June Update & OPT-OUT!

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AMI Meter Deployment has Begun

“Smart” meters, now called the new “standard” electric meters, are starting to roll out inopt-out the Seattle City Light (SCL) territories, causing a resurgence of the discussion about the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project and all of its implications. This newsletter will review the main reasons to cancel the project and to demand an analog meter option. You are invited to participate in a letter writing campaign and reach out to others in your community. Suggestions at the end.

SCL Revenue Shortfall & AMI Deployment Cost Overruns

Recently, Seattle City Light has been under scrutiny from the Seattle City Council (SCC) for issues related to revenue shortfalls for the past 5 years and cost overruns of the AMI Deployment project. These issues are related. For SCL, the AMI Deployment is about dramatically cutting operational costs to offset the decreasing revenue trend, which is expected to continue. SCL customers have already seen increased rates over the last several years to primarily enable the AMI and the Denny substation projects. None of the operational savings that SCL will create will be passed on to the customer; on the contrary they are now looking into how to restructure their billing to counter the decreasing retail electricity demand and still maintain revenue. We will be watching this discussion closely.

ACLU Against Seattle’s AMI Deployment

ACLU sent a letter to Seattle City Council on May 26, 2017 over privacy concerns. ACLU is demanding stronger privacy safeguards around the data collection and third-party access to that data. They are also concerned that SCL customers have not been adequately informed about the AMI deployment to enable their actual consent and that the Opt-Out Policy is meaningless and expensive. Read the details here.

Opt-Out and Demand Analog Option

Michigan has introduced a bill, HB 4220, that would allow citizens to opt-out of the state’s AMI program and retain their analog meters. Hearings have been held and several state Senators and Representatives have testified on the lack of value from the “smart” meter deployment and the significant risk to safety and security; Michigan State Senator Patrick Colbeck is one of the proponents of this bill, here is his testimony.

The AMI project in Seattle does not provide any benefit to the customer either, only detriment, in higher rates and greater risk. The only way that SCC or SCL will change their direction is if enough constituents and customers stand up and speak out. SCL has offered an opt-out from the new microwave emitting “standard” meters, but that does not adequately protect the customers or community. The opt-out will mean that a customer will get a non-transmitting (non-microwave) new “standard” meter. Though the non-transmitting meter is better than the transmitting one, it does not alleviate the increased costs nor the bulk of risks associated with a digital meter. The ONLY solution is to demand the option to have an analog meter.

  • Larry Weis, General Manager at SCL, said he would make analog meters available for people who opt-out in a meeting with SUMA-NW on April 4, 2016. He was going to hang on to the ones that were still good.  SCL is now saying that they cannot provide analog meters. The meter industry has killed the analog market to secure the demand for inferior digital meters that need to be replaced more frequently.  “Analog meters are no longer available,” is a contrived story. Austin Power in Austin, TX, where Mr. Weis was the former CEO, has an analog meter opt-out policy as do other places in the US.  Austin Power uses refurbished analog meters from Hialeah Meter Company in Florida to satisfy the opt-out policy.  They are equal or better than new. SCL’s claim that digital meters are more accurate than analog meters is also a myth.
  • The payment burden for deploying the AMI system is born by the customers and opt-out customers will pay twice, rates have already increased, electricity bills will increase, and they will pay an opt-out fee and an additional per billing cycle charge. See Michigan Representative Gary Glenn testimony.
  • The following table shows the comparison of digital meters to analog meters. All meters will be digital from now on unless the public speaks up. The AMI meter will be an RF transmission meter and the Opt-Out will be a plain digital meter without RF transmission.
Digital Meters Analog Meters
Electricity usage is calculated (not measured) and probably time averaged, which will cause usage to be higher see Engineer William Bathgate’s explanation.* Electromechanical measurement as accurate as digital meters.**
Weather conditions like temperature and humidity can affect accuracy. Not susceptible to weather conditions.
Use electricity to operate thereby increasing electricity usage that costs you more. Does not use electricity.
Meter readers are replaced with 24/7 AMI IT staff Implementing self-reading program will save on meter readers.***
Does not reduce overall CO2. Zero impact on environment.
Increased fire hazard, especially with RF transmission. Not known to cause fires.
Transmitting meters pose cyber security threat. (Cynthia Ayers is a national security threat analyst testifies for the Michigan House Committee.) Do not pose a cyber security threat.
Are hackable. Not hackable.
Creates privacy breach through the collection of granular electricity usage data that can reveal intimate details about what is going on inside a person’s home that thrid-party entities have access to. No data collection.
Subject to catastrophic failures, such as power surges, lightning strike. Not subject to catastrophic failures.
Creates electromagnetic interference (EMI) which places a destructive burden on appliances (refrigerator) and electronics (computer) on a circuit. Not compliant to FCC rules for “conducted” emissions (EMI/RFI) class A or B. No EMI.
Life span of 5-15 years, AMI 5-9 years, non-transmitting digital can last 15 years Last for over 40 years.
Remote disconnect and outage detection features have been benched (for transmission meters only) because of project cost overruns. The default will be the same as for analog meters. The remote disconnect, if and when implemented will increase the fire hazard. Outage detection by phone (still the primary method in AMI areas) and disconnects done manually. Outage detection at substations are currently effective and sufficient.

