(Continued from Home page)…

The “smart” meters have been found to add a fire hazard to homes and forests–responding to high surges with pops, outages and fires. Their act of measuring your electric flow superimposes jagged “static” onto the normally smooth alternating 60-cycle-per-second wave of your power. A “junk power overlay,” this useless static transmits spikes of static  to all bodies and nervous systems in the home while being billed along with your “good” power. To add insult to that injury it creates extra wear in your household electronics, upping your equipment replacement and repair bills.

Many “microwave sensitive” persons (at least 5% of a population), experience real time health symptoms like headache, sleep problems, tingling, fogginess, tinnitus, fatigue, etc., usually thinking it is from other causes.

The number of EMS-ers is undoubtedly increasing as electrosmog bombardment brings more people to their threshold of resistance over time.  There is, of course, in all of us a longer-range degradation of our health even though we are not, like some friends I know,  immediately-sensitive people. It is wrong to start up an unavoidable stream of electromagnetic pollution around people who can’t turn it off.

Other downsides: usage metadata can be sold to marketers, privacy decreased, and  terrorist hackability of the whole , through each meter as a node, is increased. House (or forest) fire risk increases as meters have been known to cause many house fires. And  power bills after deployment of smart meter systems almost always rise. Click below to see how we are working to increase citizen pushback to the power regulators (WUTC) of Washington State and PSE.

2022 Update Note: PSE has announced the intention to deploy smart meters on every house and business on Whidbey in 2022-2023. CLEAR has been taking numerous measures to modify this event, as it is inevitably scheduled to happen and there are megabucks behind it. The goal is protection of the vulnerable and avoiding the “extortion” structure, i.e., paying $$ for safety from something pushed on you in the first place. The WA Utility Commission has insisted, to their credit, that “opt-out” fees are to be kept to just actual company expenses of reading a “non-transmitting meter” replacement for the “smart” transmitting meter. It is a sad reality that many renters of an apartment in a complex are out of luck as the owners/managers may not want a fee-pay opt-out on tenant meters. Additionally, some tenants may have several meters placed on a single outside wall of their apartment, God-forbid that be a bedroom wall, that has caused many to have microwave sickness reactions. There is, at the time no recourse but to move. CLEAR will be advocating that PSE retain the option (as have over 20 other utilities in the country including that of the whole state of California) to let customers choose an ANALOG METER, a mechanical, non-transmitting meter that doesn’t create “dirty electricity,” transient higher frequency waves in the household power supply that radiate to the inhabitants’ bodies from walls. To persuade PSE to allow this option:

1) Closer to the rollout time CLEAR will help you join letter campaigns to the WA Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) who was deliberating smart meter regulations in 2017-8; 2) To PSE officials with influence on the smart meter rollout; 3) Letters to the editor and social media; 4) CLEAR will educate citizens and local officials about the dangers of “dirty electricity” especially for “Electro-sensitive” (EMS) persons who are health-degraded in real time by the transients injected into house power lines by digital meters (whether “smart” ones or “non-transmitting” opt-out ones). We hope that when rollout time arrives PSE will feel they are meeting a wall of resistance/insistence on the analog opt-out option (even though it includes a modest opt-out surcharge on one’s bill). Stay tuned and join our mailing list for the latest actions! Send request to CLEARwhidbey(at)protonmail.com!

Meanwhile if you want an in-depth discussion of what smart meters are all about, read below for the full concept and argument about the marginal value and harms of smart meters…here it is:

Introduction (Overview on what “smart” meters are, where they came from, and what their problems are):

Puget sound Energy has an upgrade plan laid out in 2016 for several procedural improvements that include and integrate the dispersion of so-called “smart meters” that have been shown by many experts to not be smart at all. In fact “smart meter,” called in the industry “AMI” for “Advanced Metering Infrastructure,” is a misnomer. They aren’t advanced, just old technology equivalent to a pager with a send-receive chip and remote-activated on-off switch in it. They are an “infrastructure” in that they are designed to communicate with other AMI meters in the neighborhood and relay readings from one meter to the other (called a “mesh network” through which all neighborhood data is funneled to the nearest cell phone tower to be relayed to the company data and billing systems. Control signals can be sent back to individual meters to shut off usage to non-payers or where there has been an emergency. This distinguishes them from the “AMR” meter that is mainly a one-way reader that sends a semi-continuous, (perhaps) lower wattage signal, receivable by a passing worker vehicle or a dedicated relay antenna that then relays user data to a nearby cell tower (as is used on Anderson Road for Talking circle and Upper Langley).

