Documentation provided by this webpage consists of an excerpt of written comments provided to the City of Naperville, Illinois, as part of a public proceeding conducted by the City of Naperville, Illinois (the City) in March 2013 held pursuant to Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978. This type of public proceeding is commonly referred to as a “PURPA hearing.” Comments pertain to the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative (NSGI). Comments were reformatted from the original written comments for better display on this website.
These statements are based both on personal knowledge as well as information and belief.
These comments are prepared in response to the public proceeding in the City of Naperville held pursuant to Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, 16 U.S.C § 2601 et seq., and particularly pursuant to 16 U.S.C §§ 2621, 2622, 2631, and 2632. In accordance with rules announced for the proceeding, any person may make a written comment or filing if directed to the City Clerk of Naperville by March 19, 2013.
Need for Smart Grid investments to Consider Security and Societal Benefit
I am submitting comments that are primarily relevant to one EISA Standard being considered, “Consideration of Smart Grid Investments.” In accordance with this Standard, an electric utility should consider an investment in a “qualified smart grid system” based upon several factors, including security and societal benefit.
I agree with the City of Naperville (the City) and its Electric Department’s recommendation that the City should adopt the EISA Standard for “Consideration for Smart Grid Investments.” However, the Standard should only be adopted provided the City implements a qualified smart grid system with policies and programs that fully consider and account for all factors listed in the EISA Standard.
To this point, I strongly disagree with the City’s conclusion that “similar policies are in place” or that “The City has a long history of compliance with this standard.” In addition, I would strongly disagree with any suggestion that the City has “deployed” “advanced grid technologies” that have properly addressed the appropriate factors to be considered for investment in a qualified smart grid system. In fact, it may be somewhat telling that in its summary review of the EISA Standard, the City explained that smart grid technologies “have been deployed to improve reliability, system performance, and cost effectiveness.” This summary only listed three of the six factors to be considered for the investment in accordance with the EISA standard; there was no specific mention by the City of the three other factors listed in the Standard, namely total costs, security, and societal benefit.
Before proceeding further with these comments, it deserves mention that, by Federal statute, it is my understanding that the currently scheduled PURPA public proceeding should have transpired years ago and certainly prior to moving ahead with the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative. This lapse on the part of the City lends supports to a potential assertion that the City has not given proper consideration to the necessary factors for implementing a smart grid initiative. The City should also recognize that since it did not schedule hearings in the timeframe originally required, it should expect and welcome comments not only on whether Federal Energy Standards should be adopted, but also on how the current smart grid system being implemented compares to a “qualified” system developed in accordance with the applicable Federal Standards.
It is primarily in the areas of security and societal benefit that I assert that, thus far, the City has not sufficiently addressed the corresponding EISA Standard-related factors to be considered for investment in a qualified smart grid system. Many of the paragraphs that follow will detail important issues that need to be resolved before the City can consider itself in “compliance with this standard.”
Security and societal risks associated with the smart grid system are primarily associated with, but not limited to, the [Advanced] Metering Infrastructure (AMI). As described by the City, “Advanced Metering Infrastructure includes deployment of about 57,000 smart meters throughout the City as well as supporting data management and information technology infrastructure. AMI is the foundation for the City’s ability to enact policies conforming to the Federal Standards contained within EPACT and EISA.” Therefore, since the AMI is the City’s “foundation” for conforming to Federal Standards, the AMI’s deficiencies also in turn represent the “foundation” for the City’s possible failure to conform to those same Standards.
In a general sense, I first mention the EISA Standard consideration factor of “security.” What is implied within the context of this term? Some definitions of the word “security” include: (1) precautions taken to guard against crime, attack, sabotage, espionage; (2) freedom from danger or risk; and (3) freedom from care, anxiety, or doubt. I contend that City officials and others who promote smart grid systems attempt to primarily address the vulnerability and stability of the smart grid system itself with regard to outside influences including sabotage or cyber attack. To consumer stakeholders, consideration of issues such as individual freedom from danger, risk, or anxiety is equally relevant.
