What is a Smart Meter?
The Big Plan
It is the plan of power and energy authorities worldwide to replace current disk-style (analogue) electric, gas and water meters with digital "Smart
Meters." These are wireless devices (computers) that use radiofrequency (RF) waves to monitor use and transmit information about each household's
consumption. They are being enthusiastically promoted by governments and industry as a "green initiative," supposedly enabling utility companies to efficiently monitor consumption during peak
and "down" times, and encourage wise use of energy and resources. The vision is that these "Smart Meters" will operate within a wider ranging "Smart Grid."
The information-carrying radio waves, transmitting (continuously) 24/7, will effectively blanket homes and neighborhoods with RF radiation that could adversely affect not just humans, but all living systems. In particular, these meters have the potential to affect not only electrohypersensitive persons, but children and pregnant women, persons with medical conditions such as heart arrhythmia, those with compromised immune systems, and others who rely on medical and/or metal implants or equipment. In addition to health concerns, Smart Meters bring with them questions about (privacy, security, pricing) fire and security hazards.
The costs of installing the new digital wireless meters is substantial, their accuracy is debatable, and there is much controversy as to whether or not the readings serve to decrease power use, or simply to increase power costs to consumers.
Serious disagreement continues between the electric utility companies and thousands of private homeowners who refuse the forced installation of Wireless Smart Meters on their homes without consent. Customers want the Utilities to listen to their valid concerns before pressing ahead with this program.
---From Citizens for Safe Technology.org
Smart Meter Components and Functions
The Electric Company
Currently, SCE is in the process of removing all fully functional existing electromechanical analog meters (with 30 year life spans) to computerized wireless Smart Meters. Our current analog meters operate without electricity continuously measuring the usage in our homes. The usage is displayed on the meter, read by an SCE employee and billed by the number of watts used.
Replacing the traditional meter is the new "Smart Meter" with a 15 to 20 year life span and, contrary to analog meters, require electricity to function. SCE employees will no longer have to come out to read the meter as all electric usage will be collected and transmitted wirelessly back to SCE through pulsed Radio Frequency (RF) on a continuous 24/7 basis.
Note: SCE literature claim that the Smart Meters pulse frequency is 45 seconds per day. However, because these meters need to continuously communicate with each other, called “chatter”, the pulsed radiation is virtually constant and at the same RF level as the data transmission radiation level.
The Itron OpenWay® CENTRON® Smart Meter (used by SCE), "communicates to utility systems allowing them to leverage applications such as time-of-use and peak pricing data, home networking and demand response." Some of the features:
- ZigBee 2.4 GHz radio transceiver,
- microprocessor for application and communication processing and
- high speed hardware trace probe,
Using ZigBee firmware, the Smart Meter collects details of energy consumption every 15 minutes and transmits the data via wireless (RF) Cell Relay signals back to the SCE Collection Engine (See article here).
The Gas Company
The OpenWay Gas Module (Southern California Gas) uses 2.4GZ uses ZigBee® wireless networking for combination gas and electric utilities. Installations are planned to begin in late 2012 through 2017 and cost customers approximately $2.00 per month (just for the new meter). Below are it's features:
- Remote disconnect, reconnect and service-limiting switch
- Demand response
- Critical peak pricing and time-of-use rate updates
- Remote device configuration for endpoint program updates
- Remote firmware updates using ZigBee and gas firmare
- Can be read by OpenWay CENTRON® meters without need for additional infrastructure
- Continually stores and updates the last 40 days of hourly interval data
- Operates in bubble-up mode and does not require an FCC license
The Water Company
Local water departments will also be replacing the current meters with RF controlled meters that will communicate wirelessly with the Smart Meter attached to your home. Some residents have raised concerns about the health effects from the frequencies.
According to a July 2010 Evaluation of Residential Smart Meter Policies (pdf), the Smart Meter has
approximately 30 separate functionalities. Most of these functionalities will primarily benefit the utility unless expressly employed toward end-consumer programmes with the support of regulation and supportive market structures."
The CPUC and the utilities have developed an integrated package of smart metering plus demand response measures of direct load control and time differentiated pricing tariffs.
All of the utilities in California have now received permission to rollout smart meters as part of a larger efficiency plans – the main demand response programmes in use are critical peak pricing, critical peak rebates, time of use and automated AC thermostats. Customer feedback and education will also be used but sometimes as a support to the pricing programmes only.
On top of this, each utility has asked for extra funds to provide services which go beyond the minimal requirements of the smart metering regulation. There is good evidence that private industry as well as the utilities now have a substantial financial stake in the success of these programmes creating green jobs and business opportunities.
The positive cost/benefit for the utilities is directly related to how successful they are with their demand response programmes (due to the regulatory framework in place). The overall success of the meter rollout will now be dependent on the ability of the utilities and private companies involved to educate and interest consumers. Rollout is due to be completed in 2012 for most utilities and the full impact of the programmes may take a couple of years after this to be fully realized.