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Delivering a smart and secure electricity system: government consultation

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Transparent
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I'll return to the actual DESNZ consultation in a while...

... but @eggnchips - those are questions which need presenting to Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) for your constituency.

In the run-up to a general election I've previously put together an 'Energy Briefing' PDF which I've sent to all PPCs in my area, including those for neighbouring constituencies. I've been giving them an overview of local energy resources and usage, together with changes needed to present policy.

It's rare that they've had the time to find out these issues for themselves, so they're universally very grateful! 🙂 
How they use that information is up to them, and will be affected by party politics and their manifesto of course.
But at least they can start from a common base of understanding of what's affecting the wider population.

Hint: They all know that I'm a floating voter with no party political allegiances.
If an electoral candidate believes that they've 'secured' your vote, then they won't need to keep talking to you, will they?!

This year my 'energy briefing' will be different.

I already have PPCs coming to see me and discuss energy matters.
So this year I'll be giving them a set of maps and graphs which support subjects we will already have discussed face-to-face.

The low quality of heat pump installations is obviously going to be one of the topics.
Alongside links to MCS, IET and Building Regs websites, PPCs will be given a selection of photos to help them understand what's actually happening.

And may I select one or two of your photos please?

Save energy... recycle electrons!


   
Derek M reacted
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(@eggnchips)
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@transparent I don't want to get involved in the politics of all this at my age but ...

It's rare that they've had the time to find out these issues for themselves, so they're universally very grateful! 

If you need to give these people background and dare I say, transparency, it is worthwhile looking at an old paper from Professor Ross Anderson.

Smart Metering – Ed Milliband’s Poisoned Chalice

He wrote a paper with "recommendations for how government can avoid the IT disaster which appears likely and which will become apparent by 2014–15" and how "Ed Milliband cooked the books" to make a case for smart meters appear economically viable.

Anderson also warned of the security issues involved with DCC and letting suppliers have control rather than DNOs. Of course, all this was ignored by the government.


   
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Transparent
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Thanks for that reference @eggnchips 
please allow me to respond....

That paper by Ross Anderson is undated, but the content indicates that it can't have been written after the General Election of May 2010. At the time of writing, Ed Miliband must've still been Secretary of State for Energy.

The specification for the Smart Meters now deployed in UK was substantially written in 2012.
I have a copy of the draft which was prepared for the European Commission, dated Jan 2013.

The Secretary of State for Energy 2012-15 was (Sir) Ed Davey MP, within the coalition government between Conservatives and Lib Dems.

The Functional/Technical specification v1.58 of 28th November 2014 reflects all the detail which was adopted and implemented by hardware/software manufacturers.
It was Ed Davey, not Ed Miliband, who steered the required legislation through Parliament in 2013/14.

image

 

The Smart Meter design team working within Dept Energy 2012-2015 took into account the deficiencies highlighted during the early trials in 2004-7.
A number of significant changes were made regarding which organisation was to be responsible for what.

Anderson writes "Britain is the only country mandating a centralized communications system feeding a centralised database."
That isn't now the case. GB has not implemented a single centralised database of all data collected from our Smart Meters.
DCC is overseen and constrained by the SEC, of which I'm a Member.

 

I briefly discussed the role of Smart Meters within Future Energy Strategy with Ed Davey in April 2015, when we happened to meet close to his home (!).
When he lost his seat the following month, the Smart Meter system designers became spread out across other institutions (DCC, Ofgem BEIS etc)

Ross Anderson's paper, in analysing the financial gains/losses of implementing Smart Meters, has assumed that the main purpose of Smart Meters is for billing.
Whilst the strategy pushed forward by Ofgem since 2015 has also majored on that aspect, it is one of seven main functions which the 2014 specification mandated.

We are using Smart Meters which still have 3 of those 7 functions not operational.
The features which are lacking are those which would be most beneficial to consumers, rather than the energy sector.

