Your Opinions On "Smart Meters"

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On 4/15/2012 5:28 PM, Home Guy wrote:

Cite(s)? (Particularly from the "experts"; certainly the "consumer advocates" are sure to complain about anything; it's their sole function in life).

And, if that were all they were able to save (which I don't believe is true for a second being in heavily involved in our local retail electric co-op where we're doing it for that reason as well as those others outlined previously (and no "grant" money in sight). We figure the payback period on labor and billing errors alone will be <3 yr w/o any other longer-term savings.

_YOU_ may not, but many areas do have that flexibility. The end-user can call up and change his supplier at will in those areas.
And, the gasoline retail distribution market isn't as wide open as you seem to think either; there are pretty-limited wholesale arrangements for virtually all stations that preclude them from just buying willy-nilly (altho if they did, it would have to be mostly spot-market and would be higher than their longterm contracts would be).
While you can certainly pick any one of a multitude of stations in which to fill up on any given day, it's highly unlikely you'll find any significant price differential in any one locality--a penny or two at most, perhaps; generally all the majors are priced together and the independents at another level 3 or so cents under. If there's a nickel, that's generally enough to start a short-term "run".
--
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dpb wrote:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124050416142448555.html
Note that federal stimulus grants are mentioned (as helping to bankrole these smartmeter deployments). Note also there is mention of a smart gas-meter (what a crock that is!). The content of the above link is reproduced below for your reading pleasure.
That link came from here:
http://sites.google.com/site/nocelltowerinourneighborhood/home/wireless-smart-meter-concerns / going-deep-understanding-the-big-picture-and-real-costs-and-concerns
I highly suggest you have a look at that page and follow some of it's links.
===================April 27, 2009 Smart Meter, Dumb Idea?
Not everyone thinks smart meters are such a smart use of money.
Utilities are spending billions of dollars outfitting homes and businesses with the devices, which wirelessly send information about electricity use to utility billing departments and could help consumers control energy use. The Journal Report
Proponents of smart meters say that when these meters are teamed up with an in-home display that shows current energy usage, as well as a communicating thermostat and software that harvest and analyze that information, consumers can see how much consumption drives cost -- and will consume less as a result.
Such knowledge, however, doesn't come cheap. Meters are expensive, often costing $250 to $500 each when all the bells and whistles are included, such as the expense of installing new utility billing systems. And utilities typically pass these costs directly on to consumers. CenterPoint Energy Inc. in Houston, for instance, recently began charging its customers an extra $3.24 a month for smart meters, sparking howls of protest since the charges will continue for a decade and eventually approach $1 billion.
Consumer advocates fear the costs could be greater than the savings for many households. They also worry that the meters will make it easier for utilities to terminate service -- so easy that they will disconnect power for small arrearages that wouldn't have caused a termination in the past.
What's more, the cost to consumers could go beyond the extra charges imposed by utilities. That's because consumers usually are left to their own devices (literally) when it comes to adding the in-home displays and home-area networks that use data from the meters to control appliances and other pieces of equipment.
"What we're most concerned about is that consumers realize real benefits from the meters" from the start, says Michelle Furmanski, general counsel for the Texas House Committee on State Affairs, which is considering legislation that could establish more protections against disconnections.
Ms. Furmanski says that her committee is also looking into the lack of information on meter deployments that is available to the public. The utilities have claimed "trade secret" protections for important financial details about their meter programs, including contract terms with vendors. Such secrecy makes it impossible for consumers to analyze why costs for what appear to be similar services vary so much among utilities.
Texas law requires rapid smart-meter deployments, leaving consumer advocates little room to negotiate. But Don Ballard, the Texas consumer counsel, was able to negotiate an agreement with utilities in which CenterPoint and Oncor Electric Delivery, a unit of closely held Energy Future Holdings Corp., agreed to spend $20.6 million on consumer education and $17.5 million to purchase display units for low-income families.
Legislation is also pending in the state legislature that would force utilities to seek federal stimulus funds to partly pay for their meter programs and could limit the ability to levy surcharges. Instead, utilities would be required to undergo full rate reviews so that offsetting savings might be identified as a way to minimize the impact on bills.
Jack Oliphint, a retiree who lives 20 miles north of Houston in Spring, Texas, thinks the $444 he will pay CenterPoint in coming years for a smart meter is too much, considering what he sees as rather elusive benefits. "There's no mystery about how you save energy," says the 71-year-old retired furniture salesman. "You turn down the air conditioner and shut off some lights. I don't need an expensive meter to do that."
