Greenwashing

“Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice.

Greenwashing can make a company appear to be more environmentally friendly than it really is. It can also be used to differentiate a company’s products or services from its competitors by promising more efficient use of power or by being more cost-effective over time.”  TechTarget.com

Point for Point rebuttal to Scott Thomsen, Chief AMI Propagandist for Seattle City Light, about greenwashed benefits of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Greenwashed Claims in Bold Green:

  1. Better support for customers with solar panels – solar panels use net-metering to give extra electricity to the Utility. Most customers are net consumers of electricity rather than net producers. From the SCL solar net metering webpage, “These meters will give City Light the ability to read your net and production meters daily. This will benefit customers in meeting the requirements for both net and production metering programs. It will also give you and City Light more data to track exactly what you are using and sending back to the electrical grid. It will also benefit customers and City Light, as in the future, when a customer with an advanced meter decides to add solar, it will be possible to remotely change that meter from a standard billing meter to a net meter.” Daily reads by the Utility are delayed to the customer by at least 24 hours, and any decent, customer owned solar management system will give you immediate data. Requirements for net and production meters are already met by existing analog meters. Net metering is a billing-side adjustment internal to the Utility, not a change to the meter.
  2. SCL is a non-profit that only collects enough money to cover the cost of electricity – However, rates have gone up 5.6% each year to cover the capital costs of deploying “smart” meters and other questionable capital projects. Operations costs for SCL will be going down as a result of “smart” meters/AMI, but rates will continue to increase.
  3. Maintaining lowest electricity rates in the country – yes, but they have shifted the cost of operations to public risk and liability; fire, health, privacy, exploitation by 3rd-party marketers, ecological.
  4. Environmental benefits from less carbon emissions from meter readers driving on the road – From counterpunch.org, “Navy’s Blue Angels without noting that the jets from a typical show generate about 300,000 pounds of CO2 into the air.”  That equals 150 tons of CO2. SCL meter readers with current cars only emit 72 tons/year.
    “There is also a downside from a safety perspective for not having the monthly utility visits as outlined in one of my articles:
    A review conducted by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) found a number of problems associated with the Commonwealth Edison smart meter program that could contribute to fire-related situations.  One of the concerns identified in the ICC report is as follows:
    “When and where Illinois utilities have completed their smart meter installation programs, they will have no further need for meter readers.  With the loss of meter readers, monthly utility visits to meters and meter bases will also end.  Meter readers have always provided at least a visual, if superficial, monthly inspection of the exterior of meters and meter bases.  Meter readers are not meter experts or meter technicians, but they may identify unsafe conditions visible from the outside of the meter base, such as obvious signs of an accident and any overheating serious enough to cause discoloring of the outside of the equipment. …  The future absence of meter readers … reduce[s] the number of opportunities for utility employees to observe signs of and evaluate the potential for future meter base overheating.”
    The concern expressed by the ICC is consistent with that of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) where it stated that:
    “As utilities move to two-way communications for meters and remote meter reading, the opportunity for periodic and repetitive visual inspection of meter sockets is expected to decline radically.  The interval between site visits by utility personnel could be as much as 100 times as long as the current monthly opportunity for inspection.”
  5. More “power” in the customers hands – that’s not electrical power, that’s illusive power; the daily reads are delayed by at least 24 hours not real-time. This is not conducive to conservation, and the conservation in SCL territory is already sufficient to concern SCL about lost revenue and declining demand despite increased population.
  6. There is no cost to the customer for installing the new meters – see point 2.
  7. Many of our existing meters are far beyond their expected lifespan and need to be replaced, costs for the utility no matter what type of meter is used. – the existing analog meters have a lifespan of 40+ years versus the digital meters of 5-15 years. Costs of analog meters are cheaper per year than all the supposed benefits of digital meters. (note: SCL will claim that analog meters are no longer being manufactured, but that is an industry created supply problem to promote the less robust digital and thus more profitable, digital meters.)
  8. City Light is installing advanced meters to provide enhanced services for our customers. Daily usage (see point 5) plus …the new meters will automatically report power outages, eliminate instances of estimated bills that are currently used when a meter reader can’t access a meter, and allow for possible future services such as monthly billing, pre-pay and other optional alternative rate structures. – power outages are already automatically reported and most reports happen by phone, and continue by phone in areas that have deployed “smart” meters. Estimated billilling problems are a fabricated issue, the probability is that there will be far more complaints from higher bills from “smart” meters. Monthly billing? people might like that but that has always been possible; it had nothing to do with the meters, just the billing system. Pre-pay, same as monthly, it’s a billing process not a meter process. Alternative rate structures, last but by far not the least, otherwise known as the egregious TOU or Time-Of-Use rates, where the Utility will control when you use your electricity in favor of the wealth class (like toll roads).
  9. Those who still want to opt-out of these compelling benefits can for a small fee – So to get the services we get now for free, we will pay $125 up front and $15+ monthly. The opt-out is only available to 50% or less of the customers. But they gouge us less (by a $1 per month) than other Utilities.
  10. We will protect your privacy – it’s just electricity usage tied to your account number, with an address and name associated with it, duh. That data will go to a 3rd-Party servicer, get massaged and then go to the Utility. This promise of never compromising your data covers the Utility, ONLY, not the 3rd-Party servicer (they see $$$$ and expanding markets).
  11. The meters will be equipped with heat sensors to detect short circuits or other problems that could lead to a fire, a safety feature our existing meters don’t have. – because analog meters do not have a fire risk! The sensor is only needed because of the fragile and cheap design of digital meters in general.

