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Guest opinion: Smart meters are coming

Smart meters are coming! And Pacific Power is going to give you one if you don’t “opt out.”

Smart meters are coming! And Pacific Power is going to give you one if you don’t “opt out.” The catch is that you have to pay if you don’t want one.

Pacific Power has already started rolling the smart meters out in Siskiyou County. Information to opt out is at the end of this letter.

Smart meters are the result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 package to develop a “smart” grid, including “smart” meters for every home’s electricity, gas and water. In this bailout the U.S. government allocated $11B of taxpayer funds for smart grid projects across the United States.

A smart meter replaces the analog meter on the side of your house (the one with the little dials), and records usage of electrical energy and sends the information to the power company.

According to the Pacific Power Fact Sheet for Oregon customer benefits are: “Customers will be able to track their own electric energy usage via a secure website. Using the daily data, customers can determine how much power is being used and compare the usage to their activities for the day. With that knowledge, they can develop their own strategies for saving energy and money. Customers connecting or disconnecting service will receive faster service due to the remote connection and disconnection capability of the smart meters. Customers may also see improved service restoration when an outage occurs.”

Some say smart meters will save energy and thus aid the environment, increase power reliability, and give customers more control of energy used in their own homes.

Despite those claimed benefits, you might want to consider opting out because of the side-effects of smart meters, and there are many.

Health: People’s health may be compromised by radio frequency waves from 10,000 to 190,000 pulses daily at a power level of about 1,000 milliwatts from the smart meter going through their home’s electrical system. In 2011, a different power company in California was removing smart meters and putting the old analog meters back in place because of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) health concerns. The take-back stopped when the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) made a final ruling in late December 2014, and electric companies started a big roll-out of smart meters.

Safety: Smart meters are prone to over-heating, catching on fire, and in some cases, catching houses on fire. In 2015 a dump truck in Stockton, California, crashed into power poles causing a power surge that made dozens of smart meters explode and catch on fire. Right now officials are looking into power lines and possibly smart meters in fires both in California and Hawaii. We have frequent power surges where I live in Scott Valley, so this is a major concern.

Another safety concern is the ability for Pacific Power to turn power on, off, or down remotely. Great harm or loss of lives may occur if the power is turned off and essential medical equipment used in people’s homes cannot function, or appliances such as electric stoves get left on when the power is turned off and overheat when power is turned back on when no one is in the home. A great potential for fire.

Billing issues: It is unclear whether Pacific Power will go from a usage-based billing system to a peak-hour billing system, because Pacific Power’s parent company, PacifiCorp, requested deferral of all related rate and cost recovery issues to the general rate case application to be filed in 2018. It is also unclear whether the power company gets to decide when “peak-hour” happens. Based on numerous reports of over-billing by other utility companies after smart meters have been installed, Pacific Power bills could very well go up after their installation of smart meters. I have yet to learn what happens in the event of power surges, and if that could affect the amount of energy use being reported – especially if it occurs during peak-hours when billing rates would be higher.

Privacy: The potential for customer’s private information being hacked is high. Not only could a customer’s private information be at risk, but a hacker could shut down the customer’s electricity or provide false information to the power company. Also, utility companies have admitted providing customers’ information to government and third parties. All of these are concerning in today’s world of compromised information.

Loss of jobs: Smart meters are going to replace meter readers. A Pacific Power representative told me that the 100 meter readers losing jobs in Oregon would be offered other positions within the company, but I think the 100 jobs number is understated. When governmental officials state that jobs are being created, I wish someone would have the courage to ask if these are jobs for humans or jobs for robots, such as smart meters.

If you decide to opt out, here is the information you need.

The PacifiCorp filing with the CPUC states in part, “PacifiCorp proposes to charge both residential and non-residential customers an initial opt-out fee of $75 and a monthly meter reading fee of $20, with a 20 percent discount on both the initial opt-out fee and the monthly meter reading fee for PacifiCorp’s CARE program customers. PacifiCorp proposes waiving the initial opt-out fee if a customer elects to opt-out prior to a smart meter installation.” A protest has been filed by the Office of Ratepayer Advocacy ORA, so these fees may be lower depending on the CPUC’s final ruling.
If the waiver for the initial opt out fee remains, the most it would cost to keep your analog meter would be $20 a month, which as I said might be lower.

To opt out: Call Pacific Power at (888) 221-7070. Select the Web Support, App Support and All Other Matters option. Ask for the AMI Meter Department (Not smart meter dept.). The rep will ask for your name and date of birth (so your name should be the one on the account). The rep will ask if you are aware of monthly fees to opt out. The process took me about 10 minutes. Pacific Power will send you a letter confirming your request to opt out. You should receive the letter in about two weeks. It would be a good idea to put a “Do Not Install” sign near your analog meter on your house, so a smart meter won’t get installed by mistake. If you don’t receive a letter confirming your choice to opt out, be sure to call Pacific Power.

You may contact me via email if you have questions. My contact email address is annemarshhawaii@hotmail.com




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