Fun and interesting

Hundreds of customers with smart meters will cook their Christmas Dinner without paying a penny for their power, after Octopus Energy said it would offer four free hours of energy.

The challenger brand said it would enable the price pause by tweaking its so-called “time of use” tariff, which is available to people with smart energy meters. Octopus is making the festive gesture following fears that smart meters might cause bills to spike at times of high demand because of “surge pricing”.

Greg Jackson, the chief executive, said the supplier wanted to show that “plunge pricing” was possible too.

Industrial usage of electricity being about nothing on this day, right?

Actually, don’t we get to see the stats on this in real time these days? Percentage of ‘leccie from different sources etc? And is the auction market price also listed? And, if it is, what was that price last Xmas Day? Anyone got this to hand?

39 thoughts on “Fun and interesting”

  1. Pathetic Globo’eco-freak propaganda coups number one million and one.,

    Sell yourself and your progeny down the sink of evil for a “free” Christmas dinner–except the hidden costs include allowing the freakshow to continue their green-noenergy fuckups longer and putting yourself at the mercy of greenoids and political power-seekers. Giving the former the power to brown you out at will.–the weekly wash after Midnight on Sunday cos of pisspoor windwank “power” supplies– and the latter the power to have YOUR house freeze in the dark until you submit to whatever they are peddling.

    Smartmeters on the job. “They are smart only because you aren’t.” should be their advertising slogan.

  2. Mr le Jour, does an induction hob count? I was sceptical of it to begin with, and still prefer the visual feedback provided by gas, but I have to admit it’s as effective as gas and with the added bonus that the glistening glass surface forces you to keep it clean in a way that the iron griddle of a gas hob does not.

  3. Think of all the climate change it will cause though, people using free electricity. There should be minimum unit pricing on this stuff. [/sarcasm]

    Julia, have to say I prefer an electric oven over gas because you tend to have high humidity in gas ovens. A combi would be amazing.

    We also don’t get gas out in this underdeveloped backwater, so when I finally get the kitchen renovated we will be running the hob off bottled propane.

  4. Looking at the data for 2017: Peak demand on Christmas Day was 35.4 GW at 1pm. For the year peak demand was 52.2GW on Jan 26 at 5:40pm and min demand was 17.6GW on 6 Aug at 0:35am (There’s a couple of lower levels but they look like dud data).

    Christmas Day demand will also be driven by the weather IIRC last year it was quite mild but there was plenty of slack in the system.

    If I get really bored I’ll download the supply data for peak demand to see how much was renewables.

  5. Just bloody great. We get sci-fi levels of new technology, and all they can think of doing with it is overloading our puny brains with petty tweaks to the price every 30 minutes. Nobody, bar a handful of obsessive blokes, wants to sit watching the clock until 14:31 when he can start saving 0.0002p per unit on cooking his lunch.

    For consumers, there should be a maximum of two price rates: peak and off-peak (Economy7). Anything more complicated is just marketers in suits getting away with charging higher prices by bombarding consumers with too much information.

  6. Prices for Power are complicated. For both Electricity and Gas there are balancing requirements: supplies (your production and market purchases) must balance demand(market sales and your end-customers usage – retail being us and commercial being e.g. fertiliser manufacturers for gas, steels plants for leccy etc).

    You must balance over a given period. For Electricity the Balancing Period is 30 minutes: 00:00 – 00:30, 00:30 – 01:00, and so on. Fr Gas the Balancing Period is a Calendar Day (or it was 10 years ago; I think it might be shorter now-a-days).

    I’m a softeare developer and worked in the Gas industry from about 1995 to 2005, and in Electricity from 2005 to 2015; my kowledge is a bit out of date, especially with Gas, so I’ll just talk about Electricity from here on.

    For both Electricity and Gas there are various products you can trade: different lengths of time. Electricity has a basic unit of half-an-hour: the balancing period. You can trade Hours, 2 hours, 4 hours (a block: block 1 starts at 23:00, 2 at 0300, up to 6 which starts at 1900), and a day (2300 to 2300). Then there are multiple days: a weekend, or a week of business days only, or a full 7 days (Mon to Sun). A Month, a Quarter and a Season (Winter or Summer, 6 months). Within that traded period, you can trade part days, such as baseload (all day everyday), Peak (blocks 3 to 5, 0700 to 1900) or Overnight (1900 to 0700) and so on.

    There are various Markets where you can trade, and they have their clearing prices which may or more usually may not be public. There are also ‘bilateral’ or over-the counter (OTC) trades where one trader rings up another and makes a deal. These are not public.

    So there are many prices and it’s not very transparent.

    What is visible is the Balancing price. When you are not balanced in a balancing period, you either sell the excess supply to the System Operator (the SO is National Grid for leccy and Transco – owned now by National Grid – for Gas) or buy the shortfall from them. The balancing price is set by Grid from balancing trades Grid makes.