Regarding smart meters, I have security concerns related to my Constitutional rights, namely, Amendment IV of the US Constitution where it states, “The right of the people to be secure [emphasis added] in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches, shall not be violated …” Similarly, Section 6 of Article I of the Illinois Constitution states, in part, that, “The people shall have the right to be secure [emphasis added] in their persons, houses, papers and other possessions against unreasonable searches, seizures, invasions of privacy [emphasis added] or interceptions of communications…” If a digital smart meter attached to my home could be considered or utilized as a surveillance device for the activities in my home, then that is a huge “security factor” to be addressed. I have concluded that the City and others promoting the sale of smart grid systems and their associated smart meters have essentially ignored this important security issue.
As I will discuss in subsequent paragraphs that follow, there are significant concerns related to the health hazards associated with radiofrequency (RF) emissions from wireless smart meters and other wireless transmitters that are associated with a smart grid system. For now, I will also link the concern for these health hazards to the stakeholder factor of “security” needing to be addressed. It is my contention that RF radiation emissions from wireless smart meters, as they are interpreted as an intrusion on one’s ability to control his or her own health status, negatively affect an individual’s security to the extent that they may increase one’s anxiety and increase one’s exposure to a health-related danger or risk.
I next mention the factor of “societal benefit.” It is my logical assertion that the term “societal benefit” as used within the context of the EISA Standard was intended to include an analysis of the net societal benefit, or impact on society. It is of little value to simply list a few positive benefits, such as anticipated “customer benefits directly related to improved service reliability” and “expected lower green house emissions due to energy [usage] reductions.” Furthermore, as a matter of semantics, I would point out that the EISA Standard does not state to simply list the potential benefits (plural) resulting from a qualified smart grid implementation; it provides instructions to consider an investment in a qualified smart grid system based upon its societal benefit (as a whole). Any meaningful analysis would assess the pros and cons, costs and benefits, of pursuing a course of action in light of its potential consequences, or the extent and nature of changes in society it may cause.
I firmly conclude that the City has not yet performed a meaningful analysis of the societal impact of implementing a smart grid system.
With the preceding paragraphs serving as a basis for what follows, I will now present information to support the assertion that the City has not yet sufficiently addressed increased stakeholder and customer risks involved with participation in a qualified smart grid system. These increased risks involve infringement of individual rights and negatively affect consumers in the City and thus society in general. In addition, these increased risks relate directly to the EISA Standard consideration factors of security and societal benefit.
Health Risks Associated with a Smart Grid System
First, I offer substantiation that wireless emissions from smart grid elements including wireless smart meters increase health-related risks to society and that these risks have not been adequately addressed by the City.
Wireless smart meter devices emit potentially harmful radiofrequency (RF) radiation. In May 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified RF radiation as a Group 2B carcinogen. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) exposure guidelines are believed to protect against injury caused by acute exposure that result in tissue heating or electric shock or burn. The current guidelines are vastly outdated* and do not address chronic, non-thermal exposure situations and thus are irrelevant and meaningless when it comes to protecting members of the public through that exposure mechanism.
*Refer to GAO report, dated July 2012, that states: “By not formally reassessing its current limit, FCC cannot ensure it is using a limit that reflects the latest research on RF energy exposure. FCC has also not reassessed its testing requirements to ensure that they identify the maximum RF energy exposure a user could experience.” See full report at http://gao.gov/assets/600/592901.pdf.
On the US EPA website, radiofrequency radiation is listed as a “Potential Carcinogens, Link Suspected but Unconfirmed.” The EPA website further states that: “Exposure to radio frequency (RF) radiation has climbed rapidly with the advent of cell phones and other wireless technologies. Studies of the link between exposure to RF and to electric and magnetic frequency (EMF) radiation have found RF and EMF to be ‘potential carcinogens,’ but the data linking RF and EMF to cancer is not conclusive. World wide, health physicists (scientists who study the biological effects of radiation) continue to study the issue.”