In other states, such concerns have led to the scaling back of smart-meter deployments.
Two years ago, Connecticut Light & Power Co. proposed to provide smart meters for all of its 1.2 million customers. "But then we heard from the Connecticut attorney general asking us, why don't you walk before you run?" says Mitch Gross, a spokesman for the utility. "He was concerned about the cost."
As a result, the utility will do a pilot program this summer to test customer acceptance of smart meters and variable pricing. Some 3,000 customers have volunteered, and the utility intends to see whether people cut energy use during times that prices rise. Some consumers will have "energy orbs" in their homes that change color, a visible indication of how prices are changing, as a way to stimulate behavior changes.
Instead of the estimated $255 million cost of a full meter deployment, the test will run $13 million.
Concerns have arisen in California, too, where the state's three big investor-owned utilities are expected to spend at least $4.3 billion for millions of new meters by 2012. Utilities already are looking at variable-pricing programs designed to discourage heavy use of electricity during peak periods like hot summer days. The meters, they hope, will make variable pricing more effective by giving people clear incentives to decrease energy use when wholesale energy prices are highest.
But consumer advocates in California also complain about the cost. "There are cheaper ways to meet the goal of reducing energy use," says Marcel Hawiger, an attorney for The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, in San Francisco, a consumer advocacy organization.
For instance, Mr. Hawiger favors expanding existing air conditioner-cycling programs, where utilities have the ability to control air conditioners so they take turns coming on and off, reducing the drag on the electric system. He says the air-conditioner controllers can provide much of the benefit at a fraction the cost of installing millions of smart meters. These programs control temperature settings and compressors to reduce overall energy use.
PG&E Corp., a San Francisco utility, estimated the cost of its meter program at $1.74 billion in July 2006, but recently got permission to spend an additional $467 million, pushing the cost to $2.2 billion for 5.4 million electric meters. It has installed 557,000 meters so far with the capability of letting consumers go online and read energy data. So far, however, only 12,000 consumers have taken advantage of it. PG&E says it hasn't yet marketed the program and it hasn't activated the home-area-network capability, which will allow people to take information and put it to work by setting up networks to control appliances, furnaces, air conditioners and other devices.
PG&E has 124,000 customers enrolled in an air-conditioning-cycling program and hopes to raise that number to 400,000 customers by the summer of 2011, but that will add $178 million in program expense. Each thermostat costs about $300.
It sees the two programs as complementary since the air-conditioning program reduces peak use but it requires meters to measure and time-date the reductions. Without both devices, air-conditioning use might drop, but a utility wouldn't know whether it happened in a peak pricing period or not. Smart meters "allow us to quantify peak reductions due to smart AC devices," says utility spokesman Paul Moreno, adding that both programs were "well examined" by the state Public Utilities Commission.
PG&E intends to educate customers about equipment that can be installed to form home networks, too, but won't sell the products or support the devices for at least a year or two. Mr. Hawiger says this means that there will be millions of smart meters bolted to homes but full functionality won't happen anytime soon, reducing the bang for the buck.
Southern California Gas Co. now is trying to get $1 billion for smart gas meters. TURN says the expenditure would be a waste of money because natural-gas pricing isn't subject to the volatility of electricity pricing, since gas can be stored but electricity can't. TURN is asking regulators at the Public Utilities Commission to turn down the request for funds.
The gas company says savings from reduced labor (1,000 meter-reader jobs would be eliminated) and transportation costs, among other things, would cover 80% of the estimated capital cost by 2015. Meter costs would push up monthly gas-service rates for residential customers by $2.50 a month, or 3%, in the initial years, but would be followed by reductions after 2017, once capital costs were recovered.
"There won't be rate shock," says Anne Shen Smith, senior vice president of customer service for Southern California Gas Co., a unit of Sempra Energy, San Diego.
Meanwhile, Pepco Holdings Inc. announced last month that it will buy more than 430,000 electric and gas meters for one utility unit, Delmarva Power, in what could be the first leg of a two million-meter rollout by 2013 for utilities it owns in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. The Delaware portion will cost about $100 million, or $235 per metered location, according to the company.
Pepco is starting with Delaware because "we offered more regulatory receptivity than other states," says Michael Sheehy, deputy director of the Division of the Public Advocate for the state. "The others were less convinced of the benefits."
Pepco says it hopes regulators in all states will want the meters once they see how useful they are. ===============
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Home Guy wrote:

