U.S. National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners gave presentation on Smart Meter problems in 2011. Why aren’t they telling Americans?

Utility commissioners in the United States belong to NARUC — the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

CPUC Chairman Michael Peevey sits on the board as well as commissioners in other states who have been Smart Meter cheerleaders. State utility commissions have told the public they didn’t know of any problems with Smart Meters.

They have been lying.

Diane Ramthun, a staff attorney with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, went to Asia in 2011  as a representative of NARUC to speak at a conference in Tbilisi, Georgia. Her presentation  “Regulatory Aspects of Smart Metering: United States Experience on Smart Meters” covered many Smart Meter problems. She had already traveled to Sarajevo in 2010 representing the Wisconsin PSC to present on Smart Meters, covering some of the same issues.

Here is her presentation in Georgia, February 14, 2011 on behalf of NARUC.
Regulatory Aspects of Smart Metering: United States Experience

Here is the September 2010 presentation in Sarajevo on behalf of the Wisconsin PSC.
Regulatory Aspects of Smart Metering:US Practice

Bottom line:

  • NARUC has known, at least since early 2011, that Smart Meters pose a wide array of problems. This is very, very serious in view of the continued refusal by both public utilities and these regulatory commissions to address or admit to these issues, and the continuing disinformation by both. This raises several legal issues, including fraud.
  • While the Wisconsin PSC was playing dumb, refusing to grant even an opt-out to its residents, and allowing utilities to disconnect residents for Smart Meter refusal[i], a prominent staff member was lecturing people overseas on the problems with Smart Meters — not once but twice.

From Stop Smart Meters Wisconsin:

If you ask to opt out of a WI smart meter, the utilities and the PSC will say no and hand you the following propaganda.
WI_Utilities_Smart_Meters

Compare the propaganda to this industry document written by a Wisconsin PSC lawyer.

The 2011 paper clearly reveals how utility regulators have known about many smart meter risks, which they call “consumer protection” regulatory issues. Yet, there was never a public disclosure or discussion of these and other risks prior to roll-outs.

PSC and PUC commissioners are authorizing ratepayer money to educate other countries about Smart Meter problems. They aren’t 1) telling the public in their own state and country what they know, 2) responding to public complaints when these problems surface, or 3) halting the roll-out.

Who do they work for? Not the public.

Below are excerpts from Diane Ramthun’s presentation:

“Regulatory Aspects of Smart Metering: United States Experience” by Diane Ramthun

I. Cost/Benefit:

Do the high costs of smart meter deployments outweigh the benefits to consumers, particularly during the current recession?

  • In 2010, Public Service Commissions in Michigan, Hawaii, and Indiana required large smart meter projects to be scaled down in their respective states.
  • The Maryland Public Service Commission in 2010 initially rejected a large project because of the high costs it imposed on ratepayers during the current recession.

II. Consumer Protection Issues:

While smart meters can provide a variety of cost-saving, operational and technological benefits for utilities, consumers may not experience the same level of benefits.

The Smart Meter program is being sold to the public as benefitting consumers.

  • Consumers may be reluctant to adopt the new, smart meter related technologies such as the home area networks (HAN), necessary in order for consumers to take advantage of the functionalities of smart grid, but they are expensive and require an education to use.
  • Low income, elderly and disabled consumers may not have the means or ability to purchase the related home area network technology to enable them access to their usage data, and to use time of day rates.
  • Mandatory dynamic rate designs may be disadvantageous to those consumers who cannot shift usage to off-peak times, particularly the elderly and disabled, because they may experience higher energy bills.
  • Remote disconnection functionalities of smart meters may allow utilities to more quickly shut off power to consumers with small unpaid bills than would otherwise occur with traditional meters.

IV. Early Obsolescence of Recently-Installed Smart Meters:

Rapidly evolving smart meter technology, particularly the communications function, can render expensive smart meters obsolete within a few years, unlike traditional meters which are very long lasting. Who pays for this early obsolescence-utilities or ratepayers?

  • In California, thousands of smart meters became obsolete as technology changed before the meters were fully depreciated. The California Public Service Commission granted the utility funding to upgrade the obsolete smart meters.

V. Accuracy and Reliability of Smart Meters:

Consumers have complained that their energy bills increased as a result of inaccurate smart meters.

  • In 2010, the Public Utility Commission of Texas ordered an independent study of the accuracy of recently-installed smart meters in response to consumer complaints. The study found that the smart meters gave more accurate readings than the traditional meters they replaced (99.96% of the meters were accurate compared to 96% of traditional meters).

This report was by Navigant Consulting, which was involved in the Los Angeles King-Harbor scandal and was audited over overbilling and incomplete work for the NY Port Authority. This is not an independent firm. It is involved in AMI and “successful smart grid deployments” and cites “our deep industry experience”. Navigant presented at an Itron conference, one of the meter vendors in Texas. Was there an investigation by the PUCT of the Navigant report, or like California, did the Texas Commission refuse to do so?

  • In 2010, an independent study required by the California Public Service Commission similarly found that smart meters were generally accurate and that higher energy bills were due to other factors.

This was the Structure Group report, which I have written about here. It was not independent, and there were serious questions about the report from within the California PUC itself. https://smartmeterharm.org/2014/07/06/are-smart-meters-accurate/

VI. Consumer Privacy, Safety and Security:

Certain risks exist for consumers who have smart meters and home area networks at their homes.

  • Smart meters can allow persons outside a home to determine if it is occupied, creating security risks.
  • Smart meters and HAN can allow persons outside a home to acquire personal information, such as what appliances and medications are inside the home.
  • Data about personal energy usage can be sold to third parties to create detailed portraits of the habits, lifestyle, and purchases of the consumer.

VII. Inter-operability and cyber security risks:

Large-scale deployments of smart meters are occurring before inter-operability and cyber-security risks have been addressed by government and the industry. These risks have the potential to become major problems affecting all aspects of the smart grid.

Finally, Ms. Ramthun made these statements:

  • California has experienced strong consumer opposition to various aspects of smart meter deployments ranging from costs and accuracy of meters to health concerns.

Very true

  • Wisconsin utilities are currently rolling out smart meter projects throughout the state with consumer acceptance of the meters. Varying state experiences may reflect differences in how deployments are conducted with respect to use of pilot projects, pre-deployment educational programs for consumers, and socio-economic conditions in respective states.

Fact: Wisconsin residents have been stonewalled by their PSC. Residents have opposed Smart Meters, but the PSC, Ms. Ramthun’s former employer, tells residents, as they did to me, that the PSC doesn’t tell utilities which meters to use and doesn’t have anything to do with opt-outs. The utilities are allowed to decide about opt-outs, and they have said, no. Wisconsin customers are left with no options and an unresponsive PUC.

Documents:

Regulatory Aspects of Smart Metering: United States Experience
Presented by: Diane Ramthun
On behalf of National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
Joint Licensing/Competition Committee and
Tariff/Pricing Committee Meeting
Tbilisi, Georgia
February 14, 2011

Regulatory Aspects of Smart Metering: US Practice
Presented by: Diane Ramthun
Office of General Counsel
Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
September, 2010

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[i] http://watchdog.org/94714/in-wisconsin-town-you-get-the-smart-meter-or-they-shut-you-down/

http://watchdog.org/94523/smart-city-shuts-off-great-grandmas-water/

 

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