New Smart Electric Meters Collect Data On Devices in Your Home

Experts: Smart grid poses privacy risks

Technologists already are worried about the security implications of linking nearly all elements of the U.S. power grid to the public Internet. Now, privacy experts are warning that the so-called “smart grid” efforts could usher in a new class of concerns, as utilities begin collecting more granular data about consumers’ daily power consumption.

“The modernization of the grid will increase the level of personal information detail available as well as the instances of collection, use and disclosure of personal information,” warns a report (PDF) jointly released Tuesday by the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), a think tank made up of chief privacy officers, advocates and academics.

Smart grid technology — including new “smart meters” being attached to businesses and homes — is designed in part to provide consumers with real-time feedback on power consumption patterns and levels. But as these systems begin to come online, it remains unclear how utilities and partner companies will mine, share and use that new wealth of information, experts warn.

“Instead of measuring energy use at the end of each billing period, smart meters will provide this information at much shorter intervals,” the report notes. “Even if electricity use is not recorded minute by minute, or at the appliance level, information may be gleaned from ongoing monitoring of electricity consumption such as the approximate number of occupants, when they are present, as well as when they are awake or asleep. For many, this will resonate as a ‘sanctity of the home’ issue, where such intimate details of daily life should not be accessible.”

According to the study, examples of information that utilities and partner companies might be able to glean from more granular power consumption data include whether and how often exercise equipment is used; whether a house has an alarm system and how often it is activated; when occupants usually shower, and how often they wash their clothes.

Other privacy risks could result from the combination of information from two separate users of the smart grid: For example, roaming smart grid devices, such as electric vehicles recharging at a friend’s or acquaintance’s house, could create or reveal additional personal information.

At a recent smart grid conference in Madrid, FPF co-chair Jules Polonetsky showed how researchers have already mapped unique load patterns of different equipment, showing that for instance washing machines pull power in different ways than other devices (graphic below courtesy FPF).

In an interview with Security Fix, Polonestsky said some utilities have adopted the stance that existing regulations already prevent them from sharing customer data without prior authorization. But he noted that as power companies transition to the smart grid, those utilities are going to be collecting — and potentially retaining — orders of magnitude more data on their customers than ever before.

“Relatively speaking, [utilities] aren’t big marketing companies with big back end databases ready to handle the tidal wave of data that’s coming,” he said. “But we’re a little worried that without some serious planning now, there’s going to be quite a challenge in a couple of years when people start realizing that maybe should think about developing some solid data retention policies that address what’s going to be done with all of this data.”

Indeed, the report found that “comprehensive and consistent definitions of personally identifiable information do not generally exist in the utility industry. Privacy concerns arise when there is a possibility of discovering personal information, such as the personal habits, behaviors and lifestyles of individuals inside dwellings, and to use this information for secondary purposes, other than for the provision of electricity.”

Ontario is on track to have a smart meter installed at every home and business by the end of 2010. More than 8 million smart meters are used in the United States today, and more than 50 million more could be installed in at least two dozen states over the next five years, according to the Edison Foundation’s Institute for Electric Efficiency.

The report echoes some of the same concerns raised in a recent report (PDF) drafted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which warned that “distributed energy resources and smart meters will reveal information about residential consumers and activities within the house,” A NIST panel tasked with examining the cyber security aspects of the smart grid found “a lack of formal privacy policies, standards or procedures about information gathered and collected by entities involved in the smart grid,” and that comprehensive and consistent definitions of personally identifiable information do not generally exist in the utility industry.

New Electric Smart Meters in Mississippi Can Be Removed or Blocked

Use the letter below to forbid smart meter installation (or modify the letter to demand the meter be removed).

