Wireless Meter Opt-Out – Why and How To Do It

‘Smart’ Meter Pushback Report
In this edition we look at some of the whys and hows PG&E customers may now consider opting-out of the utility’s ill-conceived wireless ‘smart’ meter rollout plan. We also look at critical responses of movement activists to the CPUC’s interim opt-out plan, then at personal privacy perils, corporate data collection dangers and wireless energy grid security risks. In short, why ‘smart’ is on pace to rank as the New Stupid, and why wise public opposition to a wireless energy grid is growing nationally and internationally.

‘Hey! We won – sort of – with more to come!

By Mary Beth Brangan

You may recently have received a certified letter from PG&E and a robo call telling you that you now have the option until May 1 to choose to keep your analog meter or have a ‘smart’ meter installed. Happy day! Except for the ridiculous ‘interim’ fee of $75 up front and $10 extra monthly (to discourage opt outs) and a few other potential pitfalls to watch out for.

A Milestone Won, The Pushback Continues

We aren’t finished with this yet. There is a Phase Two in the CPUC’s opt out legal proceeding and EON is a legal party in the negotiations. The current fees are “interim fees” and may be changed as a result of the discussion in Phase Two.

Our movement is still fighting against this fee extortion but we must first fight against it in the court of the very entity that mandated the ‘smart’ meters in the first place and then charged the fee, the California Public Utility Commission, CPUC.

There are legal challenges coming from our movement both in the CPUC court and later in the state and federal courts. We are absolutely opposed to forcing people to pay to NOT to have something on their homes that they didn’t ask for and that may harm them in many ways and that emits what the International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC) classified as a class 2B carcinogen.

We’re also determined to get community-wide opt outs, since if neighbors have the RF pulsing meters, they still can effect you, by adversely affecting your health from the meters directly or by the “dirty electricity” that will be pulsing throughout the grid wherever there are ‘smart’ meters installed. You can’t opt out of ‘dirty electricity.’ Also, so far, the opt out only applies to residences, not businesses. That is reprehensible.

Actually there are so many reasons to be against this ill-conceived ‘smart grid’ that the whole plan needs to go back to the drawing board. (For the reality of the privacy issues – essentially surveilling you in your home and the reality of national security issues that will be endangered by making the grid so vulnerable to hacking because of wireless meters – see the GAO and the CRS for instance.)

For all these reasons and even more, many activists in the movement are advocating resisting PG&E’s protection racket by not paying the ‘opt out’ fee and are calling for the complete abandonment of the whole disastrous ‘smart’ grid plan.

But in the meantime, here are some things to consider about the current opt out situation:

If you have a smart meter, you now can have it changed to an analog. Many people with smart meters are experiencing (1) higher utility bills, (2) health problems and (3) interference with or damage to electrical devices in their homes. Paying $75 + $10/month to have the smart meter removed may be worth it for some people just to avoid the higher electrical bills, not to mention medical bills.

Then there are the RF radiation pulses. PG&E has admitted in legal filings with the CPUC that each smart meter pulses RF radiation between 10,000 and 190,000 times per day—quite a different account of the radiation than PG&E had previously been reporting in the media.

The County Health Department of Santa Cruz did a report on smart meter health issues, and they concluded that the RF radiation from smart meters poses a significant risk to human health, and that government regulatory bodies should exercise much more caution in such a wide-spread roll-out. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine recently wrote a letter to the CPUC stating that the smart meter program should be halted. .

PG&E needs our fees? Really?

PGE claims that the charges cover meter readers that won’t be needed by those with ‘smart’ meters. But we’re already paying for meter readers in our bills. Plus we’re paying for the $2.2 Billion ‘smart’ meters – about $300 per customer…

So, someone opting out is paying multiple times, for a ‘smart’ meter they don’t want and won’t get, plus twice for meter readers. There are no refunds for the increased rates for unused ‘smart’ meters – or for the new accounting systems they will require. PG&E wants to charge those of us opting out for the separate accounting system, but it already exists and has been paid for by our current charges.

You can also register your objection to the extortionate charges on www.SmartMeterHelp.com the main site for complaints. This site will route your complaint to all relevant officials.

Thoughts on ‘opting out’

The number to call to have the smart meter replaced by PG&E is 866-743-0263. You can also call that number to state you will keep your analog. To do it on-line, the PG&E website is here.PG&E wants to know by May 1.

Some in the movement say to delay until May with your decision, to avoid paying the fee until the last minute. Others claim that a vice President of PG&E promised in a personal conversation that they won’t charge until May anyway. You’ll have to decide when you take action. Just don’t forget to do it if you decide to wait, since after May 1, they will assume you want a ‘smart’ meter if you don’t tell them otherwise.

