SO CALLED SMART METERS ARE HAZARDOUS TO ANIMALS, CHILDREN, ADULTS AND WILDLIFE. THE PUBLIC IS MISINFORMED BY CORP AMERICA. WHY DO YOU THINK THE MEDICAL PROFESSION WARNS THOSE WITH HEART ISSUES, ESPECIALLY, HEART TRANSPLANTS? IT IS NOT ABOUT THE CUSTOMERS PROTECTION OR SAVING MONEY; IT IS ABOUT MAKING MONEY……..SANDAURA
RG&E’s new meters: Here’s what you need to know
RG&E/NYSEG are planning to install nearly 2 million smart meters to the home of its customers. Here’s what you need to know. Matthew Leonard and Steve Orr, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
One of the biggest programs ever proposed by Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. and its sister company was supposed to have begun last year.
The proposal, estimated to cost upward of $500 million, called for installation of nearly 1.8 million “smart meters” in upstate New York homes and businesses.
The electronic devices are designed to measure, precisely and minute-by-minute, the electricity and natural gas used by each and every customer of RG&E and New York State Electric and Gas Corp.
The companies say the equipment, also known as “advanced metering infrastructure” or AMI, would aid both the utilities and their customers in several ways.
Smart meters are trending across the United States. Proponents see them as an essential component of the nation’s increasingly complex electric and gas networks, and a boon to renewable energy.
That’s not to say they’re without controversy. Some critics question their safety
and others say they’re not worth the half-a-billion dollar investment.
For reasons that are unclear, the RG&E/NYSEG proposal has been delayed as the company, state regulators and a handful of other parties negotiate the terms of the massive program behind closed doors in Albany.
Those negotiations are now entering their third year.
When the talks conclude, one thing is a near-certainty: Your utilities rates will jump to pay for the smart-meter rollout.
Here’s what we know about how your money will be spent.
Frank Scandale, the investigations editor and Frank Esposito, the data reporter for lohud.com, talk about the new smart meters coming to your home. Mark Vergari, email@example.com
A smart meter is what exactly?
Question: What’s a smart meter?
Answer: It’s an electronic device that will be attached to the wall of your basement or the exterior of your house just like the meter you have now. But unlike the old electro-mechanical meters, which measure usage by counting the revolutions of little disks, these new meters use microprocessors to track your energy use. They’re “internet-of-things” tech.
Question: What makes them so smart?
Answer: Your old meter is “dumb.” It just sits there until someone comes and writes down how many times the disk has turned since the last time they visited. These new ones will measure your usage constantly and communicate data about that usage to you and to RG&E/NYSEG. They’re interactive as well, meaning they are capable of doing things such as shutting off your service remotely if you don’t pay your bill or controlling your air conditioner if you authorize it.
Question: Who gets one?
Answer: Every RG&E and NYSEG customer. Over a period of five years or so, the company plans to install new electric meters in every residence and business in their service territories, and modify every natural-gas meter. That’s a total of 1,794,185 meters.
Question: I don’t get it. What’s the point of them?
Answer: RG&E/NYSEG point to several benefits:
- Over the long term, smart meters should save the company money. This should translate to lower rates for consumers.
- Because they will give the company near-real time data on energy use by every customer, the new meters will help RG&E/NYSEG manage their distribution networks more efficiently. Balancing the electric grid in particular is an increasingly complex task in an environment of high demand and an ever-growing number of smaller power sources such as rooftop solar arrays and wind farms.
- The meters will tell the company precisely where power has gone out during a storm or other outage event, which RG&E/NYSEG says will make for faster power restoration.
- The meters will provide an opportunity for customers to save (or lose) money by adjusting their energy usage.
Proponents say the new technology is to customers’ benefit as well. “Rather than be passive consumers of electricity who have no idea other than once a month how much they use, smart meters enable customers to engage with their electricity service,” said Karl Rábago, executive director of the Pace Energy And Climate Center, a Westchester County organization that is a party in the PSC settlement discussions. “It’s something that’s overdue for the industry. But it is expensive.”