*This report specifically addresses the specific meters to be deployed in the SCL area, and thoroughly explains Accuracy, EMI/RFI, and Security/Privacy issues.

**Both meters comply to the same standards, ANSI C12, therefore meet same specifications for accuracy.

***If meter readers are too costly, then implement a self-reading program as is done in most rural areas for those who prefer an analog meter.

The AMI meter is the Landis & Gyr FOCUS RXR-SD, the Opt-Out meter is the L&G FOCUS AXR. Ideally, an Analog meter would be an option. For further clarification of the different meters and their electromagnetic profiles click here.

Meter Model EMR/Microwave /RF EMI/RFI – Electric Fields from Interference
FOCUS RXR-SD YES YES
FOCUS AXR NO YES
Analog NO NO

 

Actions:

  1. Opt-Out – applications are available here. We recommend:
    1. Do not include personal health information in the reasons field, simply state “health concerns”; other reasons stated simply could be: violation of 4th Amendment, fire risks, privacy risks, cyber security threats to power grid, or just personal reasons.
    2. Send it via certified mail
    3. Attach or include a letter demanding an analog meter option (suggested letter template below).
  2. Contact Seattle City Council members (they are the decision body for SCL)

If you have SCL as your electricity provider, please write, call, and/or fax the Seattle City Council and especially your own councilmember and cc: SCL General Manager Larry Weis. If not in Seattle, then cc: your own city council along with the Seattle City Council. Those on the Energy Committee are denoted by an * after their name.  Tell them you want an analog meter option (suggested letter template below). Please consider both emails and phone calls if you have time.

Fax: 206-684-8587, ATTN: Seattle City Council Members

Kshama Sawant*: 206-684-8016 kshama.sawant@seattle.gov
Lorena Gonzalez*: 206-684-8802, Lorena.Gonzalez@seattle.gov
Debora Juarez *: 206-684-8807, Debora.Juarez@seattle.gov

Sally Bagshaw: 206-684-8801, sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov
Tim Burgess: 206-684-8806, tim.burgess@seattle.gov
Bruce Harrell: 206-684-8804, bruce.harrell@seattle.gov
Lisa Herbold: 206-684-8803, Lisa.Herbold@seattle.gov
Mike O’Brien: 206-684-8800, mike.obrien@seattle.gov
Rob Johnson: 206-684-8808, Rob.Johnson@seattle.gov

Larry Weis: 206-684-3200, Larry.Weis@seattle.gov

3. Share the message

Share this message to everyone; there must be hundreds of people to have any affect. Forward to all your friends and family in the Seattle area, post it on your Facebook and/or your neighborhood’s Next Door. Seattle City Light (SCL) also services people in Burien, Lake Forest Park, Normandy Park, Renton, SeaTac, Shoreline, and Tukwila.

