September 17th, 2012 at 12:48 UTC by Ross Anderson
Alex Henney and I have decided to publish a paper on smart metering that we prepared in February for the Cabinet Office and for ministers. DECC is running a smart metering project that is supposed to save energy by replacing all Britain’s gas and electricity meters with computerised ones by 2019, and to cost only £11bn. Yet the meters will be controlled by the utilities, whose interest is to maximise sales volumes, so there is no realistic prospect that the meters will save energy. What’s more, smart metering already exhibits all the classic symptoms of a failed public-sector IT project.
The paper we release today describes how, when Ed Milliband was Secretary of State, DECC cooked the books to make the project appear economically worthwhile. It then avoided the control procedures that are mandatory for large IT procurements by pretending it was not an IT project but an engineering project. We have already written on the security economics of smart meters, their technical security, the privacy aspects and why the project is failing.
We managed to secure a Cabinet Office review of the project which came up with a red traffic light – a recommendation that the project be abandoned. However DECC dug its heels in and the project appears to be going ahead. Hey, we did our best. The failure should be evident in time for the next election; just remember, you read it here first.