Deflating the Propaganda Argument on How Smart Meter Opt-Outs Shift Extra Costs to Ratepayers

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions 

In order to penalize consumers who do not wish to take on the additional safety and security risks associated with smart meters, utilities typically charge those customers punitive fees.  They justify or rationalize these fees by proclaiming that other customers should not subsidize the few consumers refusing smart meters.

In actuality, those customers refusing smart meter risks are simply requesting a “same level of service” with a traditional analog meter.  Logically, in those circumstances, why should there be any change in how the customer is billed for electric service?

Additionally, however, even while a customer is paying a punitive fee for a smart meter refusal, they nearly always are also paying for the infrastructure costs associated with having a smart meter, even though they don’t have a smart meter.  Does that seem “fair”, i.e., being charged twice?  This issue was discussed at the March 14, 2017, Michigan House Energy Policy meeting chaired by Representative Gary Glenn.  Highlights from that meeting are provided below.

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Secure Your Family from Cyber Threats with an Analog Meter, Says Michigan State Senator

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions secure-your-family-and-home-with-analog-meter

The Michigan House Energy Policy Committee has been conducting hearings on legislation that would restore consumer protections regarding the type of meters that are installed upon their personal property by utility companies.  I provided coverage of these hearings in two previous articles. [1] [2]

In this article I would like to focus on the March 7, 2017, testimony of state Senator Patrick Colbeck, who says:

“One of the ways our citizens can secure their own family from [the] threats to our power grid is to opt out of so-called smart meters and retain analog meters, which have served us well for decades.  Cybersecurity threats today are very real.” [3]

“Against this increased risk, there is little to no consumer benefit to the adoption of smart meters.” [3]

State Senator Colbeck referenced previous testimony where nationally recognized cybersecurity expert Cynthia Ayers stated that smart meters increase our security risk because, as integral components in a digital network, hackers can use smart meters to remotely shut down power to one or more consumers. [2] [3]

Senator Colbeck says HB 4220 must be passed in order to give consumers true choice with our monopolistic utilities and to sever any notions that people must choose between new technology they don’t want and being able to keep the power on for their own property. [3]

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Expert Testimony on Smart Meters/Grid: “Retain analog systems to the extent possible.”

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

Cynthia Ayers is a national security threat analyst, currently working as an independent consultant within the Mission Control and Cyber Division of the Center for Strategic Leadership, U.S. Army War College.  She is also serving as Deputy to the Executive Director of the Congressionally sponsored Task Force on National and Homeland Security.

On March 7, 2017, Ayers presented testimony before the Michigan House Committee on Energy Policy.  Her testimony included an analysis of how smart meters introduce safety and security threats to the electric grid and to civilization itself.  Excerpts from the written testimony [1] include the following:

“My testimony will concentrate on the possibility of a catastrophic cyber attack to the systems we depend on for the delivery of electricity – the lifeblood of our modern civilization. …

As our electric grid becomes ‘smarter’ and more networked, it also becomes more vulnerable, making it a very inviting – perhaps the most inviting – target for adversaries.  Threats specific to smart grid technology range from the tactical (e.g., house-to-house, building to building) to the national strategic level.  As with cyber activities world-wide, operational attacks against small, inconspicuous elements (smart meters, for example) could ultimately have a much larger, truly catastrophic impact to the grid and to the society it sustains.

Although security can always be improved, all networks, all systems – virtually anything computerized – can be hacked.  As systems become more highly networked, it becomes easier for attackers to locate ‘backdoors’.  Multiple ‘smart’ appliances and other home or business devices are being developed and sold on the market, with the assumption that IoT (Internet of Things) networking and metering will soon be (if not already) commonly available.

Demand for full optimization of smart meters will ultimately rule out limited, billing-only usage (e.g., Meter to Cash or M2C).  The number of gaps in security will multiply per person, per household; and a successful ingress of any ‘backdoor’ could have detrimental effects on neighbors, communities, regions, states, the nation and beyond (e.g. Canada and Mexico).  Passive cyber defenses will be of prime importance, yet ubiquitous usage of components will only serve to increase gaps in security, regardless of the options given to consumers.

Smart meters can provide digital backdoors to facilities (e.g. the home, office, building, etc.) via the items within (e.g. televisions, refrigerators, thermostats, etc.).  They can also allow access to multiple components of external electric infrastructure.  Therefore, the use of smart meters must be carefully evaluated in the context of threats to personal safety as well as the safety of the grid. …

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