On a majority vote on Dec. 4, 2017, commissioners authorized staff to move forward with advanced, two-way metering as a preferred alternative for future customer meters and as part of a new customer technology program. Commissioners reviewed extensive outreach and research done since 2005, and heard from seven customers who spoke at Monday’s meeting about health and safety concerns. Several asked for an “opt-in” provision rather than “opt-out” if an eventual decision is reached on installing the smart meters.
John Stoll, Customer Utilities managing director, said there is value for customers by combining the customer information system with features that use data provided by advanced meters that includes:
- Faster and more accurate outage notification and faster service restoration
- Faster response on billing questions
- Ability to manage a PUD account from anywhere
- More accurate billing and fewer estimated bills
- Less need for a PUD employee to enter customer property
- Easier energy use management
- Help to decide if a conservation program will save money
Commissioner Ann Congdon said it was a difficult decision, but she voted against taking the next step toward advanced meters because “there are too many negatives, for my part, in terms of health effects.”
All board members thanked those who spoke for sharing their opinions and concerns. Commissioner Garry Arseneault urged them to take their concerns about the technology to other authorities with responsibilities for controlling the use of radio frequencies in our daily lives, too.
General Manager Steve Wright said the board’s decision will aid the planning process, with details to be developed as part of system design and asking for proposals on specific equipment. Plans are to ask commissioners for a decision to proceed with a request for proposals for advanced meters in about a year.
In April of 2017, the PUD participated in more than 18 community forums to talk with customer-owners about advanced two-way digital electric meters. We estimate as many as 450 people were reached “face-to-face.” In addition, about 33,000 post cards were mailed to customers and 33,000 emails were sent to our email data base. We also reached out to customers through newspaper and online ads and a variety of radio interviews. We included information in our customer newsletter that goes to every customer. We did our best to make sure customers received information about the meters in more ways than one and more than once.
In our 18 informational meetings across Chelan County the discussion has been excellent. During these conversations, some questions and concerns have centered around radio frequency (RF) and electro-magnetic fields (EMF) and the potential these energy fields have to cause cancer or other health impacts. There is a lot of misinformation being circulated about health effects and purported health studies that detail adverse impacts from advanced, two-way meters. One section of our website is dedicated to this discussion
, but more importantly, here is some very specific information from the American Cancer Society
In part, the Cancer Society says: It would be nearly impossible to conduct a study to prove or disprove a link between living in a house with smart meters and cancer because people have so many sources of exposure to RF and the level of exposure from this source is so small. Because, the amount of RF radiation you could be exposed to from a smart meter is much less than what you could be exposed to from a cell phone, it is very unlikely that living in a house with a smart meter increases risk of cancer. The World Health Organization has promised to conduct a formal assessment of the risks from RF exposure but this report is not yet available.
Another concern we heard was the potential for smart meters to interfere with pacemakers, here is what the Cancer Society website went on to say: One concern expressed is that the RF waves produced by smart meters might interfere with electronic medical devices such as a heart pacemaker. A study that examined the effect of smart meters on pacemakers and implantable defibrillators found that the smart meters did not interfere with these devices.
We want to hear from you and hope you will take the time to let us know your questions or concerns. Email us and let us know what you are thinking.
Replacing electric meters with advanced, two-way digital meters allows for the timely collection of energy use data that will help you make energy-saving decisions.
We are committed to providing our customer-owners with industry-leading service and reliability. We want to give you the tools to manage your own energy use, as well as being notified about outages or upcoming system repairs – all through technology.
We are researching advanced meters and talking with our customer-owners about the new digital meters. Our goal is to upgrade your meter and provide you with your own self-service “dashboard” capability to manage your account, just as you do with many of your other online accounts.
Advanced Metering Basics
Advanced, two-way digital metering, also known as Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) or sometimes called “smart meters,” is a safe and proven technology that is widely used across the US. More than 500 utilities across the nation are already using this technology, with 50 million advanced meters installed in 43 percent of American households (Institute for Electric Innovation, 2014).
AMI is a building block for a more efficient electric system, often called the smart grid. It will provide many benefits to customers and greatly improve operational efficiencies. The meters will:
- Empower customers to make energy-saving choices
- Improve customer service and outage response
- Reduce environmental impact
How Does Advanced Metering Work?
Advanced, two-way digital meters will connect homes and businesses to the PUD and will collect customer meter reads automatically. This means that:
- Advanced digital meters record customer energy-use information throughout the day, just as today’s meters do.
- Customer energy-use information is sent several times a day to us, using radio frequency (RF) waves. This is similar to the wireless communications used by cell phones and WiFi. The meters will transmit data for a maximum of 90 seconds per day.
- Once it’s within our secure firewall, the information will be matched up with customer accounts for billing and other customer service activities.
- Similar to your existing electric meter, the new digital meter is installed on the outside of your home or business.
- Actual data transmission using RF occurs in milliseconds or less than one minute per day.
- Many of your existing appliances and mobile devices, such as microwaves and cell phones, transmit far higher RF levels and often are much closer to you than a digital meter.