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05/11/2012 04:01 PM     print story email story  

The Angst of Installing Smart Meters in the US

SustainableBusiness.com News

Whenever we post an article related to smart meters, we inevitably get some angry comments from people who say they overcharge and are health hazards.

Apparently, there's fairly widespread concern about this and it's actually slowing down the effort among utilities to upgrade their networks.

Smart meters are the foundation for smart grid. Household (and business) energy use data streams in real time to local utilities, providing the information (and feedback) useful to planning and controlling energy use. Utilities can identify outages faster, give customers more choices in rates and even restore electricity through "self-healing" features. Since meters are read automatically, fewer trucks are needed.

Utilities have invested $15.4 billion to install them and another $13.4 billion will be spent through 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. About 27 million are installed as of September 2011 and 65 million - half of US homes - will have one by 2015, according to the Institute for Electric Efficiency.

In response to resistance by some customers, states like California, Maine and Vermont, allow people to opt-out. But they charge them for that. As you can imagine, most people are even angrier with that solution. Several utilities are holding off from installing them for now.

Utilities says the fees pay for sending human meter readers each month that record usage by hand.

50 local governments in California oppose smart meters, according to the group, Stop Smart Meters. Connecticut has postponed its decision on whether to participate in Northeast Utilities proposal to install 1.2 million smart meters.

Southern California Edison, the state's second-largest utility, says about 28,000 customers our of 4.9 million customers have asked to delay the program.

States seem to be leaning toward allowing customers to be charged if they refuse a smart meter because of the benefits they see in the smart grid: reducing power consumption during peak hours; reducing the need for new power plants; and reducing the potential for black-outs from capacity that can't keep up with urban growth, reports Bloomberg.

In California, utilities charge an upfront fee of $75 and $10 a month to keep their old meter, Greg Snapper, a PG&E spokesman, told Bloomberg. Over 90% of customers have a smart meter now, as a result of its $2.2 billion program to deploy at least 9.7 million of them, he said.

A state study found that smart meters are charging accurately, not over-charging. In fact, they were more accurate than tradtional meters, which could be behind peoples' perception that they're being charged more.

In 2011, the California Council on Science and Technology, a state-created technology advisory board, looked at a range of scientific studies and found they emit far less radio-frequency energy than microwaves or mobile phones.

Asia Moving Ahead

Many Asia Pacific nations view smart meters as the fundamental step in reducing carbon emissions and fostering a cleaner society, and Japan, Australia and China have some of the biggest penetration rates in the world, says Pike Research.

Last month, State Grid Corp. of China announced it would install over 300 million smart meters by the end of 2015, mostly using technology from the US and Taiwan.

A $100 billion will install 682-782 million units by 2020 as part of a $400 billion investment in transmission infrastructure across the country.



Reader Comments (26)

Author:
Maureen

Date Posted:
05/11/12 03:38 AM

Not an objective article. Sounds more like a public relations piece. Customers are angry about increased prices, data mining, health risks, cyber security, safety, and lack of control. Those who stay home during the day and use power will be affected most, such as the elderly, unemployed, those with medical conditions, parents with small children and small business owners. Bills have increased substantially for those with a new Smart Meter. Please explain...how can a data-mining, transmitting, wireless facility (Smart Meter) be forced onto my private home without my consent or penalize me if I refuse it? Where are my private property rights? My 4th Amendment rights ensures protection from forced seizure of my personal data. The lack of security and numerous wireless transmission points makes this Smart Grid a hacker's dream. Former CIA Director Woolsey even calls it "really stupid". The billions spent on this boondoggle should have included a small amount of dollars to investigate consumer opinions. Smart Grid is a SCAM and a power play to control customer behavior and to squeeze out more money...and everyone knows it.

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Author:
Bill

Date Posted:
05/11/12 03:54 AM

For anyone that believes these meters charge more dont understand how digital and analog meters work. In electrical systems digital metering equipment is far more accurate then there analog counterparts. If your utility bill goes up its because you were being under charged due to inaccurate readings. This same principle can be applied to gas pumps, youd be pretty upset if you got less gas then you payed for.

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Author:
h

Date Posted:
05/12/12 01:26 PM

Bill, you are denying reality. This is not about understanding how digital and analog meters work. The fact is that many "smart" meters are simply faulty. Here in BC we have had instances of bills increasing from double to 10 times! One was a cancer patient who returned from the hospital to his empty home and a $2000 electricity bill. Are you going to tell him that he doesn't understand the technology and that's why his bill his is outrageous?

