The Mail carries a story today that reveals the electricity companies are recruiting charity muggers - chuggers - to doorstep householders and pressurise them into having smart meters fitted.
I've written before about the risks posed by smart meters - chiefly the ability to remotely connect / disconnect the supply. A year ago, during yet another supply shortfall scare, the power companies let it slip that they needed smart meters to allow 'load management' - i.e. to impose rolling blackouts when demand exceeds supply, but to avoid disconnecting hospitals or households with dialysis machines. In a Ratner moment, they also let slip that wealthy customers who pay extra for their power could be exempt from 'load management' disconnections. Which is a useful reminder of the social effects of smart meters.
For the wealthy and comfortably off, smart meters pose few problems except alerting hacker burglars of times when the house is empty. No sooner have they left for a weekend in their Welsh cottage than burglars are alerted that the kettle and toaster haven't been used and bosh! that's the Philip Stark spiraliser gone.
For the poor, smart meters will add nothing to their misery. They're not allowed credit. They are already on smartkey supplies and pay pound-by-pound in advance for their power. At a rate significantly higher than the rest of us. If you've never stood behind some poor woman in the queue at the co-op as she empties copper coins on the counter to get another £3 on her key and not inwardly wept you have no soul.
No. It's the borderline strugglers, the financial jugglers, the overdraft army who will really feel the impact of smart meters. They will already have switched from a fixed monthly direct debit (that always gives the power company a balance of around £1,000 of one's money) to payment on actual readings. By massaging-down their self-readings they can give themselves some wiggle room until the annual compulsory reading by the energy firm - and even then can delay the catch-up reading by a week or so. Then they can wait to 'pay on red' and even then can wait until the 'notice of intended disconnection' arrives. All of which currently allows them to juggle enough to keep a clean credit record and avoid disconnection. But not with smart meters.
No wonder the power companies are so keen for smart meters. No more meter readers, and above all no more need for magistrate's warrants to break into a dwelling house to disconnect the supply. Just wait seven days after the red bill and -flic!- power disconnected. This will even give them the chance to charge, say, another £100 to -flic!- the power back on, so trebles all round.