1/14/12 Revised PG&E Opt Out Decision click here...
10/12/11 Preliminary Decision on PG&G Opt Out Proposal click here...
Replace Your Smart Meter ...but at your own risk!
You can purchase a reasonably priced analog meter including all the instructions on how to remove the smart meter and put the analog back in its place. This is an option that many consumers are pursuing, especially in cases where there are actual or potential health issues involved. For more information, contact Deborah Tavaras at 707-824-9850 or go to the Refuse Smart Meters web site. WARNING: We are now hearing reports that PG&E is threatening to turn off the power to comsumers that replace their smart meters. (See Stop Smart Meters and TURN web sites for articles.) We have not heard anything yet on what, if any action SCE is taking if you replace a smart meter with an analog meter but we will keep you posted.
Remember that if you do not have a smart meter yet you can call SCE and opt out (at least until CPUC) makes a final decision. The number is 800-810-2369. Here is an article on the TURN website that discusses the SCE roll out of smart meters in the valley and provides some repsonses from local residents in Palm Desert. As the article points out, we are already paying for these meters!
IID has not yet started to roll out smart meters. They are in a "wait and see" mode to see the final decisions from CPUC.
Smart Meters – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
If you do not yet have a smart meter installed, you can “opt out” (at least for now) by calling SCE at (800) 810-2369.
Do you know what a smart meter is? Do you have a smart meter? Do you even want a smart meter?
Southern California Edison (SCE) has been installing smart meters here in the Coachella Valley for several months now. A smart meter is a device that replaces the current analog meters used to measure consumption of electricity, gas, and even water. This device can be “wired” or “wireless.” SCE is currently installing the wireless smart meters in our area. These devices will allow SCE to collect data on the amount of electricity that is being used and the time of day that it is being used. Smart meters will eliminate the need for meter readers. One of the “smart” aspects of smart meters (in addition to the monitoring of time of day usage) is the ability to monitor devices and appliances in the home or business that have chips installed that can communicate (wirelessly) with the smart meter. The utility companies, including SCE, advertise this as a benefit saying that they will be able to provide consumers with information on their energy usage so the consumers can be “smarter” users of energy.
Consumers throughout California, however, have been raising many issues related to smart meters. Much of this activity has been in northern California. Concerned citizens in southern California (including the Coachella Valley) have joined the effort and are currently requesting that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) require the utility companies to provide an “opt out” option for those who do not want a smart meter.
What are some of the issues that citizens have with smart meters?
1. Health – Many people are concerned about the possible health hazards related to smart meter devices. There have been no studies competed yet to assess the long term affects. It does appear that some individuals are very sensitive to the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by these meters and are reporting various health problems. There is concern about the effect of EMP on pacemakers and other such devices. Smart meters generate significantly more EMP than cell phones and other wireless devices and depending on the location of the smart meter, this radiation may be bombarding throughout the day and/or night. Anecdotal comments can be found here .
2. Environment – There was no California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study or other environment impact study completed to evaluate the environmental impact of the smart meters and the associated wireless network (towers, etc.). This requirement was waived by the CPUC.
3. Safety and Reliability – There are several reports from consumers in California that smart meter installations have damaged electronic equipment within the home and even that the smart meters themselves have caught on fire or melted down. There are also some reports from Texas that the smart meters are unreliable and thus people’s electric bills are not correct. See here .
4. Privacy – Smart meters are just that. The utility companies will have access to the data that the smart meters collect which means that initially they will know exactly when people are using energy. It would take too much analysis to develop profiles on people’s habits and even infer when they might be home and when they are away from home. When appliances, TVs, computers, and so on have the chips included, then the smart meters will be able to record appliance and equipment usage and transmit this information back to the utility. What protects this information? Who can the utility company share this information with and do they require your explicit permission? What are the data security risks? Since this data is being transmitted wirelessly, how vulnerable is it to hacking? For the most part, none of these questions have been answered to date.
5. Control – Smart meters are part of the plans for a smart grid. To date, these meters are not being used to control energy usage but the technology certainly provides the ability for the utility companies to shut down power to individual consumers and/or shut down the power to selective appliances and electrical equipment within the house once the chips are installed. Who will say who gets shut down and when they get shut down? Will these be decisions by the utility company or will we have state and local (even federal) laws and regulations on how much energy we can use and when we can use it?
Smart meters will allow for “time-of-day” pricing of electricity versus the current method of “tier” pricing. This most likely means higher utility bills and reports from northern California indicate that PG&E consumers are starting to see these increases in their bills. And, don’t forget that consumers will pay for all of the costs associated with installing the smart meters and associated networks as well as eventually the costs of the smart grid either through our utility bills or with taxes.
Remember that the smart meter roll out that is currently under way in our area is just for electricity but there are plans for smart meters to replace the current gas and water meters. Citizens across the United States are stopping smart meter installations and/or insisting on “opt out” programs for those that do not want them. In our area, Imperial Irrigation District (IID) is waiting to see what happens related to smart meters with PG&E and SCE before they decide on whether or not they will go the smart meter route and, if they do, whether or not the meters will be wired or wireless.
What can you do?
Opt Out (at least for now). Thanks to the effort of several citizens groups, you can delay the installation of a smart meter if it hasn’t been installed yet and you are an SCE customer. Call SCE at (800) 810-2369. They can provide tags (see picture below) to put on the meter so that no one will change your meter until CPUC makes a final determination on an “opt out” plan.
Read up on smart meters. If you google smart meters, you will get a lot of information. A couple of sites to start with are this .... and this .... and this .... Get some information and pass it on to your friends and neighbors.
Join the battle. The Consumer Power Alliance can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org. This group has filed a complaint with the CPUC and to date has been successful in getting the CPUC to require SCE to delay the installation of smart meters (process described above) until a final decision is reached on an “opt out” program. See here for CPA’s press release on the delay/opt out option and an explanation by their lawyer, Jim Tobin, who is representing the citizens in this action. The CPUC has issued a proposed decision for the “opt out” based on PG&E’s proposal. The CPUC is still waiting (we believe) for the proposal from SCE. The proposed decision can be found here . Citizens in San Diego have been successful in getting San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to cancel the replacement of conventional residential gas meters with smart meters, at least for now.
If you did not know anything about smart meters, ask why? Why are smart meters being steamrolled out with little or no public conversation and with so many unanswered questions? How many times has the public suffered from the unintended consequences of government actions? Is this going to be another one of those instances?