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|