Letter Template

For your subject line we suggest:

OPT-OUT SHOULD INCLUDE ANALOG METER OPTION


To whom it may concern:

I am opting out of the AMI meter, but do not want a digital meter at all. I demand that Seattle City Light provide an analog meter option. It is becoming known, because of testimony in the Michigan House and Senate, that AMI meters are a significant cyber security threat and that even the non-radio transmitting meters are inferior to analog meters and pose a risk to my safety, security and privacy.

  1. An analog meter option exists in a number of states, like Austin Power in Austin, TX where SCL GM Larry Weis oversaw that opt-out policy.
  2. Analog meters are safer for electrical equipment, appliances, and aged wiring.
  3. Analog meters are as accurate as digital meters and may be more accurate in extreme weather.
  4. Analog meters last for over 40 years, whereas the opt-out meter will only last 15 years at most.
  5. As a Seattle City Light customer I am already paying through my rates for the AMI, and will be penalized for opting out and forced to pay a per billing cycle fee for a new digital meter that may incorrectly increase my usage through internal computer errors that cannot be audited or appealed.
  6. An analog meter will protect my privacy. The new meters collect granular electricity usage data that can reveal intimate details about what is going on inside a person’s home that third-party entities have access to. The ACLU has detailed these issues and neither SCL nor SCC has adequately recognized the issues or mitigated them, violating constitutional rights without the consent or knowledge of the public.

I request to be notified before the date of my scheduled meter replacement that I will have the option CHOOSE ONE: to retain my analog meter, or have my digital meter replaced with a refurbished analog meter.

Regards,

 


 

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ACLU makes Privacy Demands

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Seattle’s Smart Meter Project Lacks Protections for Privacy

ACLU of Washington Press Release May 26,2017

The ACLU of Washington is raising significant concerns about the lack of protections for privacy, as well as lack of transparency, in the implementation of Seattle City Light’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure.  The project involves installation of smart meters which gather data that can reveal intimate details about what is going on inside a person’s home.  Yet there are no clear and explicit checks and balances to restrict the government or third parties from using or selling smart meter data for purposes unrelated to the provision of electricity, and the City’s Privacy Impact Assessment for the project is unclear and inadequate.

“The new smart meters collect much more detailed data and do so more frequently than City Light’s previous electrical meters.  But the project fails to comply with the principles of the Seattle’s Privacy Program, and there is no meaningful opportunity for the individuals to offer informed consent,” said Shankar Narayan, ACLU of Washington Technology and Liberty Director.

In a letter to the Seattle City Council, the ACLU urged the City to adopt clear and binding guidelines around what data smart meters collect, who accesses the data, what the data can and cannot be used for, and what informed consent must be given before the meters are deployed. The ACLU points out that the option to opt-out offered by the City currently is inadequate, meaningless, and expensive. Under the City’s plan, third parties will be accessing this sensitive data, and those third parties should be bound not to sell the data or use it for unrelated purposes.

Opting out will cost an individual $124.43 as a one-time “administrative fee,” plus $15.87 per billing cycle. “Exercising one’s right to opt out shouldn’t mean opting in to excessively costly fees,” said Shankar Narayan.

ACLU-WA website

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Bill Bathgate AMI Meter Analysis

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Bill Bathgate, an Electrical and Mechanical Engineer, has looked at the Landis & Gyr Focus meters that Seattle City Light is rolling out for the AMI deployment.  In this presentation he goes into detail about the accuracy fallacy, privacy and security issues, and Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) non-compliance to FCC regulations.