I wrote a submission on the subject of Smart Meters to the Commons Select Committee on Energy Security and Net Zero during their call for evidence of Sept 2023 "Keeping the Power On − Future Energy Technology Mix". Apart from describing the absent functionality, I also revealed billing errors from domestic Energy Suppliers. That statistical analysis is based on mathematical modelling by Simon1D, with whom I'd collaborated in identifying billing errors reported on the OVO Forum.

 

I am now developing (with others) future electricity system technology which will bring greater benefit to smaller consumers.
The predominant advantages of this strategy require features which have not yet been implemented, including:

  • Nodal (locational) pricing based on data of energy mix and availability at the 33kV level
  • that Nodal Pricing being implemented within ToU tariffs (incl those available to SMEs)
  • live tariff data being stored in the Active Tariff Matrix of the ESMEs (Electricity Smart Meter Equipment units)
  • use of the Auxilliary Load Control Switch mechanism within ESMEs for high-current domestic loads

and others which I cannot describe here for commercial reasons.

I have a vested interest in seeing Britain move faster and more positively along the path to Net Zero as described in the Future Energy Scenarios.
I've heavily committed to R&D of technology which is 'sub-optimal' in the present energy landscape.

FESdiag shaded

As 'we' consider what we might write in response to the Government consultation on Delivering a Smart & Secure Energy System, lets note that the present Opposition Spokesman on Energy Security and Net Zero is Ed Miliband MP (Lab). Are we about to see this story come full circle?

This post was modified 4 weeks ago 9 times by Transparent

Save energy... recycle electrons!


   
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(@eggnchips)
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@transparent I don't think it makes any difference which politicians you look at. The government were refusing to provide information on a 13bn project.

They seemed to want to cover everything up. Have a look at Anderson's FOI request dated 7,April 2012. I cannot be bothered to precis so here it is in full. 

It definitely deserved an answer which was not forthcoming. I wonder if things have changed since those days.

vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

Dear Department of Energy and Climate Change,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews, whom I understand is Catherine Bakhshi.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department of Energy and Climate Change's handling of my FOI request 'Smart meter ISOS' reference number 12/0404.

The Department has repeatedly represented the DCC project as being one that it has thought through carefully and for which a proper specification has been developed. Industry observers dispute this but dare not say so publicly for fear that the Department will act vindictively against their companies in the future. The only practical channel they have to express their concerns is via academics like myself.

I now understand that the ISOS document makes quite clear that the Department does not have a firm specification for DCC. It says in effect, "We're committed to spending a lot of money on a DCC; can you please tell us how we might do that?" This is absolutely the wrong way to do a public-sector IT procurement as it exposes consumers to the very strong risk that an extremely expensive and inappropriate system will be procured or that the system will not in the end be fit for purpose at all. Despite the fact that publication of the ISOS is likely to embarrass the officials who drafted it, there is an overwhelmingly strong public interest in its being published immediately so that public debate can be opened up on whether the DCC proposals will lead to anything like a competitive technical architecture, and whether they are likely to be able to support stated objectives such as demand response.

The argument from section 43(2) of the act is completely the wrong way round, as the consultation process has so far been managed by the Department so as to exclude the options that provide the best value for money, such as an open-standards-based system as implemented in Spain.

Public-sector IT has a long history of gold-plated procurements based on specifications evolved in private between SIs and officials, where the SI's interest in maximising lock-in combines with the civil service culture of risk aversion and the lack of engineering nous to result on systems that are too complex, that frequently fail, and that in any case provide poor value for other stakeholders. To get value for money it is essential that the other stakeholders – and in particular technically competent stakeholders – be able to see and criticize the process of requirements evolution.

Perhaps, had the specification working groups been managed differently, DECC would now have a stable specification that could be put to tender via an open and transparent process. I understand that ISOS makes clear this has not happened. It is in the overwhelming public interest for this to not be covered up.

The section 22 argument is also subject to a public interest test, without which any FOI request could be stonewalled by a claim that "we plan to publish this in 100 years when no-one will be around to be embarrassed". For a FOI request to be effective and for the Act to have the force and effect intended by Parliament, information must be made public while it is still timely. If a Department can delay publication of any embarrassing information until it's too late to matter, then the Act would be frustrated.