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Author:
John

Date Posted:
05/12/12 02:24 PM

That's not the fault of the meters - that's the utility not being responsible. BC Hydro should be actually paying attention to customer bills and flagging excessive changes in monthly bills once smart meters are installed so they can proactively discuss with the customer & check the meter. With the right customer focused safeguards, smart meters are a benefit.

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Author:
David

Date Posted:
05/12/12 03:18 PM

The California Council study is seriously flawed methologically. Well credentialled scientists such as David Carpenter have written rebuttals. It is a shame that such a good source of green business information has not investigated the complexities of the issue. The state of Idaho and country of Italy have opted for wired smart meters. This is not a simple pro and anti technology story.

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Author:
bittenbythebill

Date Posted:
05/12/12 07:07 PM

Old meters are slow to respond to the very high current transient surge of motors and lights. New smart meters detect these spikes and charge customers more. Yes, they are accurate. Too accurate! Need better averaging software installed, just as digital meters have.It's all in the way a waveform is measured.

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Author:
bittenbythebill

Date Posted:
05/12/12 07:27 PM

Addon to define. An old meter is really a motor in itself. It takes time to move from a slower speed to higher speed. When a fridge motor starts up, it requires a huge amount of current to start moving. The old meter cancelled out, or was oblivious to the fast current peak-so no increase in charge to customer. Now a smart meter has no motor inside to detect the current. It detects on a cycle by cycle (60hertz)count. Thereby charging customer more money. As with anything, there will be some defective smart meters. Nothing we can do about that. We can either force power companies to install software that simulates the old meters, or devise ways of making all fridges,washers, dryers,etc, slowly start up their internal motors, to avoid the current pulse at startup.

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Author:
bittenbythebill

Date Posted:
05/12/12 07:48 PM

One more thing. About the health issue. Looking at the specs of the smart meters, they can transmit at 900 Mhz and 2.4 Ghz. There is a possibility of interference with other household equipment, but as far as I can tell, they only trasmit for very short spurts through out the day. So the small amount of radiation they produce is miniscule compared to all the other wireless devices we all use, everyday at home.It's a bit scary how much natural and manmade radiation is going through our bodies. So far, there is no real evidence that small amounts of radiation is harming us. Would need to study people from birth to death and have the control people in study, to live miles in the earth to avoid most radiation.Not going to happen. For better or worse, we will have to live with them, smart or otherwise.

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Author:
privacy

Date Posted:
05/12/12 11:02 PM

there is no risk of radiation, your cell phone has 10 times the energy of any Wi-Fi or smart meter, and its next to your head every day... Privacy is a real issue, some people say they can know exactly what you are doing in your house just by reading the meter values. You computer emits a specific noise spikes that can be detected with cycle by cycle accurate readings. With enough information, they can know that your computer is on, then they can use Wi-Fi sniffing equipment to start logging all your Wi-Fi traffic. They will know what time you watch TV. What time you do your laundry. What time you typically come home from work... therefore what is the best time to break into your house... The utility could at least encrypt the data with AES or simply send the data only every day in a burst, and only if there is a problem on the network, enable an hourly or minute level data transmission. Which is still far more advanced than the 3 month intervals meters are typically read at. Sending a burst at a random time every 24 to 36 hours would require someone to park outside your house for a few days to capture the information, which means it is a very determined hacker. Privacy is the real issue...

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Author:
bittenbythebill

Date Posted:
05/12/12 01:48 AM

Privacy. Huh? Our privacy was given away years ago. If I wanted to, I could kind of do the same thing with the old type, right now. I could go up to a house with the old analog meter and tell how fast the aluminum disk rotates to give me an idea if someone was there. If it does not change speed, there is a good chance no one is home. Power supply companies, as well as water utilities, know on a mass scale when we use large amounts of power or flush the toilet as far back as the beginning of mass supply. They can tell, say, how many people watch Stanley cup playoffs, due to the fact people rush off to go to the washroom at breaks in the game. True, they will be able to see the metrics on a smaller scale.I agree with your point. The one thing that bugs me the most, is any software is hackable. It won't be long before we get screwed, not by the big boys, but the evil little brothers, up to no good. I doubt if they will be from USA, or Can. They will be from elsewhere. That to me, is the biggest danger of smart meters. Please tell and prove me I'm wrong, on the last statement

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Author:
wayne

Date Posted:
05/12/12 02:30 AM

Smart meters are dsigned for one purpose only. Extract the maximum possible dollars from consumers. The meters are not designed to to read in real time by consumers. The old ones at least had the capability, if you could measure how fast the disk looped. Until meters are read by consumers in real time, any suggestion consumers have the ability to control consumption easily, is just a red herring.

