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Md. Public Service Commission Allows Temporary Opt Out of Smart Meters

Customers have lingering concerns over the health and safety of smart meters.

by NICOLE MACON, Capital News Service

WASHINGTON – Smart meters have been heralded as way to make utilities more efficient and allow ratepayers to save energy, but some customers are concerned about the safety and privacy of the devices. Maryland's utility regulators will allow customers to continue to opt out of the electric smart meter program while they collect information about the costs of alternatives.

The Maryland Public Service Commission recently decided to extend a temporary order allowing customers to reject installation of a smart meter. The PSC made the decision despite the fact that there is no strong evidence that radio frequency radiation from electric smart meters poses a safety risk, as critics have charged.

The commission continued its order while it determines whether to allow customers to keep an analog meter or to provide a smart meter that emits little to no radio frequency radiation.

Maryland utility companies have until July 1 to submit proposals on the cost of allowing customers to keep an analog meter versus a radio frequency-free meter and how the companies will recoup the costs.

Residents like Jonathan Libber, president of Maryland Smart Meter Awareness and a retired environmental attorney, are concerned that the radio frequency radiation generated from smart meters can cause “serious health problems.”

“No one has ever tested any smart meter for health effects,” Libber said.
But the PSC has already heard testimony from Peter A. Valberg, principal of environmental health at the environmental consulting firm Gradient, who said the radio frequency levels of smart meters are not a health risk.

“For smart meters, the RF levels are far below health-protective standards and guidelines developed for public exposure to RF,” Valberg said.

The radio frequency radiation from a wireless router or a laptop computer is 150 times greater than a smart meter, and a cell phone emits 50,000 times more radio frequency, according to a Baltimore Gas and Electric graphic on its website.

There have been some issues with smart meters overheating and causing fires in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Electric Co. temporarily suspended its smart meter program after 35 of them overheated, resulting in two incidents of property damage beyond the area surrounding the meter, according to PECO Senior Communications Specialist Liz Williamson.

PECO resumed installing smart meters after switching its supplier from Sensus to Landis and Gyr, one of the suppliers that both PEPCO and BGE use. Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative installed 9,000 Sensus smart meters as part of its pilot program. SMECO will need the commission’s approval for its long-term plan to install smart meters.

Both PEPCO and BGE have received federal funds to support their smart meter initiatives as part of a wider program to update their power grids. PEPCO received $68.5 million, or about half of the funds needed for smart meters, according to PEPCO spokesman Marcus Beal.

BGE received a $200 million grant from the Department of Energy. The total cost for the entire program is about $482 million, according to BGE Corporate Communications Officer Rhea Lewis Marshall.

Smart meters allow utility companies to track customers who have lost power, which would allow companies to be “more efficient with restoration activity,” according to Beal. The smart meters send signals to utility companies about the customer’s energy usage and would eliminate the need for meter readers.

BGE is working to train its meter readers into different roles in the company, such as utility technicians who provide support in the field like tree trimming and network assistance. Meter readers have also been trained for roles in BGE’s contact center, according to Marshall.

There are also concerns about the privacy of the electricity usage data that smart meters collect. Unlike analog or wireless meters, smart meters can track energy usage by the hour and throughout the day so that customers can work with utility companies to reduce energy usage, according to Beal.

The technology in the devices will allow utility companies to “know the most intimate details of our lives,” according to Libber.

“The (smart) meter is doing the same job meters have always done but in a more efficient way,” Marshall said.

BGE provides an energy management tool to its customers with smart meters so they can access more detailed information about their energy usage. Of the 150,000 BGE customers who have access to this tool, only about a third use it.

Maryland Delegate Glen Glass, R-Aberdeen, has introduced legislation to allow customers to opt out of smart meters at no extra charge. This is the second time Glass has sponsored legislation against smart meters, but he is confident that he will be successful this year because he said more delegates are aware of the issue

“It’s not right to charge people for something they don’t want or need,” Glass said. The exact amount of those charges are still being assessed, utility companies said, and will be submitted to the commission by the July 1 deadline.

About 1,000 PEPCO customers in Maryland have decided to keep an analog meter, about 1 percent of the company’s customers in Maryland. At BGE, about 3 percent of customers have asked to defer smart meter installation.

