Friday, May 12, 2017

Comments Received About New City Light's New Meter Boxes

Following the recent post about the new router being installed at the top of some City light poles in the neighborhood and throughout Seattle, the Laurelhurst Blog Staff received several comments. 

One router is located on the south side of NE 38th Street, between 47th Avenue NE and 46th Avenue NE. 

The Laurelhurst Blog contacted Seattle City Light who said the box is a router, also called a relay, in the communications network for the Advanced Metering system. City Light is replacing electric meters with these advanced meters this year, which they say will provide many benefits to customers and greatly improve operational efficiencies within City Light.. 

The City Light website says that the "advanced meters are the new meter standard for City Light’s service territory."  Installation began this year and is to be completely installed by 2019.

Customers who do not wish to receive the advanced meter can choose to opt out here.

Neighbors weighed in about the meters:

To learn more about the greenwashing claims of Seattle City Light regarding Advance Metering Infrastructure (smart meters, standard meters), visit the Safe Utility Meters Alliance-NW website and read about the downside of this flawed technology policy.  
When one sees what has happened in others states where AMI has been deployed for several years or more, one clearly sees that there are NO benefits to consumers for this costly boondoggle coming our way. It simply benefits the wireless industries, utilities, and third party marketers. This AMI program will cost millions of dollars and is not needed to have a true smart grid.
You can also go to Getting Smarter About the Smart Grid  and Smart Grid Awareness  for well researched articles on AMI and what could instead have been done with millions of dollars now wasted on smart meters (standard meters). 
City Light's "smart" meter program will cost Seattle residents nearly 100 million dollars (assuming there aren't any costly hiccups in the rollout). That gets paid for either through higher utility rates, or city taxes which could otherwise fund projects which actually benefit people.

Meanwhile, there is a significant fire hazard associated with these meters and City Light transfers those risks to property owners in their fine print legal disclaimers.

There is a major privacy violation of Constitutional Rights, giving utilities the ability to fingerprint your electrical usage 24/7. This information could be used for any number of invasive exercises from selling the data to 3rd party marketers, to government "investigations", or even hacked by criminals for home invasions, etc.

There are cybersecurity risks to the power grid. The entire electrical grid will be accessible via any one of millions of different portal entry points. A former CIA official called smart meters "a very dumb idea.".

Lastly, the negative health issues associated with smart meters and radio frequency devices/infrastructure in general have volumes of independent scientific data which suggest a more precautionary approach is warranted. City Light's safety analysis was rubber stamped by medical professionals who make a living "consulting" for telecommunications companies.
Volunteers have spent hours and years investigating the smart meter issue due to serious concerns on this technology.

Seattle City Light's response to neighbor comments:
The comments include numerous inaccuracies about a program that will benefit Seattle City Light’s customer-owners with more accurate billing, improved reliability and enhanced services while helping to hold down operating costs and electricity rates.

Seattle City Light is upgrading all of the electricity meters in its service territory to modernize aging equipment. Some of our existing electromechanical meters were installed as early as the 1950s. They have gone beyond their expected lifespans and that equipment is no longer being manufactured.

More than 500 electric utilities have installed more than 50 million advanced meters across the country. Many have been in use for more than a decade. Advanced Metering is a proven technology and Seattle City Light is installing the latest, most effective generation of this technology.