From:
Energy Customer’s Name
Street Address
City State Zip

To:
Energy Provider
Street Address
City State Zip

Date of letter

NOTICE OF NO CONSENT TO TRESPASS AND SURVEILLANCE, NOTICE OF LIABILITY

Dear (Energy Provider) and all agents, officers, employees, contractors and interested parties,

If you intend to install a “Smart Meter” or any activity monitoring device at the above address, you and all other parties are hereby denied consent for installation and use of all such devices on the above property. Installation and use of any activity monitoring device is hereby refused and prohibited. Informed consent is legally required for installation of any surveillance device and any device that will collect and transmit private and personal data to undisclosed and unauthorized parties for undisclosed and unauthorized purposes. Authorization for sharing of personal and private information may only be given by the originator and subject of that information. That authorization is hereby denied and refused with regard to the above property and all its occupants. “Smart Meters” and digital meters violate the law and cause endangerment to residents by the following factors:
1. They individually identify electrical devices inside the home and record when they are operated causing invasion of privacy.
2. They monitor household activity and occupancy in violation of rights and domestic security.
3. They transmit wireless signals which may be intercepted by unauthorized and unknown parties. Those signals can be used to monitor behavior and occupancy and they can be used by criminals to aid criminal activity against the occupants.
4. Data about occupant’s daily habits and activities are collected, recorded and stored in permanent databases which are accessed by parties not authorized or invited to know and share that private data by those who’s activities were recorded.
5. Those with access to the smart meter databases can review a permanent history of household activities complete with calendar and time-of-day metrics to gain a highly invasive and detailed view of the lives of the occupants.
6. Those databases may be shared with, or fall into the hands of criminals, blackmailers, corrupt law enforcement, private hackers of wireless transmissions, power company employees, and other unidentified parties who may act against the interests of the occupants under metered surveillance.
7. “Smart Meters” are, by definition, surveillance devices which violate Federal and State wiretapping laws by recording and storing databases of private and personal activities and behaviors without the consent or knowledge of those people who are monitored.
8. It is possible for example, with analysis of certain “Smart Meter” data, for unauthorized and distant parties to determine medical conditions, sexual activities, physical locations of persons within the home, vacancy patterns and personal information and habits of the occupants.
9. Your company has not adequately disclosed the particular recording and transmission capabilities of the smart meter, or the extent of the data that will be recorded, stored and shared, or the purposes to which the data will and will not be put.
10. Electromagnetic and Radio Frequency energy contamination from smart meters exceeds allowable safe and healthful limits for domestic environments as determined by the EPA and other scientific programs.

I forbid, refuse and deny consent of any installation and use of any monitoring, eavesdropping, and surveillance devices on my property, my place of residence and my place of occupancy. That applies to and includes “Smart Meters” and activity monitoring devices of any and all kinds. Any attempt to install any such device directed at me, other occupants, my property or residence will constitute trespass, stalking, wiretapping and unlawful surveillance and endangerment of health and safety, all prohibited and punishable by law through criminal and civil complaints. All persons, government agencies and private organizations responsible for installing or operating monitoring devices directed at or recording my activities, which I have not specifically authorized in writing, will be fully liable for a fee of $100,000.00 for any violations, intrusions, harm or negative consequences caused or made possible by those devices whether those negative consequences are provided by “law” or not.

This is legal notice. After this delivery the liabilities listed above may not be denied or avoided by parties named and implied in this notice. Civil Servant immunities and protections do not apply to the installation of smart meters due to the criminal violations they represent.

Notice to principal is notice to agent and notice to agent is notice to principal. All rights reserved.

Signature

Smart Meter

Smart Meter (Photo credit: Duke Energy)

 

Southern Company Hides Electric Meter Dangers – Fires the whistle Blower and Hopes not to get Burned

Instead of investigating dangerous reported problems Southern Company COVERS IT UP!

“Smart meters should not be installed on any home, any

where, without a thorough safety investigation.

Manufactured agreed fail rate for the New digital smart meters 0.5%  Actual fail rate 9%!