Full text of Scott Thomsen’s greenwashed, propaganda response to concerned citizen:

“Advanced Metering will provide better support for customers with solar panels by allowing them to see how much their panels are producing and how much electricity their homes are using any time they want to check it on-line.

Seattle City Light is a publicly owned utility that operates as a non-profit department of the City of Seattle. We only collect enough money from our customers to cover the cost of electricity and our operations.

Advanced Metering will help City Light hold down its operating costs and continue to provide some of the lowest electricity rates of any large city in the country.

Advanced Meters are the environmentally correct choice. By eliminating the need to send meter readers to every home and business, City Light will avoid 200,000 miles of driving — and the carbon emissions associated with that driving — every year. The meters also will put more power in our customers hands so they will be able to see how much electricity they are using and how much it costs on a daily basis, which could help some customers who want to conserve energy reduce their bills.

The cost of installing the advanced meters is an operational cost for City Light and it is included in our projections for future rates. There is no separate charge for installing a new advanced meter. Many of our existing meters are far beyond their expected lifespan and need to be replaced, costs for the utility no matter what type of meter is used.

City Light is installing advanced meters to provide enhanced services for our customers. In addition to giving customers the ability to see how much electricity they are using and how much it will cost them before they get a bill, the new meters will automatically report power outages, eliminate instances of estimated bills that are currently used when a meter reader can’t access a meter, and allow for possible future services such as monthly billing, pre-pay and other optional alternative rate structures.

Advanced metering will become City Light’s standard service. Customers who decide they do not want an advanced meter will receive a non-communicating digital meter and they will be charged to cover the cost of sending a meter reader to their home. That charge will be made each billing cycle, which is currently every two months. The fee City Light has established is about $1 less than the national average among utilities with opt-out programs.

As for privacy concerns, City Light will only collect the total amount of electricity used by the home. The meters will only transmit a meter number and the total amount of electricity used. This is the information we need to generate a bill and provide the enhanced services for our customers. City Light will never share this information with anyone else.

As for safety, City Light will be installing the first electricity meters to be certified for safety by UL.

Additionally, they will be equipped with heat sensors to detect short circuits or other problems that could lead to a fire, a safety feature our existing meters don’t have.

We have been reaching out to our customers to discuss Advanced Metering for four years, including open houses, strategic planning events and hearings, information on our website, articles in our Light Reading newsletter and now during the public comments period for the opt-out policy. We appreciate the many comments we have already received. We will review them and consider possible changes before the opt-out policy is finalized.

For more information on the program, please visit seattle.gov/light/ami.

Sincerely,

— Scott Thomsen”

Here are the TRUTH about what the Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) industry and Utilities in general (and SCL specifically) are not telling the public and public officials.

  1. AMI/“Smart” Meters are revenue meters not a renewable energy grid or Smart Grid (a Smart Grid is a modernized electricity grid that enables renewable energy sharing.)
    1. Public thinks that AMI is the foundation for a “Smart” Grid that enables rooftop solar and other renewable energy, which is not true (see “Getting Smarter About the Smart Grid” white paper and other supporting articles).
  2. Intent is to upgrade revenue meters to automate services and cut union jobs. Larry Weis (the General Manager of SCL) agrees that customer benefits are a greenwash. The AMI decision was made before he joined SCL and though he said there is a business case to replace aging analog meters, AMI does little to help the environment, the customer, or society. The recent request for what would happen if the AMI project is delayed did not address the intent of the question; What breaks? (What doesn’t happen if AMI isn’t deployed?) … Nothing!
  3. The SCL Business Case Analysis focused on Build or Buy options – SCL decided to choose a 3rd Party Hosted Solution (no analysis was done for consumer value, conservation, or environment). So when they, SCL, claims that AMI will enable conservation, they have no data.
    1. Conservation has been very successful in the Puget Sound area. LED lighting, alone, shaves 85% of electricity used for lighting. Electricity demand by residential customers is down and is projected to go down for the foreseeable future, this despite the increase in customers.
  4. SCL claims AMI “Provides added safety features like sensors that can detect increasing temperatures.” Is not a benefit, because it is not needed without AMI; the sensor was added specifically to address the fire hazard issue.
  5. SCL claims that AMI will enable faster outage detection and restoration, however better detection occurs on the grid with Automated Distribution Management Systems (ADMS) with fault detection.
Please like and share