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has stated that, “Governments should reconsider the scientific basis for the present electromagnetic fields exposure standards set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, which have serious limitations and apply as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) principles. The adopted resolution underlines the fact that the precautionary principle should be applicable when scientific evaluation does not allow the risk to be determined with sufficient certainty.” Reference: Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly press release of May 27, 2011.
As explained by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Resolution 1815 (2011), entitled, “The Potential Danger of Electromagnetic Fields and Their Effect on the Environment,”: “Given the context of the growing exposure of the population, in particular that of the vulnerable groups such as young people and children, there could be extremely high human and economic costs if early warnings are neglected.”
The Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) in a letter to the Public Utilities Commission of the State of California, dated January 19, 2012, states: (1) “Chronic exposure to wireless radiofrequency radiation is a preventable environmental hazard that is sufficiently well documented to warrant immediate preventative public health action.” (2) “… we have an obligation to urge precaution when sufficient scientific and medical evidence suggests health risks which can potentially affect large populations.” (3) “the Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine finds it unacceptable from a public health standpoint to implement this technology until these serious medical concerns are resolved.” (4) “We consider a moratorium on installation of wireless ‘smart meters’ to be an issue of the highest importance.” (5) “Provide immediate relief to those requesting it and restore the analog meters.”
Also refer to AAEM position statement at https://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/aaem-scientific-review.pdf.
The United States Access Board, an independent Federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities, has stated, “The Board recognizes that multiple chemical sensitivities and electromagnetic sensitivities may be considered disabilities under the ADA if they so severely impair the neurological, respiratory or other functions of an individual that it substantially limits one or more of the individual’s major life activities.” Reference: Federal Register, Vol. 67, No. 170, Tuesday, September 3, 2002, page 56353, “Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.”
The United States Access Board sponsored the IEQ Indoor Environmental Quality Project, and the final project report includes the following statement, “For people who are electromagnetically sensitive, the presence of cell phones and towers, portable telephones, computers, fluorescent lighting, unshielded transformers and wiring, battery re-chargers, wireless devices, security and scanning equipment, microwave ovens, electric ranges and numerous other electrical appliances can make a building inaccessible.” Reference: “IEQ Indoor Environmental Quality,” NIBS IEQ Final Report, 7/14/05. Note: “NIBS” is an acronym for National Institute of Building Sciences.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a letter to Congressman Dennis Kucinich, dated December 12, 2012, states: “Children are disproportionately affected by environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation. The differences in bone density and the amount of fluid in a child’s brain compared to an adult’s brain could allow children to absorb greater quantities of RF energy deeper into their brains than adults. It is essential that any new standards for cell phones or other wireless devices [emphasis added] be based on protecting the youngest and most vulnerable populations to ensure they are safeguarded through their lifetimes.”
Many individuals and organizations recognize that adverse effects from RF radiation occur at levels much lower than current FCC exposure guidelines. While FCC exposure guidelines are typically in the range of 600 µWatt/cm2, it is recognized by some organizations that adverse effects can occur at levels of 0.1 µWatt/cm2 or lower. One such organization is “The BioInitiative Working Group 2012,” which has an exhaustive compilation of scientific study information and recommendations regarding exposure to RF radiation. See website at http://www.bioinitiative.org/.
Listed below are selected statements from the latest BioInitiative 2012 Report:
- “Bioeffects are clearly established and occur at very low levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation. Bioeffects can occur in the first few minutes at levels associated with cell and cordless phone use. Bioeffects can also occur from just minutes of exposure to mobile phone masts (cell towers), WI-FI, and wireless utility ‘smart’ meters that produce whole-body exposure.”