Lynn February 05, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Don't believe the Power company PROPAGANDA. Do your homework people! These so called SMART METERS are not UL listed or tested and are not safe. This is a huge money making opportunity for the power companies because these meters will allow them to charge different rates per killowatt hour based on time of day usagage. Also they measure start up surge which analogs do not. Ina dditon the Maryland EmPower act of 2008 talks about "curtailing sevice" during peak demand times. This will be done! The adverse health effects are real and there is lots of sciene to back it up. They keep the emphasis on this aspect so they can poo poo us as tin foil hat wearers. OPT OUT smartmeterdefferral@bge.com.
Lynn February 05, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Excelon Energy (recently allowed by our governor to merge with Constellation (BGE) got a $200 million dollar grant with stimulus funds through DOE and soon after donated 10 times more than ever to the DGA (Democratic Governors Assoc.) lead by O'Malley. Also, why would power companies want us to use less energy? That will certainly affect their bottom line. There is no real incentive for them to "help" us save energy. The sharehoilders won't like that! Read the report "Getting Smarter about the Smart Grid" . Keep doing your homework and opt out smartmeterdefferral@bge.com. Even Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed deep concern lsat summer of the easy hackability of the smart meters that would make our entire nation MORE vulnerable to a cybersecurity attack.
Lynn February 05, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Please excuse my typos in the previous comments.
Isabelita Casibang February 05, 2013 at 02:33 PM
This is the first time I have known about this opting out.The only thing we are getting is how we can switch to another kind of carrier for less expensive energy consumption. I want to opt out till a better study is done especially if there is a fire hazard that comes with the meter.
Isabelita Casibang February 05, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Can we still opt out?
Lynn February 05, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Yes, Isabelita you can STILL opt out. e-mail address is smartmeterdefferral@bge.com Make sure yu get an e-mail confirmation from them. Put Attention Legal Compliance department in the subject line You can also send certified mail. Sample letter: I am hereby notifying your company and its agents that you are NOT to install a Smart Meter anywhere on my property pursuant to Order No. 84926 issued by the Maryland Public Service Commission on May 24, 2012. Sincerely, Your Name your address Account number phone number e-mail address
Anita Moore February 06, 2013 at 01:26 AM
●Many customers with smart meters see their bills skyrocket. There are thousands of complaints surrounding inaccuracies and overbilling and even a class action lawsuit in California on this issue alone. ●Two attorneys general (Illinois and Connecticut) filed objections to smart meters because the ratepayers would never see real savings. NO ENERGY SAVINGS ● In places where smart meters have been deployed, studies prove that there is "…no significant evidence of sustained overall energy conservation…" (Report Jointly Issued by National Nonprofit Organizations Including AARP) ●John Rowe, CEO of Exelon Corp. stated that the smart grid "costs too much, and we're not sure what good it will do. We have looked at most of the elements of the smart grid for 20 years and we have never been able to come up with estimates that make it pay."
Anita Moore February 06, 2013 at 01:27 AM
PROBLEMS WITH WIRELESS SMART METERS COST ●Many customers with smart meters see their bills skyrocket. There are thousands of complaints surrounding inaccuracies and overbilling and even a class action lawsuit in California on this issue alone. ●Two attorneys general (Illinois and Connecticut) filed objections to smart meters because the ratepayers would never see real savings. NO ENERGY SAVINGS ● In places where smart meters have been deployed, studies prove that there is "…no significant evidence of sustained overall energy conservation…" (Report Jointly Issued by National Nonprofit Organizations Including AARP) ●John Rowe, CEO of Exelon Corp. stated that the smart grid "costs too much, and we're not sure what good it will do. We have looked at most of the elements of the smart grid for 20 years and we have never been able to come up with estimates that make it pay."
Anita Moore February 06, 2013 at 01:28 AM
HEALTH ●To transmit wireless signals on the microwave spectrum, smart meters require an unprecedented wireless mesh network infrastructure, both indoors and out. This mesh network unnecessarily blankets entire communities with non-ionizing radiation. Pulses milliseconds long are emitted every few seconds 24/7. ●Non-industry funded health organizations world-wide have issued warnings on continued proliferation of wireless infrastructure. These include, but are not limited to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Karolinska Institute (Leading European medical university that selects Nobel Prize Winners), and the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. ●Even if some smart meters meet FCC standards, this does not make them safe, as current standards are being challenged and experts world wide acknowledge that new safety standards are urgently needed for protection against unprecedented levels of exposure that are cropping up in daily life
Anita Moore February 06, 2013 at 01:29 AM
