Report on Smart Meter Problems

Updated January 19, 2016

The report “Analysis: Smart Meter and Smart Grid Problems – Legislative Proposal” is available free to the public. This 173-page report, released in 2012 by health and environmental advocate Nina Beety, has extensive referenced information on the many problems and risks of the Smart Meter program known at that time, with information from state, national, and international resources. Investigation and admissions by the industry since 2012 continue to substantiate these serious problems, providing a searing indictment on regulatory and legislative officials who have failed to halt Smart Meter deployments. The report serves as a legal document for assessing liability for the extensive harm caused to the public. Supplemental documents can be downloaded here.

Originally written for California legislators, this updated report also provides a legislative and regulatory action plan for halting this program, and suggestions for reforming utility regulation so that the public is protected in the future.

Table of Contents

What is a Smart Meter?
Smart Grid/Smart Meter problems and issues
– Overview
– Overcharging, accuracy, and the Structure Group report
– Reliability
– Privacy invasion
– Fires and electrical problems
– Health problems Continue reading

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Japan: “Just a mirage” — the fraud called retail electricity liberalization; Smart Meters’ huge costs eliminate savings for public

From Japan Times

July 27, 2016

Three months have passed since the retail sale of electric power was fully liberalized. Approximately 300 companies have since entered the business of generating and selling electricity, and more than 1 million consumers have signed contracts with them, switching from the major power companies that have monopolized each region.

Some of those consumers may be feeling satisfied with new lower power rates, but their satisfaction could be short-lived. They may well end up shouldering the huge cost of the liberalization program.

There are hidden costs related to generating and supplying electricity that consumers never catch sight of because they are not listed on their monthly bills. These hidden costs are so huge that they could erase any benefits to consumers.

The Organization for Cross-Regional Coordination of Transmission Operations (OCCTO) issues weekly reports on how the liberalization of electricity retail is proceeding. It says that as of June 10, about 1.11 million consumers had concluded contracts with new power suppliers. Though this number may seem impressive, it accounts for a mere 2 percent of the total number of the nation’s households. If this percentage figure is taken as a yardstick, the liberalization of power retail can be termed a total failure.

How much savings have accrued to those 1 million plus consumers as a result of changing their power suppliers? It is still too early to come up with an exact answer because electricity bills usually go up sharply in the winter and summer months. But assuming the new contracts have resulted in an annual average saving of ¥10,000, as indicated by many websites’ comparison of differences in power charges, the total savings come to about ¥11.1 billion.

But this figure is only an illusion, because huge investments were made in preparation for liberalization and the money needed for those investments is being collected from all of the power consumers in the name of fees for using transmission lines.

One case that illustrates such big investments is the installation of what is known as a “smart meter,” a device that measures the amount of electricity consumed in real time and communicates the data to a power company for monitoring and billing. This device had been on the market even before liberalization but is now a must-have. A smart meter must be installed in every household in principle when its electricity supplier is changed. Tokyo Electric Power Co., which serves 20 million households, initially budgeted ¥21.9 billion for three years from 2012 to 2014 to install smart meters. Although a regulatory body reduced the sum by ¥6.5 billion, the balance still means that Tepco spent around ¥5 billion annually in the name of liberalizing the retail of electricity.

Other major power companies also invested huge sums to install smart meters. The total sum budgeted by the nine other regional power companies for that purpose averaged ¥62 billion a year. Even if it is assumed that 10 percent of that was slashed by the regulatory body, it still leaves a total of some ¥55 billion a year. When the amount spent by Tepco is added, as much as ¥60 billion has been spent every year for installing smart meters.

This sum more than offsets the cost effectiveness of liberalization. The estimated savings of ¥11.1 billion accruing to consumers is an overblown figure if various marketing devices to lure consumers are taken into account. This figure is likely to dwindle from next year on, showing that it is difficult for consumers to benefit.

Worse still, smart meters have become an impediment to, rather than a necessary tool for, the liberalization of electricity retail. The meters were originally meant to accumulate data, which then would be transmitted to power retailers via the major regional power monopolies. Only through this process will it become possible to calculate charges for individual customers.

After the liberalization got underway, however, it surfaced that it is impossible to collect the necessary data. The regional monopolies blame the manufacturers of the smart meters for supplying faulty products. But the monopolies, which bought the smart meters, aren’t free of blame. They will have to bear the cost of parts replacement and repairs, which in turn will be passed on to consumers in the form of increased expenses for transmitting electricity.

Since their installation will continue beyond 2020, there will be no limits to rising costs related to smart meters. Any savings accruing to consumers by switching suppliers will easily be wiped out by this increased cost.

