Letters: Smart meters

Smart meters may not be a smart idea

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I already have smart meters both at home and at my small business, which was my initial driver. It is undoubtedly true that the smart meter has helped me save energy at work; installing time switches, low energy lights, replacing high-using appliances with more efficient ones etc.

I cannot say the same for my home use. After the initial obsessive period, when you go round changing bulbs for lower energy ones, cook a hotpot after Sunday lunch to use retained heat etc, it rapidly dawns on you that most of your electricity use is entirely related to your daily routine, and few of us are going to turn our lives upside down to shave our electricity bill.

I use gas for heating, so maybe I'm not getting the maximum benefit from smart metering, but it's still difficult to see smart meters as the game-changer Charles Hendry, makes out.

My generation of smart meters take half-hourly readings, but at the moment the data is uploaded only once a day, so the smart meter does not provide immediately usable information to the consumer.

The only contemporaneous information comes from a small display linked to the meter itself, but this can be used on smart or dumb meters and costs about £15.

By all means provide this sort of unit at nil/low cost, as I think some of the big energy companies already do. The reality is that the real beneficiaries of smart meters will undoubtedly be the energy companies themselves who will remove the costs of meter-reading at a stroke, leading to a cost-saving to them that I doubt will be passed on to the consumer, and probably an increase in unemployment costs that will effectively mean that we are paying twice.

Electricity meters are already replaced fairly routinely due to wear and tear and degradation of electronic components.

If we must have smart meters, then replacing standard with smart as and when required is a much more rational approach than some sort of big bang.

Andrew Whyte

Shrewsbury, Shropshire


Martin Lawrence, managing director of EDF, eloquently summed up exactly why fuel prices continue on a severe upward trend with his final paragraph (letters, 17 February): "A fair investment must also deliver a fair return for our shareholders."

This one sentence alone shows exactly why privatisation of our energy has not worked because, while firms continue to spout rhetoric about looking after customers with cheap deals and how investment is required, they are in the business for one reason and one reason alone; to make money.

It is scandalous that a developed country such as ours has people dying because they cannot afford to adequately heat their houses, and they cannot afford to do that while the shareholders pick up their "adequate return."

Privatisation has failed, just as it has on the railways, another industry where costs are hiked to provide "adequate returns".

Martin James McCleary

Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland


Argentina ignores its own record of colonisation

Jeff Wright is right to highlight the plight of the colonised indigenous peoples of Argentina, which Ambassador Argüello chooses to ignore (letters, 18 February). But their case is much stronger than he realises.

One hundred and fifty years ago this year, colonialist Argentine troops illegally invaded Wallmapu (renamed Patagonia), the territory of the indigenous Mapuche nation, recognised since 1641 as independent by the precedent power, the Spanish Empire.

Colonialist Argentina continues to oppress the Mapuche. As Argentine ambassador to the UN as recently as 2011, Señor Argüello will be well aware that, in December of that year, James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, lectured Argentina on ignoring Mapuche land rights, citing Government and private company appropriations for projects that offer them no share in decision-making or resulting benefits.

By UN standards, therefore, Argentina is being judged unfit properly to rule people that she is already responsible for (by conquest and occupation). She should stop using the Falklands to try to distract attention from her human rights obligations and put her own house in order.

David Crawford

Bromley, Kent


A very British Christianity

Remembering the notoriously fickle theology of "The Vicar of Bray", one wonders whether it is Britain that is a Christian country, or if Christianity (the Anglican variety) has developed a British theology. One notes, for instance, that the Church of England has ordained women as priests only since the 1990s.

The history of religion is littered with religions taking their cue from everyday life, and building a piety and practice that seems to stem more from the culture they find themselves in than in the theories that church functionaries expound.

This history is often obscured by the same functionaries finding "justification" for their new theology in their traditional sources, then claiming the credit for their religion. It was the example of the Albigensian heretics that set St Dominic on the road in poverty, since the preaching of rich abbots had not been successful.

Findings on the evolutionary advantages of ethics suggest that religion has been a codifier of ethics rather than its source. One can imagine that three to Ten of the Ten Commandments were the accepted mores of the time, but that a cleric stood up and said that because his commandments are so reasonable God must be good, and therefore you also should take on board the first two (about the authority of the one God).