Meters that Endanger: Shocking Details from a Whistleblower
by A O’Hair ( info [at] stopsmartmeters.org )
Friday Jan 20th, 2012 1:54 PM

Are smart meters just too complex? Are they veritable blackboxes(well, beige) of assorted electronic components, jury-rigged and thrown together in an off-shore factory, and then slapped onto houses without proper safety testing? Sure, we all have electronic devices in the home, but through this particular device passes all the electrical current for the house. That’s a set-up asking for trouble.

From the beginning, smart meters have had problems leading to fires and other electrical dangers. News stories have run all over the U.S. and around the world about installations leading to devastating damage. (Here’s a local SF Bay Area fire we’d like to see more fully investigated.)

A lawsuit made available to us recently detailed just how such faulty equipment could end up attached to the electrical wiring on millions of homes. In Alabama in 2009, a Sensus engineering employee named Don Baker was fired for repeatedly alerting his management to the presence of a multitude of dangerous defects in the smart meter they were manufacturing (model iConA). As he states in the complaint he filed, this whistleblower reported serious flaws in design and functioning that could lead to electrical danger, overheating, and/or fire. In fact, the failure rate of the meters was twenty times higher than it was supposed to be, and the engineer contends that at least two house fires were the result. Sensus meters are used by utilities across the U.S. and in Canada, such as PECO, Alliant Energy, Alabama Power, and NVE.

In May 2010, Mr. Baker filed a complaint [PDF]. The type of suit is called “qui tam”, where an individual alleges harm to his government. This complaint alleges that the manufacturer and the utility companies received federal monies but provided a defective product. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Alabama declined to pursue the case, because the utility said they had not received federal money for the metering project; but the allegations about the dangerous defects in the smart meters made in the complaint have not been refuted or even addressed.

In the complaint Baker relates in detail what makes the meters dangerous, and the allegations are damning—and alarming. A few highlights:

[Meters] may fail dangerously when subjected to a sudden surge of electricity …. Meters found to contain ‘flux’ or loose solder residue …. Calibration equipment not properly designed …. Electric resistor component defective …. Internal temperatures up to 200° Fahrenheit …. Hot socket alarm …. Drastic overheating to the point of catastrophic failure, melting, and burning….

Cutting corners in business and manufacturing is hardly something new; the difference here is just what is at stake: this product is installed in every house in a utility service area, and the electrical current for the house runs through it. Even a half-percent failure rate can result in serious amounts of property damage, or even death, given the total number of “customers”—though this word implies a voluntary acceptance of the product, when in fact installation of smart meters has been very largely involuntary. Truly optional consumer goods actually get more testing than smart meters.

The sort of defects and failures enumerated in this suit might well have been caught with an independent safety-certification process such as Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL). But these Sensus iConA smart meters, and every other type of smart meter, have never been subjected to such testing.

The suit states: “Mr. Baker has direct personal knowledge that Sensus and Southern Company [the utility] have installed approximately one million iConA meters in Alabama homes with knowledge that the meters are seriously defective and pose a substantial fire hazard and that at least two Alabama homes have burned as a result…. [They] were well aware that the iConA was defective and the entire project flawed.” [Emphasis ours.]

Baker submitted the information he had to the Office of the U.S. Attorney and the FBI in Feb 2010. He contends that the defendants named in the suit, Sensus, Southern Company, and Alabama Power, “perpetuated a fraudulent conspiracy” to obtain $165 million from federal stimulus funding.

These meters were never tested—for either for safety or performance—instead they went straight to out for installation. Then Sensus altered the components and design—again without safety testing. Only one percent of the Sensus meters were tested—for accuracy only—but never on a house while connected to the grid.

“It quickly became apparent that the meters were fundamentally unsound.” Baker states in the filing. “[The contract] carried an acceptable failure rate of 0.5%,” but in the first year, the meters were “failing at a rate of 9.0% per year.” Baker made reports to Sensus management about quality and safety issues, but he was ignored and eventually fired.

What was technically wrong with the smart meters that Sensus was producing? The suit alleges four categories of defects and failures: 1) Electrical Fast Transient Failures; 2) Flux Contamination and Inaccuracy Issues; 3) Faulty Components; and 4) “Hot Meters.” These technical issues are explained below.

