Illinois Commerce Commission Mistreats Consumers Refusing Smart Meters

Introduction

Unfair ICCThe vehement and persistent opposition to utility “smart” meters has given rise to programs across the nation where customers are allowed to refuse installation of those meters and typically keep their traditional analog meters.  In most cases, a fee is required to be paid by the customer for this “service.”  This service is sometimes called an “opt-out” program.

The primary purpose of this article is to highlight how the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has perpetrated unequal, unfair, and unjust treatment of citizens in the state of Illinois who choose to refuse installation of smart meters.

In short, the ICC has only allowed a “deferral” of smart meter installations for Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) customers while Ameren customers may benefit from a true “opt-out” program albeit with a monthly fee.  It is surprising to SkyVision Solutions that this apparent disparate and unjust treatment of Illinois consumers has not received any media attention.  It is equally surprising that the ICC thought it could be so callous as to make such decisions and pronouncements in the first place, i.e., to allow one group of Illinois customers to “refuse” smart meters and another group to only “defer the inevitable.”  Let’s review the ICC pronouncements.

ComEd Smart Meter Deferrals

As part of a ruling by the ICC issued on February 5, 2014, customers can refuse to have smart meters installed at a cost of $21.53 per month.  “If customers make the decision to refuse a [smart] meter now and incur monthly charges associated with this choice, it should be with full knowledge that this refusal is simply deferring the inevitable,” the Illinois Commerce Commission said in its order.  (Reference:  ICC Press Release on Smart Meters Feb 6, 2014)

Although this smart meter deferral option should have continued until 2022, the ICC then authorized an accelerated smart meter deployment schedule by which meter installations would be completed three (3) years earlier, effectively shortening the smart meter deferral option until 2019.  Another way the ICC describes the situation for ComEd customers is that the smart meter refusal “tariff” contains a “sunset” clause.

Ameren Smart Meter Refusals

According to a press release of September 4, 2014, the ICC “approved new customer charges for Ameren Illinois electric and natural gas customers who refuse advanced meters or don’t provide the utility access to install them.  A $20 monthly charge will be assessed to customers who refuse advanced meters once a local area is converted to advanced metering (AMR/AMI).  The monthly charge will be $24 or $12 per service type-for combination customers who refuse advanced meters for both Ameren Illinois natural gas and electric service.”  (Reference:  ICC Press Release Regarding Ameren Smart Meter Refusal Charge)

So in this ruling by the ICC, Ameren customers have no threat that a smart meter “refusal is simply deferring the inevitable.”  There is no “sunset.”  How can this be?

ICC Rationale for Differing Decisions

Based upon a telephone conversation between SkyVision Solutions and an ICC analyst on September 15th, 2014, the rationale for the differing decisions was explained as pertaining to an interpretation of the Illinois statutory language for the “Smart Grid Advanced Metering Infrastructure Deployment Plan.”  Refer to the specific section listed below.

220 ILCS 5/16-108, Section 16-108.6(c)(3)

Sec. 16-108.6. Provisions relating to Smart Grid Advanced Metering Infrastructure Deployment Plan.

(c) The AMI Plan shall contain: …

 (3) a deployment schedule and plan that includes deployment of AMI to all customers for a participating utility other than a combination utility, and to 62% of all customers for a participating utility that is a combination utility;

 In the above statutory language, ComEd is a participating utility, but Ameren is also a “combination utility” offering both gas and electric service.  By statute, Ameren then does not have a required goal of achieving “ALL” customers to receive advanced meters.

According to the ICC, this statute language allows smart meter refusals without a sunset clause for Ameren customers since a 100% conversion goal is not required by statute.

Based upon the ICC’s interpretation, for ComEd customers to be able to refuse smart meters indefinitely, the applicable statute above would need to be changed or clarified regarding the word “all.”

ICC Bureaucratic Decisions by People Who Don’t Care

The above separate decisions are unconscionable.  It is unconscionable that bureaucratic ICC commissioners would make decisions so incongruent in a way that affect real people’s lives and well-being and apparently not think twice about the implications of such decisions.  They just blindly follow a narrowly preconceived interpretation of the law and do not respect the views of Illinois citizens and customers who vehemently oppose smart meter deployments for a variety of reasons.

In fact, the statute, as worded, requires a “deployment schedule and plan,” not an insistence that 100% adherence with such a plan would ever be attainable.

In addition, here are some quotations from the Final Order on this issue reflecting the views of the Illinois Citizen’s Utility Board.

