For Immediate Release
From: Safe Utility Meters Alliance-NW (SUMA-NW) www.safemeters.org
To: Affected Citizens in Seattle City Light Ratepayer District
Date: August 7, 2017
Contact: Sonia Hoglander, 206-604-0836; Nancy Morris 206-650-9182; or email@example.com
STATEMENT AGAINST ADVANCED METERING INFRASTRUCTURE (AMI) DEPLOYMENT: Changes in “opt-out” Policy on AMI
Recently Seattle City Light (SCL) celebrated the rollout of their first AMI meter in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. Most people are not paying attention and hear only the positive spin: “Advanced meter technology finally coming to you” message. Their marketing suggests, “It’s just an electric utility meter, after all; why worry?” However, the public is actually getting privacy invasion, liability for increased fire risk, and higher electrical bills. They are also getting exposed to constant high-intensity, pulsed electromagnetic radiation — all without their consent.
Our organization, Safe Utility Meters Alliance-NW (SUMA-NW), has continually raised concerns since 2014 about the AMI program and new “advanced” meters. The new AMI meters are digital meters that use microwave frequency transmitters to send usage data to the utility through a third party data management company. AMI meters are also known as “smart” meters.
We believe that the public has a right to know and deserves an honest representation of the facts. SCL is deploying AMI for over $94 million and their greenwashing marketing efforts have been in play since long before SCL’s 2014 Strategic Plan was approved.
Truth: SCL wanted to automate the revenue and billing process because fewer employees means lower operating costs. On the surface that sounds great, as lower operating costs should mean maintaining the Seattle area’s lower electricity rates. Let’s look at the truth:
Good for the environment? Not really.
Lower bills? Not expected.
Enables renewables? No.
Encourages conservation? No.
Better outage detection? Not being implemented and hasn’t helped report outages in other utility regions.
Remote disconnect? Not being implemented and one of the most dangerous aspects of the meters.
Lowering electricity demand? No; more electricity needed to operate the meters and the data management computers.
More accurate billing? Maybe not; new study suggests digital meters are susceptible to glitches from temperature, humidity, and micro-surges. This causes unjustified billing increases that can not be audited nor appealed.
The AMI system is primarily designed as a Time-of-Use (TOU) revenue metering system. The current Seattle City Council (SCC) is opposed to implementing TOU, but this can easily change. We are witnessing the death of the centralized energy delivery system and the rapid growth of renewable energy (rooftop solar) and distributed energy markets. The AMI meters do nothing to assist or enable this growth. Rates will continue to climb as demand for centralized electricity continues to decline. SCC and SCL are currently in discussions about decoupling electricity usage from rates. Rates will be raised regardless in 2018 to offset the $133 million revenue shortfall over the last four years.
The Opt-Out Policy for AMI was approved by SCL in August of 2016, despite the public outcry that it was inadequate. The primary reason was that the opt-out meter was still a digital meter and did not mitigate all of the concerns raised by our group and the general public. Digital meters cost more, have to be replaced more frequently, create fire hazards, breach privacy, and more broadly create hacking and cyber-threat vulnerabilities.
SUMA-NW successfully advocated to SCL to provide an analog meter opt-out option instead of the non-communicating digital opt-out meter. The analog meter option still has not been publically announced by SCL. The public has the right to know about this recent change offering a safer option.
We fully agree with the ACLU of Washington who 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 of the ACLU.
An ACLU letter to the Seattle City Council states: “Any opt-out is meaningless without clear and publicized ‘use and sharing’ restrictions for AMI and its associated data.”