Consumers across Europe could be paying over the odds for electricity, according to a Dutch study that reveals some electricity meters can give readings as much as 582 percent too high.
Academics at the University of Twente in the Netherlands estimate new ‘smart meters’ could be affecting as many as 750,000 homes. But with the EU requiring 80 percent of meters to be smart meters by 2020, the issue could be far bigger than just the Dutch market.
A smart meter records near real-time energy consumption and sends the information at regular intervals to the power companies, to avoid the near for estimated bills.
Since rumours and reports of faulty smart meters have been circulating, the university and Professor Leferink have been investigating by testing nine of the meters, which were manufactured between 2004 and 2014.
Five of the nine meters tested gave readings much higher than was accurate, some of them by 582 percent. Two of the meters actually gave readings around 30 percent lower than the amount of energy consumed.
It is not known how big the issue of faulty smart meters could be across Europe.
The Council of European Energy Regulators were unable to comment at this stage.
Why is this happening?
Prof. Leferink and his team do give an explanation for this malfunction.
They say that the meters have not been adapted for use with modern energy-efficient devices. The different waveforms that these devices produce must be understood by the meters. Leferink explains that the devices and legal requirements they adhere to, “have not made sufficient allowance for modern switching devices”.
What can consumers do?
There are tests that can be done to check whether energy meters are reliable or accurate, but unfortunately these come with their own issues.
Firstly, if the test shows that a meter is functioning properly, it is the customer who could be left with the bill for the test.
Secondly, the test itself may not be able to identify a faulty meter. That is because the same issue with waveforms that might mean electricity meters give incorrect readings, may mean the test is also unable to identify the problem. Both Leferink and his colleagues argue the current tests are unsuitable.
Consumers can also check their own meters against the records given to Euronews by the University of Twente. Though the test results were made anonymous, the meters tested can be found here:
Electricity Meters Study by newmedia_euronews on Scribd
If your meter readings seem inaccurate, and your meter appears on this list, it may be worth having your meter tested.
What are consumers’ rights in this situation?
The European Commission sets out 10 rights that EU energy consumers hold, including the right to “accurate information on your consumption and billing based on it”.
The commission also sets out the right to be “properly informed on how much energy you use and how to use energy more efficiently”.
However, this does not come directly under EU law, but is instead provided in national laws.
Euronews contacted the European Commission for comment, but they did not immediately respond.
ESMIG, who describe themselves as “the European voice of the smart energy solution providers” told euronews “The electromagnetic interference phenomena created in the tests of the University of Twente grossly exceed emissions limits allowable under EU regulation for equipment typically used in households”. They argue that these conditions could not be recreated in a “normal household scenario”.
ESMIG add that there is “no reason to question smart metering technology”.