It's worse than that. I just checked. The add-ons - smart meter, taxes, physical plant upgrade, escrow for New Year's Party, and so forth - vary between $20.66 and $31.56 for the past few months. Say an average of $25/month going to CenterPoint for miscellaneous items.
That's why I'm gonna disconnect the service to one-half of my duplex and convert its circuit breaker box to a sub-panel! I've got all the stuff (zip cord and the like); I'm just waiting for it to quit raining.
I did the same thing for the natural gas connection about a year ago and saved $17/month.
I mean, heck, $25/month is 300 bucks a year! As Patrick Monyihan said: "... pretty soon we're talking about real money."
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dpb wrote:

=============Public Citizen: "Energy Investment Forum, Building Green: Consumer Viewpoints on the Smart Grid," January 20, 2011, by Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizens Energy Program:
http://www.citizen.org/documents/EnergyInvestmentForumPres.pdf
See page 3, Overview of Problems:
- Mandatory installation of smart meters into homes is premature smart meters are being used in profoundly dumb ways
- Optimizing smart meters requires seamless and automatic communication with smart appliances and heating/cooling systems - but working families (and renters) have little incentive or opportunity to afford such appliances
- As a result, households are using the $200-$500 meters to respond to price signals manually and the tiny loads used by most families wont allow them to recover in energy savings the cost of the meter
- Smart meter installations have thus far prioritized utility budget efficiency not household budget efficiency.
- Poring through utility dockets, utilities make it clear that the vast majority of projected savings from smart meters is from laying off utility workers and not from consumers lowering their energy use and bills
- Utilities highlight savings from remote disconnection mainly for nonpayment. This raises serious consumer safety and health issues. (cutting off electricial service in the winter) ============= Something I didn't think about with the smartmeter is the ability to remotely turn on and off electrical service to a residence without needing a technical employee to perform the task manually. That goes hand-in-hand with the elimination of the meter-reader job.
And the ability for a utility to offer (or impose) pre-paid electrical service.
=============AARP, National Consumer Law Center, and Public Citizen Comments to: DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Smart Grid RFI: Addressing Policy and Logistical Challenges, November 1, 2010," written by David Certner Legislative Counsel and Legislative Policy Director, AARP Government Relations and Advocacy; Olivia Wein, Staff Attorney, National Consumer Law Center; Tyson Slocum, Director Public Citizen's Energy Program:
http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/oeprod/DocumentsandMedia/AARPNCLCPublic_CitizenCommentsDOE1101.pdf
A recent investigative news report from Texas (where deregulated electricity commodity vendors can offer service on a pre-paid only basis) tells of vulnerable pre-payment electricity customers being cut off without notice. Families with children have had to abandon their homes. A paraplegic who requires air conditioning to maintain a safe body temperature lost his electricity on days when the temperature exceeded 100 degrees.
A heart failure patient who needed power for an oxygen machine was cut off twice by her pre-payment meter in one summer.
The risks of disconnection by remote control or by automatic action of a pre-payment meter or service limiter are also shown in the case of a 90-year old Michigan man who froze to death in his own kitchen last winter. When he was found, there were funds to pay for his bill on the table. But he had missed a payment and the utility had installed a service limiter. When the service limiter tripped, the gentleman could not or did not know how to reset the limiter.
Customers whose utilities are disconnected have died from hypothermia, from fires set by candles used for lighting in the absence of electricity, and from other consequences of loss of power. The concern of consumer advocates over the dangers of involuntary remote controls on household usage cannot be overstated. ===========
============Also read Barbara Alexander's July 15, 2010, presentation "SMART REGULATORY APPROACH FOR SMART GRID INVESTMENTS," for the 2010 National Energy and Utility Affordability Conference (NEUC):
http://www.energyandutilityconference.org/Assets/2010%20Conference/2010%20Presentations/Plenary%201_Alexander.pdf . Among her points:
- Almost 50% of residential customers have very low price elasticities (less than -0.10); half will make very little usage changes
- YET all must pay for program; TURN found that 60% of customers who use less than 6,000 kWh annually would have to shift more than half their peak load to see bill savings when costs of AMI taken into account
- TURN concluded that only a relatively small group of high usage residential customers can realistically shift sufficient peak load to find bill savings.
- PUGET SOUND ENERGY: Mandatory TOU prices for all residential customers abandoned in 2002 when analysis showed negative cost benefit and higher, not lower, customer bills
- Elderly customers in newly built multi-unit condos and senior and low income housing complexes most adversely affected and without alternative options
- Utilities typically couple smart metering with the functionality of remote connection and disconnection of the meter
- These new meters may give rise to a host of degraded service options, e.g., prepayment (pay in advance and automatically disconnect when meter is not fed); service limiters
- Dynamic pricing does not empower customers; it presents a Hobsons Choice to many low use, low income, and elderly customers who must use electricity during peak hours for health and safety reasons (Chicago heat wave; over 700 deaths, mostly seniors living alone)
- A voluntary approach to dynamic pricing or relying on Peak Time Rebates is preferred approach; PTR has been successfully demonstrated to result is peak load reduction without TOU or CPP ================
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One thing I agree makes no sense to me is the idea that these smart meters are going to communicate with appliances, thermostats, etc. I can see billing at different rates during different time periods to encourage consumers to shift what demand then can. And I can see substantial savings from not having employees driving cars around to go read meters each month, which helps pay for the deployment. As I pointed out before, my water company did that a decade ago to save on meter reading.
But, I'm have a hard time figuring out why the electric meter needs to talk to the thermostat or the AC. As a consumer, knowing that the rates are cheaper at night, etc, I can just set the thermostat myself. About all you could really do would be some slight manipulation anyway. Like if you wanted the AC to go down to 72, you might set the thermosat to do it after 6pm, if the rate went down at that point. But it would seem I need to make that decision, not the meter.
I guess it could communicate with maybe the electric water heater, to make sure that goes on mostly at night. The pilot program idea, like CT is doing sounds like the right approach. That way they can find out how much energy shift is possible, how much it saves or doesn't save consumers, etc. The idea of a display inside that shows how much energy is being used and a colored light for the rate changes, etc is interesting. If people actually had something like that visually to look at it would be interesting to see if it did impact energy usage.
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On 4/15/2012 9:16 AM, Home Guy wrote:

I disagree. The camel's nose is in the tent. The door is open to charging you MORE for electricity. We won't be paying LESS for off-peak usage. We'll be paying MORE for peak usage.
Every month, my utility sends me an invitation to sign up for time-of-use metering. There's a surcharge for the privilege. If I switched ALL my use to the minimum-rate hours, I still wouldn't break even. It's gonna get worse.

Yep. There can be benefits as the smart grid evolves. Everything I've read suggests that the current crop of meters can't support what's needed. So, we'll be paying for yet another upgrade in the future.
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On 4/15/2012 3:34 PM, mike wrote:

Cheap energy has caused some negative issues int he past. There may (or may not) be benefits to charging more to customers and FORCING conservation on customers.
Those who do not wish to conserve can simply pay more. I think that's fair.
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It is my understanding that there were a substantial number of 'accuracy' complaints in California.
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Way Back Jack wrote:

Do the math... some customers can get a smart thermostat that evidently works with the smart meter and bumps the temp setting up a few degrees. Future smart appliances coming, maybe the fridge will shut down and the door locks during peak hours. Who knows? http://www.ogepet.com/programs/smarthours.aspx
Me? I put duct tape around the outer 18 inches of the screen on my big screen TV. The smaller picture size ought to save a bunch.
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On Sun, 15 Apr 2012 13:32:39 -0500, "Mr. Austerity" <"PrintMo.Money "> wrote:

I've been doing that for years but I've used this tape instead. I think it works better.
http://www.walmart.com/ip/15140648?adid "222222227000595437&wmlspartner=wlpa&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=&wl3690287910&wl4=&wl5=pla
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On Sun, 15 Apr 2012 13:32:39 -0500, "Mr. Austerity" <"PrintMo.Money "> wrote:

I just unplug the refrigerator and freezer on all odd numbered days of the month. That way my fridge & freezer are only using half as much electricity. I was thinking about just shutting off the main breaker for the whole house on all odd numbered days, but I just cant live without reading all the spam that comes in my email box on a daily basis.
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snipped-for-privacy@toyotamail.com wrote:

What did you do this past February 29th? Your fridge would be off two days in a row!
How did you plan for this situation? What problems did you encounter? Did you have to buy ice at Walmart?
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Um, do the same thing that you do the other eight other days of *every* year that have the same issue? ;-)
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Smart meters is a term that covers a multitude of sins. At the moment they are being portayed as fairly innocuous and helpful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_meter
However, this is a thin edge of the wedge scenario. In the future,they will be able to cut you off and increase charges remotely. They will be used for "load shedding" ie if ther eis a power shortage, they can cut selective people off. They are the precursor to the the "Smart Grid" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_grid
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On 4/15/2012 11:33 AM, Way Back Jack wrote:

I do enjoy the chance to log on to the interent and monitor my electrical usage per hour. I do not know if it's worth having these meters, but that's one feature I use and approve of.
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On 4/16/2012 8:11 AM, Peter wrote:

Reasons that come to mind: - uses the existing capacity more fully - less likely to need new power plants. - state regulatory agencies and legislatures are likely to be VERY interested in the above.
It is not like this is a new concern. For instance many companies have had a "demand" reading (peak use over maybe 15 minutes) on their electric meter for a long time. High "demand" results in a large utility bill 'penalty'. It is worth a lot of money for companies to avoid peaks by short time load shedding or even running backup generators for short periods. Or for residential, a second meter that has a lower rate for loads that can be turned off by the utility during the day.
Utilities have also been pushed real hard here to reduce energy consumption by promoting more efficient energy use by customers - like for instance CFLs. This is not in the short term interest of the utility.
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On 4/15/2012 8:33 AM, Way Back Jack wrote:

thousand printed circuit boards a few years ago that were used in a smart meter demonstration in Tacoma, WA. I can assure everyone there is no capability in any so-called smart meter to remotely shut off your electricity. In Oregon, that would in fact be illegal. To disconnect a customer's power, a service person must first determine there is no medical reason for service to be uninterrupted at that location. then they can pull the meter.
Second, I own an old farm house, started in 1924, that I had converted to heat pump with electric furnace back up. This entailed replacing the pole transformer and all to wiring to and including the first breaker box.
The old mechanical meter had been mounted decades ago and had to have the stainless locking ring ripped off to remove the meter. A new smart-meter was installed as part of the new wiring.
Due to not understanding the new programmable thermostat, the renter experienced enormous power bills. The power company insisted the meter was reading correctly and read the meter remotely from Salt Lake City during tests with the tenant. They even sent a service person to remove and physically test the meter.
Finally I was at my wits end and got the electrician to meet me at the house. He used his clamp-on meter to check his wiring and all was ok. We discovered the problem was the thermostat would kick in the backup heating anytime there was a 2 degree difference in temperature. The thermostat was set to 65 at night and 72 during the day. When set to constant 72, no backup ever came on. Problem solved!
While discussing the problem with the electrician, he told me a secret:
The old mechanical meter only read the power usage from one leg of the 240 volt line. Power usage at 120 volts on the other leg got by free. In addition, he said electricians would sometimes swap the metered legs so the excess usage of 120 volt appliances would not be read by the meter. This is why some people are able to use the 120 volt space heaters in certain rooms of their house with no increase in electrical usage/bill.
The new smart meter actually measures the power usage in both legs and determines the actual total power being used. This is why some customers see a big increase in their electric bill when the old mechanical meter is replaced with a smart-meter.
The meter reader uses a hand held transceiver to interrogate the smart meter. That is the only time the meter will ever transmit on it's VHF/UHF frequency.
When the meter is remotely read, as mine was, a very low frequency is used, somewhere in the 300-400 KHz area. The power levels and frequencies are so low they could never cause medical problems. If they did, your standard broadcast stations would not be useable.
I hope this story helps you understand a little more about electric meters. It will probably stir up more criticism, as well.
Paul in Central Oregon
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On 4/17/2012 4:09 PM, Paul Drahn wrote:

Pssssssst! Hey Paul! I got a bridge I'll sell ya. Interested?
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Yeah, that part didn't sound right to me either. Not sure if he's saying it was that way for the one particular meter that might be broken? But by saying electricians would swap the legs, it seems to imply that all the similar meters were only capable of recording power on one leg, which doesn't make sense. There are plenty of folks out there who would quickly take advantage of that and the utility would be giving away energy. Seems very odd.
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Paul Drahn wrote:

My old water meter was kinda like that, it only measured cold water not hot. The new meter measures them both and my water bill went up.
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