I completely agree with you. Saving energy is something we all need to be doing as a matter of course. Many of us already are, smart meters or not.
The incentives we already have are obvious. Use less energy, spend less on your bills.
If someone saves half a kWh of electricity over an hour, gets paid to save that amount at a premium rate, and then when the hour is over goes and puts the kettle or toaster on...?
Sure, it's 'shifted' a tiny bit of energy use, but not enough to make a blind bit of difference in my opinion.
Back in the day, where the normal working pattern was 9 to 5 and everyone came home around the same time and switched the telly, the lights and the kettle on in winter, then there would be times of peak usage. In this modern age, I think, with different working patterns, not so much. The peak is lower, but spread out a bit more, I think.
The days of six million kettles all coming on at the same time in the advert break in Coronation Street are behind us now, surely?