Smart Meter Enabled Demand Charges: “No Way to Live”

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

High Smart Meter Bills and Demand ChargesProponents of smart meters justify them primarily based on assertions that consumption feedback to consumers will help them conserve energy in support of sustainability goals.  As stated in one study [1]:

“Smart meters offer possibilities for providing immediate and frequent feedback on household energy use via different means such as websites, mobile phones, and home displays [, and] it is important to study which type of feedback (e.g., financial, environmental, or social comparison feedback) is most effective to encourage sustainable energy behavior, and under which conditions these changes are most likely.”

In actuality, smart meters represent, at best, a “novelty” to the consumer and as reported by one recent study, “the interest in the meters wore off after a time” [2].  In addition, we have shown at this website that the vast majority of consumers will suffer a financial “net loss” with smart meters [3].

Now we finally see how bad the financial ramifications for consumers can be with regard to smart meter deployments:

  • extreme change in the way customers [are charged] for electricity service”
  • unpredictable rates called demand charges”
  • steep electricity bill spikes
  • No Way to Live

Wellinghoff File PhotoThe above words are those of Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as he wrote an opinion piece at Crain’s Chicago Business [4].  He was describing a new “demand charge” being proposed by Commonwealth Edison (through Illinois state legislation) for its 4 million customers in northern Illinois.  Here is a further description by Mr. Wellinghoff:

“What are demand charges?  Demand charges mean your utility can charge you in any one month for how many appliances are on at any one instant in your house.  And it doesn’t matter if you know they are on or can’t control whether they are on or off (like the defrost cycle of your refrigerator).  [Illinois Senate Bill] SB 1585 would make Illinois the only state to mandate demand charges on all Illinois homeowners, with steep electricity bill spikes for those who happen to use too many electric appliances at the same time.  For a family with children active throughout the house, avoiding those could become a constant challenge.  If a pie is being baked in the kitchen, a decision to use a power saw during the same 30-minute period could trigger a steep fee, with little or no understanding as to why.”

“Legislating demand charges on all residential customers in order to address a problem that may or may not emerge over the next several years is an outrageous proposal.  We strongly urge the Illinois General Assembly to reject it.”

Let us be clear. …  “Demand charges” are enabled through smart meters which allow the determination of how much electricity a customer uses in any 30-minute period.  Under the proposed legislation, consumers would be penalized for an entire month based upon how much electricity they happen to use during any 30-minute period during the month.  (See specific proposed legislation language below. [5])

I agree with former FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff that demand charges are “outrageous.”  In addition, however, smart meters themselves are outrageous as they pose numerous unacceptable threats and risks to the consumer [6].

References and Notes for this Article

[1] “Understanding the Human Dimensions of a Sustainable Energy Transition,” by Linda Steg, et.al., Frontiers in Psychology, June 2015, available at http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00805/full

[2] “Smart Meter Rollout a Waste of Money, According to Study,” SkyVision Solutions Blog Article, December 2014, at https://smartgridawareness.org/2014/12/21/smart-meter-rollout-a-waste-of-money/

[3] “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/

[4] ”Demand rates symptom of bigger problem: lack of energy policy,” Opinion by Jon Wellinghoff, May 21, 2016, at http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20160521/ISSUE07/305219999/demand-charges-symptom-of-lack-of-illinois-energy-policy

[5] From proposed Illinois Senate Bill 1585, May 12, 2016, full copy available at https://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/il-senate-bill-1585-may-2016.pdf:

“For purposes of this Section, the kilowatts of demand for each residential customer of an electric utility that serves more than 3,000,000 retail customers in the State shall be calculated based on the maximum kilowatts delivered to the customer during a 30-minute interval over a 16-hour period beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. Central Prevailing Time on a non-holiday weekday during the monthly billing period or periods for which the bill is rendered;”

[6] SkyVision Solutions has previously summarized consumer and societal risks associated with smart meter deployments as:

  • The financial burden imposed by smart meters where most consumers will suffer a “net loss.”
  • Privacy invasions due to granular collection of energy usage data which represents a “gold mine” to others.
  • Potential health risks and actual adverse health effects caused by the additional electrosmog created by the smart meters and their associated infrastructure.
  • The increased risk of household fires due to smart meter safety issues and ‘catastrophic failures’ that are expected with smart meters as opposed to traditional usage meters.
  • Societal implications of smart grid and smart meter cybersecurity threats which can result in catastrophic events affecting widespread areas of the electric grid.

In addition, for those few consumers who might be motivated in an attempt to use smart meters to somehow conserve energy, they will pay a yet to be quantified price related to losing control over one’s appliances, quality of life, comfort, and health.

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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3 Responses to Smart Meter Enabled Demand Charges: “No Way to Live”

  1. Keysha Goodwin says:

    This seems to be the wave of big business across our country. First they becpme deregulated- next lobby and contribute fincially to our elected public offials and judges campaigns to vote in favor of them instead of the customers/consumer- then mootly increase fees- bully consumers to buy there goods in hopes of a cheaper bill- and finally charge the consumer again because they had to do their job. What a mockery? This is the case with BGE, Water utilities, cable, phone etc.. They are trying to do it with public tv.

  2. keithjim says:

    ..giving monopolies even more ‘power’ over their constituents, now that the fox (PUC) is in bed with the utility…
    How does one correct a spurious demand reading? jot them an email? refuse to pay?
    Demand charges were in the past an industrial rather than a residential issue…

  3. ewindheim says:

    Demand charges sound like something out of a Franz Kafka novel. So if little Billie uses the TV while Mom cooks dinner and the AC unit comes on when the garage door opener is operating your DEMAND charge will spike and you could pay a penalty rate fee for the entire month. Such a deal for the utilities!

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