A $90 million “smart” system has totally screwed up these residents’ water bills

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A $90 million “smart” system has totally screwed up these residents’ water bills

A $90 million “smart” system has totally screwed up these residents’ water bills

By Arielle Duhaime-Ross Mar 20, 2019

JACKSON, Mississippi — Sharon Parker received a water bill for $7,431.92 last month. And in Jackson, where she lives alone, that’s not surprising.

Parker is one of more than 20,000 people with delinquent water bills ranging from a few dollars to several thousand. And counterintuitively, a big part of the reason for the high delinquency rate is a system the city installed in 2013 that was supposed to significantly upgrade water metering and billing.

The upgrade was part of a deal signed with the manufacturing giant Siemens for $90 million, that gave Jackson 65,000 new smart meters, among other things.

But as the process wore on, many residents stopped receiving bills, sometimes for months at a time. And leaks that caused bills to skyrocket also went undetected for long periods. Now, the city is scrambling to get people’s bills back on track. It’s a tall order.

“The meters are capturing the consumption, but the consumption isn’t turning into bills and the bills aren’t turning into payment,” says Jackson Public Works Director Bob Miller, who says that making all these changes at once was a complex procedure for which the city wasn’t prepared. “I have compared it to a heart-lung transplant; to try to change out a metering system and a billing system is like trying to change out someone’s heart and lungs at the same time.”

Parker, for her part, went to the water department several times to have her billing issue fixed after the water company told her basically it’s not their problem, it’s hers.

Besides the promise of improving billing, Jackson officials hoped the upgraded system would lead to increased revenue. The city would save money, many thought, because smart meters would beam their readings directly to the water department, reducing the need for workers to make expensive and time-consuming trips to people’s homes. And new meters would mean more-accurate readings that, likely, would translate into the capture of higher water-consumption rates at people’s homes — bringing in more money for the city’s coffers.

Instead, the water department says, the billing crisis has created a $25 million shortfall over the last fiscal year.

The city is now sending out shut-off notices to try to collect on delinquent bills. Members of the city council have also discussed a lawsuit against Siemens.

“It’s akin to someone selling you the most expensive car that they have on the lot, and understanding at the time that they’re selling it to you that you can’t afford to buy it; you don’t understand how to operate it,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba told VICE News. “But if they can get you to purchase it, they will.”

Siemens, for its part, says it’s done the work it was contracted to do. A spokesperson told VICE News that the company is still working with the city to “help facilitate successful operation of the metering and billing systems.”

Parker’s latest visit to the water department was fruitful. A billing department employee adjusted her bill down to $2773.20, and put her on a payment plan. “Thank you, Jesus!” she said as she exited the office.

VICE News Tonight went to Jackson, Mississippi, to see what it’s like for residents who can’t afford to pay their water bills.

This segment originally aired March 13, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/vbw8qy/a-dollar90-million-smart-system-has-totally-screwed-up-these-residents-water-bills

Videos showing how to hack smart energy meters ‘pose danger to society’

Videos showing how to hack smart energy meters ‘pose danger to society’

As YouTube is attempting to improve its community guidelines, a utility company has called for the removal of thousands of videos which demonstrate how to tamper with smart energy meters.

A utility company has called for the removal of thousands of YouTube videos which demonstrate how to tamper with smart energy meters. The videos educate viewers on how to rig their own devices, a potentially dangerous and illegal practice that risks electrocution to those that attempt it, or even explosion.

Fiddling with energy meters kills two and injures 36 people annually, while costing the system £440m, according to figures from Stayenergysafe.

A new report by utility customer service expert Echo Managed Services calls for action by the government after finding that only a small proportion of around 100 videos sampled feature warnings into the dangers to human health and safety when attempting to emulate the questionable practice.

The investigation found 94,700 videos, which collectively had “millions of views”, when searching ‘how to hack your energy meter’.

Piechart showing top 20 youtube videos on meter hacking

Of the top-ranking 20 videos, E&T tested the claims and found that 16 videos explicitly explained how to tamper with an energy meter. Together, those reached more than 17 million views. The level of sophistication varies, however. Some videos show how to apply a magnet to an energy counter, while others contain detailed instructions on how to take the meter device apart. Of those videos, only two issued some sort of warning, either presented in verbal form or explicitly in writing.

On videos illustrating the effects of holding a magnet against the meter to decelerate the counter, Mark Coles, head of technical regulations at the IET, remains sceptical whether this actually works on UK electricity meters. He warns that the illegal extraction of electricity can lead to a fine or a prison sentence.

Other findings suggest that many consumers may be unaware of the risks involved in the practice. According to the Echo research consumer surveys, 39 per cent or around two out of five consumers are incognisant of the threat meter tampering causes to public safety. Precise numbers on how many may suffer death and injury are hard to establish; proving the link between energy theft and personal injury or damage is often difficult to ascertain. “It can be hard to prove due to the severe damage electrical fires and gas explosions can cause,” states a disclaimer on Stayenergysafe.