Smart meters are being pushed by power companies worldwide. How did this happen? Brief sketch: In 2009 the Obama admin created a “Smart Grid Stimulus” of $4 Billion as part of a worldwide concept of a “smart grid” that would be able to smartly integrate and distribute the new energy economy that included all sources of energy (e.g., solar, wind, hydro, fossil) and all users of energy. Amory Lovins estimated that this could be done with a world contribution of $150B a year, the same amount of money now being used to prop up the aging, quirky energy system.

The 5 or so mega-large multi-national manufacturers of electric meters (used to measure electricity on hundreds of millions of buildings) saw an opening: create meters that can communicate with power providers in a network meshed with emerging cell phone technology, and apply the name “smart” to them. Imply they are key to renovating the grid, when in reality the networked meters simply put a few bangles on the old decrepit system and do nothing to integrate the multiple feeds of many energy sources (even penalizing distributed individual solar sources).

Today, even green progressives are confused by the “bait and switch” of the nomenclature and mistakenly find themselves cheering for “smart meters” as a key to the “smart grid.” Giant meter companies like Itron, Landis+Gyr and Echelon have created monstrous multi-services packages, including billing, customer management, data analysis and storage that are sold as mega-million dollar packages to power companies who wish to upgrade all aspects of their operations at the same time. Smart meters are pushed as part of that whole system of modernization of what power companies do. Unfortunately what they do is maintain, with a few glitzy bells and whistles for cover, the old power grid (centralized commodity, no inducement to conserve, unable to integrate renewables, and taking advantage of strong legal incentives to build excessive, inefficient, and inappropriate infrastructure. While they do this they always collect from ratepayers a mandated 10% surcharge for capital investments above and beyond their cost. The clunky “non-smart” grid continues \with multi-billions earned by meter companies and power companies working together on the ratepayer’s dime to cover the world with skillfully hyped “smart” meters.

As part of this analysis, let’s see what the costs versus benefits are for a corporate energy company like PSE (Australian-owned):

Benefits for PSE:

  • They expect to get an image upgrade as they portray themselves as a progressive, dynamic, green company working more efficiently to save energy and help customers monitor in real time their electricity usage.

  • They get upgrades to their billing, metering, and data storage systems, commonly part of a package deal from meter-manufacturing multi-national Landis+Gyr who makes the current PSE meters AMR (electrified reading meters) and well be suppliers of meters, book-keeping systems and data systems for the smart meter rollout. This means gains in billing efficiency, company truck runs (i.e., most meter readers fired) and data-processing costs. This means less overhead, higher profit.

  • Smart meters are notoriously inaccurate as proven by laboratory tests in Amsterdam (http://sciencebulletin.org/archives/10940.html) despite glowing industry assurances of increased accuracy. One reason is due to the very nature of their electronics, each component having an error range leading to a combined error of plus or minus 10%. But also their flow-calculating algorithm is complex and approximate. One example: it averages common brief current spikes from various switching in electric things into an overall even flow rate, creating a smooth higher mean reading for the meter. (A common complaint in Seattle’s new network is that bills are suddenly 12% higher. Company response: “the meters are more accurate and you were getting a deal before”). This means dramatically increased profits.

  • “Smart” meters notoriously under-measure the reverse flow into the power grid from solar and wind installations, for various technical reasons related to wave forms and metering algorithms. This means individuals or groups with solar or wind facilities are chronically under-paid in electricity credits, another $$$ boon for the power companies.

  • A “money cow” that keeps giving every 5-7 years: the life of a smart meter has been found by several experts (and by actual track records of “smart” phone projects) to be 5-7 years, belying the industry claims of as high as 27.5 years life on them. First realize that the “smart” meters are simple computers with firmware + software on chips left in the weather and running 24/7. Then think of the few years your personal computer or smart phone lasts and the 5-7 year life seems quite realistic. That means that, whereas the old analog meters lasted 30 years, every 5-7 years the meter-manufacturing multinationals get another big cash inflow and their downline phone companies pay that cash from ratepayers and claim a 10% reward in rate hikes to boot.