INTERFERENCE ●Smart meters are interfering and causing malfunctioning of a wide range of household and medical devices including other WiFi devices, Netlfix, garage door openers, security systems, pacemakers, defibrillators, etc. PRIVACY- ●Smart meters are 24 hour unauthorized search warrants, gathering detailed data about private home life. a This data is accessible to law enforcement and there are no laws prohibiting their sale to corporations and other third parties. SECURITY- ●Wireless smart grids are extremely vulnerable to hacking according to experts including David Chalk who warns of a "100% certainly of total catastrophic failure of the entire power infrastructure within 3 years", and former CIA Director James Woolsey who calls it "a really, really stupid grid." FIRE HAZARD- ●Numerous fires, explosions and power surges destroying appliances and electronic equipment have been documented.
Elizabeth Matarese February 06, 2013 at 02:00 AM
For all the reasons Anita has cited above, I also want our legislators to write an opt-out clause for those of us who realize that smart meters are not the answer to energy challenges in this country. Three things: 1. Friends in Nevada tell me there are no cost savings. 2. The utility companies shoud first have to PROVE that what they are doing is harmless, rather than the rest of us having to prove we have been harmed after the fact. 3. Safety Management System practices, now being employed in the transportation industries, should be the norm for any activity that is undertaken in this country.
David Eisenberg February 06, 2013 at 02:01 AM
At a distance of 3 feet, a wireless smart meter can emit a cumulative whole body exposure that is 40 times that of a cell phone. Smart meters transmit almost continuously, day and night, every few seconds, 24/7, and can never be turned off. Smart meters induce formation of electromagnetic fields which have both thermal and non thermal effects, both of which result in DNA damage, and numerous other problems. There have been no independent authoritative studies on the health effects of smart meters. Smart meters are already making people sick and are linked to sleep disturbances, arrythmias, vertigo, headaches, nausea, and tinnitus. Some smart meters may meet current FCC standards under certain circumstances, but that hardly makes them safe. Current FCC standards are woefully outdated and experts world wide are calling for standards to be updated to protect the public from the many new unprecedented sources of RF and microwave radiation people are exposed to today. Exposusre standards for this kind of radiation are much, much higher in the U.S. than they are in other countries, where it is unlawful to expose people to this much radiation. Smart meters emit RF signals from which utilities can decode customers' specifice energy use profiles, and these profiles cn be so detailed that they consitute real time surveilance. Smart meters can capture usage information on more than just major appliances-- for example--from medical devices.
David Eisenberg February 06, 2013 at 02:12 AM
Smart meter customer energy profiles become the property of the utility and there is no law preventing their sale to third parties. Smart meters are not certified by UL (Underwriters Laboratory). Smart Meters can spontaneously burst into flames setting fire to homes and buildings. They are linked to power surges that ruin appliances, and explosions. Wireless Smart meters are vulnerable to hacking. Smart meters will cost the ratepayers more money than they will save in reduced energy expenditures. See "Why Smart Meters May Be A Dumb Idea", an investigative report by William J. Kelly, consumers digest, Jan. 2011, pp 2-3. Being charged for opting out is sort of like having to pay protection money for not being harmed. Since when, in a supposedly free and democratic society, should people have to pay in order not to be harmed???? Being charged for opting out makes it less likely that people will opt out. The fewer people that opt out, the more radiation we are all exposed to, in our homes and outside, from neighboring meters and routers.
Elizabeth Matarese February 06, 2013 at 02:16 AM
My friends in NV tell me that the utility company installs the smart meters as a matter of course (whether you are home and agree to the installation or not). Removal of a smart meter already installed is costly. Retention of the regular meter is also costly, since the utlity company will charge for a meter reader to come out and read the regular meter. (These are jobs the companies want to abolish). If the person finally succumbs to the coercion to have a smart meter, the utility company will now charge for the installation, since it did not occur during their "surge" to get all the smart meters installed. It is obvious that this rush to smart meters has not been thought out sufficiently, and data on the pros and cons of smart meters have not been generated and disseminated in any acceptable manner.
George Karadimas February 06, 2013 at 02:33 AM
Up Until the Maryland Public Service commission Sings one way or another here is what you need to do to avail yourself of the OPT-OUT Deferral http://marylandsmartmeterawareness.org/opt-out-news/option-to-defer-smart-meters/ FOLKS...Take advantage of it and let them know you are concerned and you are no patsies.
George Karadimas February 06, 2013 at 02:42 AM
Folks! Below is an Unsolicited testimony, from a hapless Smart GRID/Meter Victim., dated back to 2011 Can any of you "Wizards" after reading this VICTIM'S Post ...explain to me HOW the SMART METERS save ENERGY COSTS for the RATEPAYER? While the electric utility is keeping their costs down, during a Demand Response event. The ratepayer will FORCED by the Weather Elements to, Bring OUT and Start UP Portable Propane heaters and Kerosene space warmers!......And you call that Space AGE Smart Meter AUTOMATION? Alternatively! .................You can Contact your Maryland Delegates to co-sponsor and support the OPT-OUT at NO COST Bill Introduced by Delegate GLENN GLASS to the Maryland Legislature. http://marylandsmartmeterawareness.org/smart-meter-news/guide-for-legislative-campaign-for-january-2013-session-seeking-free-opt-out/ That would be a REAL SMART SELF SERVING MOVE! The testimony referenced here can be read on my next post below.
George Karadimas February 06, 2013 at 02:45 AM