YouTube announced in January that it was upgrading its community guidelines after the popular ‘Bird Box challenge’. It issued a series of specific updates on ‘dangerous challenges and pranks’.

The media giant took action after the proliferation of the so-called ’challenges’, with some reportedly resulting in death or injury. Despite appeals to fight disturbing material, a Buzzfeed report found evidence that YouTube’s pledge to entirely remove disturbing videos was unsuccessful and that links keep appearing.

Lloyd Birkhead, managing director of Grosvenor Services Group, who conducted the survey on YouTube videos, said: “It’s shocking that such dangerous tutorials are allowed to exist on the world’s biggest social media platforms. They pose a real danger to society. Methods employed in these videos should never be carried out by a skilled technician – let alone an untrained member of the public.”

Linechart for Google search results

YouTube’s ruling explicitly targets ’content that encourages violence or dangerous activities that may result in serious physical harm, distress or death’. If viewers of tutorials would suffer injuries as a result of meddling with their energy meter, would YouTube consider the videos potential for causing damage?

Injury is not the only conceivable consequence from people trying to emulate the meter-rigging practice. In the UK, the practice is illegal. Videos that may originate from other parts of the world, where there is a legal grey zone, send clueless consumers to prison.

Last year, the BBC reported that nearly 50 people were given prison sentences over a three-year period for stealing electricity. Despite this, merely every 1,000th case investigated results in prosecution.

Image credits:

Abi Smith

Piechart showing top 20 youtube videos on meter hacking

Linechart showing google search results for energy meter

https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2019/03/youtube-videos-showing-how-to-tamper-with-energy-meters/

Letter: Smart meters miss nothing

Letter: Smart meters miss nothing

Pacific Power leaves out of its literature on its smart meter program the inherent design fact that a smart meter will always produce higher consumer bills. It is built into the basic electrical principles of meter design.

Old-style meters with the spinning disks work on “eddy current” methods of electrical measurement. Smart meters work on an electrical principle known as the “hall effect.” Smart meters will pick up the starting current surges of motors; old meters do not pick up these energy surges, and the result is they charge the customer less for energy usage. How much more or less depends on the number and size of the motors (refrigerators, heaters, etc.) that are driven in your specific home or business.

Smart meters miss nothing, and by the nature of their electrical design, will always increase your bill. Pacific Power evidently thinks its customers can’t handle the truth.

JOHN DUNZER

Seaside

https://www.dailyastorian.com/opinion/letters/letter-smart-meters-miss-nothing/article_7f9b94fc-4041-11e9-a51b-a3cd69efb706.html

It’s a no to opt-out fees for smart metering in Kansas

It’s a no to opt-out fees for smart metering in Kansas

opt-out fees

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

The State Corporation Commission of Kansas has announced that utilities in the state need not offer an alternative metering solution to consumers that choose to opt-out of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) programmes in the state.

This follows a rise in such incidences across the US as utilities roll out smart metering programmes.

The only utilities affected are those that are privately-owned, Westar Energy and Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L), and Southern Pioneer, the three utilities in the state currently involved in AMI rollouts.

KCP&L already has an opt-out tariff in place in Missouri, charging customers an initial $150 fee, and $45 monthly payments.

The decision comes after an investigation by the commission into the AMI programmes and possible opt-out tariffs offered by 11 utilities across the country, according to the “50 States of Grid Modernization” annual report from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.

Interestingly, state regulatory and legislative efforts in 2018 saw nearly 35 actions related to AMI. The state is one of several including Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri, in which regulatory proceedings looked into opt-out policies and programme costs inclusive of monthly and upfront fees. These charges assist the recovery of costs incurred in the rollout, but many state regulators have opposed these charges.

According to the report “some utilities are also proposing additional provisions, such as requiring customers to provide meter readings or requiring statements from medical physicians,” with the latter being related to consumer claims that AMI exposes users to harmful radiation, when in fact, the Kansas commission found that radio frequency emissions were lower than that of a mobile phone.

The 2018 second-quarter report for “50 States of Grid Modernization” noted Kansas, Washington and Iowa as three of multiple states with open “regulatory proceedings to investigate AMI opt-out policies.”

Whilst not providing an alternative, the commission’s findings were that opt-out programmes are both costly and difficult to implement, carrying additional administration, negatively affecting efficiency and outage monitoring.