  • A dream of future peak-hour billing increases once the system has been smoothed out from the transition. That is, the rates can be adjusted by the hour so that electricity used during peak times is more expensively billed. This is a huge profit windfall when it eventually comes.

  • The ability to contract with large data firms to sell their mega-package of user metadata which is said to be worth more than the electricity they sell. This means big $$$. See https://youtu.be/CUPsh8dXASw a for strong description of the money potential here. An actual infomercial of the company Onzo brags about what it can pry from this data to help any paying business clients wishing to micro-focus their sales.

Costs to PSE (Only one, see second bullet):

  • Some initial outlays for infrastructure and labor will be made in the $10 Ms–$100 Ms level but afterwards, assuming they can persuade the pliable WA State Utilities Commission, all will be recouped on the ratepayers’ dime by rate increases including an automatic 10% bonus permitted for all infrastructure investments, including meter replacements every 5-7 years (a plum for their Australian investors).

  • Public relations costs. Complaints run high and Seattle, for instance, has had to hire a crisis relations firm to handle all of the complaints and problems in the roll-out as commonly power bills rise (see above for reasons), meters fail, installations have snafus, household wiring gets effected, appliances suddenly turn off, etc., AND, many people report having significant health complications. PSE risks having this as a major cost beyond paying the crisis firm– lost public confidence and satisfaction.

Benefits for the Public:

  • Several “benefits” are dangled in slick write-ups by the power companies:

  1. More consumer ability to track real-time data results in better budgeting of electricity use. (Reality: auditing of existing programs reveals that this online feature is used sporadically by only about 2-3% of customers resulting in only a few dollars actual savings per year. “Over the past two years, regulators in Massachusetts, Virginia, Kentucky and New Mexico have blocked multimillion-unit smart meter deployments over concerns of cost-effectiveness as well as lack of clear metrics on how they’ll benefit customers.” 1/10/20 article. “In states like California and Texas (one of the first states to roll out AMI on a large scale), where millions of customers now have a smart meter, enrollment in online data-sharing remains in the low thousands… Of the 26 utilities with AMI in place, only one — Portland General Electric in Oregon — was engaging in all of of the AMI businesses cases defined by ACEEE as of late 2018. Those include residential and commercial customer web portals that offer near-real-time data, data disaggregation for key end uses, behavioral tools like goal-setting, and connections to energy-efficiency programs.

  2. Company efficiencies (mentioned above in Company benefits) will result in lower rates. (Reality: There is virtually no evidence of widespread lowering of rates from smart meter programs but lots of evidence of the reverse.)

  3. Better power-outage tracking and re-allocation of power to other stricken areas. (Reality: There are several other low-cost tools that can provide these features to a company, so this not an argument for the mega-million “smart” meter programs.)

  • There are no other advantages generally mentioned for the public. All the advantages are to the companies themselves and all result in higher company profits, not lower power bills.

Many Costs to the Public:

  • Mass Surveillance: Titles 18 USC 25.11, 25.12, 25.18 Electronic Privacy Act,. carries criminal and civil penalties. A smart meter is an unlawful surveillance device. It collects personal usage pattern data. This is done whether or not it transmits wirelessly (thus still a violation with any electronic opt-out meter whose data still goes to the company by wires). “The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, when amended, enacted provisions to protect wire, electronic and oral communications while said communications are being delivered in transit and when they are stored in computer devices. As such, the amending of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 updated the law to now apply to telephone conversations, email and electronically-stored data.” This data can then be collated and interpreted to reveal personal usage traceable to the owner. The Act prevents communication of this data without the owner’s consent.

  • Activist Post link below: “Besides dangerous cybersecurity issues, The “Smart” Grid and Utility “Smart” Meters have also created many other widespread and sometimes dangerous problems that didn’t exist with original analog meters:  fires, explosions, measurement errors/inflated bills, privacy violations, frequent replacements, health and environmental risks.”