The smart meter is not the only thing causing a huge waste of money in connection with the liberalization. For example, in preparation for the liberalization program, OCCTO purchased an exchange system built by Hitachi Ltd. for use in the power wholesale exchange. The cost was low at about ¥1.6 billion, but when transactions started, the system proved to be unworkable, necessitating major repairs.

OCCTO also functions as a new provider of jobs for ex-bureaucrats of the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Trade (METI) who are seeking post-retirement jobs. An ex-METI official already secured the post of OCCTO secretary-general — a position from which the official can intervene in OCCTO’s personnel affairs.

The body is staffed by about 150 people, including those seconded from the major power companies. It is difficult to say that the body is functioning properly because former METI officials are in powerful positions. An insider says OCCTO is made up of an undisciplined group of people with no coordination among them and that experts originally from the power companies, who are the only professionals in the body, have proven useless.

OCCTO’s annual budget stands at a whopping ¥4.5 billion, including the salaries of its personnel. The budget is expected to surge because the body plans to spend an additional ¥3.5 billion to develop a new exchange system. All these sums, of course, are to be shouldered by consumers.

The government has spent huge sums of taxpayer money in connection with the liberalization of electricity retail. While the sum spent on publicity has remained less than ¥100 million, the government has earmarked ¥2.2 billion in the current fiscal year for subsidies to renovate hydroelectric plants and ¥12 billion for technological development of next-generation thermal power plants. These types of funds are used almost exclusively by major power companies, as if they are being rewarded for cooperating with the liberalization.

When all the figures cited above are added together, the total comes to around ¥80 billion and is bound to keep on rising every year. And this money is charged to consumers while they are unaware of it. Compared with the large amounts of money thus collected from consumers, an annual saving of ¥10,000 resulting from changing one’s power supplier is just a mirage.


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Indiana grid modernization but no Smart Meters

From RTO Insider

Regulators OK Duke’s $1.4B Indiana Grid Modernization
By Amanda Durish Cook
July 4, 2016

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on Wednesday accepted a settlement negotiated between Duke Energy and local consumer groups on a statewide infrastructure upgrade plan.

The seven-year, $1.4 billion plan results in an average 0.93% increase in Duke Energy Indiana customer rates annually over the next seven years. Individually, the year-long increases range from 0.58% to 1.35% until 2023.

The IURC found that “public convenience and necessity require” Duke’s planned transmission, distribution and storage improvements.

The settlement was reached in March among the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, Duke Energy Indiana, steelmaker Companhia Siderurgica Nacional, Steel Dynamics, Wabash Valley Power Association, Indiana Municipal Power Agency, Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative and the Environmental Defense Fund.

“We are happy with the settlement,” said Anthony Swinger, director of external affairs for the IOUCC. “We believe the settlement strikes the right balance between ratepayer protection and the utilities’ need to make infrastructure improvements in order to provide safe, dependable service.”

“We have an aging energy grid — some equipment that is decades old — and our work will focus on replacing some older infrastructure to reduce power outages,” Duke Energy Indiana President Melody Birmingham-Byrd said.

“We’ll also be building a smarter energy structure with technology to provide the type of information and services that consumers have come to expect.”

Duke plans to invest in line sensors and “self-healing” systems, as well as replace aging substations, utility poles, power lines and transformers.

A little over a year ago, the IURC denied Duke Energy Indiana’s original proposal, causing the utility to trim $400 million from the plan, including the elimination of a $192 million project to install smart meters. The company now says that if it pursues smart meters using the settlement, it is “committed to exploring energy efficiency pilot programs that are now possible with smart meter technology.”

Posted under Fair Use Rules.

Regulators OK Duke’s $1.4B Indiana Grid Modernization

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Just takes the click of a mouse – disconnections soar after Smart Meters’ installed, even in winter; public unprotected; typical across industry?

From The Tyee, British Columbia
By Andrew MacLeod
June 9, 2016

Meters made it possible for utility to unplug power remotely, says spokesperson.

In the years following the introduction of smart meters, BC Hydro disconnected about six times as many customers for not paying their electricity bills as it had previously in British Columbia.

“What we’re seeing reflected is Liberal energy policy, which is making things way harder for people,” said Adrian Dix, the NDP critic for BC Hydro. “It’s because inequality is growing, people are struggling, and hydro rates because of Liberal energy policies have gone up a significant amount.”

A dramatic increase in BC Hydro disconnections in recent years shows ‘the challenge of difficult economic times,’ says NDP hydro critic Adrian Dix

A table that BC Hydro submitted to the British Columbia Utilities Commission as part of the ongoing rate design process shows that in fiscal 2013, the publicly owned utility issued nearly 12,000 disconnection orders and completed 4,995 of those disconnections.

