A quarter of a million smart meters made by a company linked to the Chinese government have been installed in British homes, raising fears Beijing could ‘destroy’ the national grid.
At least three major British energy suppliers have struck deals with Kaifa Technology UK, which is controlled by a subsidiary of state-owned China Electronics Corporation (CEC).
There are already 250,000 Kaifa meters in homes across the country, according to industry figures obtained by the Daily Mail.
But experts predict there could be more than three million by the end of the rollout.
It has prompted accusations that low-cost energy companies are ignoring “a Trojan horse that could bring down the entire grid” as they stock up on cheaper meters.
Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, criticized ministers for their ‘complacency in assessing the risk posed by Chinese state-owned companies’ and exposing Britain to the ‘security risk posed by an aggressive person”. Beijing.
How our supply could turn off with the flick of a switch
All smart meters in the UK are fitted with a remote controlled kill switch.
It’s not essential to their operation, but utility companies say it saves them money if they don’t have to send a bailiff to disconnect a house in the event of a default.
But the measure has raised security concerns.
If the switches were used to turn off a significant proportion of meters in tandem, the national grid would generate far more power than was used.
It would trigger a power surge and damage substations, leaving entire towns without power.
It comes after the GCHQ chief warned that China’s plans for global tech dominance pose a “huge threat to us all”.
Sir Jeremy Fleming said China was seeking to create “customer economies and governments” by selling technology at low prices to other countries in order to leverage its influence.
The UK government has ordered telecoms equipment from Chinese tech giant Huawei to be removed from the UK’s 5G network.
But Nick Hunn, director of WiFore Consulting, who testified at a parliamentary inquiry into smart meters, warned that Kaifa could pose a bigger threat.
He said it was because all the meters have a switch that can be used to shut off power remotely, which could darken homes and “destroy” the national grid.
Utilities say meter makers can’t access this switch, but Mr Hunn said it “shows a chilling lack of complacency if they think the system can’t be hacked”, adding: “He hands over a loaded gun to China.”
The International Cyber Policy Center has designated CEC as “very high risk” due to its role as one of the main Chinese producers of military electronics, while the United States has blocked the use Chinese smart meters.
But Octopus Energy hailed the installation of its 100,000th Kaifa meter this year saying it was ‘just the start’ of a ‘great partnership’. Ovo Energy has ordered 38,000 Kaifa meters for 2022 alone, while Eon has signed a four-year contract with the Chinese firm.
Several industry sources told the Mail that Kaifa was winning around 20% of contracts by undercutting European rivals by up to 30%.
They believe Kaifa’s strategy is to use the UK market to gain credibility before it pushes prices up.
An Octopus spokesperson said Kaifa meters make up less than 4% of its installs.
Energy UK and the government have stressed that all smart meters operating in Britain are subject to “robust safety standards”.
Michael Wu, director of Kaifa UK, said the charges were not “an honest reflection of our business” and the result of a “contradictory political narrative”.