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Author:
bittenbythebill

Date Posted:
05/12/12 03:16 AM

Designed, to use automation for reading data- to cut meter reader's jobs, and get max $ from consumers, no dependents. Yes, we can go on line and see in real time, just how much we are getting screwed for. We do have control. Shut off the main breaker. Get as much offline power as possible-wood/converted methane burning stoves/water heaters,skylights, windmills, and solar panels,and our friend's house! Yes, it's time to go back to the good old days. Anyone on net, selling portable nuclear fuel cells? I want to start up my own little power plant in the basement!

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Author:
Jerry

Date Posted:
05/13/12 02:20 PM

Smart meters are no more invasive to our personal information then supermarket purchase cards, credit card transactions, EZ pass toll transmitters, traffic violation photo detectors, ATM usage, wifi long-ins, ups or postal deliveries, etc. So of this speculations that you are more exposed to robbery is unfounded. Let's see, if a potential robber wants to case my house, they need an advanced degree in computer networking and the equipment to do so. As compared to sitting in a car down the street from your house and waiting til you drive away. This additional digital paranoia is unwarranted. The benefits of much more accurate reading and macro control of the grid far outweights the fear.

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Author:
David

Date Posted:
05/14/12 09:30 PM

For those of you seeking more information on health effects of non-ionizing radiation, with specific attention to wireless smart meters, you may wish to look at the web site of Sage Reports at http://sagereports.com/smart-meter-rf/. Also, take a look at the BioInitiative Report. There is a literature on health effects for non-ionizing radiation, and some countries have taken a precautionary approach even to wireless routers in schools. The science is unsettled and underfunded, and there is no scientific consensus, but I would say that the direction of the literature is moving toward increasing evidence in favor of negative health effects. Also, keep in mind that the WHO's IACR declared cell phones a possible carcinogen due to an increase in odds ratios for brain cancers for heavy users, based on very high profile international epidemiological studies. This is about as close as we can get right now to a global consensus science statement.

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Author:
Casie

Date Posted:
05/14/12 11:32 PM

My health has been ruined by the Smart Meter installation. I had no problems with wireless devices or any kind of electrical device. About 5 months after the meter was installed I developed some kind of sensitivity to the electrical noise - apparently about 5% of people are affected in the same way. All I can hear 24 hours a day/365 days a year is the sound of the electrical wires. It's much worse inside my small house but I can now hear the noise everywhere I go where there are any wires - whistling, buzzing pulsing, cycling noises in my ear depending on the weather and how much power is being used. I am never free of it. I was finally convinced to go to the doctor - I was being driven crazy by the noise - now I'm on 3 kinds of anti anxiety pills and sleeping pills. I already had migraines - now they happen twice as often and I have to take Immitrix for migraines constantly. My life has been made miserable. I own this house and had hoped to be able to stay in it and have some money to spend when I retire in a few years. Now my existence and retirement will remain miserable - moreso when I am in the house 24 hours a day. The power company finally put a new meter on that is read by the telephone wires - just within the last month, the meter has been on since December, 2009 - and it made no difference. My wiring is still affected by other smart meters in the neighbourhood or the whole smart grid - whatever that is. My whole life and health has been ruined and I see no way out of my situation. It doesn't matter if i take all my fuses out and have no electricity in my house - the noise still goes through the wiring and makes my life and interest in doing anything impossible. Every second is consumed by the noise.