The suit goes on to make three charges against the defendants: 1) False Claims; 2) Conspiracy; and 3) Suppression, Fraud, and Deceit. These legal issues are explained in more detail below.

Corporate recklessness—and lack of regulation to curb it—has remained a core issue in the smart meter debacle. From the Silver Springs Network antenna which increases the power of the radio over FCC limits (see page 14 of this CPUC doc), to arcing problems due to unprofessional installation, to multiple FCC violations, to the lack of any independent safety testingit is clear that if there had been effective government regulation, it could have changed the face of this “deployment” dramatically.

If you don’t like the idea of more government regulation, then how about consumer choice? If individual customers could choose between utilities, even choose their own meter—again, the landscape would also look very, very different.

But instead we are saddled with corporate utility monopolies, aided by government collusion, which adds up to a poisonous combination—whatever your political beliefs might be. It is an arrangement designed to enrich corporations, with impunity.

Why isn’t the public up in arms about these risks of smart-meter fires and explosions? There have no comprehensive investigations by major media. Early in 2011, a major news station in the SF Bay Area was doing work on this. They interviewed us several times as part of an investigation into smart-meter fires. What happened? The story never aired, and calls to the investigative reporters were not returned.

Without coverage in the mainstream media, people will be left to find out about this issue through social networks or independent media–or worse, suffer their own fire or property damage from the meter.

This is yet another reason why the proposed opt-out here in CA is—even with analogs—incomplete and inadequate. Given the growing evidence of fire risk and safety, this is not a device we should be forced to pay to avoid. Smart meters should not be installed on any home, any where, without a thorough safety investigation.

_____________________________________________________

Technical details from the lawsuit about Sensus meter defects:

1) Electrical Fast Transient Failures: The manufacturer and the utility were both aware, the suit alleges, that the smart meters (iConA) were unsafe and could fail dangerous when subjected to a power surge. [This was certainly evident for another make of smart meter, the one installed in Palo Alto last October.] One critical test was skipped for the Sensus meters, the Electrcial Fast Transient Test (EFT). When this test was performed on a sample of the iConA Sensus meters, they all failed. This was after over 80,000 meters were already installed.

2) Flux Contamination and Inaccuracy Issues. The complaint states that production of the iConA meters was sloppy. Sensus performed two investigations and found 130,000 meters contained loose solder residue called “flux.” They also found that equipment used by the manufacturer to calibrate was not properly designed, calling into question the accuracy of the meters. This was after 400,000 meters were installed—non of which were recalled for testing. Baker himself has investigated over-reporting meters, and found individual meters giving readings seven times the actual electrical usage.

3) Faulty Components. Baker alleges Sensus and the utilities had reason to suspect that some components that were going into the iConA meter were faulty, with very high failure rates. Well into the delivery process, it was found that an electrical resistor was defective on at least 85,000 meters. Over 170,000 meters were also found to contain another faulty component made by Epson.

4) “Hot Meters.” These Sensus meters, the complaint alleges, posed a risk of injury or death. Sensus knew that 19,000 installed meters were reporting a “hot socket alarm”—that is, the internal temperature was getting over 200°F. Sensus received reports of overheating to the point of melting and burning. The plaintiff Baker documented himself meters reduced to lumps of blackened plastic, while the company insisted a meter couldn’t melt at less than 500°F.

Ultimately it was bringing to the attention of his supervisors a burned meter that resulted in a house fire that ended Don Bakers career at Sensus. Instead of conducting an investigation, they fired him.

======

Legal details alleged in the complaint:

1) False Claims. The defendant in the suit, the plaintiff alleges, presented false or fraudulent claims to the U.S. government that their smart grid project was eligible for ARRA funds when it was not. The equipment was defective and unfit.

2) Conspiracy. The defendants acted with the intent to defraud the U.S. by submitting false records to obtain the funds.

3) Suppression, Fraud, and Deceit. The defendants misrepresented or suppressed the fact that the smart meter that formed the basis of their smart grid architecture was dangerously defective.

