Seattle Smart Meter Update October 2016

120612toastedOctober 21, 2016

Less than two years ago, I made a $30,000 investment in solar power for my home, trying to be a good citizen and to do what’s right for the world in the age of climate change, and also, doing right for Seattle by mitigating City Light’s need to purchase expensive power on the open market during peak power usage periods. Yesterday, Dan Langdon (206-727-8777) at Seattle City Light informed me that my participation in the solar net metering program makes me ineligible to opt out of their impending “smart” meter rollout. Why? The short answer is that it’s simply not convenient for City Light.

When I signed up for a solar power system, I did not sign up to receive a smart meter. This is being imposed by a heavy handed bureaucracy pursuing goals which are not principally in the interests of the public ratepayers, but instead, the interests of corporate lobbyists, and government bureaucrats.

A couple of things seem clear: Seattle City Light wants to be able to say publicly that there is an opt out program, but in actual fact, they are making it extremely difficult if not impossible  for people to actually opt out. People living in apartments also are not eligible to opt out. (Hey apartment dweller, you may wish to check to see if you have a bank of twenty of these pulsing on the opposite side of your bedroom wall.)

According to a public records request, with very little advance publicity, 530 public comments opposing City Light’s opt out policy were received by them, and yet there has been no acknowledgment of any of those 530 comments. It seems they are being swept under the rug in an effort to push forward on the overall smart meter program before the distractions of the city budget and presidential election seasons have subsided and rate payers are suddenly face to face with the reality of the smart meter boondoggle.

While many have written and spoken about the foolishness of smart meter programs: They are a cleverly packaged greenwash, pushed by federal subsidies at the bidding of corporate lobbyists.  They save very little power. Cost overruns and project failures are the norm. They will leave the electrical power grid vulnerable to cyberattack (today a DNS attack on the east coast had a huge impact on the internet).

Insurance companies increasingly refuse to insure customers against anything to do with radio-frequency radiation (RFR). The health effects of RFR are significant when one examines the research from independent (non-corporate funded) scientists.  Smart meters represent a significant 4th Amendment privacy invasion – power companies will collect “granular” data about household energy consumption, a marketing bonanza which has already been exploited by California power utilities caught selling such information to third party private vendors.

All of that aside, despite the obvious flaws in the smart meter program, the Seattle City Council’s intent seemed clear when they stated that an opt-out program for consumers should be part of the package.  An analogy of the logic of opt out that applies here: When any technology company offers a software update, consumers are given a choice to agree to the terms or, if they do not like the terms, they do not have to download the update. These are standard contract terms for a democratic society.

Despite my opposition to the smart meter program, I naturally believed that when the opt-out program was announced, I would be eligible to opt out.  After all, I’ve already been self-reporting on meter reads (as directed by City Light) on an annual basis and could easily do this on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, simply by taking a photo of my entire meter (as I have been doing) and sending it in via email, paying a fair and modest opt-out fee in order to preserve my right to choose what technology is attached to my house, making my own informed decisions about the risks and benefits of a technology.

Acknowledging the controversy surrounding the vaccination issue, our state legislature has refrained from imposing mandatory vaccination laws. They have collectively reasoned that such a decision – to vaccinate or not – is best left up to families, based on the unique health situation and values of that family, without having them imposed by an authoritarian government. Smart meters, with their significant threat to health, their invasion to privacy, their risks of fire and electrical damage, etc. pose similar risks. If people want them, they should be free to choose, but nobody should be forced to accept one. Such basic freedoms are fundamental to a democracy.

Join the Resistance. To learn more about the “smart” meter issue and in particular, how to join forces with others in Seattle opposing “smart” meters, visit the website of the Safe Utility Meter Alliance NW. We need your support and advocacy! Write or call the City Council today. In closing, even if you disagree with one or several of the many reasons that activists have identified as to why “smart” meters programs are flawed, you owe it to yourself to at least follow the money. Once you see what a ride city ratepayers are being taken for, and recognizing the urgent unmet social needs that exist – schools, housing, transportation, etc. I think you will agree that there are far more important programs deserving of our finite financial resources. Thank you!

10 thoughts on “Seattle Smart Meter Update October 2016”

  1. I wish you would have stayed on topic. Your comments on vaccines are distracting, and your introducing this topic into this article causes me to doubt your integrity and knowledge re the issue you are supposedly writing about.

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    Hi Jordan,

    I will focus on your comments re: smart meters only since I don’t agree re: your vaccination comments (should have left that out of your post).

    As far as the smart meters…..
    I’m in exactly the same boat. I live in N. Seattle and have solar panels on my roof (since 2009). Installed them for exactly the same reasoning you give above in your post. Now am being forced to get new smart meters (one for house incoming power and one for solar power production).

    My two existing digital (non-communicating) meters on the side of the house work perfectly fine, aren’t very old, and I had to pay for them initially. These were put on in 2012 (after we had to remount our electrical service panel and inverter etc. on the side of our house after having all new siding put on the house (and new sheathing under the siding).

    Originally when the solar panels went on in 2009, I had kept my analog meters but then when the siding was done (2012), SCL made me buy these non-communicating digital meters and they took away my old analog meters….I had no choice. So I’m already irritated about all that because my old analog meters worked fine and I’m sure had decades of life left in them.