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Author:
h

Date Posted:
05/14/12 12:05 AM

A previous commenter accurately stated that analog meters can't capture start up current of motors such as those found in fridges. Of course, this "lost billing" was adjusted for via an average percentage increase in the rate. You don't think utilities were just giving away energy do you? So now with smart meters, that adjustment needs to be removed from the rate. Unfortunately, no utility has yet acknowledged this fact, and therefore now double billing for the same energy usage which is being captured via the "smart" meters. Having a "smart" meter should not be forced on anyone. I may choose not to have wi-fi, cell phones, or baby monitors in my home because I don't want them. The same choice should be available with respect to a device permanently attached to your home, emitting an IARC Class 2B carcinogen 24/7 into your home and garden. It's an outrage that it's mandated by law in some jurisdictions. It's also theft of telecommunications right-of-way since your neighbours' billing information is being transmitted through your meter.

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Author:
bittenbythebill

Date Posted:
05/17/12 04:54 AM

Casie, from what I am reading from your post, this is probably four things. 1. You may be suffering from tinnitus. Thats when ear nerves apparently go into positive feedback from damage, and produce all types of noises in ones head. The more one concentrates, the more we are aware of this background body noise. 2.You might be hearing the 60hz buzz, along with all it's upper harmonics(120,240Hz etc). Any wiring and equipment in your house will have transformers in them, that will amplify and modulate into sound waves that can be heard. Fluorescent light fixtures are well known for this noise. Even old filament light bulbs will noisily vibrate if put through a dimmer circuit. This is audible noise, that has always been with us and Edison. There is a small possibility that when the meters were installed, the connection became higher resistance in the line, and is making the wires vibrate. This still has nothing to do with the 900 MHz, and 2.4Ghz electromagnetic radiation the meters can produce. You won't hear those frequencies, as they are not audible pressure waves. Your neighbor's wiring could set off sympathetic vibrations in yours, but is extreme long shot, as wires are far apart, and the broadcast frequencies would probably be filtered out in the wiring, as we have filter caps in almost all electronic devices to filter out this noise. 3. I heard about it many years ago, that sometimes a person, with a tooth filling that was falling apart, turned into a diode, and demodulated strong AM radio stations, that could be heard faintly in their mouth. I'm not sure if this could happen in your case, as the signals, I think are spread spectrum modulation. 4. You could be right. You may be on to something. There is still so much to learn from you, as well as others around the world that have smart meters installed. I am happy you could at least opt out of RF broadcast and have billing info sent by phone.

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Author:
bittenbythebill

Date Posted:
05/17/12 05:19 AM

Hello "H". Do you mean your neighbours' billing information is being transmitted through your meter, or your property air, house, body, etc? I do understand every smart meter in neighborhood is bombarding,(good word),everybody else, I think at all different times, and briefly, no more than five minutes a day, but if you are saying we receive other peoples billing info and re broadcast again on ours, then Holy smart meters in a hand bag! No wonder I got charged double. I didn't know they could receive info. Wow, if that is true, think of the possibilities for hackers to send ,say their marijuana grow op house bill to a target down the street. Lovely. Honey, this months electrical bill is for 15,000 dollars. Did you forget to turn off the porch light!

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Author:
bittenbythebill

Date Posted:
05/18/12 03:34 AM

I would like to bring forth questions and some more info. As smart meters are being installed all over the world, does every country have same issues? How many different brands are being used? What are the best brands so far? Are there meters that can have antenna put high on roof away from walls? There may be possible problems with the hall effect sensor. This electronic part, measures the electromagnetic current flowing, in an analog way, before signal is digitized in the smart meter. If it is too sensitive to solar cosmic radiation showers of electromagnetic interference, like neutrons, high energy protons,etc, this random radiation could occasionally pass through the sensor giving a brief high current reading. So for months, meter bill could be usual, then next month go super high, and then back to normal. Definitely a hiccup, that power company would blame on us, as the free neutron would be long gone. No proof- we pay. Is there anybody out there who can look into more info on these radiation gremlins? Do all the devices have enough shielding protection? Probably the worst time to install smart meters, as we are entering 11 year peak cycle for solar radiation. We all know the crazy current jumps that happen to power lines,on a big scale, with mother earth's geomagnetic field, losing battle to the solar winds. Ha,Ha. Remember this Walter Matthau movie. It's because there's Carbon on the valves!

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Author:
Sickened by the Meter

Date Posted:
05/19/12 06:35 PM

As soon as a smart meter was placed on my home buzzing the ears, dizziness, anxiety, fatigue and so many other adverse health effects began happening with me. These are all the symptoms of microwave sickness which is exactly what these things put out either through the air or onto the wiring in the home. I believe that they are absolutely evil, and any utility who places these on a home against a customers wishes should be sued to the max.

