Illinois Attorney General Issues Consumer Alert on ‘Smart’ Meters

Illinois AG Smart Meter Consumer Alertby K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan today issued a consumer alert “urging Illinois residents to do their homework on smart meters – how they work, what type of data they collect, how the data can be used and if you authorize it, who can access it.” [1]

In an interview with WLS-TV of Chicago, Lisa Madigan said that:

There is a “lot of potential for consumers to be deceived.”

“There’s a possibility that [energy suppliers] will also be able to determine whether or not people are in the home.  There are some people that may not feel comfortable with sharing that information.” [2]

The above video is presented in the public’s interest for non-commercial purposes.  This video may contain material used pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine under 17 U.S.C. 107.

In addition, Lisa Madigan’s office has issued a fact sheet [3] regarding smart meters which states:

“Think twice whenever you are considering sharing personal information about yourself — including your smart meter data — with a marketer or third party.”

Smart meter data can reveal sensitive details about your life.  Spikes in electricity use may indicate when you are home, while low use may indicate you are not at home.”

Having a smart meter does not lower your electricity usage or bill.”

“A smart meter provides more detailed information about your electricity usage patterns; however, this data can only lower your electricity costs if you learn how to read the data, take time to monitor your electricity usage and change your energy usage habits.”

“Your electricity supplier may offer real-time pricing plans that charge different electricity prices throughout the day based on demand.  If more people use electricity at one time (‘peak times’), the price paid by real-time pricing customers will go up.  Participants in real-time pricing plans who change how they use their electricity and shift their use away from peak times to cheaper times of day may be able to save money.  But if they cannot change their habits, they may end up paying more.”

Information included as part of the “consumer alert” [1] also includes the following:

“Madigan urged consumers to make sure they understand and monitor their smart meter data before sharing it with any third parties or signing up for new electricity plans.  Consumers should also be aware that sharing smart meter data may open them up to a deluge of advertising and special offers from alternative electricity suppliers.  Alternative electricity suppliers – companies that sell electricity to ComEd and Ameren customers – have begun efforts to persuade consumers to share this data with them.   If a consumer agrees to share their smart meter data, the alternative supplier will likely use it to send frequent advertising and special offers for programs that may not actually save consumers money.”

“Smart meters are new and many people are unaccustomed to using them,” Madigan said.  “Learning how to read and monitor the data to change your energy usage habits is the only sure way to lower electricity bills.  Providing smart meter data to an alternative electricity supplier will not guarantee savings, but it will expose you to relentless advertising and marketing pitches.”

In response to the Illinois Attorney General consumer alert on smart meters, the Illinois Competitive Energy Association stated that:

“ICEA welcomes the Attorney General Office’s role in educating consumers about their rights, but its dire prediction about alternative supplier behavior is unwarranted at this time.” [2]

Commentary and Analysis by SkyVision Solutions

SkyVision Solutions welcomes the “consumer alert” on smart meters.  However, Lisa Madigan is primarily warning consumers about the pitfalls of sharing data with third parties and “relentless advertising and marketing pitches” that may or may not save consumers money.

The problem with the limited scope of this consumer alert is that, once a smart meter is installed, you have already been forced to share your personal data with the utility company for reasons that do not relate to customer billing.  This personal information can later be hacked into or inadvertently shared with others without your permission.  Based upon these facts, the more logical result of consumers “doing their homework on smart meters” would be to refuse the installation of a smart meter in the first place.

The real issue with smart meters from a privacy perspective is not data sharing but data collection.  Granular data collection is not necessary for the delivery of electrical service and is not required for billing purposes.  Thus, the indiscriminate collection of granular energy usage data unnecessarily invades your privacy.

As to possible marketing for different “real-time pricing plans” to the consumer in order to “save money,” it is unlikely that the consumer will ever “save money” with smart meters.  This website has recently posted several comprehensive articles helping to dispel claims on how smart meters might save the consumer money, including the following:

So, yes, as warned by the Illinois Attorney General, please “do your homework” on smart meters.  I think you will find a number of reasons to not allow one on your home in the first place. … Also, one would hope that the Attorney General could do more to protect consumer interests beyond issuing a “consumer alert.”

Source Material for this Article

[1] ***CONSUMER ALERT***: MADIGAN: GET SMART ABOUT SMART METERS, March 25, 2015, at http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/pressroom/2016_03/20160325.html

[2] “Illinois AG warns consumers about smart meter plans,” WLS-TV, ABC 7, Chicago, March 24, 2016, at http://abc7chicago.com/news/illinois-ag-warns-consumers-about-smart-meter-plans/1261489/

[3] “Get Smart about Smart Meters,” Illinois Attorney General, at http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/Smart_Meter_Data_Collection_Brochure.pdf

[4] “Vast Majority of Consumers Suffer Financial ‘Net Loss’ with Smart Meters, SkyVision Solutions Blog Article, February 2016, at https://smartgridawareness.org/2016/02/16/consumers-suffer-financial-loss-with-smart-meters/

[5] “Families Punished by ‘Smart’ Meters and TOU Rates, Recent Study Confirms,” SkyVision Solutions Blog Article, January 2016, at https://smartgridawareness.org/2016/01/31/families-punished-by-smart-meters-and-tou-rates/

[6] “The ‘Smart’ Dryer and TOU Rates: A Stupid Idea on So Many Levels,” SkyVision Solutions Blog Article, March 2016, at https://smartgridawareness.org/2016/03/07/smart-dryer-and-tou-rates-stupid-idea/

Copyright Notice © SkyVision Solutions and Smart Grid Awareness, 2013 – 2016.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of original material from this site without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SkyVision Solutions and Smart Grid Awareness with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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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4 Responses to Illinois Attorney General Issues Consumer Alert on ‘Smart’ Meters

  1. Walt says:

    Am I required to allow instillation of a smart meter in Illinois or do I have a right to opt out?

    • The answer depends on your utility company. For the major Illinois utilities of Ameren and ComEd:

      For Ameren:

      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)

      For ComEd:

      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)

      For more information, refer to: https://smartgridawareness.org/2014/10/21/icc-mistreats-consumers-on-smart-meters/

  2. Warren says:

    Madigan ought to be prosecuting utilities for invading the privacy of citizens, not issuing warnings.

    • The Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act was codified by statute, and the legislation had passed by overriding a veto from the Governor. The Illinois Attorney General had opposed the legislation but mostly from a cost perspective.

      The legislation says that “The AMI Plan shall secure the privacy of personal information and establish the right of consumers to consent to the disclosure of personal energy information to third parties through electronic, web-based, and other means in accordance with State and federal law and regulations regarding consumer privacy and protection of consumer data.”

      As is typical for those promoting smart meters, the law essentially conflates “privacy” and “confidentiality” by stating that the privacy of personal information/data will be protected from third parties rather than protecting the actual privacy of the person. At this point the Illinois Attorney General has been unwilling to confront the law itself as promoting unconstitutional invasions of privacy.

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