Two years later in fiscal 2015, BC Hydro issued 38,781 disconnection orders, a three-fold increase, and followed through on a much higher proportion of them. That year, 32,564 households were disconnected, 6.5 times as many as in 2013.

The figures for 2016 — 36,827 disconnections ordered and 30,283 completed — are similar.

“The number of disconnections completed has increased because we are now able to do them remotely without having to send out a crew,” BC Hydro spokesperson Simi Heer said in an email.

“Disconnection is always a last resort and the threshold for sending collection notices or disconnecting power has not changed. We have just been able complete the disconnections more efficiently.”

‘It’s a different ballgame’

Former BCUC commissioner Tony Pullman, now the treasurer at the Together Against Poverty Society, said the change coincided with the introduction of smart meters. BC Hydro spent $1 billion to install 1.8 million smart meters starting in 2012.

“As soon as the smart meters came in, bang, it’s a different ballgame,” he said.

Records the utility released to the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre in response to a freedom of information request support that analysis. In 2012, when disconnections had to be done manually, the most made in a month was 714.

The first remote disconnections were recorded in March 2013, and by October that year the utility remotely cut the power to 2,873 families.

Before smart meters, disconnections may have been a low priority, especially in the winter, Pullman said. “Most service men didn’t want to go out and disconnect people who couldn’t pay for their power.”

Installing smart meters made it possible for an employee in an office somewhere to cut a household’s power with the click of a mouse and none of the human interaction that was previously necessary, he said.

[Can provincial governments cut the power in the middle of winter???]

More disconnections isn’t what most people expected the smart meter program to deliver, he added.

BC Hydro’s Heer said the change has also made it easier for customers to get reconnected and allowed BC Hydro in December to drop the reconnection fee from $125 to $30.

It also saves the utility money by reducing the expense for bad debt and the cost to borrow money to cover delayed payments, she said.

“We do not take disconnection lightly,” she said. “Even though disconnections are done remotely, every account undergoes a manual review by a credit agent before a disconnection order is issued.”

People struggling, Dix says

The NDP’s Dix said the increase in the number of disconnection orders is an indication that more people are having a difficult time paying their bills.

“The incremental difference clearly reflects what’s happening in the economy,” he said. “The [disconnections] don’t reflect changes in people’s priorities. They represent the challenge of difficult economic times.”

That people are struggling is also shown in the numbers for reconnections that BC Hydro included in its BCUC submission, Dix said. While about half of households in 2015 were reconnected the same day they are disconnected, about 15.3 per cent were still without power a week after the disconnection.

That’s one out of six people who are unable to respond to have their power reconnected within a week, he said. “You’re talking about 6,000 people,” he said. “What that tells you is people are really struggling when this happens.”

Energy Minister Bill Bennett announced in February that to help B.C. mining companies through tough economic times, firms can defer paying up to 75 per cent of their BC Hydro bills for up to two years.

Dix said the government has failed to make similar allowance for individual ratepayers and noted that NDP leader John Horgan has proposed a “lifeline rate” to help people with low incomes afford their BC Hydro bills as rates rise. [California has a “lifeline” rate in the CARE and FERA programs]

– – – – –

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative bureau chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, April 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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Video: “Radio off” Smart Meter is still broadcasting — Is this typical?

Posted by Chilliwack
June 2016

Is your Choice of a BC Hydro Smart Meter with Microwave Transmitter Radio-off, that you are paying extra for each and every month, sneakily broadcasting and actually still on, without them telling you? . My neighbour just got theirs after being told they had to surrender their analogue meter and guess what, the SmartMeter-Off, is actually broadcasting around the clock – perhaps not as frequently as the regular smart meter, but this one is definitively ON, not off!


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U.S. legislators propose analog “retro” devices to protect electric grid from cyberattack — but not for homes and businesses

Press Release, June 6, 2016

King, Risch, Heinrich, Collins Introduce Legislation to Protect Electric Grid from Cyber-Attacks — Securing Energy Infrastructure Act would adopt “retro” approach to safeguard against 21st century threat

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine), all members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today introduced legislation aiming to protect critical U.S. energy infrastructure from potentially catastrophic cyber-attacks. The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act of 2016 would examine solutions to defend the U.S. energy grid by replacing key devices like computer-connected operating systems that are vulnerable to cyber-attacks with analog and human-operated systems – a “retro” approach that has shown promise as a safeguard against cyber-attacks.