In this case the Department, having failed to come up with a workable specification for its flagship project, now appears to propose to go into a huddle with six vendors and say to them, "Well guys, what do you think you can actually build? After a completely opaque process, ministers and officials will favour one option or another, despite their not having either the engineering or economic skills in the department to make a rational choice. The chosen option will be put to a formal tender which will presumably be won by the SI which came up with it. This process may appear to provide the form of transparency but in reality the sale will have been closed by entirely opaque means. The Department argues that the public interest in the protection of the commercial interests of future service users requires that the tending process be kept confidential; this is completely perverse and wrong. The commercial interests of future service users, including my interests as a householder and electricity buyer, will be served by openness.

The purpose of this FOI request is to force into the open the ISOS so that taxpayers and consumers can see the real state of play with the smart meter procurement. A further FOI request will demand the responses sent in by the selected bidders, which will enable their proposals to be examined publicly so that their functionality and cost can be compared with the functionality and cost of other smart meter deployments in Europe and elsewhere.

So far the Department has been incurious about systems in other countries. This fits the pattern whereby managers in bureaucratic organisations avoid acquiring knowledge that might challenge local preconceptions and plans. Such selective attention and selective search are known to be two of the common contributory factors to administative disasters (see for example Robert Trivers "Deception and Self-Deception", case histories of the space shuttle disasters and the second Iraq war).

Given that the smart metering programme is as large an engineering programme as the UK has undertaken – at £10bn, its cost in real terms is the same as that of the channel tunnel – it is vital that such sources of administrative self-deception and likely project failure be mitigated to the greatest extent possible, and the best known way to do that is transparency.

I therefore ask for an urgent review of the decision not to make the ISOS available under FOI and I request the reviewing officer to raise the matter directly with the accounting officer and the Secretary of State because of the vast sums of money involved and the massive public interest. Indeed, given the recent failure of nuclear policy, the smart metering project is what the Department has left; very grave damage would be done to the Department's credibility should this project end in failure too, and most industry observers now expect it to. In the circumstances, an opaque tendering process is the about the worst thing the Department could do.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/sm...

Yours faithfully,

Ross Anderson


   
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Transparent
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Posted by: @eggnchips

I don't think it makes any difference which politicians you look at. The government were refusing to provide information on a 13bn project.

My intention is to point out that the Smart Meter strategy which got implemented was the Davey model, rather than the earlier Miliband version to which Anderson had raised objections.

I suppose we must assume that Anderson had continued to raise concerns during the time when Chris Huhne was Secretary of State for Energy (May 2010 - Feb 2012). But there's no indication of any Huhne-era thinking in the technical specifications or regulations which received Parliamentary approval.

The authority of DCC and its access to (unencrypted) data were greatly reduced from the early trials and proposals during the Miliband period.
Its possible that this is down to Anderson's tenacity.

What we've ended up with now is very workable.
But it needs more momentum from Ofgem to ensure that the Energy Suppliers fully implement what the Smart Meter documentation defines.

 

As matters now stand, the immediate future direction of our energy strategy is more in the hands of ISOP than government.
To change course, the next government would have to amend the Energy Act (2023), and I can't see much appetite to do so.

That's the basis on which I will be responding to the live Consultation on Delivering a Smart & Secure Energy System.

Save energy... recycle electrons!


   
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(@eggnchips)
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Good luck with that @Transparent. However, in the light of the latest Government systems scandal (Horizon), I would leave any mention of Ed Davey out of the recommendations.


   
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Transparent
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I don't think I'll need to refer to past iterations of energy strategies @eggnchips 

This consultation is all about the future... stuff that's beyond the horizon.

If necessary I'll call the next iteration of the Smart Meter system ▓▒▒▒▒ – after the next-but-one Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero 🤔 

Save energy... recycle electrons!


   
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(@eggnchips)
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"I don't think I'll need to refer to past iterations of energy strategies"

So Ofgem has not learned any lessons from the past. I suppose any future tendering processes will be just as un-regulated and opaque as the previous ones?


   
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