“CUB points out that ComEd’s AMI Plan, which governs the deployment at issue here, never provided for the deployment of AMI meters to all ComEd customers because not all customer usage is metered (e.g. dusk-to-dawn and fixture lighting).  Also, CUB notes that existing law already recognizes the potential for some provider other than ComEd to provide metering service, including presumably AMI metering service.  83 Ill. Admin. Code 460.

CUB argues that reading the phrase ‘deployment of AMI to all customers’ to mean that all customers must be forced to accept an AMI meter would be an unnecessary and inconsistent reading of the language.  Unnecessary because it fails to recognize the reality that, despite the best efforts of the utility, customers may not wish to accept an AMI meter or the utility may not be able to gain access to a customer’s premise to install one.  And, CUB argues it is inconsistent because the law defines AMI broadly enough to permit customers to refuse a meter.

Also, CUB argues that allowing customers to refuse a Smart Meter is good public policy because forcing customers to accept a Smart Meter will not be conducive to gaining widespread customer acceptance and use of the meters.  CUB states that forcing customers who, whatever their reasons, do not desire an AMI meter unfairly punishes those customers.”

Furthermore, Commissioner statements as documented in ICC “bench session” minutes reflect clear antagonistic bias against the people they serve, as follows:

“[T]he Commission directs ComEd to make this [smart meter refusal] charge a separate line item in each customer’s bill and use language for that line item that makes it absolutely clear that the charge is a penalty assessed as a consequence of the customer’s refusal. The Commission recommends smart meter refusal charge as the language. … So I agree with you that the purpose here is to try to make sure we don’t have as many refusals.  I think a cost does that, but I really think we need to continue to revisit to make sure that the cost is a correct one for a lot of different reasons.”

Conclusion

With an ICC that literally wants to “penalize” and punish the opposition to smart meters, where can we go wrong?  This injustice should be corrected immediately.  In fact, due to the inherent and significant risks associated with smart meter technology, all customers should have the “right” to refuse smart meter installations on a cost-free basis, … without penalty and without sunset.

About SkyVision Solutions

Raising public awareness and finding solutions for smart grid issues related to invasions of privacy, data security, cyber threats, health and societal impacts, as well as hazards related to radiofrequency (RF) radiation emissions from all wireless devices, including smart meters.
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8 Responses to Illinois Commerce Commission Mistreats Consumers Refusing Smart Meters

  1. Doug C. says:

    We have about two years to effect change in IL, before they will threaten cut-off. How exactly do we do it, what will it take, and lets get going on it. What do you think would actually happen if people refuse to pay the $21.53, has anybody done it?

    • In this article I tried to highlight the disparity of treatment between ComEd and downstate Ameren customers, where one group has an opt-out and one group has only a deferral. Hopefully this will somehow be corrected but more people need to speak up in some fashion. At this point I have not seen a substantial organized effort of opposition by ComEd customers as is the case in many other areas of the country. I am not personally a ComEd customer and have no standing to complain other than write the articles that I do.

      In terms of the deferral, the issue is not so much ComEd but the ICC interpretation of state statute and the wording of the statute. Either the ICC needs to change its interpretation or the statute wording needs to change. Contacting local state representatives and explaining the issue would be a start and also finding other like-minded ComEd customers who want a change in course.

      I am not aware of ComEd customers refusing to pay the $21.53/mo deferral fee, but I would expect the utility would handle it in the same way it handles customers with delinquent bill payments.

  2. 1vimana1 says:

    Dear Readers,

    It cannot be The Law for people in Illinois to take any Electric Microwave Smart Meter/s against the peoples’ Will and Better Judgement as you say in Com Ed Customers case. For it to be a LAW is ridiculous and people in Illinois must do and keep on doing, as I and over 200,000 of us here in Victoria Australia have done and that is to Padlock our Electric Meter Boxes and only unpadlock them to let the Meter Reader Man take his readings. Then I and the rest of us 200,000 SENSIBLE people here in Victoria Australia padlock our Safe and Passive Analog Electric Meters once more in our Electric Meter Boxes to stop them being Stolen by these thieving Idiots of Electric Power Companies.

    If you examine this so-called Law you claim is the Law, you will find that it is only a MANDATE and a MANDATE is not the LAW, and never will be as a Mandate is only an Instruction and cannot Lawfully be forced on anyone. If an actual Law has been passed of such a wicked and Draconian measure, you must all reject that Law and get it thrown out …

    Please all of you Com Ed Electricity Customers … padlock your Electricity Meter Boxes now to stop the wicked THEFT of the SAFE AND PASSIVE ANALOGUE Meters. Your own Legislation before these EVIL Electric Power Companies tried to HOOD-WINK all of you actually protects you from bullying and this Com Ed Electric Power Companies ongoing EXTORTION. Fight these Robber Barons of the Com Ed Electric company. Stand up to these bullies. I in Victoria sent to the Powercor Electric Companies C.E.O and to their Lawyers a Notice of Fine for Ten Million Dollars $10,000,000 that’s correct from the Canberra A.C.C.C Government office for my protection. It worked a treat and dopy Powercor stopped harassing me immediately. I have not heard any more from these Sons and Daughters of SATAN now for nigh on four (4) Years. Proving that the power of the PEN is mighty indeed !!!