If you still have your analog meter, be sure that PG&E doesn’t change it to a ‘new’ analog meter. Some meters have been replaced with a quasi-‘smart’ meter that still emits dangerous RF. Be sure to continue to guard your meter and insist on being there when any PG&E employee is dealing with your meter. Don’t let them bully you into accepting a replacement analog meter, unless yours is truly 90 years old. Let us know if they try to do that.

If you have a ‘smart’ meter already and want to get rid of it asap, which is a good idea so you won’t be injured, overcharged or surveiled, you can write “paid under protest” on your check. Avoid signing anything that may limit your right to sue later if we bring a class action lawsuit, which many want to do.

All fees paid for opting out (of something we never opted into in the first place) should be marked “paid under protest” on your check to enable further legal action if necessary.

You might qualify for low-income electricity rates through CARES or FERA. If you do, the opt-out fee is $10 up front and $5 extra monthly.

Mary Beth Brangan – marybeth@eon3.net


PG&E customers say CPUC opt-out ruling is a cop-out. EON photo.

Some Marin SmartMeter opponents dismiss PG&E’s opt-out plan
Some aren’t pleased with meter alternative that comes at a price
Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 1:10 PM PST
By Jessica Mullins – Marinscope Twin Cities Times

At long last, PG&E customers have an alternative to SmartMeters. But Mill Valley’s Judi Shils, a longtime critic of the meters’ wireless technology, has nothing good to say about the colossal power utility’s fee-based opt-out plan.

“The whole thing is so reprehensible,” said Shils, founder and director of the Sausalito-based environmental advocacy group Teens Turning Green. Shils said it’s “absurd” that PG&E will charge customers (especially those complaining of health impacts) to keep a regular analog meter.

But the opt-out plan, which the California Public Utilities Commission approved unanimously Feb. 1, needs fees to cover manual meter-reading costs, PG&E spokesperson Greg Snapper told Marinscope Newspapers. Customers will pay a $75 initial setup charge and a $10 monthly charge. Those who qualify for low-income rates will pay a $10 setup charge and $5 a month.

PG&E had originally proposed higher fees for the program, Snapper said. “It’s going to be costly to maintain a second meter-reading program,” he said, adding that meter readers would be deployed sporadically, since PG&E has installed about 90 percent of its SmartMeters in California.

SmartMeter installations are 80 percent complete in Marin County, where PG&E had around 216,000 gas and electric meters to upgrade, Snapper said.

Shils and other opponents claim the meters’ electromagnetic signals cause health issues including headaches and trouble sleeping. She said her SmartMeter turns her into “Judy Jetson. I’m in outer space,” she said. The meter makes her feel dizzy, causes heart palpitations and makes her “head feel like it’s going to explode.” She said it wasn’t fair that people who are sensitive to the meters must now pay to avoid them.

But PG&E officials stress that dozens of scientific studies prove the meters aren’t harmful.

“We want to reassure our customers our SmartMeters are safe,” Snapper said. “They are part of the numerous radio-frequency-emitting devices in our society. We still respect and understand that some consumers don’t want them and they can continue living a wireless-free life where they can. We will be fulfilling their request.”

A January 2011 California Council on Science and Technology report revealed the radiation from the meters is dwarfed by the radiation from items such as cellphones and microwave ovens, and that the actual radiation falls well within Federal Communications Commission guidelines.

But Bolinas resident Mary Beth Brangan, co-director of the Ecological Options Network, said she knew of several cases where people became so ill from the SmartMeters they had to leave their homes. “No one is immune to this. It’s going to affect everyone. It’s just some people respond and get sick faster and others get sick and don’t make the connection,” she said.

Brangan went so far as to compare PG&E’s opt-out rates to “extortion.”

“People will be priced out of being able to opt out,” Brangan said. “It’s like a mafia solution. If you pay us enough we won’t make you sick.”

But not all Marin residents are opposed to the plan. Novato’s Dennis Hagerty wrote: “If people don’t want a SmartMeter it costs more for the utility. Let those people pay extra. I do not believe in the alleged ‘health risks.’ ”

He added that the technology, which lets customers closely track their energy usage and is part of a larger “smart grid” system, is helping people save money.

Program to use refurbished analog meters

For people who opt out of the SmartMeter program, PG&E officials will replace the meters with analog meters unless they still have their original meter.

The analog meters are “older-style meters that are no longer manufactured,” Snapper said. PG&E is purchasing them from an East Coast vendor who is refurbishing them. “These do not have any communication components or hardware. These are the ones with spinning dials and mechanical parts.”

Snapper added that the meters must be PG&E approved — customers can’t use their own meters.

Shils said she had been planning on installing her own analog meter in her home before the opt-out option surfaced, and she still plans to install it this week. “I don’t trust them. I don’t want their meter. I probably will get my electricity turned off. At this point my health is more important.”