- “Many of these bioeffects can reasonably be expected to result in adverse health effects if the exposures are prolonged or chronic. This is because they interfere with normal body processes (disrupt homeostasis), prevent the body from healing damaged DNA, produce immune system imbalances, metabolic disruption and lower resistance to disease across multiple pathways. Essential body processes can eventually be disabled by incessant external stresses (from system-wide electrophysiological interference) and lead to pervasive impairment of metabolic and reproductive functions.”
- “The continued massive rollout of wireless technologies, in particular the wireless ‘smart’ utility meter, has triggered thousands of complaints of ill-health and disabling symptoms when the installation of these meters is in close proximity to family home living spaces.”
- “The ‘smart meter’ infrastructure represents the largest single commercial saturation of living space with pulsed RFR yet rolled out by industry. This program places a wireless device (like a mini-mobile phone base station) on the wall, replacing the electromechanical (spinning dial) meter. They will be installed on every home and classroom (every building with an electric meter). Utilities from California to Maine have installed tens of millions already, despite health concerns of experts who already are seeing thousands of health complaints. The wireless meters produce spikes of pulsed radiofrequency radiation on a continuous basis (24/7), and in typical operation, will saturate living space at levels that can be much higher than already reported to cause bioeffects and adverse health effects for some people.”
- “New, biologically-based public exposure standards are critically needed now and should key to scientific benchmarks for harm, plus a safety margin below that level. The standard of evidence for judging the scientific evidence should be based on good public health principles rather than demanding scientific certainty before actions are taken.”
I emphasize that not just the numerical values of FCC exposure guidelines are not applicable to non-thermal exposure mechanisms but also that the current FCC field strength limits are time-averaged. For non-thermal effects, there is no basis for using time-averaged based guidelines, and thus FCC guidelines do not account for the burst nature of wireless smart meter RF transmissions. This assertion is consistent with the Radiofrequency Interagency Work Group (RFIAWG) that identified several issues that still need to be addressed “to provide strong and credible rationale to support RF exposure guidelines.” The Working Group indicated that current exposure guidelines “may not adequately protect the public” for pulsed RF radiation exposures. Reference: Letter dated June 17, 1999, from the RFIAWG, signed by W. Gregory Lotz, and addressed to Richard Tell of the IEEE SCC28 (SC4) Risk Assessment Group.
A recent report from the European Environment Agency, EEA Report No 1/2013, states, “It is remarkable that the IARC carcinogenic classification does not seem to have had any significant impact on governments’ perceptions of their responsibilities to protect public health from this widespread source of radiation, especially given the ease with which exposures can be reduced.”
City’s Response to Health Concerns
What has been the City’s stance in comparison to the above readily available information and knowledge? Here are some examples:
In the response to Question 18, page 35, of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative Question/ Response Inventory, dated January 28, 2013, it states, “… organizations like the World Health Organization [monitor] the health impacts of radiofrequency. These organizations have concluded there is no health risk associated with radiofrequency.”
The above statement by the City should be considered false, based upon the facts presented above and that the fact the City has been previously informed by numerous sources, including myself, that in May 2011, the “WHO/ International Agency for Research and Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Question 37, page 40, of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative Question/ Response Inventory, dated January 28, 2013, states, “How do we know smart meters are safe?” Part of the City response is, “there are currently no mainstream studies that suggest the exposure to radio frequency (RF) has a negative effect on a person’s health.”
The above statement should also be considered false. First, who within the City of Naperville staff is deciding what constitutes a “mainstream” study? Is there someone on the City staff who considers themselves more qualified than the “mainstream” Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)? This Working Group of 31 scientists from 14 countries considered hundreds of scientific articles and, in May 2011, classified RF radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Question 10, page 58, of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative Question/ Response Inventory, dated January 28, 2013, states, “How will the city handle cases of the EMF sensitive population (potentially 3% of the population approx. 4,000 residents)? Litigation costs? Who pays?” The City’s response is, “The City will leverage its in-house counsel should the need arise just as they do for other resident issues.”