    Now I have to change my meters AGAIN? Ugh.

    What will happen to these partially used meters when they are taken off the houses? Will customers be pro-rated for the remaining meter life? Doubt it.

    Old analog meters can last for decades, non-communicating digital meters (like what I have now) can last for 10-15 yrs or longer, and new smart meters? Yeah…last like 5-7 yrs….so just as SCL finishes the last install of the last smart meter in the city, they will have to start over again replacing the very first ones with new smart meters. Ugh.

    From all I can gather these meters won’t be re-sold to others for re-use or be broken down for recycling or re-use of any kind. They will likely all go to the landfills. Ugh. What’s the cost for that? 430,000 meters, that may still be perfectly functional, likely going to the landfill.

    Doesn’t sound like a good plan to me just from the life of these smart meters. There has also been many more reports of heating up/fires from these smart meters (thus the need for SCL to try to “sell” us all on the “safety features” of these smart meters….”they come with a heat sensor so they are supposedly safer than an old meter!! Yeah!!”. Ugh.

    Being that they are “smart” technology, it appears they are just much higher risk because they aren’t just simple mechanical like the old analog meters, and so they HAVE TO HAVE a heat sensor…if one catches your house/elec panel on fire, not sure who is at fault either….SCL owns the smart meter, but I suspect they wouldn’t pay if my house burned down….and also I’m wondering if this “heat sensor” would even be able to alert SCL fast enough to keep your house from burning down?? I have this bad feeling that it wouldn’t tell them in time.

    Why do I as a solar customer, who was trying to do the right thing in the beginning (like you laid out in your post), have to be forced to “buy” new smart meters?

    I understand the concept of the whole smart meter system and smart grid, but this is infuriating to not be able to opt out.

    The small fee you have to pay when you opt out is not small…$125 one time fee (or even another $85 more if you don’t give them 2 weeks lead time), and then $16/month after that. The $16/month is supposed to be paying for the ongoing meter readers who will still have to come to your house because you wouldn’t have smart technology to send your meter readings to SCL.

    I have a lot of concerns from various angles (including privacy issues due to what the smart meters will be able to tell the city (when you use computers, TV, other electronic devices, and for how long? When will insurance companies want that info so they can charge you more if you are a couch potato? or what if you have a medical device that is plugged in and your smart meter can tell when you use it and for how long? And the smart meter can tell when you’re home, when you’re not, when you go to bed, when you wake up etc. All things I don’t want to have released to a 3rd party….however, right in City of Seattle’s website about what info is shared, the smart meter information conflicts right now with the city’s sharing of information via 3rd parties. So I don’t know where my information is going to end up, and in whose hands and for what purpose.

    I have written comments and these are currently submitted to SCL and am waiting for answers to come back. When I asked some basic questions earlier in the year, some of SCL’s answers were pretty pathetic.

    Mostly I am concerned of possible damage to my solar system….either during smart meter install, or due to things I’ve read about happening to other smart meter/grid systems in California where surges went back into the smart meter (from the grid) and destroyed appliances and the entire electrical panel & smart meter. No one in those situations has solar panels, but I would assume my panels would be fried too if that were to occur.

    So through my current interconnection agreement with SCL, I’m responsible for costs if I cause harm to SCL’s grid, but what if they fry my solar system? They told me (via email comments) “oh you would just file a claim with us for the damage and go through that process”….as if it was a daily occurrence. Great. That made me even more worried.

    I wonder if there is more risk to solar customers and we need to upgrade our insurance BEFORE smart meter install? or if insurance is even an option? (there may not be insurance to cover this kind of thing, not sure) Ugh.

    Any way, I am asking questions, hoping for answers, but frustrated about all this, have been researching for awhile now, but yes, SCL is making this whole program look like it’s great for the customer.

    But from all I can gather, I don’t get much out of it except the higher SCL electric rates (26.4% increase over 6 yrs).

    Not worth it for what I’m getting individually (nothing I don’t already know about my elec usage!! and I’m actually getting MORE risk to my solar system, and MORE risk to my privacy due to possible personal info getting hacked from a smart system etc).

    So it’s pretty upsetting to have SCL telling customers how great this will be (for customers) when I can’t see any benefits except more problems and a higher bill.

    If I get any further info of interest back from SCL (in response to my most recent written submittal), I’ll post that info here on your blog in a new comment.

    Here’s the latest info I’ve read from the city on all this.


    And then there is this…which gets at another question I’m asking SCL….who is responsible for making sure the meters are accurate? This is a huge problem, esp because of how SCL and the city already have policies laid out that makes the fault fall to the customer (i.e. you get the pay the bill if there is an error with your meter).

    The below is not my wording but a copy and paste.

    “A recent university study on the new electronic “smart” meters and overbilling found that the new electronic meters can over-measure electric current by as much as six times. “The greatest inaccuracies were seen when dimmers combined with energy saving light bulbs and LED bulbs were connected to the system.” Apparently the over measuring (and in fewer cases, under measuring) has something to do with the “waveform of the consumed electricity” and a type of coil used in many of the meters.
    Here’s the link to a Science Bulletin article on it”

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