“The United States is one of the most technologically-advanced countries in the world, which also means we’re one of the most technologically-vulnerable countries in the world. In fact, right now there are hackers across the globe working to exploit weaknesses in the digital systems that help run critical infrastructure like our electric grid. And a successful attack could have catastrophic consequences,” Senator King said. “That’s why we need to act now – and by looking to the past, we may be able to develop ways to thwart the sophisticated cyber-attacks of the future. Our legislation would reengineer the last-mile of the energy grid to isolate its most important systems, and in doing so, help defend it from a devastating blow that could cut off electricity to millions of people across the country.”

“Protecting our critical energy infrastructure systems is one of the most pressing security challenges facing the United States today,” said Senator Risch. “The continual emergence of threats and vulnerabilities to digital systems has created significant weaknesses that require a large-scale, national effort to address, which is the intent of this legislation. The Idaho National Lab has the unique assets and expertise needed to drive the innovations this legislation aims to create and we are fortunate to have their leadership on this critical issue.”

“Cybersecurity is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. The future of warfare is moving further away from the battlefield and closer to the devices and the networks everyday citizens depend on,” said Senator Heinrich. “Protecting our nation from malicious cyber actors requires a comprehensive approach, and keeping our energy infrastructure secure is central to that. I am especially proud that this legislation would rely on Sandia National Labs’ expertise in providing technology solutions and developing a national strategy to isolate the energy grid from cyber attacks.”

“As cyber-attacks become increasingly common, Congress must take action to better protect the critical infrastructure our nation depends upon,” said Senator Collins.  “As experts continue to tell us, it is not a matter of if a cyber attack aimed at our critical infrastructure occurs, but when. This bill, along with other cybersecurity measures passed by Congress and under consideration before the Senate, can make a real contribution in strengthening our defenses against this dangerous threat.”

Top officials within the Intelligence Community have testified that U.S. critical infrastructure are enticing targets to malicious actors. Those officials have also warned that, without action, the U.S. remains vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could result in catastrophic damage to public health and safety, economic security, and national security.

This bill would examine ways to replace automated systems with manual procedures controlled by human operators to remove vulnerabilities that could allow cyber-criminals to access the grid through holes in digital software systems. This approach seeks to thwart even the most sophisticated cyber-adversaries who, if they are intent on accessing the grid, would have to actually physically touch the equipment, thereby making cyber-attacks much more difficult.

The potential for this approach was evident in the December 2015 cyber-attack on Ukraine’s power grid during which sophisticated cyber-attack techniques were used to plunge more than 225,000 people into darkness. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the cyber-attack was coordinated to target the Ukrainian power grid’s industrial control systems, which act as the intermediary between computers and the switches that distribute electricity. The attack could have been worse if not for the fact that Ukraine relies on manual technology to operate its grid. The legislation seeks to build on this concept by studying ways to strategically use “retro” technology to isolate the grid’s most important control systems.

More specifically, the legislation would:

  • Establish a two-year pilot program within the National Laboratories to study covered entities and identify new classes of security vulnerabilities, and research and test technology – like analog devices – that could be used to isolate the most critical systems of covered entities from cyber-attacks.
  • Require the establishment of a working group to evaluate the technology solutions proposed by the National Laboratories and to develop a national cyber-informed strategy to isolate the energy grid from attacks. Members of the working group would include federal government agencies, the energy industry, a state or regional energy agency, the National Laboratories, and other groups with relevant experience.
  • The Secretary of Energy is required to submit a report to Congress describing the results of the program, assessing the feasibility of the techniques considered, and outlining the results of the working groups’ evaluation.
  • Define “covered entities” under the bill as segments of the energy sector that have already been designated as entities where a cyber-security incident could result in catastrophic regional or national effects on public health or safety, economic security, or national security.

To read the text of the legislation, click HERE.


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Canada: Residents demand answers from town council over high water bills and ‘leak’ notices

Received from Kindersley, Saskatchewan:

We are getting insanely high water bills in Kindersley, Saskatchewan. The consumption levels are so high homes should be flooding and we are getting bills to match. Residents are starting to get disconnection notices. People here are literally choosing between food and water because the water bills are so high. We have Neptune Smart Meters. Please help us!

Kindersley residents launched this petition:

Petitioning Town of Kindersley
Council Members and CAO

The residents of Kindersley need answers for high water bills and notice of leaks.

Many residents in the town of Kindersley are receiving extremely high water bills that can not be justified by the usage of water. Many are also receiving a notice that there is a leak within their home, we do not believe this is the case because of how many notices have been sent to all different areas of Kindersley.

The residents of Kindersley would like the opportunity to ask some questions regarding this municipal matter so that it does not continue.

We want to know how amounts are being calculated and then billed and how the meters work in coming up with amount of usage.

This is also a request for a public meeting so that all residents can ask questions and be answered in a public forum.

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