Does the question response give indication of “empathy” for consumers or in any way acknowledge potential hazards related to RF emissions? The City proceeds to answer the question by discussing that EMF sensitive people will be dealt with by its legal counsel, implying that claims may be frivolous, and even going as far as saying that this type of treatment of resident concerns is just like it handles “other resident issues.” Why doesn’t the City discuss genuine accommodation of affected customers?
Question 28, page 75, of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative Question/ Response Inventory, dated January 28, 2013, states, “How will you guarantee there is zero RF transmission entering our homes?” The City response, in part, is, “Since there are already many devices emitting RF in public buildings and private residences (e.g. cell phones, cordless phones, baby monitors, wireless internet routers, etc.), the city cannot guarantee that zero RF transmissions will enter your home now or after smart meters are deployed.”
This is an example of a “biased” question and answer. The issue to be addressed by the question is not RF radiation transmissions in general, but RF emissions specifically from the City’s wireless digital smart meters. Concerned consumers can eliminate the use of cell phones, wireless routers, and baby monitors in their homes, but they are being prevented or penalized for attempting to prudently avoid a new source of RF emissions that is being added to their private properties and homes.
Based upon the above information and other information that could be presented, I contend that City officials appear unaware of the real world around them and, in fact, display traits of incompetence, insensitivity, and deception in dealing with the important health-related issue of RF radiation emissions.
Without acknowledging potential health issues related to wireless emissions from the smart grid system, the City has made available the option for people to pay a fee in order to be provided with a non-wireless smart meter alternative (NWMA). Customers selecting this option must pay $68.35 for installation and a $24.75 monthly fee. As I have previously explained to the City: “The fee unreasonably limits, deters, and discourages the selection of an ‘opt-out’ provision for wireless smart meters for consumers who have health and safety concerns, and where exposure from RF radiation emissions emanates, in part, from a device installed on one’s own property without consent.” In fact, I further assert that this current option for an NWMA is confirmation in itself that relevant health and safety issues were not properly evaluated by the City as a part of initial consideration for the Naperville smart grid initiative. The NWMA (with fee) option represents an after-the-fact “bandage” approach to addressing genuine health-related questions from the public, with City officials likely hoping residents will accept this option and “Be Quiet.”
If the City were to finally acknowledge the potential health issues related to wireless RF radiation emissions, it would not charge a fee in order to opt-out of a wireless smart meter installation. In fact, for most wireless devices in the home, informed members of the public can choose to limit or eliminate the use of cellular or cordless phones, utilize wired routers, etc. There is an implied concept of “voluntary use” of wireless technologies in the home. There is no fee associated with not buying a cordless phone or not using it in the home. However, this basic voluntary use concept is not currently available in Naperville with the forced installation of wireless smart meters. The fact that the FCC has currently elected to continue to approve such smart meter devices for use without addressing possible chronic non-thermal radiation effects should not in turn give unlimited liberty to the City to forcibly install such devices on customer homes or to charge a fee to opt-out.
Privacy and Data Security Risks Associated with a Smart Grid System
I now present substantiation that smart grid elements including digital smart meters increase privacy and data security risks to society and that these risks have not been adequately addressed by the City.
To introduce the specific topics of privacy and data security, I will provide a quotation from the document entitled, “Smart Meter Data: Privacy and Cybersecurity,” published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), dated February 3, 2012: “Residential smart meters present privacy and cybersecurity issues that are likely to evolve with the technology. In 2010, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published a report identifying some of these issues, which fall into two main categories: (1) privacy concerns that smart meters will reveal the activities of people inside of a home by measuring their electricity usage frequently over time; and (2) fears that inadequate cybersecurity measures surrounding the digital transmission of smart meter data will expose it to misuse by authorized and unauthorized users of the data.”
