National Grid Goals and Smart Meter Concerns

What the power company says:

National Grid’s vision is to deploy Smart Grid technology in order to optimize the flow of green energy resources, enhance the performance of the electric distribution grid, and provide customers with the ability to make informed decisions about how they use energy. A Smart Grid will provide customers with choice over how the electricity they use is generated and control over how and when they use energy in their homes and businesses. Through this redefined relationship with National Grid, customers will be able to participate in the power of action and contribute to a sustainable future. It includes in-home energy management systems and intelligent controls in appliances, giving consumers more choice and control over how and when electricity is used, which can save money and help National Grid operate its electricity network more efficiently and reliably for the benefit of all its customers. We expect the Smart Grid to play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, especially in how it can facilitate the connection of large amounts of renewable energy—more than is possible with the current electricity distribution system

National Grid expects that information-sharing will be a pillar of the proposed Cybersecurity Framework. The framework must take special precautions to protect the anonymity of participants and their customers. Data Sharing as a Function of the Smart Grid:

UTILITY GOALS AND USER CONCERNS:

UTILITY:  The Smart Grid promises to enable utility companies and their customers to reduce U.S. energy consumption using a variety of technologies and methods.

CONCERN: The main purpose of a system that allows a utility to remotely turn electricity on and off is to shift customers not only to tiered pricing but also to prepaid plans.  Anderson and Fuloria from the UK have written that the main purpose of smart metering is to ensure that customers who default on their payments can be switched remotely to a prepay tariff system where they purchase a card for so many hours of electricity in advance.

UTILITY: Smart Meters save customers money.

CONCERN: Connecticut Attorney General warns that the pilot results in that state showed that smart meters had no beneficial impact on total energy usage or bill savings and that the advanced technology is very expensive. A pilot program of 10,000 such meters found no energy savings in 2009, but would cost ratepayers $500 million. He said that CL& P’s plan to replace existing electric meters with advanced technology would be very expensive and would not save enough electricity for its 1.2 million customers to justify the expense.  In Australia, energy costs were considerably higher to consumers with the Smart Meter installation. Example:  SP AusNet in 2009: 17.49 (analog), in 2012: 101.02 (SM). The Worcester pilot is being closely watched as–yet another–test of whether the economic benefits of the meters come anywhere near offsetting the costs: $45 million just for the pilot. The stakes are high: it would cost an estimated $7 billion if the entire state were to switch to smart meters–the amount coming at the expense of ratepayers who will see the cost added to their monthly bills. Nationally, the grand total is pegged at more than a quarter trillion dollars. The rate increases come on top of federal taxpayer subsidies from stimulus. Price increases based on time of use may be implemented: see excerpt from MPUC:

Tiered pricing effected in Smart Meter utilities: Excerpted from the The Maine Public Utilities Commission: Q&A for customers about the Optional TOU Supply Price in December 2012.

  • Currently CMP does actually offer optional time-of-use rates for residential accounts.  There are 3 such rates and here is a link to the actual rates on our website <http://www.cmpco.com/YourHome/pricing/pricingSchedules/default.html>.  The rates are what we call A-TOU and A-TOU-OPTS.  Under A-TOU-OPTS there are 2 options: Super Saver and Savings Plus, which were designed for high-use customers prior to electric industry restructuring in Maine in March of 2000.  Under these rates it may be possible to save by shifting usage.

 UTILITY Smart Meters save electricity.

 CONCERN: In the Crain’s Chicago Business article Smart grid test underwhelms. In a pilot, it was found that in the Chicago test few power down to save money and was reported that fewer that 9% exhibited any amount of peak usage reduction. and that the overall amount of reduction was “statistically insignificant”. This was from a report by the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility industry think tank who conducted the study and prepared the report.

UTILITY: Smart Meters are safe to your home.

CONCERN:  Smart meters have started thousands of fires due, in part, to poor training of temporary installers, but also due to defective meter manufacture. In 2011, California’s PG&E said that as many as 23,000 meters could be defective. There are also problems in the inherent engineering/safety issues when the differing voltages between the extremely low frequency 60 Hz powerline system marries to the ultra high frequency RF used in smart metering. In New Zealand, firefighters reported 422 fires in 2010 involved with smart meters. There are numerous reports of fires in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and across Canada. One California suit has been filed for wrongful death due to a smart meter fire. Fires in FL GA NY CA had fire marshalls deemed it was the problem that the installer was hooking up different size prongs between the old and smart meter and this bent the prong which created a short that started the fire.

