Smart meters threaten weather forecasts

Met Office issues weather warning over networked energy metering

Stewart Mitchell
16 Apr 2013

The introduction of smart meters in UK homes could play havoc with weather forecasts, according to the Met Office.

Ofcom is currently undertaking a consultation over removing restrictions on extending the frequencies home-networking hardware works on to help with the roll out of web-connected smart meters.

But according to Met Office officials, freeing up the spectrum could have disastrous consequences on its forecast modelling, with interference casting a cloud over results.

At risk are results from the Met Office's Doppler Wind Profiling Radars (WRPs) in the 915-917MHz sub-band of the broader 915-921MHz band, which could be used by smart meters to control central heating and other networked equipment in homes.

According to the Met Office, forecast accuracy could be compromised if Ofcom allowed unlicensed and uncontrolled spectrum use because interference would prevent observers from logging rain clouds.

"Met Office services underpin the protection of life and property through accurate prediction of severe weather," the Met Office said in a consultation response spotted by The Register.

"Whilst it is not possible to fully quantify the direct societal benefit of 915MHz WPRs in relation to its use of spectrum, these radars provide important information on the state of the atmosphere that is used to drive Numerical Weather Prediction models and inform weather forecasts and severe weather warnings to the public."

Without precaution and potentially licensing, the Met Office said meters and network equipment would generate an increased risk of unwanted interference to the WPRs, which "provide vertical wind profile data by measuring very small amounts of reflected signal that have been backscattered by atmospheric turbulence".

However, as The Register points out, the Met Office will face a battle as Ofcom has received significant backing for the proposals from companies such as energy firms, which would save significant money by not having to read meters.

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