Question: Ugh. Not interested. Do I have to let them install these meters?
Answer: Probably not. RG&E/NYSEG proposes to let people opt out, but they’ll have to pay a fee to keep their old analog meters. The fee is supposed to cover the cost of a meter-reader continuing to visit your home. In other places, utilities have charged a one-time fee of roughly $50, then $10 to $25 a month. It remains to be seen what fee will be approved by the PSC here. Critics have pushed the PSC to do away with these fees but so far they have refused.
Show me the money
Question: This is going to cost me, isn’t it?
Answer: No doubt. The latest cost estimate for rolling out the program is $522 million. RG&E/NYSEG want to add a surcharge to monthly bills to pay for purchase, installation and other work, then amend their monthly rates to further recoup the expense. They claim cost savings will offset much of that expense over time. The final cost and the impact on your monthly bill remain either undetermined or confidential.
Question: I’ve heard that smart meters lead to higher bills. True?
Answer: Consumers in some other locations have complained about unexpectedly high bills after smart meters are installed. Some believe the new digital meters are jiggered to generate higher revenue, a claim that utilities vigorously deny. In some cases, the utilities have blamed higher bills on old electro-mechanical meters that hadn’t been accurately measuring usage. RG&E/NYSEG said it believes both its current meters and the new smart meters meet state standards for accuracy, though it will have a program in place to assess complaints of higher bills. In Maine, where a sister company to RG&E/NYSEG installed smart electric meters in the early 2010s, regulators ordered a study of high-bill complaints. Central Maine Power said earlier this year it had found no evidence that smart meters were responsible.
Question: How does the company save money?
Answer: In their filings with the PSC, the company cites “soft” savings through efficiencies of various kinds. The big, “hard” savings will come from eliminating the manual reading of those 1,794,185 meters. That means cutting jobs. RG&E/NYSEG said meter-reading is largely done by a contractor and the AMI program “will significantly reduce the need for this service.” Figures about job cuts are redacted from company filings with the PSC.
Question: So these savings will be passed on to me?
Answer: If savings do accrue, they likely would be passed on. But the extent of any real savings remains to be seen. RG&E/NYSEG isn’t saying that every customer will come out ahead financially, and they aren’t selling their smart-meter program strictly as a cost-saver. Instead, they say it will improve “the overall efficiency and operational capabilities of our company.” In other states and in Canada, there have been numerous instances in which projected savings didn’t pan out.
What about me?
Question: How do I save money?
Answer: Two ways. RG&E/NYSEG says all customers will be able to access their usage data via a secure online portal. You’ll be able to study how you use your electricity and natural gas and look for ways to cut back. “Customers will be able to view usage for categories like their overall home usage, appliances and lighting,” RG&E/NYSEG told us. “They will also have the opportunity to set energy saving goals, put together a list of actions to help them reach that goal, and track progress in obtaining that goal.”
Question: And the other way I can save money?
Answer: You can sign up for a program under which the price of electricity will vary as the day goes by. During times of high demand for electricity, it will cost more. At other times, less. Generally, demand begins to rise as people prepare for work and school and peaks in the late afternoon and early evening.
Question: How might I use time-varying pricing?
Answer: Run the dishwasher while you sleep. Turn down the air conditioning or the furnace during the day. Don’t start binge-watching until 8 or 9 p.m. Do laundry early in the morning or on weekends. Rábago said time-varying pricing works better if more people take part, but added it could be unfair to force enrollment. Someone who rents may not be able to control their usage, for instance, and someone who works two jobs doesn’t have the luxury of shifting household chores to different times of day.
Question: How much cheaper will off-peak power be?
Answer: Unknown. Other utilities have divided the day into two or three periods, with different per-kilowatt-hour prices for each. In some places there are seasonal rates. RG&E/NYSEG says they do not know what periods they will use or how the prices will differ. Each consumer’s choices will determine how much savings he or she derives.