Here is the testimony "I use a smart meter in my Floridian home. Its a great way to save money. Progress energy gives me a $5.00 discount on my bill just for having it. There is a button on the meter to override the hot water heater however the pool pump central ac and heat pump can be sent a bullet from the power company during peak hours to shut the pool and heat/ac down for half hour increments then only allow the heat/ac to run for approx 10 minutes before shutting down again,thus causing the house to be too hot or cold depending which source is being used. On another note the school system in Marion County used the same technology, last winter was one of the coldest on record and the schools were extremely cold and not properly heated when the kids arrived there causing many parents to be outraged. Believe it or not Florida can get as cold as New England at times.The only difference is winter is Florida's dry season and is the reason why the state doesn't get snow often. Average snow fall is every 30 yrs. and only a dusting if that. To sum it up there are pros and cons to this technology and I would only recommend it if a homeowner has an alternate heat source such as a fireplace gas logs or portable heaters to use during the high peak black outs."
George Karadimas February 06, 2013 at 02:50 AM
Here is the link where the UNSOLICITED COMMENT can be Found. Learn from the experience of others and do not be payed for a FOOL! Read more: Connecticut among latest states considering 'smart meters' - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin http://www.norwichbulletin.com/news/x1439491092/Connecticut-among-latest-states-considering-smart-meters#ixzz2JkjtNuzx
Elizabeth Matarese February 06, 2013 at 02:52 AM
I should have added that one can opt out of Smart Meters in MD, at least temporarily...and I have. Go to the Smart Meters website and download the form. Post it on your existing meter. The more people who opt out, even temporarily, the more we will show that at least some of us know enough about these meters that we don't want them....ever.
George Karadimas February 06, 2013 at 02:58 AM
It takes a bit more that JUST posting a sign on your Electric meter to take advantage of the OPT-OUT Deferral! Go here of the details. http://marylandsmartmeterawareness.org/opt-out-news/option-to-defer-smart-meters/
George Karadimas February 06, 2013 at 03:08 AM
Google "Smart meters are instruments of control and subjugation". And what do you get?? "IL Women Arrested in Their Backyards for Trying to Block Smart Meter Installation" http://www.dailytech.com/IL+Women+Arrested+in+Their+Backyards+for+Trying+to+Block+Smart+Meter+Installation/article29743.htm
Jameella Nuur February 06, 2013 at 03:21 AM
Jameella Nuur I'm concerned about their health risks. I've heard they emit radiation and do it 24/7 - like having a cell tower attached to your house. I've also heard they can cause fires .
George Karadimas February 06, 2013 at 04:11 AM
"Experts: Smart grid poses privacy risks Technologists already are worried about the security implications of linking nearly all elements of the U.S. power grid to the public Internet. Now, privacy experts are warning that the so-called "smart grid" efforts could usher in a new class of concerns, as utilities begin collecting more granular data about consumers' daily power consumption. "The modernization of the grid will increase the level of personal information detail available as well as the instances of collection, use and disclosure of personal information," warns a report (PDF) jointly released Tuesday by the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), a think tank made up of chief privacy officers, advocates and academics.".......More Click the Link below http://voices.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2009/11/experts_smart_grid_poses_priva.html
s.west February 06, 2013 at 10:20 PM
Aside from the clear and present health/privacy/cyberattack dangers, there's an elephant in the room that people still do not see. The utility companies are being ABUSIVE where smart meters are concerned. If a sales person knocked on your door, then FORCEFULLY entered and installed a product - and then said 'if you DON'T keep this product you will PAY AN EXTRA FEE' - you would either promptly kick them out of your house - OR - you would be dialing 911 and having them ARRESTED. Obviously the MD PSC thinks it is OK for the utility companies to carry out abusive and bullying business practices. There is NO other business where such treatment of homeowners is permitted. The PSC doesn't even allow Verizon to FORCE you to upgrade your copper telephone line to FIOS. Don't accept this, just because it is a utility company. The only way to stop this now is to CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS and demand legislation that will bring this abuse and bullying to a halt - and then not allow it to move forward until TESTING has proven complete safety to health, homes, privacy - and an implementation strategy that will NOT serve up a cyber attack on a silver platter !
George Karadimas February 18, 2013 at 11:22 PM
VOX POPULI..Let them hear Us Loud and Clear! "Dear MSMA Member, Because we realize some of you do not have enough time to go on line and download a letter to your delegates, we are making it very easy for you to get involved. While letters and face-to-face meetings are much more effective, signing the petition below is much simpler and will have some impact. The petition urges your Maryland Delegates to support the NO FEE OPT OUT House Bill 1038 introduced by Delegate Glenn Glass. Please by all means feel free to forward this message to any non MSMA member who might respond favorably. Click on the link below to add your name. http://signon.org/sign/maryland-house-bill-1038?source=c.fwd&r_by=7048862 Jonathan Libber, President Maryland Smart Meter Awareness" http://tinyurl.com/HB1038
Kelley Blacksten Anders July 12, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Definitely and invasion of privacy. I will resist as long as I possibly can.

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