Nicor Gas Begins Deployment of Smart Meter Radio Modules in Northern Illinois

by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions

With little advance notice of what is really happening, Nicor Gas in northern Illinois is quietly attaching wireless transmitters to existing natural gas meters located at customer homes and businesses.

Nicor Gas customers have begun receiving postcards that say:

“In the near future, a small two-way communication device will be installed on the existing natural gas meter at your home or business.  The device will collect natural gas usage information and securely send it to Nicor Gas.”

In addition, at a Nicor Gas webpage dealing with frequently asked questions (FAQs) on meter modernization [1], it says:

Does Nicor Gas offer any opt-out or deferral options?

Nicor Gas does not offer an “opt-out” or deferral option.

You may be aware of other utilities in the area charging a fee to opt out. However, their opt out is only for a brief period and all customers will need to comply.

I consider the last statement above as false.  For example, in Naperville, Illinois, I am currently opting-out of a wireless electric smart meter (and have been for 5 years), and there has never been a warning that this opt out is “for a brief period” of time.

At the end of the Nicor Gas FAQ webpage [1], it states:

Health and Safety

This device complies with all FCC health and safety standards.

That’s it on the topic of “Health and Safety”?  If you have read other articles at this website, you can surmise that I am not impressed with such a simple and misleading statement as above.  The fact that the “device complies” with FCC guidelines is irrelevant to safety as the FCC does not actually have a standard for safe levels of exposure to RF emissions [2].

To expand upon this point, let me quote respected scientist, David L. McCormick, Ph.D., who was a member of the Working Group for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and who voted to declare RF radiation as a possible carcinogen in 2011:

“FCC regulations were driven by thermal effects, by tissue heating.  We know that any long-term effects of [radiofrequency electro] magnetic fields are going to result from effects that occur at non-thermal temperatures where there is not obvious tissue heating.

So the fact you are below a thermal level says nothing about whether or not there is any risk associated with that exposure.” [3]

As you saw above, Nicor Gas is not currently offering an opt-out or deferral option for its smart gas meter upgrade program.  But then it didn’t ask any customers how they felt about having a wireless transmitter installed upon their property or if they have any health or other concerns.

If you are disturbed by what you have read in this article and are a Nicor Gas customer, I suggest you call 888.Nicor4U (642.6748) regarding your opposition and demand an opt-out program be implemented immediately.

References and Notes

[1] Nicor Gas Meter Modernization webpage on Frequently Asked Questions, at https://nicorgas.com/residential/meter-reading/advanced-metering-infrastructure

[2] “Wireless Devices and Health Concerns, FCC Consumer Facts, at https://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/fcc-consumer-safety-info.pdf; simply put, per the FCC, “there is no federally developed national standard for safe levels of exposure to radiofrequency (RF) energy.”

[3] A Critical Review of the ComEd Radiofrequency ‘Fact Sheet’, SkyVision Solutions Blog Article, June 2015, at https://smartgridawareness.org/2015/06/11/review-of-comed-radiofrequency-fact-sheet/; the above article includes the following relevant video:

[4] Additional Information:  Per the link below, Nicor Gas chose a Sensus FlexNet® communication network and radio modules for its so-called gas meter modernization program.

The Nicor Gas meter upgrades are properly characterized as “smart” meters since the new Sensus radio modules enable 2-way communication, and the “FlexNet” communication system allows collection and transmission of granular consumption data.

Nicor Gas Selects Sensus for Meter Modernization Program, March 8, 2018, at https://sensus.com/news-events/news-releases/nicor-gas-selects-sensus-meter-modernization-program/

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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7 Responses to Nicor Gas Begins Deployment of Smart Meter Radio Modules in Northern Illinois

  1. Christina Giunta says:

    I called Tribus (company that Nicor is using to install their “Meter Modernization”) today and asked them how often this “Meter Modernization” is transmitting information. The guy on the phone stammered around a bit and said someone will drive by or walk by once a month and take the reading and that it will only transmit that one time. Then he said, the reading will be taken once a month between the 11th and 15th. He was not very accurate and did not make a lot of sense. He did not seem to know for sure what the process is or how these devices work. Or, maybe he does know exactly how they work and they don’t want the public to know!

    • The quickest response is that I would say the Tribus person does not know how they work. He seems to be describing how certain AMR “drive-by” meters work but not the “advanced” AMI type meters these are suppose to be. One of my other reply comments for this article provides more information.

  2. Rick Beckham says:

    I was just on Nicor’s FAQ for three different pages. I can’t find any reference to Health & Safety. Could you post the webpage? Thanks

  3. Douglas Campbell says:

    I found this information on Nicor’s website. Not sure if this is accurate information, seems to conflict with what I heard from Nicor personnel who said they will transmit to the nearest cell tower once a month. Handheld or vehicle reading would probably be ok with me, its the constant transmissions or a powerful burst that would cause problems and I would always be suspicious of the accuracy of the readings. “How Does Automated Meter Reading Work?
    A small, battery-powered radio transmitter is installed on the natural gas meter. Once the transmitter is installed, we will be able to read your meter remotely from a special device that is either handheld or installed in a vehicle. When our employee walks or drives by your meter, that device receives a signal from the transmitter on the meter with the usage data. Once the usage data is collected, it is processed through our billing system.”

    • I would say that the information in that link references an old pilot for AMR (one-way) type meters. This gas meter upgrade being rolled out is definitely a 2-way (AMI) “smart” type program.

      There is no detailed literature available for review by the public, which is part of the problem, but the information I have been sent via email indicates that the meters transmit to a fixed collector system once per 4 hours with hourly data. Generally, however, any AMI network also involves network management traffic (in addition to data transmissions), and I have not been able to get any information on the full profile of RF meter emissions.

  4. Warren says:

    Here in Sedona, AZ, we have found the similar looking gas “smart” meters to be transmitting every minute! Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxBD7s1Rt8U

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