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Meter EMF Clarification Notes

Digital vs. Analog meters

  • Digital meter
    analog meter

    Analog Meter

    • electronic (has a circuit board and an SMPS – Switching Mode Power Supply)
    • sensitive to environmental conditions (temperature, humidity)
    • cause EMI
    • life span – 5 to 15 years (AMI meters have a shorter life span than non-communicating meters)
    • increased fire risk
  • Analog meter
    • electromechanical
    • life span – 40 to 75 years

AMI vs. AMR meters

  • Advanced Metering Infrastructure (wireless)
    • 2-way communication using microwave band frequencies
    • Electricity usage meters
    • Able to disconnect remotely
    • Gas meters may be able to use network
  • Automated Meter Reading  (can be digital or analog)
    • 1-way communication
    • Requires meter reader to drive by with receiver to capture data
    • Used for gas, water and electricity metering
  • Both meters based on pager technology from the 1980’s

New Standard meter for Seattle City Light

  • Transmitting meter – Landis & Gyr FOCUS RXR-SDFocus RXR
  • Non-transmitting – Landis & Gyr FOCUS AXR

Focus AXR

  • Descriptions of all models:
    • FOCUS AX – A solid state energy and demand meter.
    • FOCUS AXR – The FOCUS AX meter with an internal pulse recorder.
    • FOCUS AX-SD – The FOCUS AX meter with a service disconnect switch.
    • FOCUS AXR-SD – The FOCUS AX meter with an internal pulse recorder and service disconnect.
    • FOCUS RXR – The FOCUS AXR meter programmed with a second energy function (kvarh or kVAh). The meter is only capable of displaying one approved demand function.
    • FOCUS RXR-SD – The FOCUS AXR meter programmed with a second energy function (kvarh or kVAh) and service disconnect. The meter is only capable of displaying one approved demand function.

Electromagnetic Profiles

  • Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) is also called Radio Frequency (RF) or microwave radiation
    • The FOCUS RXR-SD transmits at 900MHz and 2.5GHz (like a wireless modem or router)
    • AMI is a Wi-Fi network (wireless, like an Internet modem) and is similar to cell phone networks.
    • High intensity, pulsed EMR measured at 2000 microWatts per meter squared and higher spikes every few seconds.
    • Studies indicate DNA damage and biological cell interference (as in the link to brain cancer from cell phone use)  see Dr. Martin Pall’s work, or the World Health Organization metadata report BioInitiative Report
  • Magnetic and Electric Fields (EMF)
    • The power panel (fuse box) has high magnetic and electrical fields, but these fields dissipate quickly relative to distance. Other high EMF sources are refrigerators, inductive ovens/stoves, and radiant heaters.
    • Electromagnetic Interference or Radio Frequency Interference (EMI/RFI) are electric fields generated by motors or Switching Mode Power Supplies (SMPS) that are plugged into your home wiring outlet. This EMI (also known as Conductive Emissions or Dirty Electricity) is emitted from the wires throughout your house. The RFI is a little different in that it is added to the wiring from outside EMR sources because the wiring is like an antenna, and this is referred to as inductive.
    • Digital meters use SMPS’s and therefore add EMI to the house wiring at the ingress. (Note: there is one meter, that we’ve heard of, that does not add EMI because it is either properly grounded or filtered.) Other devices in the house can be unplugged or turned off say at night, the digital meter is just on adding EMI 24/7.
      • There is speculation about whether the EMI has a different quality or character from digital meters versus other SMPS devices. At this point, there is no evidence to suggest that adding the digital meter will add any measurable difference to the wiring than all the appliances and electronics already plugged in (i.e. refrigerator, TV, computer, air conditioner, fan, …).
    • Health impacts:
      • Magnetic Fields
      • Electric Fields such as EMI/RFI
        • Interference with medical devices (pacemakers, hearing aids, …)
        • Studies are complicated to conduct on EMI/RFI effects; but there is a growing body of evidence (anecdotal and epidemiological) that these fields cause interruption and irritation of the body’s electrochemical  processes.
        • See Dr. Samuel Milham’s site or Dr. Magda Havas has some indicative case studies in this report
Meter Model EMR/Microwave /RF EMI/RFI – Electric Fields from Interference Magnetic Field from electricity connection panel
FOCUS RXR-SD YES YES YES
FOCUS AXR NO YES YES
Analog NO NO YES
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