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Author:
bittenbythebill

Date Posted:
05/21/12 06:45 PM

Sickened by the meter- I'm sorry the transmitter in the meter is giving health problems. You may be one of the small percent of people very sensitive to this radiation. As the human body is electro-chemically based, Lets call what you have, a new name,"EMR allergy", and see if it catches on. Just as some humans can be allergic to chemicals, well, some can be allergic to small amounts of electromagnetic radiation. I'm sure lawyers will love it. I did watch a British show, called Bang goes the theory S06E05. They did not talk about smart meters. They did though, do an experiment with microwave WiFi and a microwave oven in the home. Apparently, ovens make around 4,000 times the amount of radiation as WiFi. All ovens leak some of this. how much, they didn't say, but did show that when a microwave oven was on, and a computer located about a meter away, the WiFi signal could not download info to the computer. Now this is only me thinking about this, not scientific, but if you have a microwave oven, in your home, and notice your symptoms increase, when the oven is heating up some food, then that is a possible way to tell if the smart meter is creating, well, "brain fry", as well. If so, time to chuck out the micro and talk to doctors and lawyers about the smart meters, and it's replacement to analog meter.

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Author:
h

Date Posted:
06/10/12 05:58 PM

bittenbythe bill, yes your neighbours' billing information is being transmitted through your meter, your property air, house, body, etc. It's supposed to remain independent from yours in separate packets, but who knows how many ways this system could malfunction? Regardless, it's theft of telecommunications right-of-way because they did not contract to put a cell tower on your property, just to deliver electricity and meter it.

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Author:
bittenbythebill

Date Posted:
06/15/12 04:36 AM

"H" I'm still not sure if one's meter receives neighbours signal,and remodulates like a relay station. I would guess it would be like on internet, where wrong packets are rejected, by firewalls, blacklists, and other protocols. I don't have that specific knowledge of the internal workings. I would hope if it did, there would also be some type of security feature, that only accepts and passes on certain digital password keys to the main utility collector/transmitter, in the neigbourhood. Speaking of that, I pity the family, who lives close to one of those poles. Those will be receiving and transmitting huge amounts of rf, 24 hours a day. Where every day is FRYday!

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Author:
MosinMark

Date Posted:
06/18/12 10:52 PM

I just had a conversation with a solar company installer, the smart meter in conjunction with all the new smart chipped appliances will allow the utilities to totally map all your your power usage as well as be able to remotely control your appliances. for example "Oh look Mr Smith has his refrigerator set at 35 degrees instead of 37 hes using to much power let's just adjust it for him" No thank you, This opens the door for fines or worse, (perhaps someone knocking on your door) to try and "help" you become more compliant. Yeah right.. The simple answer is more power plants not fewer of them.

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Author:
Letta Mego

Date Posted:
07/08/12 06:06 AM

We’d have to take a course in human physiology to really get how harmful these smart meters are. I guess our lack of knowledge is what the utility company and government are counting on. The harm starts at the membrane that surrounds the living cell. That alone is reason enough to ban smart meters. Smart meters have 2 antennae. One beams radiation into the home and the other beams radiation outward. In the smart meter is an operating system (computer) and software that can definitely be hacked. There is nothing good about smart meters. They are just something dreamed ($$$) up by the telecommunication industry and the utility companies by people who don’t know a thing about biology or health…… Or don’t care…because we don’t immediately drop dead …and they know they’ll have their money and be long gone before we wise up. It’s pretty mysterious how the world population is against smart meters but smart meters are still being forced on us. This is really audacious (and stupid)of the president, the telecommunication industry, and the utility companies think they can bully the rest of the world into this fiasco just to feed their greed.

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Author:
surprised

Date Posted:
07/09/12 05:32 PM

I would have never thought that smart meters was such a hot-button issue. I'm inclined to believe that on the radiation issue... with microwave ovens, cell phones and towers, GPS, fukushima.... My water is already on a form of smart meter. and the amount of, and kinds of information do not seem to be threatening to my independence. But here is what I do know, if we do not do something about the efficiency of the grid and up our ability to connect renewables to the supply, we are truly screwed. Folks, moving into the 21st century is not going to be easy...but we have got to start moving.

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