=======

Alabama house fires possibly resulting from defective smart meters:

Family Blames House Fire On Georgia Power Meter. http://www2.wjbf.com/news/2011/jul/06/appling-family-blames-house-fire-georgia-power-met-ar-2074493/ “Sparks started flying from the TV and power box.”

Atlanta house fire, due to power meter; double blow to Haitian family. http://www.wsbtv.com/videos/news/fire-deals-double-blow-to-haiti-family-in-atlanta/vCRzm/ “Faulty power meter sparked devastating house fire–twice.”

Alabama woman says smart meter is fire hazard. http://www.wset.com/Global/story.asp?S=13487932; The letter the city government wrote to Sensus [PDF].

Related Press: 2010 Article from Cleburne News (AL), which has since been scrubbed from their website: http://stopsmartmeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/CleburneNews-smart-meters-Feb2010.pdf

2010 Article from Montgomery Advertiser (AL) which has been since scrubbed from their website: http://stopsmartmeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Montgomery-AL-smart-meters-Feb2010.pdf “The meter was … replaced five days before their double-wide burned to the ground…”

2009 Article from Georgia new site, since removed: http://stopsmartmeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Electrical-fires-Georgia-Feb2009.pdf “…Steady stream of complaints about the meters since the devices went into general use ….The firemen
told him they are keeping records and turning in their findings to the electric company.”

Article from Atlanta news site, since scrubbed from website: http://stopsmartmeters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Atlanta-fire-smart-meter-Jan2010.pdf “A power surge … After firefighters put out the blaze, they said it reignited again hours later.”

Southern Company hopes you get burned not them.

Your Movements will be Monitored via SMART GRID and SMART METERS

Growing field of ‘smart grid’ technology faces opposition over pricing, privacy

By , Published: November 11 | Updated: Saturday, November 12, 7:05 PM

Ralph Izzo, the chief executive of the New Jersey’s Public Service Electric and Gas Co., isn’t your average utility executive.

At Columbia University, he studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate and later earned a doctorate in applied physics. At the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, he did numerical simulations of fusion experiments and published or presented 35 papers on something called “magnetohydrodynamic modeling.”

So it’s not surprising he would say that he “fell in love” in 1998 with the gadgetry commonly known as “smart grid” technology — as Izzo puts it, “customer communication technology, real-time price signals and fantastic sensory capability.”

But 13 years later, Izzo says, “I have only now come to realize that what I really wish my customers would do would be to use more caulking.”

The smart grid has been one of the most talked-about issues in energy policy. Experts — and manufacturers of equipment and software — have promoted the idea that “smart meters” could enable utilities to flip household appliances on and off to ease the load of summertime electricity demand and that the devices would help homeowners manage their refrigerators, lights and air conditioning, even controlling them remotely with cellphones, laptops or tablets. Smart grid technology is also seen as critical for integrating renewable energy sources onto grids designed to carry power one way only, from big clunky generating stations to the home.

In summary, they can turn off a new mother’s refrigerator so her stored breast milk can sour, or that the medication stored in the fridge and looses effectiveness.   The AC turned off at peak time could cost lives of the physically vulnerable. Get the picture?  There is no talk of how we the people will retain any control over our electrical use.  If they want it off, it will be off.  And this is only the tip of it.   I haven’t even gotten started.

All this depends on software, networking devices and smart meters, tens of millions of which have been installed across the country. If the grid is modern society’s central nervous system, then the smart meter could become the brains of the operation.

Yet many utilities have come to the conclusion Izzo has: You can install smart meters in homes, but the homes probably still have dumb appliances and homeowners who are too busy to be bothered. At least for now, simple measures such as caulking might save more energy.

The goal of SMART GRID, SMART METER… is  “behavior modification.”  They want to control our carbon foot print.  Who is they?  The smart grid is attached to a global computer and America is the big bad polluter, you think it is someone local at the “City Dashboard”  and “City Cockpit?”  I predict NOT.

