Wot a Bulb: Energy firms going bust

Started by Blue Jam, November 22, 2021, 02:55:35 PM

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olliebean

How many Brexits does it take to screw up a Bulb?

Brian Freeze

We are in the EDF boat after our lot went tits up (Utility Point - quite decent actually, no bullshit and left us in peace).

We have a problem as our leccy meter also went tits up when an electrician put us a new fuseboard thingy in after they went bust.

The digital readout now says "oh dear" and nowt else.

He's had the work he did checked and reckons his work is fine.

Luckily I took down the past umpteen meter reads when them lot went bust and am happy to get in touch with EDF but don't want any shit off them about a smart meter. I've had to wait this long for the account to be set up and now they want a meter reading.

Its been that long since I decided I didn't want a smart meter I have forgotten my reasoning but it was sound at the time.

I dont have to have one if I dont want one do I?

olliebean

Quote from: Brian Freeze on November 25, 2021, 12:58:08 AMIts been that long since I decided I didn't want a smart meter I have forgotten my reasoning but it was sound at the time.

I dont have to have one if I dont want one do I?

Not yet, although I'm sure the time will come. I gather some companies have been offering cheaper tariffs on the proviso that you have one, but I doubt that's an issue at the moment as they all seem to be charging as much as they are allowed to regardless.

MojoJojo

If your meter is bust and needs replacing I don't think they will replace it with a dumb one. The idea is that everyone ends up with one.

Malcy

As far as i can remember from working in the energy sector earlier this year the goal is to have everyone on one by 2025(I think).

Majority of customers issues I encountered were with people having constant problems with them, not wanting them at all for multiple reasons, mostly because they thought the government would know when they have a brew etc or just elderly people who thought it would confuse them.

Sebastian Cobb

The big reservation is they can monitor and control supply and are built on massive contracts by the usual shoddy suppliers and come with all the usual perils iot kit (even if these are not, necessarily strictly iot) tend to have.

One manufacturer were found to be using the same private key in every single device, meaning if a hardware hacker managed to extract the keys from one of them, they could get into all of them.

Now imagine some sort of stuxnet but for domestic meters. Can't see any nation states being interested in that...

Brian Freeze

Quote from: MojoJojo on November 25, 2021, 10:06:57 AMIf your meter is bust and needs replacing I don't think they will replace it with a dumb one. The idea is that everyone ends up with one.

That sounds likely. Oh well.

How easy would it be to change suppliers in the future if EDF fit this smart meter here and now?

The Ombudsman

Quote from: MojoJojo on November 25, 2021, 10:06:57 AMIf your meter is bust and needs replacing I don't think they will replace it with a dumb one. The idea is that everyone ends up with one.

Yes, my pre-paid gas meter broke and they said it had to be a smart replacement. They also put in a normal post pay one too, which I prefer but my landlord doesn't.

MojoJojo

Quote from: Brian Freeze on November 25, 2021, 01:27:43 PMThat sounds likely. Oh well.

How easy would it be to change suppliers in the future if EDF fit this smart meter here and now?

It should be absolutely fine, it should be a SMETS2 standard one which can work with any utility company. The old SMETS1  were locked to the utility company which installed them, which was madness, but they've mostly been upgraded now.

You're not locked into any contract or anything, the government is paying for them.
Quote from: Sebastian Cobb on November 25, 2021, 12:45:00 PMThe big reservation is they can monitor and control supply and are built on massive contracts by the usual shoddy suppliers and come with all the usual perils iot kit (even if these are not, necessarily strictly iot) tend to have.

I don't think they can control supply, although there is concern about that.

Brian Freeze

thanks MojoJojo, Im on hold waiting to speak to them right now so can check if it would be an SMETS2 standard one.

Or if Im going to prison for meter fraud.


Sebastian Cobb

Quote from: MojoJojo on November 25, 2021, 02:04:40 PMI don't think they can control supply, although there is concern about that.

I think technically they can, but operationally they don't. A lot of the guff out there is shouting loud about the operational fact, however from the citizens advice site:

QuoteIf you have a 'smart meter'
If you have a smart energy meter in your home, your supplier could potentially disconnect your supply remotely without needing to access to your meter. However, before they do this, they must have:

contacted you to discuss options for repaying your debt, eg through a repayment plan
visited your home to assess your personal situation and whether this would affect you being disconnected, eg if you're disabled or elderly
If they don't do this and they try and disconnect you, make a complaint to your supplier.

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/problems-with-your-energy-supply/if-youve-been-told-your-energy-supply-will-be-disconnected/

Also can't they be put into prepay mode? That would also suggest they do have the technical ability to interrupt supply.
https://www.smartenergygb.org/smart-meter-benefits/benefits-for-prepay-customers/how-to-use-a-smart-meter-in-prepay-mode-to-save-money

Sebastian Cobb

Seeing as some of you have mentioned Octopus, worth noting their directors are tory friends and donors.



https://bylinetimes.com/2020/05/22/another-conservative-donor-involved-in-covid-19-contracts/



but then any private utilitia with shareholders is going to be socially parasitic to some degree.