It is not so much that the secularists are trying to force out religion, it is just that our present crop of clerics are slow to explain why the fashions of today have always been an integral part of their religion.

Sean Barker



Wait to hear the case for Scotland

It was a sad day on Friday, as a loyal Independent reader since your launch, to see your editorial proclaiming support for the Union. The least I would have expected was an objective neutrality until the case has been set out in the campaign.

Sad also to see you repeat the unionist mantra of "belief in the advantages of union over division". Independence for Scotland will deliver a better partnership with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and add a new and positive voice in the EU.

No supporters of independence seek an inward-looking retreat to history; we want to seize our future engaged with the world. The reality is that it is the unionists who are locked in inward-looking romantic nationalism.

Andrew Anderson



I am glad to see that as a result of the intensifying national debate over Scottish independence, the term Franco-British has replaced the often misused Anglo-French description of international diplomacy (and others). Or is this just appeasement?

Dr Martin Buchan

Quarriers Village, Inverclyde


Alex Salmond campaign speeches often use the term "the Scottish people". I believe he means anyone over 16 who happens to be on the electoral roll north of the border, regardless of their birthplace, thus disenfranchising the people of the Scottish diaspora in any referendum vote.

But by one criteria – the Rugby Union "grandfather test" – Prime Minister David Cameron could have pulled on the navy-blue jersey and played international rugby for Scotland, made eligible by having a Scottish-born grandfather, and father. I wonder if he knows the words of "Flower of Scotland".

Jeff Wright

Broughton, Hampshire


The caption on David Cameron's visit to Edinburgh (17 February) suggests that he might like to add "Mc" to his surname to make it sound more Scottish. "Cameron" is already an entirely Scots Gaelic name, being the clan name of the "crooked noses", just as the Campbells are the "crooked mouths". Might he consider shortening his surname to just "Cam", that is, "crooked"?

George Paterson

St Albans, Hertfordshire


Drones can have peaceful uses

UAVs could have many uses other than military ones (letters, 18 February). They could be used for guarding vulnerable big game from poachers, monitoring whaling fleets, chasing drug smugglers, keeping watch over rainforest logging, patrolling beaches where sharks are a problem, supervising fisheries, spotting forest fires etc.

In view of events in recent years, we should also institute independent aerial monitoring and recording of interactions between police and demonstrators. Or perhaps we do already?

Steve Ford

Haydon Bridge, Northumberland


Beware of French flu

In your report and leading article on the UK seasonal flu rate being at its lowest for years (18 February), you do not mention that France is suffering a serious flu epidemic, now increasing in severity and spread. This weekend, hordes of UK "half-termers" have been returning from France after holidaying in affected districts. This week, they are mixing with school and business crowds here. Our situation might suddenly take a turn for the worse.

Robert J Jones

Chelmsford, Essex


Football fouled

I was interested to read about Peter Catlow's disenchantment with football (letters, 15 February). I have never been interested in football but I have always been puzzled why so many otherwise reasonable people should choose to follow a game that is so hospitable to racism, sexism, homophobia, drunkenness and loutishness. Now it is dragged into a mire of materialism and bad sportsmanship, when there are so many other sports that are not similarly unpleasant.

Dennis Leachman

Reading, Berkshire


Call a spade a ...

I read the news article in your 15 February issue titled "Turkey, 17 killed in rebel clashes". I presume the word "rebel" in the article describes the PKK terrorists. May I remind you that the PKK is a proscribed terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom, and those who commit its unlawful activities should be called terrorists, not rebels. Similar wording mistakes in newspaper reporting not only jeopardise joint international efforts to fight terrorism but also encourage those persons involved in terrorist activities.

Ünal Çeviköz

Ambassador of Turkey to the UK, London SW1


Blind to history

So let me get this right. William Hague warns that Iran acquiring nuclear weapons would start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Where is the sense of history? Fifty years ago, John F Kennedy was firmly opposed to Israel acquiring nuclear weapons for precisely that reason. By that measure, hasn't the good Mr Hague got cause and effect interchanged?

PH Ladbrooke