DO NOT FORGET THAT 1/3 of the UN Agenda 21 is SOCIAL EQUALITY, so how do you think that measures in, since we as Americans are unequal to 3rd worlds?  America must fall or sacrifice so others can rise.  That is not a quote but is an ongoing repeating sentiment.

“Somehow all of us collectively decided to skip the low-hanging fruit and go for the top of the tree,” he said at a recent energy conference sponsored by The Washington Post.

Notice the belittling tone to beat you into submission?  They are so much superior in thought than we uneducated people.

Nonetheless, entire industries have sprouted up around the idea of a “smarter” electricity grid, one in which people would know more about their consumption, utilities would gain more power over the places hogging too much electricity at peak hours, and broken transmission equipment could be isolated and repaired more quickly.

Utilities say that more sophisticated meters will let them know which homes lose electricity in a storm without having to send a truck. That could speed the restoration of power.

I have not heard of a swarm of people loudly complaining that the Electric Co failed to know there was an outage, have you?  This is an example of an invented problem that when solved nudges our rights and citizens of the USA.

“Empowering consumers with information about how much energy they use and when is huge and gives consumers, for the first time, the opportunity to adjust their own energy usage and be a lot more active in how they use energy,” said Lena Hansen, a principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based nonprofit think tank.

This is what they want you to know, half the truth. Failure to give full disclosure is criminal in my eyes.  The Smart Meter, and SMART GRID along with new appliances, MONITOR your movements in the rooms to change the air circulation for maximum comfort.  Full disclosure, insurance companies can see if you are using the medical device assigned as directed and drop you from treatment or coverage for non compliance of lying.  Thieves, Electric Co staff, police, stalkers, your spouse, and voyeuristic criminals can gain access,  monitor your movements in your home, and know intimate details of your life. as well as profitable intimate consumer information.   Appliance companies will be able to target you. You will live in a glass house with no privacy and well controlled.

At bout 1 min into this it describes with animation how it monitors movement in the rooms of your home.  Want Yours, your children’s, or teen daughter’s activities watched by strangers? Bet your Smart Meter/Smart Grid Rep didn’t tell you that.


Improving the grid wouldn’t take much, given its condition. As Bob Shapard, chief executive of the Texas utility Oncor Electric Delivery, says, most meters being replaced date from the 1960s — “older technology than rotary phones.”

This problem has drawn the attention of some of the nation’s largest manufacturers, including Siemens, which does everything from automating electrical substations to writing software to manage meter information; Oracle, which makes grid management software; Echelon, Landis & Gyr and Itron, manufacturers of meters; and Cisco Systems and Silver Spring Networks, which provide communication links.

Other companies are working farther from the home meter, doing things such as measuring more precisely how much energy a line can hold or diagnosing and isolating disruptions so that wide-scale blackouts can be avoided and reliability improved.

“Over the last 30 to 40 years, most of our focus has been on generation,” said James W. Morozzi, president the Gridwise Alliance, a trade association devoted to transforming the grid.

But with greater attention to greenhouse gas emissions, that’s changing.

The United Nations Kyoto Protocols lists the  #1 green house gas to be Carbon Dioxide.  There is great wealth and power to be made revamping the entire system, so it is important to somehow show a need where there is none for justification purposes.  I am not convinced.

Doing something to limit electricity consumption is crucial. The country’s 142 million customers consume 4,200 billion kilowatt hours a year, and those numbers are expected to increase to 160 million customers and 5,200 billion kilowatt hours by 2020, Morozzi says. “Saving even 1 percent is important.”

A hard sell

Connecting with customers, however, hasn’t been easy.

In Bakersfield, Calif., in the summer of 2009, homeowners rebelled when the utility PG&E installed smart meters. It didn’t help that PG&E raised rates, or that Bakersfield had an unusually hot summer. Customers accused the utility of using inaccurate meters, though an independent audit later said the new meters were more accurate than the old ones.

