I recently learned the hard way what’s happening with smart meters in Europe. The same type of smart meter they’re using here in France has already been deployed in many EU countries.

Mostly, we hear only about the negative health effects of wireless smart meters, but the ones here only send data back over the power lines.

Nevertheless, it turns out smart meters here are still being used to pretty much screw many over.

In short, smart meters may mean less juice to power stuff, and more frequent main breaker trips as people exceed their (now reduced) capacity.

Expanded explanation after the vid:

The Olden Days

In the olden days, dumb meters measured real power consumed – in kWh (kilowatt-hours). One kWh is when you use 1000W of power for 1 hour.

Let’s say you subscribed for, say, 9kW. Practically speaking, this meant you had a main breaker for 230V at 45A, which is actually 230 x 45 = 10,350W, or 10.35 kW. But your subscription to the power company was still called “9kW”.

A couple of years ago, bills changed… Suddenly, the “9kW” was written as “9kVA” – but nothing actually changed on the customer’s end.

Enter the Smart Meter!

So, these smart meters now have a circuit breaker built in. Your old main breaker is now useless since the smart meter is sitting between it and and the power from the electric company.

These new meters are also programmed for the 9 kVA value. Practically, this means that the max current you can pull is:

9000 W / 230 V = 39.1 A.

9 kVA = 9kW for a Power Factor of 1.0.

Obviously, 39 amps is much less than 45 amps! 13% less, actually…

YAY smart meters!

Is there an upside?

On the plus side, smart meters do record and send daily consumption to the power company, including how much power you use at what time.

The inclusion of the main breaker and the ability to communicate with the power company also means that service activation or deactivation can be done remotely. No more waiting for The Guy to come out and turn power on/off when you move.

Also, amperage upgrades can also be done remotely now without sending a tech out – most of the time.

These smart meters are being deployed all over Europe as far as I can tell. I’m not sure if the same shenanigans are happening in North America, Australia, Asia, etc. but I wouldn’t put it past them.

Green Nonsense

Finally, let’s consider the reasons we are given by the electric company as to why these meters are so much better. The main one is that it’s all about “going green”. Electric cars are mentioned, naturally.

Well, let’s think about this: Electric cars suck a TON of juice to charge their batteries. If everyone has less capacity with a smart meter, and they have an electric car, they’ll need to jack up their service and pay the power company more money.

Right now, if everyone in the world ditched their old car for an electric one, power grids the world over would literally collapse. Gasoline and diesel are extremely energy-dense fuels. A simple calculation you can do is 1 hp (horsepower) = 746 W. So, a 150hp engine outputs a peak power of 111.9 kW. That’s a lot higher than your 9kW / 9kVA subscription to the electric company, no?

But, but… solar!

Right. A modern standard-size solar panel outputs about 250W. Four panels will output 1kW.

That’s in good light, with an efficient inverter… That could work to power our Electric Car World, because the total energy output gatherable by solar panels on Earth is pretty darn high. But solar is still pretty expensive, and most people don’t have solar power.

In any case, I think you get the point. The idea that smart meters will save us all and make us “Green” is pretty much a marketing gimmick so that you’ll be happy to pay your electric utility more money for a higher capacity subscription.

Ah, progress…

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