Shit Good Nose

November 25, 2021, 03:11:16 PM #74 Last Edit: November 25, 2021, 03:31:35 PM by Shit Good Nose
Quote from: MojoJojo on November 25, 2021, 02:04:40 PMIt should be absolutely fine, it should be a SMETS2 standard one which can work with any utility company.

"In theory".

In reality there's no guarantee that they do - over the last few years we've been refurbishing an old office building into 95 (decent) flats and the supplier we went with (Ovo) pushed us VERY hard to have SMETS2s put in, even though we were asking for AMRs (which are also transferable to other suppliers "in theory", but the main reason we go for AMRs over anything else is the reliability of the automated delivery of half hourly consumption data).  So we caved and over summer 2020 Ovo put in SMETS2s.  The first problem was that in the first 6 weeks all bar two of the meters' displays failed (which wasn't a massive problem as the meters are in the plant room, which isn't accessible by the owner-occupiers), a couple of weeks after that the individual flat monitors failed and weren't picking up consumption info.  We were told that those issues would resolve themselves as the owner-occupiers moved in as all the supplies were on a developer's contract, but as the flats were sold and rented and people were moving in every single one of them, without exception, was told by their own chosen supplier that, after changing to the standard domestic contract, they couldn't pick up the existing meters and they'd have to be replaced.  We've also had similar issues with other suppliers' SMETS2 meters. 

Tl;dr - don't believe the hype and get some guarantees if you can.



RE the mandatory move to smart metering - the government quickly back pedalled on that when they realised it wasn't just a case of turning up somewhere and swapping the meter out in 20 minutes.  There are many real-world practical reasons why not everyone can have a smart meter.  Using our own home supply as just one example - we live in a 120-odd year old miner's cottage and the meter and fuseboard are in a small cupboard above the kitchen door.  There isn't enough physical room in there for a smart meter.  We'd have to relocate the fuseboard, meter and cupboard to another room (probably the understairs cupboard in our dining room), which would mean having a chunk of the house completely rewired, even though our wiring meets the current safety regs.  It would cost about £2000 to have all that done (floorboards would have to come up, etc) just so we can have a smart meter.  The government won't pay for that, the supplier won't pay for that, and fucked if I'm going to pay for that when we don't need to. 

Also, many rural areas still have poor or no internet and poor or no mobile signal, the two things which smart meters rely on to record consumption and send it to both the monitor and supplier.  The only solution would be to have a dedicated landline set up, which is another unnecessary expense.


There are still loads of people who think that having a smart meter lets Putin/Xi Jinping watch everything you do.  Smart meters themselves are not that smart - they only have capacity to store the supply technical data and (I think) 3 months of consumption data, and whatever they need for the dataflows to and from the supplier.  The only real issues with them, at least in terms of "sabotage", is the hacking that Seb Cobb mentioned above.  But even then there's only so much a hacker would be able to do with that.  They wouldn't be able to clear out your bank account, for example.


Quote from: Sebastian Cobb on November 25, 2021, 02:20:08 PMAlso can't they be put into prepay mode? That would also suggest they do have the technical ability to interrupt supply.
https://www.smartenergygb.org/smart-meter-benefits/benefits-for-prepay-customers/how-to-use-a-smart-meter-in-prepay-mode-to-save-money

Yes, and yes they CAN interrupt/switch off your supply remotely with smart meters (a feature that transferred over from AMRs - we had a supply which wasn't removed during demolition of a building and was left live, but we didn't find out the supply was still there and still live until months after another building had been built on top, so our supplier made the meter "dead" so we didn't have to carry on paying standing charges until the DNO cut the main).  BUT it really is the absolute last option.  Cunts though they are, suppliers don't actually want to turn you off, mainly because it's quite a ballache to get a supply live again after it's been switched off/disconnected (any spare capacity on the network is usually quickly snapped up), and it costs the supplier a lot of money to get it live again if they've switched it off in error/prematurely.  Switching it to pre-pay mode (or replacing a "heritage" meter with a pre-payment meter) avoids the cost and hassle of reconnection.  The industry tagline (which applies to domestic and up-to medium sized business) is - disconnection/switch-off = free, reconnection/switch-on = up to £3000 per supply.

Sebastian Cobb

Yeah my point is that it is possible and should be factored in when considering the security or lack-thereof devices.

