smartmeter fallacies

The more smartmeters are scrutinized the more it becomes clear the emperor has no clothes.

We are told smartmeters save the cost of reading meters, but the smartmeter program has cost over $2 billion and millions of them have been installed, while PG&E has filed for over $1 billion in 15 electric rate increases since Dec 2009, and only one decrease unrelated to meters. Evidently we're being bamboozled. If it fails to deliver a rate reduction to consumers for meter-reading savings, then it has no basis to claim any meter-reading fee at all for smartmeter opt-outs. [ A.09-12-020, A.10-01-014, A.10-02-028, A.10-08-005, A.10-08-002, Sep2010 pumped storage (no number given), A.10-11-002, A.11-02-011, A.11-03-001, A.11-03-014, A.11-05-019, A.11-06-004, A.11-06-028, A.11-07-008, A.11-09-014; decrease: A.10-05-022; ]

Keeping an existing analog meter has no cost but it does cost to install a digital meter under the "opt-out" program. So the claim that smartmeter "opt-out" startup and exit fees have anything to do with actual costs or rationality is preposterous.

PGE's claim that it needs $20/month just to read the meter for smartmeter opt-outs is nonsense. There are thousands of customers whose entire electric bill is less than that, and PG&E has operated for years with a minimum electric bill of $4.50 to cover the cost not only of meter reading but also power production and billing.

In other states consumers can read their own meters or get estimated bills, and utilities are only required to read meters twice a year, which makes the cost inconsequential. [ Your Rights as a Residential Gas and Electric Utility Customer, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, ]

The postal service already has people visiting every residence and business. Contracting them to read meters would have miniscule incremental cost, even if opt-outs are widely scattered.

Installing smartmeters provides temporary jobs at the expense of laying off permanent jobs for meter reading. In the depths of a big recession is the worst possible time to be increasing unemployment.

PG&E claims smartmeters give consumers greater control of their energy use. A typical consumer has multiple devices and the biggest ones go on and off randomly. A smartmeter is almost worthless to figure out where the energy is going - to do that you need a separate meter on each device.

Smartmeters allow peak pricing and load shedding programs, which can benefit utility, consumers, and environment. This claim is true, but only applies to customers who sign up for such programs, currently a tiny percentage. It's irrational to force a smartmeter on others. Those who cannot move their peak demand, or have very small peak demand, will never yield enough peak savings to recover the cost of the smartmeter, so it will never make sense to put everybody on smartmeters. It's also unfair to penalize with smartmeter costs those whose usage is constant - they're already using efficient baseload production and are not contributing to demand for peak production.

While reducing the peak is desirable, the climate impact is far more significant, and it is determined by energy consumption, not peak demand. PGE's own report found 1.1 million smartmeters delivered zero energy savings. [ PG&E 2010 Program Year SmartMeter Program Enabled Demand Response and Energy Conservation Annual Report April 29, 2011 p10,p12 ]

It's jarring to hear PG&E talk about saving energy when it has pushed to reduce rates on the highest users and increase fees on the lowest users, thus systematically sabotaging incentives for making energy saving happen.

Advocates say smartmeters are needed for switching to renewable energy, but analog meters automatically run backward when somebody installs solar, while PG&E's smartmeters do not work with solar and must be replaced. So in fact, smartmeters create obstacles to renewables.

Even if we accept all the arguments in favor of smartmeters, it's bizarre to use a mobile technology (wireless) for inherently stationary devices.

PGE's comparison of exposures divides the smartmeter field by 100 or more but assumes the microwave oven is always on and you stand near it 24 hours a day. That's dishonest. [ Understanding Radio Frequency Analysis of RF Fields Associated with Operation of Automatic Meter Reading Systems, Richard Tell Associates, ]

The claim that no adverse health effects of wireless radiation have been established is not true. Health effects are found in 2/3 or more of independent studies but 1/3 or less of industry-funded studies. [ ]

In short, every argument for smartmeters is riddled with fallacies. While the program may benefit some, the way it's being implemented provides dubious or no value for many. At the very least participation must be voluntary with no cost to consumers for declining.

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