    The SO is responsible for balancing nationally and for leccy that’s a second by second job. Go to https://www.bmreports.com/bmrs/?q=eds/main and you can see what’s happening. At the top right is the actual and forecast balance for a few hours past and future. Settlement Period (the X axis) is the halh hour: settlement period 1 is 0000 – 0030. The current time is 11:10 which is in Settlement Period 23 which is currently showing as 85MWh short (i.e. demand is exceeding supply). Mostly Grid copes with imbalances by tweaking the frequency up and down from 50Hz (shown a few rows down from the balance). But this has limits and Power Stations will put in bids and offers to turn up or down various amounts at prices they specify. Grid will accept these when need to increase or decrease the supply. Large consumers can also bid to turn down their uage (Demand side balancing). These balancing trades set the balancing price whcih is the top left chart at the bmreports link.

    For various half hours today the balancing price varies from 52 to 100 £/MWh for the System Sell price: what the System Operator will sell power to you to balance your shortfall. This will be over Market Price.

    Similarly, The System Buy price (Grid buys your excess supply) will be below Market Price, but the system is not buying today yet – so there is no Buy price shown (mouse over the price graph and they are all Sell prices).

  7. PS I’ve made a few mistakes above (Gas Balancing was not Calendar day but Gas Day – 6am to 6am and probably a few others) but they aren’t material, I believe. Sorry!

  8. Octopus is making the festive gesture following fears that smart meters might cause bills to spike at times of high demand because of “surge pricing”.

    Greg Jackson, the chief executive, said the supplier wanted to show that “plunge pricing” was possible too.

    So if you get a “smart meter”, being gouged by surge pricing is indeed possible.

    Seems like the smart response is to just say no. Especially if you have even the faintest inkling of how hilariously insecure the IoT is.

  9. I’ve said ‘No’ to smart meters for leccy and gas so far. I’ve had letters (printed with lots of red ink all over… *gasp!*) and how getting texts pleading with me to switch.

    But I’m only basing ‘No’ on a hunch and half-read info about them. Anyone have a link to a concise pros-cons guide to them?!

    Merry Christmas one and all, by the way!

  10. @svs:

    Many thanks for taking the time to post. And there’s no need to apologise for any possible mistakes — it’s good to get an idea of how this stuff is done even if it’s a bit outdated or only approximate. Much better than the half-truths (at best) that we’re usually told.

  11. Lockers – I’ve said ‘No’ to smart meters for leccy and gas so far. I’ve had letters (printed with lots of red ink all over… *gasp!*) and how getting texts pleading with me to switch.

    Me an’ all. It’s only slightly less annoying than the threatening letters I used to get when I didn’t own a telly.

    Estimable posh reactionary James Delingpole has been warning people about smart meters for years, but I can’t find his old Telegraph Blogs posts about it. For me, the biggest turn-off is that they can be used to turn you off at the click of a mouse:

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/ask-a-money-expert/smart-meters-can-energy-suppliers-hackers-turn-supply-remotely/

    British Gas confirmed that “remote disconnection” is possible but that smart meters grant no additional powers to disconnect than with standard meters. A spokesman for the energy giant said they would never disconnect a customer without an engineer visiting the property

    This ain’t exactly reassuring, because:

    * Policy can and does change, meaning they might decide to “throttle” your leccy use in future as the full, disastrous effects of the UK’s green energy policies start to bite in the 2020’s

    * It’s connected to the internet, so if your energy provider can remotely plunge you into freezing darkness in December, so too can Chinee or Roosian, or French or Turk or Proosian hackers.

    * The Battlestar Galactica remake already warned us about the Internet of Things. I’m not saying smart meters will lead to intelligent fridges refusing to open when they decide you’ve had your calorie rations for the day, but I wouldn’t put it past TPTB either given that the mere sight of cigarettes at a tobacco counter is now verboten.

    Ultimately, why are our self-appointed elites so desperate to push smart meters on us? The BBC reports that they’ll only “save” the average household £11 a year – not including the increased electricity bills to fund the multi-billion-pound rollout.

    So it’s probably born out of malice, like the rest of their energy policies.

    Merry Christmas!

  12. “How many people are cooking with electric these days?”

    I can’t see any technical reason why this temporary tariff could not also be applied to gas – assuming that customers have both ‘leccy AND gas “smart” meters. Whether Octopus energy would choose to do so is another matter…

    http://www.nickhunn.com/category/smartenergy/

  13. But I’m only basing ‘No’ on a hunch and half-read info about them. Anyone have a link to a concise pros-cons guide to them?!

    A colleague was involved with SSE’s scheme. He won’t have one. I’m a security specialist, I won’t have one.

    Not directly pertinent but: https://xkcd.com/2030/

  14. Oh, and if you have to have one (or buy a house with one of the evil things already installed), this is a useful link: https://www.metalsheets.co.uk/copper-sheet/

    Just remember to earth it. Faraday cages are the way to go 🙂

    (If I was doing this, I would use a combination of sheeting attached to the meter cabinet with velcro. That way it can be trivially removed for, oh, 1 minute every month. Or when the meter reading peon arrives. Alternatively, paint it the same colour as the meter box. Shouldn’t materially effect the rf blocking.)

  15. “four free hours of energy.”