For utilities such as Westar and KCP&L, possible alternatives include the purchase of analog or “dumbed-down” smart meters, which necessitate special meter-reading routines and the associated operational costs.  to purchase analog meters or meters with AMI-capabilities disabled, issue special routines to read meters, give less outage information and increase costs to dispatch meter-readers.

https://www.smart-energy.com/industry-sectors/business-finance-regulation/its-a-no-to-opt-out-fees-for-smart-metering-in-kansas/

LETTER: Urging people against smart meters to speak out

LETTER: Urging people against smart meters to speak out

Corruption in our nation’s capitol grows — lack of truthfulness, endless strategies to achieve goals at any cost, a sickening realization the will of the American people is disregarded in favor of personal, political gain.

It all impacts us more and more. However, we are not face to face with it.

On Monday, March 11, I attended the board meeting of the public utility board.

At the microphone I questioned the meaning of “public” in PUD.

The will of the public regarding smart meters has already been expressed, clearly, strongly and directly.

People of Clallam County rejected having their homes, health and privacy invaded by smart meters.

In the time since, just as in Washington, D.C., the board paid no real attention.

Plotting and planning went on.

Time passed. Then here came the PUD board again, with a different strategy.

Force their will by spreading the effort over time, five years, thus weakening resistance.

Restrict information flow.

It was chilling to stand before the PUD board, watching them as I and others spoke.

The meeting could have been taking place in Washington, D.C.

Faces of the board appeared impassive, arrogant, condescending, dismissive, uninterested and smug.

This time, we were not seeing film clips on the evening news.

We were looking into the faces of the PUD board, right here where we live.

If you are still against smart meters, stand up.

Get involved.

Find others of like mind.

It is not too late.

David Baker,

Port Angeles

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/letters/letter-urging-people-against-smart-meters-to-speak-out/

Kansas regulators reject mandating smart meter opt-out programs

The Federal mandate allowing people to opt out of the program is a choice you have.  It is illegal to attach a RF/microwave emitting device on your homes.  Utilities must give you a choice.  Remember, your original contract was the agreement to solely deliver electricity, that is all, to you home.  The utilities broke this contract when they did not give you a choice and installed this human hazard on your home.  It is worth fighting for you and your family’s health and wellbeing.  Even when the utility wants you to sign an opt out.  This is a trap, because you never opted in to begin with. …….Sandaura

Kansas regulators reject mandating smart meter opt-out programs

Dive Brief:

  • The State Corporation Commission of Kansas on Thursday concluded its investigation of opt-out programs for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), deciding not to require utilities to establish programs to provide a different meter for customers to record their energy usage.
  • The state’s only investor-owned utilities, Westar Energy and Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L), agreed with previous commission staff recommendations that utilities should not be required to create opt-out programs. Westar, KCP&L and Southern Pioneer’s smart meters represent all of the AMI installations in the state.
  • Kansas is one of multiple states that had regulatory proceedings to investigate smart meter opt-out policies and the commission’s regulatory staff evaluated opt-out program cost data, including upfront and monthly fees in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas. Utilities trying to ensure cost-recovery from their AMI investment see opt-out fees as important to their bottom-line, but some states have moved to prohibit utilities from charging additional fees to customers that refuse the technology.

Dive Insight:

Opt-out options for customers are being addressed more frequently as utilities continue smart meter deployments.

Regulators considered opt-out tariffs for at least 11 utilities in 2018, according to the “50 States of Grid Modernization” annual report from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center. State regulatory and legislative efforts last year included nearly 35 actions related to AMI.

Beyond asking for upfront flat fees or monthly fees from customers who don’t want smart meters, “some utilities are also proposing additional provisions, such as requiring customers to provide meter readings or requiring statements from medical physicians,” the report said. The latter is related to customer claims that smart meters can cause health risks, although the Kansas commission found the radio frequency exposure from the meters was lower than from cell phones or microwave ovens, deeming them a non-existent threat.

The Q2 2018 report for “50 States of Grid Modernization” specified that Kansas, Iowa and Washington were among multiple states with open “regulatory proceedings to investigate AMI opt-out policies.”

Implementing opt-out programs would be difficult and costly, according to the Kansas commission’s conclusion. The costs include an administrative burden, reduced efficiencies and less robust data for outage monitoring.

Creating an opt-out program would require Westar and KCP&L to purchase analog meters or meters with AMI-capabilities disabled, issue special routines to read meters, give less outage information and increase costs to dispatch meter-readers.

KCP&L has an existing opt-out program for its Missouri operations that includes an initial $150 fee and monthly $45 payments.

New Jersey Anti-Poverty Network, AARP, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, and More Oppose Rate Increases for Utility “Smart” Meters

New Jersey Anti-Poverty Network, AARP, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, and More Oppose Rate Increases for Utility “Smart” Meters

By B.N. Frank

New Jersey consumer and environmental organizations are the latest to oppose customer rate increases which include funding the installation of unsafe, inefficient and costly utility “Smart” Meters:

AARP New Jersey dropped off about 23,000 postcards from its members on Wednesday with a message to the state Board of Public Utilities and Gov. Phil Murphy.

