Con Ed’s ‘smart meters’ will empower information flow, billing in NYC
But $1.3 capital costs may raise rates, and opting out will cost
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The era of the human meter reader is coming to an end.
Con Edison has begun installing smart meters in homes and businesses throughout Brooklyn. Smart meters are digital meters that automatically communicate with Con Edison through a wireless communication network. The meters provide more detailed information about a customer’s power usage, allow customers to connect to this information online and set up high bill alerts, and automatically alert the company if the power shuts down.
The meters will help customers manage their costs, and will be able to interface with solar energy equipment, according to Con Ed. The devices read residential electric meter every 15 minutes, and business customers every five minutes.
When installations are complete, the army of human meter readers won’t be laid off, Con Ed spokesman Allan Drury reassured the Brooklyn Eagle. Smart meter installation will continue through 2022, and the meter readers will be dealt with through attrition and by moving people to other jobs over those years, he said.
Con Ed will install roughly 4.8 million meters at a cost of $1.3 billion. The costs will be counted as a company expense and will be absorbed through rates. Drury said there are 948,000 Con Ed customers (accounts) in Brooklyn.
Canarsie, East Flatbush, East New York, Brownsville, Marine Park, Sheepshead Bay, Bushwick, Brighton Beach and Garrison Beach will be among the first neighborhoods in Brooklyn to have the meters installed, according to Drury.
Money Savings Not Proven, Says AARP Spokesman
While Con Ed says the meters will help customers save money, that has not been proven, AARP NYS lobbyist Bill Ferris told the Eagle.
“If this is going to save customers energy, it should have been done on a study basis and data should have been collected,” Ferris said.
“Don’t start by rolling out a $1.3 billion [installation program],” he said. “When investing the rate-payers money, it should have been done on a trial basis to show the public that smart meters are the way to go. This did not happen.”
How Safe Is Your Data?
Smart meters use the same type of radio frequency (RF) signals used by cellphones and radios. The meter transmits data to a system of access points on utility poles, which transmits the usage information to Con Ed.
Can these signals be intercepted?
According to the company’s website, all the information is transmitted through an encrypted network. Standards for smart meters have been set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and are comparable to those used by financial institutions.
Con Ed says that smart meters do not collect, store, or transmit any personal information. The only information collected is the amount of power you use.
You Can Opt Out, But You’ll Have to Pay
If a customer chooses not to have a smart meter, Con Edison will be required to send a human meter reader to their home. The customer will be charged for the reader and will also pay an extra $9.50 a month. If they choose to have a smart meter taken out, they will be charged $104.74 for each meter. (So it’s best to opt out before installation, if that’s the route you want to take.)
Con Edison has the right to install a smart meter at their discretion if they are unable to obtain access on four consecutive bimonthly meter-reading dates.
Some people chose to opt out of smart readers because they fear negative health consequences from RF radiation. A number of websites have raised concerns about the effects of extremely low frequency radiation, such as that emitted by cellphones. Many of these sites contain inaccuracies. However, RF radiation is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), this is basedon the finding of a possible link in at least one study between cell phone use and a specific type of brain tumor.
It would be nearly impossible to prove or disprove a link between living in a house with smart meters and cancer because people have so many other sources of exposure to RF, according to ACS. The amount of RF radiation from a smart meter is much less than exposure from a cell phone
After hearing concerns, the Public Utility Commission of Texas determined that a large body of scientific research “reveals no definite or proven biological effects from exposure to low level RF signals. Further, staff found no creditable evidence to suggest that advanced meters emit harmful amounts of EMF.”
The commission relied on work done by the California Council on Science and Technology, the Michigan Public Service Commission and assessments performed by the Electrical Power Research Institute, among others