    Pfffft

    Those with solar panels and if it’s a sunny lunchtime, will get paid by everybody else to cook their Xmas turkey.

    Up to 48p/kWh!!!

  16. Industrial usage of electricity being about nothing on this day, right?

    God no, most major industrial plants run 24/7 these days, there’s no shutting down for holidays. Refineries, chemical plants, major factories, mills, etc. are massively automated and a skeleton crew runs the night shift.

  17. ‘The BBC reports that they’ll only “save” the average household £11 a year’

    Probably not. In the U.S., big utilities are regulated monopolies with guaranteed rates of return. They are going to get their money, one way or another. Things that are alleged to save consumers money are just pushing in a balloon.

  18. How many people are cooking with electric these days?

    Modern apartments in France are all-electric, no gas. I think gas was only used because electric heating was crap, now that’s got really good it’s probably not worth installing gas just for cooking. Induction hobs are great, too.

  19. I’ve said ‘No’ to smart meters for leccy and gas so far. I’ve had letters (printed with lots of red ink all over… *gasp!*) and how getting texts pleading with me to switch.

    I ignored all the ones I received in France telling me I MUST change to a smart meter.

  20. RE: Dave Ward
    December 24, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    “I can’t see any technical reason why this temporary tariff could not also be applied to gas ….”

    ‘Cos gas doesn’t need to be ‘generated’ in real time to meet demand quantities 60/60/24/7/365.

    The electricity distribution/transmission system stores sufficient electricity to run our country for zero seconds; OTOH our gas distribution/transmission system stores approx 2-days’ worth of usage.

    GB’s electricity storage is approx 33GWh; our gas storage is a mere 15,840 GWh.

  21. ‘Faraday cages are the way to go’

    My local electric coop communicates with my meter over the power cable. Power and signal on the same line. So the cage would do nothing here.

    Don’t know what technology is being used their. Cage wouldn’t work here.

  22. @ Joe Public
    December 24, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks, Joe – I was aware of that. What I meant was that there is (or should be?) no reason why the supplier could not (the same as with ‘leccy) ignore any gas used by their customers between a certain metered period….if they chose to do so!

    In theory (yes, I know) a surplus of “renewable” electricity should mean less gas being burned at power stations, and a consequent reduction in the spot price of gas, so they ought to be able to offer better rates for that, as well. We know, from recent events, that the reverse is true when the grid is struggling:
    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/britains-oldest-coal-plants-called-on-to-avoid-running-out-of-power-as-cold-sets-in/

  23. Hi Dave

    No reason at all.

    For any marketing stunt.

    Of course the ‘value’ to gas users, would be much smaller – gas being just 1/3rd to 1/4 the price of electricity [that’s before any time-of-(electricity)-use premium is piled on]

  24. “How many people are cooking with electric these days?”

    Microwaves. We picked one up second hand. Very good for heating your mug of tea if it’s got a bit cool.

  25. Gamecock: it’s all RF in the UK. There’s the old system, where all the suppliers have mutually incompatible meter systems, and the new system (late, over budget massively, why would it be any other?) that supposedly is compatible for all suppliers. I think it’ll probably piggyback on 4G but there is room for stupidity in that decision too.

  26. Steve–To disconnect you under the present system they have to send someone to your house–who you can give a good hiding to–or cut off whole blocks Die-Hard ( “Who’s authority? The United States fucking government that’s who”) style.

    With smart meters your house code is tapped in and you freeze in the dark until you give.

  27. @dearieme

    Microwaves are superb for cooking fish. Incredibly fast & no tough exterior.

    Better than grill, poach, fry, bake..

  28. Yes, Mr Inspector, for security my meter accessories are in a steel wall-mounted cabinet. And obviously for electrical safety the cabinet is earthed….

  29. @jgh
    Very reasonable, as the latest wiring regulations insist on a metal ‘fuse box’ may as well put all the incoming kit in the same

  30. We get sci-fi levels of new technology, and all they can think of doing with it is overloading our puny brains with petty tweaks to the price every 30 minutes.

    Yep. Despite decades of evidence that people prefer fixed rate over “have to calculate every two seconds how much this is costing me.”

    Remember when micro transactions were going to be to be the salvation of (content providers on) the internet? Get charged 0.1c per article and only get charged for what you read. Which means cognitive effort just to decide whether to click on a link. And of course that never would have been gamed.

    Nope, subscription morphed very well into the online sphere and drove that business model into the ground it deserved.

    Mobile phone companies generally give out unlimited texts and calls, price their plans on mobile data instead. But even then they’re pretty generous. Because most people are willing to sign up for an extra $10-20 a month they don’t use for certainty rather than tracking their usage day by day, let alone every half hour.

    Smart meters are for demand management (ability for fine granular shutoff), and that’s all.

  31. Lest anyone miss it, Time of Day pricing does make a lot of sense. Fixed cost for utilities is radically impacted by demand.

    Not that these yahoos are going to make a rational implementation to that end.

    “These smart meters will allow ToD pricing” is not the same as “These smart meters will allow ToD pricing and we can cut you off anytime we want to.”

    H/T Stalin

    “You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.”

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