by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions
Governments and corporations are forcing utility ‘smart’ meters onto consumers’ homes saying that they give consumers control over their own energy bills. This propaganda-like message is quite misleading and more importantly completely ignores the tremendous financial, health, safety, privacy, and cybersecurity risks that smart meters impose on consumers and society .
Fully informed and attentive consumers recognize the numerous risks associated with smart grid technology and may attempt to refuse smart meter installations or exercise rights to “opt-out.”
Unfortunately, electric service providers many times make it extremely difficult to opt-out of smart meter installations and in fact may intimidate, browbeat, or otherwise “nudge” consumers into submission using a number of tactics. Let’s mention a few examples of these tactics that have come to my attention over the past few weeks.
Tactics of Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) in Illinois
According to minutes of the Board of Trustees for the Village of Burr Ridge, no information regarding a smart meter deferral option exists on the ComEd website and customers are subjected to “bully tactics” and “harassment through numerous phone calls” when attempting to refuse a smart meter installation .
Furthermore, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, one trustee for the Village of Burr Ridge indicated that:
“when people call ComEd at 1-866-368-8326 they need to use the right language and stand their ground on the phone. She noted if residents say they want to ‘opt out’ of the program, they will be told there is no opt-out option. You have to say ‘defer’,’ not ‘opt out,’ adding that it took 35 minutes for her to get the deferral done with ComEd.” 
From ComEd’s perspective, the company indicates that it is making a “deliberate attempt to reach out to customers who refuse a smart meter installation in a courteous and professional manner to ensure we understand the reason they refused; to clarify, educate, or inform them accordingly; and to ensure they understand that our tariffs include a monthly fee for the refusal.” 
Tactics of the City of Seattle, Seattle City Light Department
The Seattle City Light Department is currently developing an “opt-out” policy for its customers. Communications regarding the planned policy indicates:
“This policy was designed to provide a choice for City Light customers who do not wish to receive the benefits of advanced meters. In the draft policy, customers who are interested in participating in the Opt-Out Program will need to sign a form acknowledging that they are choosing to forego the benefits that will be available with advanced meters.” 
Since this program has not yet been implemented, it is not clear how well the City will advertise the opt-out program to its customers, but it is clear that it is attempting to create a narrative that there are real “benefits” to the smart meter program that customers will “forego” if they opt-out. The City does not acknowledge smart meter risks and threats to which customers are exposed but instead will force customers to sign an acknowledgement form that they do not wish to receive “the benefits.”
Tactics of Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO)
The most extreme example of strong-arm tactics on smart meter refusals that I have seen is by PSO. Customers electing to decline a smart meter receive a very threatening-type letter where the customer must sign an “acknowledgement, release and indemnification” that states the following:
“Customer hereby agrees to release, hold harmless, and indemnify AEP/PSO, American Power Company, Inc., and all of their affiliated companies, and any of their officers, directors, employees, and agents from and against losses, liabilities, costs, expenses, suits, actions, and claims, including claims arising out of injuries to person or damage to property, caused by or in any way attributable to or related to Customer’s request for a non-standard meter, the removal of an advanced meter, and/or the subsequent installation of non-standard meter.” 
Would any of the readers of this article (electric customers) desire to sign a document so worded as above?
What is so absurd about the above “indemnification” is that this is the sort of statement that the utility company should sign for the benefit of the consumer should it decide to install a smart meter on someone’s home … since it is that action that exposes the consumer to additional risks related to personal injuries and damages to the homeowner’s property.
A consumer requesting to retain an analog usage meter is simply requesting the same level of electric service as currently being received. How can the utility company (through its required indemnification acknowledgement) infer that there are increased risks for the utility company for not making a change to a smart meter?
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission authorized the action of PSO offering non-standard meters to its customers. It is my opinion there is no basis for PSO engaging in legal intimidation tactics and attempting to scare customers away from declining a smart meter.
There are many reasons for consumers to refuse the installation of smart meters. As previously written at this website, Increased Knowledge of ‘Smart’ Meters Leads to Unfavorable Views, According to Study . Utility organizations attempt to keep you in the dark regarding smart meter threats and risks and only mention alleged benefits. As shown in this article, utilities also use varying degrees of nudging and intimidation in an attempt to minimize the number of customers who choose to refuse smart meter installations. It is my recommendation for you to stand your ground when attempting to decline smart meter installations, i.e, don’t be intimidated.
Note: There are also instances where consumers have had their power cut or were arrested for not paying required smart meter “opt-out” fees (e.g., see ). This current article has focused on those consumers attempting to play by the “rules” and still finding that the utility makes it difficult for them to decline smart meter installations.
Notes and References for this Article
 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.
 Village of Burr Ridge IL Board of Trustees Minutes for June 27, 2016, which includes a summary of a meeting with ComEd on smart meters, dated June 24, 2016; available at https://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/burr-ridge-mtg-packet-2016-06-27.pdf
 “Burr Ridge urges opt-out option for ComEd smart meters,” Chicago Tribune, June 28, 2016, at http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/burr-ridge/news/ct-dbr-smart-meter-cancer-tl-0630-20160628-story.html
 E-mail communication from Seattle City Light to its customers regarding “Advanced Metering Update,” August 2016; for proposed policy, refer to https://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/seattle-iii-427_opt-out-policy.pdf
 Letter from Public Service Company of Oklahoma to Customer, dated August 3, 2016, (personal information redacted); refer to https://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/pso-letter-page-1.jpg and https://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/pso-letter-page-2.jpg for images.
 “Increased Knowledge of ‘Smart’ Meters Leads to Unfavorable Views, According to Study,” SkyVision Solutions Blog Article, April 2016, at https://smartgridawareness.org/2016/04/10/increased-knowledge-of-smart-meters-leads-to-unfavorable-views/
 “Naperville Smart Meter Opponent Files Federal Lawsuit,” SkyVision Solutions Blog Article, January 2015, at https://smartgridawareness.org/2015/01/29/naperville-smart-meter-opponent-files-federal-lawsuit/