UTILITY: Fire insurance covers smart meter fires. the Utility owns the electrical meter and the line that runs from the customer’s premise to the pole. The property owner owns the meter enclosure box and all of the wiring in the home or business

 CONCERN: Smart Meters are not UL approved and insurance companies defer claims to the utility which owns the unit if identified as cause in a fire investigation. This delays insurance payouts while in litigation.  Home Insurance companies are considering charging extra for having a Smart Meter attached.

UTILITY: Smart Meters are installed free.

CONCERN: In most installations power must be shut off while installation takes place and then after installation you must hire an electricity to ascertain compatibility with your home’s electrical system to prevent fires. If the utility doesn’t notify you when they change the meter you may not be able to follow this recommendation.

UTILITY: Smart Meters do not have health risks associated with the frequencies.

CONCERN: David O. Carpenter, MD, MPH, founder of the University of Albany (NY) School of Public Health and director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the SUNY, School of Public Health: “The mass deployment of smart grids could expose large chunks of the general population to alarming risk scenarios without their consent.”  Dr. Carpenter’s open letter, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine recently issued a report entitled “Electromagnetic and Radiofrequency Fields Effect on Human Health”which calls for, among other things: immediate caution on Smart Meter installation due to potentially harmful RF exposure. FCC technical standards. There is not supposed to be any interference with authorized radio-frequency devices (i.e., medical devices). Yet this happens. Section 15.5. OET Bulletin 62. Of special concern are people with implanted medical devices like deep-brain stimulators for Parkinson’s, pain pumps, ventilators, some pacemakers, insulin pumps, and in-home hospital equipment. The radiofrequency interference (RFI) inherent to smart grid/metering can cause such equipment to go haywire, or even stop altogether. RFI from ambient exposures has caused wheelchairs to behave erratically and surgical beds have jump.  There have been documented cases of medical reimbursement from the power companies in lawsuits for medical reasons including pacemakers, migraines and other illnesses.

UTILITY: Smart meters keep your information secure. he use of encrypted signals will prevent unauthorized access to customer information or to equipment in customers’ homes or businesses.

CONCERN: Smart meters will collect data from your Energy Star appliance, know when you get up in the night, know when you are away and what kind of appliances are using that electricity. Smart meters offer significantly more detailed information about an individual’s energy usage than analog or first generation AMR meters. In addition, there are no controls in place to guarantee what a utility does with such personal information Smart meters are fundamentally surveillance systems. Potentially they could sell your data to companies for various reasons. CRS report to Congress on Smart Meter Data: Privacy and Cybersecurity says ,”Record real time data in consumer electricity usage and transmit data over great distances via communication networks are subjected to information intercept or theft by third parties. Courts and Congress expressed concern over potential eroding individuals under the 4th Amendment”.  It is more vulnerable to solar storms than the older utility grid. Security consultant Mike Davis of IOActive, Inc. in Seattle has shown how easy it is to install computer worms that can take over whole regions of the grid. Because of an increased number of entry points and paths that can be exploited by potential adversaries and other unauthorized users.

UTILITY: Smart Meters can be installed without your consent.

CONCERN: Actually, the power company is protected by easement laws, but they only are allowed currently for removal and maintenance of the meter. A bill (H.2962) is in front of the MA Joint Committee on Communications, Utilities and Energy to change that to include installation. The power company must give homeowners an opt out, and in many cases do this by sending a letter with your bill. It says if you don’t respond by a certain date then you opt in. They also must state the features of the product being installed and this may not include the risks. Under consideration is a tariff affixed to your bill if you opt out

UTILITY: Smart meters should not adversely affect the stability or performance of home wireless networks.

CONCERN: Although WIFI network devices, including CMP’s smart meters, operate on the unlicensed 2.4 GHz frequency band, they don’t necessarily overlap on channels. In instances when they do overlap, different devices are designed to work in the presence of other radios using different protocols.  In some instances, changing the operating frequency of your wireless devices will eliminate interference. For wireless enabled internet routers, a change to either Channel One or Channel Eleven is often effective. Wireless garage door openers, cordless phones, and other devices also often have a choice of channels or operating frequencies that can be selected to reduce or eliminate interference.

 

 

Comments
  1. Jason says:

    When was this written? Is it still acuurate? No UL listings for meters, I have to hire an electrician after the install?

    • blogmeister says:

      You can’t hire your own electrician. The utility installs them and controls them so they are not “your” property. If they catch fire their are lawsuits between your insurance and the utility to see who will pay or not… the claim. See latest post on a Canadian province that has them removed because of the fires.

  2. Currmudgeon says:

    Itron, whose meters are used by Duquesne Light, are subject to ANSI standards and will not use UL. More at: https://www.itron.com/na/resourcesAndSupport/Documents/Itron_Meters_and_ULCertification.pdf

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