Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The Technology doesn't work exactly as planned
APS said "We're trying to allow the new technology that's coming-because it's rapidly coming at us-to help us define what the future could be. We're not trying to impose a specific vision of smart grid on the future. Smart grid will continue to change and evolve."
Some consumers argue that the meters are logging far more kilowatt hours than they believe they are using. And many find it unfair that they will begin to pay immediately for the new meters through higher rates, when the promised savings could be years away.
Power companies say the meters will allow utilities to vary the price charged to their customers by the hour to correspond to what those utilities are paying for energy in the wholesale market. This can help consumers save money, they say.
They also say the meters will be crucial to remaking the electric system to handle intermittent power sources like wind turbines and solar cells while continuously meeting customers’ needs.
Elizabeth Keogh, a retired social worker in Bakersfield, Calif., who describes herself as “a bit chintzy,” has created a spreadsheet with 26 years of electric bills for her modest house. She decided that her new meter was running too fast.
Ms. Keogh reported to the utility that the meter recorded 646 kilowatt-hours in July, for which she paid $66.50; last year it was 474 kilowatt-hours, or $43.37.
At a hearing in October organized by her state senator, Ms. Keogh took out two rolls of toilet paper — one new, one half used up — and rolled them down the aisle, showing how one turned faster than the other. “Something is wrong here,” she said.
Scores of electric customers with similar complaints have turned out at similar hearings. At one in Fresno, Calif., Leo Margosian, a retired investigator, testified that the new meter logged the consumption of his two-bedroom townhouse at 791 kilowatt-hours in July, up from 236 a year earlier. And he had recently insulated his attic and installed new windows, Mr. Margosian said.
The market for residential energy management will increase significantly over the next four years due to increased consumer demand and new government and industry initiatives, according to Parks Associates.
The number of US households with a smart meter will grow to over six million by 2012, from the one million smart meters deployed in the US today, it reports in a study, entitled Residential Energy Management: Opportunities for Digital Systems and Services.
"Utilities see the benefit of upgrading the grid, and consumers are growing more conscious of their energy consumption. Add in incentives from the government, and you have three strong drivers that will boost deployment and innovation in this market," said Bill Ablondi, director of home systems research at Parks Associates.
"The Obama administration has made the development of energy-efficient technologies and alternative fuels a priority," he said. "There will be opportunities for manufacturers in smart appliances, utilities investing in Smart Grid technologies, and start-ups developing innovative energy solutions."
Houston-based energy and utility consultancy The Structure Group administered the study, which included tests in laboratories and in the field, according to Greentech Grid. The group also reviewed 1,378 complaints about the meters and conducted in-depth interviews with customers.
The $1.4 million audit, for which PG&E is reimbursing the agency, determined that the utility could have done a better job communicating with and notifying customers about smart meter installation.
“In some cases, customers experienced multiple cancelled bills followed by re-billing, which exacerbated customer confusion and frustration. In addition, customers indicated to Structure that there was a lack of communication and notification from PG&E about their smart meter installation,” the CPUC said of Structure’s findings. The report also said that the CPUC’s handling of certain consumer complaints created confusion for the customer when the CPUC deemed the complaint closed even though the customer was still not satisfied with or did not understand PG&E’s resolution of their complaint,” Greentech Grid reports.
Several municipalities in Northern California have already asked regulators to prevent the meters from being installed until accuracy issues are sorted out.
The meters, which transmit energy use data to the utilities, have also sparked health worries about radiation levels. The utilities commission has received around 2,000 such complaints, mostly from Northern California.
For several days last week, residents of Santa Cruz County protested what they called “forced installation” of smart meters on private property, with some expressing worries that the radiation could lead to brain cancer. Watsonville and Fairfax passed laws banning the meters within city limits.
PG&E Replacing 1,600 Broken Smart Meters
Utility PG&E has hit another snag with its smart meter roll-out. Monday afternoon, the company announced it will replace 1,600 of its smart meters, which were manufactured by Landis+Gyr, because of a defect that causes the miscalculation of customer energy bills. PG&E says the faulty meters were occasionally running fast, and overcharging customers.
PG&E is spending $2.2 billion on rolling out 10 million smart meters (this is both electric and gas), and has installed about 8 million of the new meters so far. Landis+Gyr has only supplied 2 million of the 8 million meters so far, and GE has supplied the bulk of the rest.
In addition to replacing the broken meters, PG&E will offer full refunds for customers that were overcharged, and PG&E says the average refund will be $40. PG&E will also give customers a $25 credit for the inconvenience and offer customers a free in-home energy audit.
PG&E should be lauded for publicly announcing the problem, correcting it and providing full refunds and new meters. Let’s see how fast and convenient the process is for the affected customers.
The smart meter problems began back in 2009, when customers in Bakersfield, Calif. accused PG&E’s new smart meters of overcharging them for their power, and started a lawsuit. A Sept. 2010 report on PG&E’s smart meter program found the system wasn’t overcharging customers (but ironically has been for these 1,600 broken meters), but the utility had made mistakes both in implementing the new technology and in reaching out to customers to explain how it would change their bills. Last month, PG&E CEO Peter Darbee stepped down after a difficult 2010 for the utility.
Millions of households across America are taking a first step into the world of the “smart grid,” as their power companies install meters that can tell them how much electricity they are using hour by hour — and sometimes, appliance by appliance. But not everyone is happy about it.
I wrote last November about a roll out in my city to upgrade everybody’s power meters to the “smart” kind which should allow the power companies to operate and communicate remotely with our electricity. They should also enable us consumers to have more data about which devices in the house waste the most energy.
It appears that in the first month after some people got upgraded, their electric bills went up much higher than normal, in some cases twice as much as the previous month. I heard reports on the radio of electric bills up to $500 or $1,000
People in Bakersfield were overcharged by thousands in some cases and denied help. This, in addition to fires and being made ill by these poorly designed, very dangerous devices. Those who support smart meters are right there in bed with all the criminals who promote them, despite the harm they are definitely causing.
At the very least, in a truly free market, people would be able to pick a meter style, or pick an energy company that offered a different choice. But for the time being, we’re stuck.
Power companies are taking We the People for a ride.
Once the smart grid is completely up, If you want a midnight snack and you go into you're kitchen to heat up something in you're microwave, a light will flash and a buzzer will sound and you will be arrested for illegal use of power, This is actually were we are headed.
These new smart meters own you period!
Thanks for reading