City Light’s upgrade will replace about 420,000 meters by the end of 2018 and install about 30,000 more to serve new development in one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country. The cost of the program and the savings it will generate are accounted for in City Light’s strategic plan and the rates it forecasts for the next six years.
City Light is a municipally owned utility that operates as a self-sufficient non-profit. We collect just enough money from ratepayers to cover the utility’s operating costs and the cost of the electricity. Advanced Metering will help City Light provide enhanced services to customers while reducing operating costs and our environmental impact. 
City Light does not receive any tax money from the city. Actually, it’s the opposite – City Light pays a utility tax to the city.  
The meters we are installing are safe. They have been independently certified for safety by UL, which has 120 years of experience in product safety. Additionally, our new meters are equipped with a temperature sensor – an enhanced safety feature our existing meters don’t have. Meter fires can happen with any meter, including our existing electromechanical meters. The most common reason for a meter fire is a bad connection between the meter and the meter base. The temperature sensor on the new meters will help us identify potential problems before they become fires. 
Seattle City Light respects our customers’ privacy.  We support and comply with the City of Seattle’s privacy policy and will never sell customer information to third parties. The meters will only collect energy consumption information from the entire home or business. This allows the utility to better understand where, when and how much electricity is being used on its distribution grid, enabling us to operate in a more efficient manner, improve reliability and hold down costs. For example, customers in some neighborhoods might have energy demands that strain the limits of a transformer at certain times of the day, shortening its lifespan and increasing the likelihood of a power outage. Understanding that would allow the utility to install a bigger transformer that could handle the load. This ability becomes even more important as more customers install solar panels that are changing energy demand patterns and pushing electricity onto the distribution grid. Additionally, Advanced Metering increases personal privacy by reducing the need for utility workers to visit customers’ homes and back yards to read meters every two months.  
City Light’s Advanced Metering system is fully encrypted for security, much like online banking systems. The security protocols are independently audited on a regular basis by different firms to ensure effectiveness. 
City Light has done extensive research on the radio frequency emissions related to wireless transmission of data by advanced meters. The science shows that radio frequency emissions typical of many common household devices, like advanced meters, do not affect health (California Council on Science and Technology, 2011). Radio frequency emissions from advanced meters are far below the limits set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). One study for the state of Vermont found that radio frequency levels at one foot from the meter are about 1,500 times below the exposure limits (Richard Tell Associates, Inc., 2013). And City Light’s meters will transmit less than 90 seconds each day. 
After advanced meters are installed, customers will benefit from: more accurate billing. Without the need to send a meter reader to your home, we will eliminate most instances of estimated bills; tampering sensors will increase City Light’s ability to detect and prevent electricity theft, which is estimated at $3 million per year; a reduction of 200,000 miles of driving by City Light employees along with eliminating the carbon emissions associated with those trips.  
Once Advanced Metering is connected to other utility computer systems, customers will benefit from automated outage reporting, which will speed and improve City Light’s response and restoration work and online access to their energy use information and how much that costs.   
Advanced Metering creates a platform that could support even more enhanced services in the future. Among that possibilities that City Light could consider are pre-paid accounts; billing alerts when your balance reaches a level that you choose and optional alternate rate structures that could reduce your energy costs based on when you use that electricity, which could be especially helpful for people with electric vehicles.

A reader commented following City Light's secondary comments:
The following comments by City Light are filled with inaccuracies. For one example, numerous fires have occurred from smart meters in the US, including those made by Landis & Gyr.   
The sensor is not needed at all with analog meters, the sensor is still a design in progress.  The meter base is stated by City Light SCL to be owned by the property owner.  If a fire occurs at the meter site, the homeowner becomes responsible.  Utility companies in California and Nevada have actually removed melted meters before an fire investigation was completed.  This is documented testimony under oath by insurance property examiners.   
This group:  California Council on Science and Technology, 2011, is funded by the wireless industry, not independent scientific researchers. 
Many are already familiar with City Light's stated position.  Smart meters have not been in use for more than a decade.  Those in the past were not two way wireless meters subject to more problems.  Smart meters have a known life span of 5 to 9 years only and are then subject to being replaced.   
However the cost benefit analysis used by utilities to create the budget for approval by city councils, uses a cost figure based on a 15 year life span for smart meters and no smart meter system has lasted that long.  Cost overruns have commonly occurred throughout the US after AMI systems are installed -- the costs are past on to you - the rate payer.  Encryption experts have already stated that these AMI systems are hackable, so if you believe the data is not subject to be hacked, then you need to do more research in this area yourself and view various  cases where cybersecurity breaches have occurred.  
City Light is basically repeating the industry spin used for several years now while other researchers  in England, Europe, and the US, have discussed the downside of this technology.  There is a lot of money to be made with these wireless meter systems and where that occurs, the science and policy really becomes colored and distorted.

To learn more about the Advanced Metering program and the opt out provision go here.  


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