RATES WENT UP!!!!  They were told their rates would go down.  Since there are no dials, and it is digital there is no way to see if charges are accurate, you must trust the companies involved.  Will that be like the traffic light cameras set at lights timing where the yellow light is greatly shortened to bring funds to the city justifying the costs of the cameras? 

Smart meter foes — they have a Web site, StopSmartMeters.org — say that 47 cities and counties have adopted resolutions opposing installation of the devices. The California Public Utilities Commission, which, unlike those towns, has authority over meter installations, has ordered PG&E to allow customers to opt out.

“After Bakersfield, we totally changed the way we roll out a new technology in a community,” PG&E spokesman Greg Snapper said. First, the utility does a lot more explaining about how the meters work. It now has installed 8.7 million new meters, though it has not fully utilized them.

In Nevada, the state Public Utilities Commission is conducting an investigation of health complaints people have tried to link to the meters, though the meters’ radio frequency emissions are lower than cellphones or many other appliances.

It takes years to determine physical outcomes of exposure.  The science is still out, we are waiting to hear the conclusions.  But meanwhile other countries have set protective measures in the emissions where America is set to a Military standard and is one of the highest limits on Frequency emissions.

In Boulder, Colo., voters upset about Xcel Energy’s “SmartGridCity” plan passed a measure Tuesday that would allow the city to take over the local utility.

In Maryland and Illinois, plans to install smart meters have triggered fights with AARP, which has argued that the meters will come with new pricing plans that will hurt the poor and elderly.

“People like us can turn down the air conditioning when we go to the office,” said Scott Musser, AARP’s associate state director for outreach and advocacy in Illinois. “But those who are home could be penalized by paying the peak rates at peak times. ”

In Maryland, installation of the meters was blocked.

In Illinois, the governor, backed by AARP, vetoed a measure that would let the state’s two big utilities charge customers enough to cover $2.6 billion of investments — half of it for the “smart grid” — over the next 10 years. But the legislature overrode the veto.

The meters “could be cool and fancy, but nobody knows what benefit may or may not come of it,” Musser said.

There is little trust or affection between homeowners and their utilities, and that becomes clear when questions about security crop up. The utilities will gain data that essentially tell them when people leave home — for instance, when the electric garage door opens or the heat is turned down. Consumer groups worry that hackers or corrupt utility workers could use the information to break into homes.

Assessing the benefits

Gridwise Alliance’s Morozzi says that utilities “have to engage consumers and make clear that there are benefits.”

What are those benefits?

For utilities, they are clear. The meter reader will become extinct. Diagnostics done by trucks will be done from a central office. And if homes and businesses cut energy use in peak demand hours, utilities can avoid building power plants that will operate only a few hours a day for just a few days a year. In California, for example, peak usage can be two-thirds higher than the demand at other times of the day. With climate change, the differential could become even more extreme.

For homeowners to benefit, they need to figure out how to cut consumption, identifying electricity guzzlers and paying attention to rates that will vary during the day. Oncor’s Shapard says that 1,000 consumers who took part in a smart meter pilot project in north Texas, featuring a contest with prizes for winners, cut consumption by 8 to 12 percent. Most of that, however, was done by 50 homeowners, who averaged a 24 percent drop in consumption.

Gregory Kats, who manages investment funds, sits on the board of a software company called Tendril Networks, which has agreements with 100,000 homes. In return for financial compensation, the homeowners allow utilities, for example, to lower their air conditioning on hot summer days.

Information is key, say advocates of smart meters.

Itron President Philip Mezey says that presentation matters. His company, working with Cisco, has adopted an open architecture, anticipating that people will come up with new applications and gadgets for controlling electricity use at home. “We need to engage with the larger community of innovation,” he says.

Without smart meters, Shapard says, using electricity and getting monthly bills is “like going to the grocery store and throwing bacon, eggs and cheese in the basket without knowing the price, walking out and getting the bill sent to them later.”

Putting in a Smart Meter is like surrendering all in home privacy and rights.

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