Question: What if I screw up?
Answer: If you consume too much electricity during peak hours, then you’d lose money. You should be able to quit the program when you like, however.
Wait a minute
Question: Is there opposition?
Answer: In this area, there’s been only a bit of grumbling on social media. As of last week, only a single public comment had been posted on the PSC website about the RG&E/NYSEG proposal in two years. But there has been vocal opposition in locations that are farther along in the process, both in New York and in other states.
Question: What are their objections?
Answer: Generally they are privacy, fire risk, exposure to electromagnetic radiation and the near-mandatory nature of the program.
Question: So, what — smart meters catch on fire?
Answer: There have been some documented fires. RG&E/NYSEG acknowledges this, asserting they happened in the “not-recent past” and were due to defects in a connector in the meter known as the jaw. RG&E/NYSEG says they will have a program in place to test the jaws of all they smart meters to ensure safety. It’s worth noting that fires in electronic devices, especially newly introduced models, aren’t a total rarity. Remember Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phones, of which nearly 100 burst into flames in the U.S. alone?
Question: Isn’t the chance of a few small fires worth it?
Answer: People such as Michele Hertz, a Hudson Valley resident who is president of the New York State Safe Meter Association, said any fire risk is too much. The old analog meters are fire- and surge-safe, she asserted, but she’s heard of several smart meter-related blazes in her part of the state. Power surges are a trigger, she said. Hertz said the PSC has not ordered testing of smart meters for fire and other risks, which she calls “irresponsible and a dereliction of duty.”
Question: Are their other worries?
Answer: A few studies have suggested an association between some forms of radiofrequency radiation and cancer, leading the International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify it as possibly carcinogenic. The conclusion is tentative and much debated but to Michele Hertz, it’s enough to warrant concern. “If a device has the smallest risk of radiation exposure, we can choose not to use it. We can choose to use a cellphone or not, or to use a computer connected to Wi-Fi or not. The point is we live in a society where we have choices. With utility meters, we are being given no choice,” she said.
Hertz and others claim people can suffer ill health after smart meters are installed, and she suggests the radio waves may be pulsing through homes via electrical wiring. But reports of health problems are anecdotal, and there seem to be few or no studies that examine possible impacts of smart meters. RG&E/NYSEG said the PSC did not require such a study. This may be one of those cases where citizens are either ahead of the science or ignorant of it.
Question: What are the privacy issues?
Answer: They’re the same as other smart devices. They collect personal data, and they’re theoretically vulnerable to hackers. Privacy advocates lump the new electric and gas meters with other types of “smart” hardware that are becoming common in homes — televisions, interactive speakers, phones, thermostats, security systems and appliances that gather information about your life and are capable of communicating it to the outside world. This makes that data potentially available to third parties who you’d rather not have it, and raises Big Brotherish concerns about outsiders being able to deduce what time you go to bed or if you have grow lights in your basement. RG&E/NYSEG says they haven’t heard of hackers gaining access to smart meters, but they plan to equip theirs with industry-standard protection, including encryption of usage data and various intrusion protections and alerts.
Question: Forget hackers. Who’s allowed to see my data?
Answer: You are, for starters. RG&E/NYSEG says you can reach it through an online portal that also will help customers “better understand and manage their energy consumption.” RG&E/NYSEG obviously will keep all customer use data for its own purposes, but the company insists it will never sell or share those data with third parties — except in cases where the customer authorizes sharing information with outside firms selected by the customer to help manage energy use or provide other services. The other exception would be if the PSC ordered the utilities to provide customer data or if a law-enforcement agency provided “legal authorization” for disclosure of records. The company’s statements notwithstanding,
Hertz has concerns about RG&E/NYSEG possessing so much personal data. But Rábago said it’s only an extension of what utilities have always done. “There are people who say ‘I don’t want you have that information, I don’t want you knowing how I use electricity,'” he said. “The truth is the utility already has the data. You can’t have electric service without the utility knowing how much you’re using.”
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