    • Well, I am disappointed that more people have not opposed these ComEd smart meters. ComEd announced its 1,000,000th meter installation with only about 1,000 people deferring so far … and therefore being automatically billed an extra $21.53 /month. This extra billing charge would occur whether or not someone has a lock on their analog meter.

      The smart meters are being installed per an Illinois statute. Just using definition of “statute” at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/statute, it says “a law enacted by the legislative branch of a government,” so I would say it is a “law.” The law could be challenged in court, but so far it has not, and it is currently being enforced based upon the interpretation of the Illinois Commerce Commission that all ComEd customers are to receive a smart meter.

  3. 1vimana1 says:

    It clear it is NOT THE LAW that anybody has to have a dopy Electric A.M.I Microwave and actually Not So Smart Meter or Meters that can and have done and still do burn down homes both in America and Canada and here in Victoria Australia and in any State or Country in the world, which is FACT. Smart Meters aren’t SMART in any way at all. Do as I did and still do, SIMPLY PADLOCK your Electricity Meter Box to safeguard the Passive and properly built and fire proof Analog Electric Meter/s many of you still have as I have and will never allow it to be stolen for a dopy filthy INCENDIARY and far from SMART ARSED METER which is both a SPYING TOOL and an Instrument of Torture for more and more people giving them shocking headaches and or sleeplessness and or Tinnitus which is constant ringing in the ears and or muscle aches in various parts of their bodies etc., from the accursed and dopy Microwave Rays being streamed into one’s homes and bodies 24 hours a day for 365 days a year which are also Type 2B Carcinogen Rays as well.

    • People can try locking their analog meters, but in Illinois, ComEd customers BY LAW can only defer smart meter installation until the end of 2018 by paying $21.53 per month. Not paying the fee until then, and/or after 2018, ComEd threatens disconnection from the grid. Most people are not willing to risk disconnection. As you may know in Naperville, Illinois, two ladies were arrested for opposing smart meters; those ladies now have smart meters as well as legal bills.

  4. jan S says:

    How can they set any opt out fee – or require anyone to take a smart meter. Also in Illinois law.
    Sec. 16-124 states “…An electric utility shall not require a residential or small commercial retail customer to take additional metering or metering capability as a condition of taking delivery services unless the Commission finds, after notice and hearing, that additional metering or metering capability is required to meet reliability requirements.” We have not found any such ICC finding, meeting or notice.

    • Thanks for the comment. A more full quote of the rule is:
      (220 ILCS 5/16 124)
      Sec. 16 124. Metering for residential and small commercial retail customers. An electric utility shall not require a residential or small commercial retail customer to take additional metering or metering capability as a condition of taking delivery services unless the Commission finds, after notice and hearing, that additional metering or metering capability is required to meet reliability requirements. …. Any additional metering requirements shall be imposed in a nondiscriminatory manner. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prevent the normal maintenance, replacement or upgrade of meters as required to comply with Commission rules. Reference: http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/ilstatutes/220/5/XVI/16-124

      It would be appropriate to formally ask the ICC to demonstrate compliance with the above statute regarding the deployment of smart meters in that smart meters could certainly be considered “additional metering capability.” This might be especially true because most smart meters contain two separate transmitters more fully meeting the definition of what likely would be considered to be “additional metering.”

      One possible response the ICC might give is that it was merely complying with the statute below for the “smart grid advanced metering infrastructure deployment plan” which has a stated goal to increase the “use of digital information and controls technology to improve RELIABILITY, security, and efficiency of the electric grid.” … and that an “UPGRADE OF METERS” was necessary to provide compliance with the statute.

      So I think it is good to continue to raise the point, but there may be sufficient wiggle room for the Commission if it is allowed to interpret its own rules.

      (220 ILCS 5/16-108.6) Sec. 16-108.6. Provisions relating to Smart Grid Advanced Metering Infrastructure Deployment Plan. …
      (a) For purposes of this Section and Sections 16-108.7 and 16-108.8 of this Act: …”Smart Grid” means investments and policies that together promote one or more of the following goals: (1) Increased use of digital information and controls technology to improve reliability, security, and efficiency of the electric grid.

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