I'm quite sceptical of the 'use less energy' advantages pushed to consumers since nobody really wants you to buy less of their product, however if people are 'going green' I can see more frequent metering intervals being used to encourage load-following. This could look like discounts when there's spare capacity, but it could just as easily work like Uber's surge pricing (which may or may not hike the charges if it sees your phone battery is low).

Shit Good Nose

Quote from: Sebastian Cobb on November 25, 2021, 03:16:19 PMYeah my point is that it is possible and should be factored in when considering the security or lack-thereof devices.

I'm quite sceptical of the 'use less energy' advantages pushed to consumers since nobody really wants you to buy less of their product, however if people are 'going green' I can see more frequent metering intervals being used to encourage load-following. This could look like discounts when there's spare capacity, but it could just as easily work like Uber's surge pricing (which may or may not hike the charges if it sees your phone battery is low).

I think a lot of people - and this is people being idiots rather than suppliers - are still under the impression that switching to a smart meter in itself means using less energy, like it's some magic box that lets you carry on the way you are but somehow reduces your consumption.  Which is clearly bollocks.  I've lost count of the number of times I've had to explain to people what a smart meter actually does and doesn't do.

If you're a hardcore gamer (or a hardcore porn addict) you're not going to adjust your habits just because there's a little box that tells you how many kWh your 4K Halo (I'm not a gamer, so I don't know if that's a good current one to use or not) or Big Jugged Anal Babes 6 (the best one) is using.  What it does do is nudge the people who tend to leave lights on all day, or tech on standby/charge overnight, or have their thermostat on 20degrees, in the right right direction.

Sebastian Cobb

Living in a place with storage heaters (in Aberdeen) and a key meter already had this baked into me. When that runs you need to put clothes on and go to the shop.

MojoJojo

Well, the few days of meter readings I've received so far seem to indicate that my house is a lot more expensive to heat than I realised. So already looking at insulating the roof (it's converted so isn't straightforward).

greencalx

The readouts of how much you've spent each day are mildly helpful, although I was already capable of dividing my monthly bill by 30, and it comes as hardly any surprise that the electricity usage is way higher on the days we use the tumble drier than when we don't. We inherited a solar hot water system from the previous occupants, and it is interesting to quantify the saving on a sunny day (answer, probably way less than it cost them to install the system, even over its lifetime). I wasn't aware that the meters could be programmed to shut down the supply remotely - that is a bit of a concern, as it's bound to happen through either incompetence or malice at some point. Not keen on having them ransomewared, that's for sure. It's a mild convenience not having to send in the meter readings each month, but if it wasn't for the expectation that everyone would need to be converted over the next few years, I probably wouldn't have bothered.

Insulation has been on ongoing bugbear where we are. The loft space has a very unusual design, which makes it very difficult to retrofit any significant insulation. We've had various people come round to try and flog us their cheap and cheerful approach to insulation, and none of them have given me confidence that they know how to work with such a complex space and I have a nasty feeling it would be easy to create new problems (damp etc) that would counteract any energy savings. More urgent is getting the chimneys blocked, as we never use the fires and all the chimneys are doing is sucking warm air out of the main rooms. Again though one has to be careful about ventilation, but the rest of the house is sufficiently porous that I think we'll be ok...

A big problem with properties like this is that no individual owner is likely to see the cost of retrofitting decent insulation and draughtproofing rapaid by energy savings in their lifetime, and so there's little financial incentive for homeowners to install it. Of course, some of us might be sufficiently socially and environmentally minded that we'll go ahead and do it anyway, but a bit of support - at the very least, some independent agencies who can give good advice on what (not) to do in a given property to creating issues with dampness and ventilation - would go a long way.

Sebastian Cobb

Apparently it's going to be pretty necessary (and possibly mechanical ventilation with heat recovery too) if heat pumps are expected to replace boilers. It's supposedly a different approach to heating - more of a slow burn you leave to keep the temperature constant rather than coming home and blasting the boiler to heat the place up in 15 minutes.

canadagoose

The house seems to have suddenly got really cold the last few days. I swear it's been as cold as this (outside) already this year but I'm having to turn the storage heater in the living room up, put my oil-filled radiator on more and even K, who is a bit of a cold fiend, is having to put his heater on.

Also how come nobody talks about how you have to turn the dial on the shower up and down throughout the year? Thought some Kenny Bania-esque comedian would have put a routine in their sets about it by now. Anyway, I'm having to put it up a bit now. Nights are fair drawin in etc etc etc.

Shit Good Nose

The "problem" with heat pumps (and it's not really a problem with heat pumps themselves) is that they run on electricity, which even at the best of times is three to six times more expensive than gas but, as far as I know, there aren't any heat pumps on the market which are three to six times more efficient than the most efficient gas boilers to off-set the additional cost.  With prices being especially mental at the moment, you're talking an incredibly expensive way to heat your home (although the assumption is that prices will re-normalise eventually of course, but there is concern that at worst prices could remain high until 2023).  That's why some companies are hedging their bets more on hydrogen boilers.  The big problem with those is that a huge chunk of the UK's infrastructure will need to be replaced before they can be used as the existing materials used for the gas network have some kind of chemical reaction or something to the hydrogen.