  • Repeated Higher Costs for Consumers: Several of the company benefits listed above are direct costs to the public as rate hikes either immediately after the meters are installed or over a period of years as outdated meters are replaced over and over. NONE of the monstrous expenses (in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars) that smart meter program infrastructures end up costing are absorbed by the companies, only by the ratepayers. Despite company assurances that smart meters create power savings that magically pay for the system, authorities in several states (e.g., Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Hampshire) have done studies that reveal that the gigantic costs of a smart meter program are never possible to be made up by energy savings, period. So ratepayers keep making up the infrastructure costs and the power companies keep running to the bank. (See Benefits for PSE list above.)

  • Hackability by terrorists. Microsoft says: “There is no way to guarantee complete security on a wireless network.” Period. Experts have examined the smart grid circuitry and networking strategy at length and have concluded that every smart meter introduces a new nodal point through which a hacker can enter the network and proceed toward the whole customer data and information repository of the company. Furthermore experts assert that the switching ability of the smart meters combined with its interconnection with other meters could enable a hacker to instantly switch off power to a whole area of a city, wreaking havoc, yes, but even worse, switching all back on at once then causes a power draw at the generators, transformers and lines that could destroy or severely damage them.

Amazingly, 48% of Power and Utility CEOs Think Cybersecurity Attacks Are Inevitable. Nov 2018 “the installation of millions of utility “Smart” Meters and related infrastructure have created a recipe for cybersecurity disaster. Not only that – more tax dollars are being wasted to try to fix what many experts have always considered to be unfixable…” “Back in July, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials said that Russian hackers had been breaching utility control rooms since 2016 and that the attacks were ongoing, raising new concerns that hacking efforts were becoming more sophisticated.”

  • Fire Hazards. The surge protectors in the old analog meters are designed to cut the 220 volt power when it exceeds a certain voltage during a surge. Surges happen when electricity rapidly turns on after an outage or generator problem or power line malfunction. Surges can exceed 20,000 volts, which should not be allowed to enter the household circuitry. When the surge protector trips, it generates an electric arc which can fry non-metal parts. Electro-mechanical (called “analog”) meters, with their turning metal wheels and other metal parts, are not ignited by arcing sparks. Electronic Utility meters, misnamed “smart meters,” with their delicate plastic electronic computer boards inside, have been commonly known to ignite during a surge–melting, spreading a fire to the house they are on, and/or even causing a fairly large house fire. After a surge an analog meter continues its measuring work while a smart meter must be replaced.

Furthermore, a dangerous feature has been added to the smart meters: a remote shutoff, so the power company can remotely turn off the service of a non-paying customer. Unfortunately, that switch creates a strong electric spark which can then start a fire in the delicate circuit boards of the meter. Thus there is a two-fold fire-causing ability in the smart meter: no surge protector and a remote cutoff.

Example: 10/27/2017 DISCOVERY BAY, CA A big rig accident caused a power surge, which caused some smart meters to explode. “We heard it from inside the house and the pieces, they look like they went 8 to 10 feet.” “All of a sudden, all the electrical outlets started popping and fire was shooting out of one of them,” said a resident.  2900 customers lost power.

Example: 8/1/2017 Dry ground pulled power boxes from homes in Regina, causes six fires REGINA – “There was a popping sound like fireworks, yellow sparks and a plume of black smoke as a power meter caught fire at a home in Regina [in Canada]. Provincial utility company SaskPower says the fire Monday night was the sixth power meter to ignite in the city in the last two weeks because parched soil is causing the ground [connection to the meter] to shift [disconnect].”

Example: On January 15, 2016, MET Labs [a lab used by the industry] wrote: “In the past, design flaws in smart meter units have been known to cause serious fire hazards and spotty performance. This has caused a lot of concern for utilities and manufacturers of smart meters.”

Example: From the Toronto Star (2015): “In another jolt to Ontario’s troubled smart-meter program, 5,400 of the electricity conservation gauges [smart meters] are being removed due to a risk of fire. The province’s Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) announced Thursday that Sensus 3.2 smart meters equipped with a remote disconnect feature are affected.”

There are numerous such examples, and in this era of drought and forest fires it is a form of insanity to install on houses something that even has a few percent chance of causing a fire.