The backlash against the smart meter programme has begun. What are the implications for IT users?

The Daily Mail article “Big Brother to switch off your fridge” is a fiery attack on the proposals sent by the  EU “collective” of Energy Regulators to the Commission on March 27th. It should also be viewed as an attack on the Smart Metering Policy inherited by the Coalition Government from Ed Milliband’s energy review and white papers. That policy embeds the ability to introduce energy rationing because we have failed to invest in new generating capacity while imposing green taxes, subsidising windmills and closing our coal and ageing nuclear stations.

Hence the first paper from the Conservative Technology Forum Energy Group on the short order challenges we face if it is not just the lights but UK data hubs and cloud services that have to power down during windless winter weather. The summary of “Power to the People” emphasises the need to give customers “the right to choose”. In order to do so we need to bring forward effective inter-operability standards for smart meters so that those who will benefit most from actively managing their demand for power do not have to wait for those will not, because their demand is inelastic. It we do not, we may face very real problems before the 2015 election, let alone after.

Meanwhile those whose IT plans depend of UK-based server farms or data hubs should factor in the provision of standby power supplies that may need to be used on a regular basis – as in India or other nations with unstable power supplies. Even urban SMEs who are critically reliant on their IT systems and broadband connections need to consider installing standby generators of the type used by island  crofters, hill farmers or country house hotels, with satellite communications back-up for their broadband.   

At the next meeting of the CTF executive I hope to hear the plans for a stidy to produce recommendations on how the accelerate the investment necessary to ensure that the UK will have the power as well as communications infrastructure to be a location of choice for “big data” hubs but time is running out.