It's the age-old energy industry and end-user question - which wins, cash or carbon?  (there's only one way to find out, etc)

MojoJojo

How does hydrogen help? As far as I know, hydrogen needs electricity to produce, and that's far less efficient than heat pumps.

Heat pumps do claim efficiencies of >400‰ (or rather an sCOP >4), which is four times more efficient than a gas boiler. Main issue is they really need under floor heating to reach those efficiencies which isn't really practical to retrofit in most places. Also, I don't know how realistic those sCOP numbers are.

Jerzy Bondov

bloke come round from british gas asking me if i want a pump, tell you what that didn't go the way i expected it to

Sebastian Cobb

Quote from: MojoJojo on November 26, 2021, 08:15:25 AMHow does hydrogen help? As far as I know, hydrogen needs electricity to produce, and that's far less efficient than heat pumps.

Heat pumps do claim efficiencies of >400‰ (or rather an sCOP >4), which is four times more efficient than a gas boiler. Main issue is they really need under floor heating to reach those efficiencies which isn't really practical to retrofit in most places. Also, I don't know how realistic those sCOP numbers are.

Sounds about right according to what technology connections was saying about them, the gains by the pump are just about offsetting the efficiency losses and cost of electric. Although electricity is much cheaper there.

Americans are also generally better poised to upgrade, their heating is generally via furnaces that blow hot air around so the ducting can also be used for central air conditioning. So the works involves replacing or upgrading a central ac unit with a bidirectional heat pump and some Installation but it's effectively in one place and less hassle than installing underfloor heating or massive radiators.

Apparently modern UK builds are built with very little room for upgrades or retrofitting.

There's also the issue that I think we've been struggling with generational capacity in winter to the point of narrowly missing load shedding (paying off industry to not do power intensive stuff at peak times) for almost a decade (I'm sure sgn knows better - perhaps with renewable gaining it has improved slightly) so god knows how this 'yeah just use pumps instead of gas and electric cars and that' policy will actually work.

Dex Sawash

Heat pumps tend to need a lot more repair than gas furnace married with normal cycle a/c combo units as they get "old" and are often replaced entirely before they turn 10. The extra sophisticated ones aren't going to be lower maintenance.
A svc call for a $30 capacitor is probably $400 for a normie and thats only if the pirates don't sell them the related motor and capacitor.

Sebastian Cobb

Quote from: Dex Sawash on November 26, 2021, 12:58:56 PMHeat pumps tend to need a lot more repair than gas furnace married with normal cycle a/c combo units as they get "old" and are often replaced entirely before they turn 10. The extra sophisticated ones aren't going to be lower maintenance.
A svc call for a $30 capacitor is probably $400 for a normie and thats only if the pirates don't sell them the related motor and capacitor.


This is sort of my worry about more modern passivehaus type things, they're basically a symbiotic system with lots of insulation and also heat pumps / mvhr, some even have things like heat recovery on appliances like fridges and the wastewater from your shower, nothing is wasted but what happens in these tightly-coupled systems when a bespoke component goes pop and the manufacturer no longer exists?

Dex Sawash

Quote from: Sebastian Cobb on November 26, 2021, 01:04:40 PMThis is sort of my worry about more modern passivehaus type things, they're basically a symbiotic system with lots of insulation and also heat pumps / mvhr, some even have things like heat recovery on appliances like fridges and the wastewater from your shower, nothing is wasted but what happens in these tightly-coupled systems when a bespoke component goes pop and the manufacturer no longer exists?

Add in random code glitches from networked controllers, no umbrella group responsible for fixing it, and you've got yourself a stew nightmare.

In cars we see random stuff that requires software patches due to some CAN glitch originating from a node fully unrelated to the area controller of the symptom. Maybe there is a better easily expandable network architecture for a house though.

Sebastian Cobb

Sadly I imagine it'll be less like canbus and more like a hodgepodge of insecure iot bollocks that doesn't know what to do when the server goes away. Still at least it can join a russian botnet.

I stayed in a cottage recently that had nest controllers on everything. Some of the stuff like the radiator TRV's opening when the pir's in the rooms detected you was quite good, but they'd also gone a bit daft with it. The bedroom tv's had iot controllers on their power, not sure displacing the potential standby of the tv with the standby of the switch is really worth it.

The information the hubs detect is scary. They can listen for all sorts as well and boast being able to detect things like breaking glass.

If I was going to get into this I'd want to use a self-hosted controller, something like homeassistant.