Communitywide plan on horizon

Brangan said the opt-out plan is “too late.” A second phase in the CPUC-instructed opt-out proceedings will include a “communitywide opt-out option,” which Brangan argues should have come first. “Neighbors’ meters are still going to be able to harm you.”

Snapper said officials don’t yet know what the community opt-out plan will entail, but added that PG&E will be in “full support” of the decision the CPUC makes about the option.

Brangan said a communitywide opt-out could especially appeal to the roughly 10 counties and 38 cities and towns in California (including Marin County and Fairfax) that levied a SmartMeter ban.

Brangan said anti-SmartMeter efforts picked up steam two years ago in Marin. “All over the world people are watching what’s going on here with PG&E and the SmartMeter,” she said.

Residents, Marin city councils and the Marin Board of Supervisors began voicing loud opposition to PG&E’s rapid installation of the gas and electric meters in 2010. While some expressed concern about health impacts from the meters’ signals, invasion-of-privacy concerns and billing inaccuracies, a common message sent to PG&E focused on customers’ lack of alternatives to SmartMeters.

In 2010 Fairfax and the county of Marin passed emergency moratoriums banning SmartMeters. In June 2010 the city and county of San Francisco filed a petition with the CPUC to suspend SmartMeter installation until an investigation looking at billing inaccuracies was complete. Fairfax joined in the petition and the Marin Board of Supervisors, Sausalito City Council, Novato City Council and Ross Town Council all agreed to submit a letter that supported the petition and asked PG&E to suspend installation.

The investigation report, which was released in September 2010, found that PG&E’s SmartMeters functioned properly but the utility company did not effectively address customer concerns.

San Rafael city officials and the Sausalito City Council were among the local municipalities that agreed to send a letters to the CPUC and PG&E asking for a permanent opt-out program for residents who did not want a SmartMeter.

Although the Marin Board of Supervisors voted to impose a one-year moratorium on SmartMeter installations, PG&E said it would not halt installations, and the county sheriff announced he would not enforce the ban.

Some residents took it upon themselves to reject SmartMeters.

Brangan was one of several West Marin residents who halted the private contractor PG&E hired to install the meters, Wellington Energy. “We literally chased the Wellington trucks out of West Marin and we went to the Wellington truck yard in Sonoma and tried to block the trucks there.”

On Dec. 29, 2010, two women were arrested in Inverness Park in unincorporated Marin County in a protest against SmartMeter installations.

PG&E customers can request to opt out of the SmartMeter program online at pge.com/smartmeteroptout or by calling 866-743-0263.

Contact Jessica Mullins at jmullins@marinscope.com.

Consumer Profiling

Privacy Issues:

from Naperville Smart Meter Awareness:

Detailed Data Derived from Smart Meters

On February 3, 2012, the following report “Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress,” was published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and authored by three legislative attorneys. The CRS is one of the primary research organizations of the federal government and is operated by Congress to research issues of importance to the nation. They are also nonpartisan.

Readers will be shocked to know what kind of detailed information can be derived from “smart” meters. With alarming accuracy, exactly which appliances are being used at any given time is possible even with 15-minute incremental data taken from the smart meter. A pretty accurate profile of the activities within a home is depicted in the NIST chart below. The City of Naperville is using NIST as its standards, according to their NSGI Customer Privacy and Advocacy Handbook.


For the best parts, read pages 7-8:

“By examining smart meter data, it is possible to identify which appliances a consumer is using and at what times of the day, because each type of appliance generates a unique electric load “signature.””

“NIST wrote in 2010 that “research shows that analyzing 15-minute interval aggregate household energy consumption data can by itself pinpoint the use of most major home appliances.”

“Similarly, software-based algorithms would likely allow a person to extract the unique signatures of individual appliances from meter data that has been collected less frequently and is therefore less detailed.”

A wireless energy grid and cyber-security don't mix.

Grid Security Issues:
Smart Grid Legal News

Recently, PJM CEO Terry Boston stated in his interview with us that security of the electric grid is a critical issue. As cyber threats to the nation’s electrical grid become increasingly sophisticated and dynamic, the Department of Energy is continuing to work closely with the Department of Homeland Security, other government agencies and industry to reduce the risk of energy disruptions due to cyber incidents. Last September, the Department released the Roadmap to Achieve Energy Delivery Systems Cybersecurity and a Draft Cybersecurity Risk Management Process Guideline that seeks to establish frameworks and processes to help the electricity sector manage cybersecurity risk. Read more.

Smart Grid Security Blogspot
from Joe Weiss of Applied Control Solutions:
Jim Lewis may not be aware that more than 200 actual control system cyber incidents have occurred to date. There have been more than 20 control system cyber incidents in the North American electric grid including three major cyber-related electric outages and 2 nuclear plants shut down from full power. Unfortunately, even though the batting average is still low, it is not miniscule anymore. Read more.

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