We can’t afford utility bill increases, amounting to $12 billion in proposals by AARP’s count as of December, an organizer said. “Not a penny more.”

[…]

AARP was joined by Clean Water Action, Environment New Jersey, the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, the New Jersey Main Street Alliance and the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey.

Many states have been legislatively fighting the forced installation of these problematic meters.  They do not benefit customers and they aren’t eco-friendly.  In some cases it’s been documented that they use more energy to run than original analog meters.  Increased energy costs are then passed on to customers.

Utility companies knew these meters were problematic years ago.  They took federal stimulus money and raised customer rates to install them anyway.  Despite all the issues and complaints (including fires and explosions), utility companies continue promoting them this way because “Smart” Meters are more profitable than original analog meters.

Utility “Smart” Meters are problematic everywhere.  A documentary was produced about them in 2013 – Take Back Your Power.  It was updated in 2017 and is free to watch online.  Filmmaker, Josh del Sol, recently released more updates on a 2015 video about these meters as well.

Public Utility Commissions (PUC) are supposed to protect the public by regulating utility companies.  If yours are still promoting utility “Smart” Meters – and raising your rates for their installation or replacement – consider yourself NOT protected.

 

For more information, visit the following websites:

https://www.activistpost.com/2019/03/new-jersey-anti-poverty-network-aarp-sierra-club-clean-water-action-and-more-oppose-rate-increases-for-utility-smart-meters.html

New opt-out option available for smart meters

New opt-out option available for smart meters

SOUTH COAST — For Pacific Power customers wanting to opt-out of the new smart meters, the company announced a new Equal Payment Plan Opt-out option.

This will help reduce monthly fees starting March 13, according to a press release from Pacific Power.

“We’ve heard from customers that the fee to opt out of a smart meter is burdensome, and we have continued to look for new options,” said Pacific Power Vice President of Regulation, Etta Lockey in the release. “This has been a collaborative process with the PUC and the Citizens’ Utility Board, and we are pleased to offer this new option to customers.”

Smart meters have been installed in most homes now, a wireless upgrade that sends hour-by-hour energy usage information to

offer this new option to customers.”

Smart meters have been installed in most homes now, a wireless upgrade that sends hour-by-hour energy usage information to both customers and the company. However, it lets customers see that information whenever they wish online rather than waiting for a monthly bill.

“While only around one percent of customers are opting out of the meter upgrade, choosing to do so adds a cost to continue manual meter reads,” the release said.

Originally, opt-out fees cost $36 a month, but under the new Equal Payment Option will now cost $9 a month. This is done by reducing the number of manual reads to three times a year instead of once a month, the release said.

“It also allows customers to pay a level or equal monthly amount based on a historical average of their previous bills,” the release said, though the first opt-out plan will still be available for monthly meter reads at $36 a month.

To sign up for the new option, customers can call 1-866-869-8520.

For more information, visit www.pacificpower.net/smartmeteror call 866-869-8520.

New paper on the risks that mobile technologies have on children

logo

Letter: The threat from electronic pollution

 

Letter: The threat from electronic pollution

  • Updated 

South Corvallis’ “urban renewal district” is now experiencing ongoing, increasing impacts of electromagnetic field (EMF) pollution on human health, the environment, and property values.

My South Corvallis house and backyard now have high microwave readings — readings warranting “Severe Concern” from experts at the Building Biology Institute, an international group of professionals specializing in building design, functionality, health, and safety (bbi.org).

Living in EMF unprotected homes or sleeping outside is now potentially more health impacting than recommended, following wireless communication devices’ deployment in defiance of alarming scientific findings.

Will property values and related taxes plummet as people discover this?

This is an EMF wake-up call. Primary impacts originate with cellphones and towers, recently installed “smart meters,” and other sources of electromagnetic pollution resulting in adverse human biological effects.

New digital utility meters produce high-frequency, variable-intensity, randomly-pulsed signals 24/7. Human cells lack specific protective mechanisms against such “freakish frequencies” in the 0.9–2.4 GHz range. Before we could adapt to such physiologically aberrant electromagnetic signals, we might go extinct, or logically remove or curtail such incompatible technologies.

The night “smart meters” were installed — two 50 feet away — my sleep deteriorated 30-40 percent in duration, depth, and restfulness, eventually requiring more than $1,500 in EMF mitigation expenses. My cat’s health deteriorated quickly, dying about three months later.

Children, pets, and smaller life forms are more susceptible to electro-pollution due to greater penetration of their smaller bodies and brains.

5G is microwave suicide! Naivete or denial won’t protect you.

Chris C. Foulke

Corvallis (March 9)

 

 

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