A manufacturer claims "the pulsed meter output facility is an essential part of meter technology and should be preserved, not blocked as OFGEM is permitting the Energy Companies to do".


Summary: 50% of electricity and gas used in building is used in small quantities and metered through low volume non Half Hourly registering meters – as per your house which are read every 3 months roughtly, and hence are  quarterly year metering . To be of any use for energy management, (where they can be extraordinarily useful – its the only cost effective way of doing it) half hour  metering is needed, and this requires some form of Automatic Meter Reading – AMT since proper HH meters are far too expensive. 

This capability, to read non HH meters as if they were HH, but cheaply,  has been for years available on all non HH meters as pulsed output, which by reading the pulses  (in effect) can convert them to HH meters. (Proper HH meters are vastly more expensive.)  As a result thousands of buildings fitted with non HH meters, and also sub meters (meters not used to collect payment, just to measure and allocate consumption0 have been fitted with AMR devices working of the pulsed output.

Key point: Colin boughton Smith, claims in this article that  OFGEM’s supine quiescence to the Energy Suppliers, who have come late to the party, and surprisingly have no interest in selling LESS energy,  want the wholesale replacement of the dumb non HH meter with the  much more expensive so called smart meters, which means that all the systems already installed based on pulsed output will become obsolete. Cynics argue that in fact smart meters, behind the hype, is the simple fact that the Energy Companies are getting the dumb meters replaced at the customers expense, which means larger profits because they no longer have to pay for meter readers.  Any objective analysis shows that smart meters are not a cost effective way of reading meters compared to AMR based on pulsed output.



AMR = Automatic Meter Reading

aM&T =automatic Monitoring and Targeting

Monitoring and Targeting = the Standard method of reducing consumption, where a target derived from the actual performance of the best building, is used to guide building using greater than target – eg kWhs per m2 for a school,say.  To be effective such aM&T has to work on Half Hour, HH data, although this is not generally available form the vast number of meters fitted to most buildings. 

HH and non HH meters. For meters over 100 kW or ,,,,,,, Half Hour recording meters are used.  However for most C and I – commercial and industrial buildings where the vast majority of energy is consumed, these are measured using non HH meters. It is not cost effective to fit a HH meter to these premises, so the pulsed output, is a way of easily and cheaply obtaining HH data and all meters have the facility to transmit pulsed output.

Users of pulsed output pulses. To deal with this paradox, many small entrepreneurial companies have developed devices and software to take these meter pulses and transform them into usable data to control energy management.  For example the whole of Leicester City Council premises are monitored in this way, using low powered radio to collect all the data and bring it back to a central point.  this simply would not be cost effective to do with HH meters


Analysis by Consumers of short interval consumption data/meter readings (typically every 30 minutes) been recognised by Government as fundamental to the management of utility consumption and has become a key plank of the UK’s carbon reduction programmes.

For example, it forms a fundamental role in the CRC programme.

Providers to C&I Consumers of aM&T systems, in what ever format (e.g. Building Management Systems (BMS), dedicated Automatic Meter Reading Systems (AMRS) etc.,) have been espousing this for many years. With this recognition, and to achieve the ambitious carbon reduction targets, the application of Consumer based AMR systems (in what ever guise) does not need to have barriers put in the way, says Colin Boughton Smith, MD of Energy Metering Solutions, a long term practitioner in this field.

To provide multi-utility AMR most systems in use today  will be interfacing to meters by the simple, common pulse output method. However, barriers to the provision of the common pulse are being put in the way by the Supply Industry and, furthermore, with OFGEM’s blessing, says Smith.

“The Supply industry, are generally completely oblivious to Consumer Based AMR ( ie systems bought and fitted by consumers to existing meters) and even more oblivious to the sophisticated analysis systems that many of the small, entrepreneurial companies have developed over the years to assist our customers (C&I Consumers) save utility consumption/ save carbon.

OFGEM have been given the management of AMR roll out for the UK by DECC; OFGEM say this will take “four years” to get under way and in particular, for an advanced multi utility, standard meter interface to evolve, despite the fact that with existing pulsed output metering, systems are already available and being used.

This is because  OFGEM only ‘listen’ to the Supply industry needs (despite being promoted as “the voice of the consumer”) and have no idea/comprehension of existing  Consumer based automatic meter reading systems, either past or present. Further, there has never been any real consumer representation at OFGEM, making any policies or decision they make, completely prejudiced towards the interests of the very people they are supposed to be regulating. 

 OFGEM has been given the management of UK AMR roll out, and  it would appear there is no understanding within OFGEM that, when automatically read,the normal non HH  electricity or gas meter can be used as the prime means of  carbon management, without the need to wait 4 years for the protocol expected by OFGEM to be evolved. This carbon / energy management purpose of the meter is likely to take over the importance of it being used as a charging mechanism.

It appears that all policies and technical issues/decisions via OFGEM are completely biased towards Suppliers and fiscal matters and have no recognition of the Consumers needs.

As stated above, most of providers of  C&I Consumers aM&T systems have been offering multi-utility (gas, electricity, water, oil)  automatic meter reading and this will generally be via the most basic and common meter interface means – the pulse output.

With automatic meter reading having  been identified as crucial for carbon management and OFGEM being given the management of AMR roll out, AMR in the UK is at a very important cross roads and there are two issues that need urgently to be addressed  to maintain “the pulse output meter option” until an alternative is available:

Issue One – is to do with meter technical specification going forward – The various biased OFGEM/supply Industry committees, including the meter techies have, in their wisdom, started to exclude the simple pulse output from meter specifications when there is nothing yet universally available. The COP 10 electricity meter is about to be ratified and it has no pulse out put capability – manufacturers will be gearing up to manufacture these. Other technical matters are being decided without the pulse as at least the base output.

Once introduced, meters on the above specification will make obsolete the thousands of bought an paid for AMR systems that customers are already using to monitor and control carbon.

Issue Two: is about what OFGEM are allowing the Suppliers to do now they are jumping on the AMR bandwagon . New energy meters are being installed where the Suppliers and/or their Meter Operators are not able or willing to provide a pulse output even though all the meters currently being installed or installed have this facility and have had for years. All this “four years” before OFGEM are saying we will have an alternative.

Unfortunately, with the current OFGEM regime the “pulse” looks doomed before there is any alternative.

Meters are being changed out by non-pulsing incompatible meter even where existing Consumer aM&T systems are present.

Thus Ofgem is clearly allowing the incumbent suppliers to do what they like, by denying pulsed output to those who could benefit from it, and forcing them to use there solution,  ie the smart meter, which is in many respect ( 4 years away, cannot do water, gas, oil) inferior to what the pulsed output companies like ourselves are offering” says Boughton Smith.

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Please could you tell me if there is an industry standard for the “pulse” output. Is it one pulse per kilowatt hour or one thousandth of a kilowatt hour? My domestic meter has just been changed from a thirty four year old induction disk meter to a new L&G E110 solid state device. This gives a red lamp flash every thousandth of a kilowatt hour, I think. Checking it with a stopwatch seems to give a believable readings; my average annual consumption is about 0.5 kW.

    Is there a device available that can count these red lamp flashes and turn them into useful consumption data on an hourly or half hourly basis? Can any of these measure low grid frequency without a physical connection (electro-magnetic coupling,say). Best of luck with the “save the pulse” campaign.

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