his advice.

Of course, that’s not going to happen, or at least I hope not, but we probably should consider what we should do with the people responsible for this fiasco.  For twelve years, we’ve had every shade of politician ignore the disastrous and ever-rising cost of smart metering in Britain, happy to ignore the warnings and make consumers pay for an appallingly inappropriate programme.  Whilst we’ve heard a lot of clamour for windfall taxes on the energy companies to offset the rise in energy prices, it might be time to consider an alternative approach and look a little closer to home.  How about a raid on the pension funds of our parliamentarians and the civil servants at BEIS?  As they have failed so comprehensively in explaining to all of use that sending a reading from a smart meter is pointless, maybe it’s time to ask them for our money back.