Again quoting some information from the Congressional Research Service document mentioned above, “In the case of smart meters, the information is generated in the home, an area accorded specific textual protection in the Fourth Amendment, and one the Supreme Court has persistently safeguarded.” … “It is beyond dispute that the home is entitled to special protection as the center of the private lives of our people. Security of the home must be guarded by law in a world where privacy is diminished by enhanced surveillance and sophisticated communication systems.”
Privacy and security issues, due to the granular nature of data collected through the use of digital smart meters, have been well documented. Here is a more detailed quotation from a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) document published in August 2010, which was likely the source of the information in the CRS report referenced earlier:
“Smart meter data raises potential surveillance possibilities posing physical, financial, and reputational risks. Because smart meters collect energy data at much shorter time intervals than in the past (in 15-minute or sub-15-minute intervals rather than once a month), the information can reveal much more detailed information about the activities within a dwelling or other premises than was available in the past. This is because smart meter data provides information about the usage patterns for individual appliances—which in turn can reveal detailed information about activities within a premise through the use of nonintrusive appliance load monitoring (NALM) techniques…. For example, research shows that analyzing 15-minute interval aggregate household energy consumption data can by itself pinpoint the use of most major home appliances. … NALM techniques have many beneficial uses, including pinpointing loads for purposes of load balancing or increasing energy efficiency. However, such detailed information about appliance use can also reveal whether a building is occupied or vacant, show residency patterns over time, and reflect intimate details of people’s lives and their habits and preferences inside their homes.” [emphasis added]
Full Reference for the above quotation: NISTIR 7628, “Guidelines for Smart Grid Cyber Security: vol. 2, Privacy and the Smart Grid,” August 2010, pp 13-14.
Here is summary information from the GAO Report #GAO-11-117, “Electricity Grid Modernization,” where it states: “GAO identified the following six key challenges: (1) Aspects of the regulatory environment may make it difficult to ensure smart grid systems’ cybersecurity. (2) Utilities are focusing on regulatory compliance instead of comprehensive security. (3) The electric industry does not have an effective mechanism for sharing information on cybersecurity. (4) Consumers are not adequately informed about the benefits, costs, and risks associated with smart grid systems. [emphasis added] (5) There is a lack of security features being built into certain smart grid systems. (6) The electricity industry does not have metrics for evaluating cybersecurity.”
City’s Response to Privacy and Data Security Concerns
While the City does not acknowledge any potential adverse health effects associated with RF radiation, it has acknowledged, in a limited way, concerns related to privacy and data security. The City has developed a so-called “Customer Bill of Rights” which describe “core rights” of the utility customer, including:
- The Right to Privacy
- The Right to Options
- The Right to Data Security.
However, I contend that these key aspects of the Naperville Customer Bill of Rights amount to “false advertising.”
Regarding privacy, the Customer Bill of Rights mentions that “Customers will be informed of the available choices and consent options regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of energy consumption data.” But the most fundamental choice for privacy is not “available” and that is the option of not having any data collected beyond that required for monthly billing for a consumer who selects a traditional fixed-rate pricing program. What right to privacy do you really have without an option to not participate in the smart meter program? In fact, with a smart meter surveillance device attached to one’s home, there simply is no privacy.
The same is true for the “right to options.” The City elaborates on options with regard to selecting “a billing structure that meets their needs.” But how do you have true options if you cannot opt-out of having a smart meter?
With regard to the “right to data security,” the City of Naperville, within the context of its Customer Bill of Rights, describes a utility cyber security plan that will protect the smart grid’s critical computer infrastructure and that customers have a “right to a functioning electric meter and customer web portal that will provide secure, confidential, and accurate electricity consumption data.” So, the City basically acknowledges that the smart meter transmits confidential data and that there are significant enough threats to warrant a special cyber security plan. Thus, it is evident that there are risks involved for the consumer to participate in this smart grid system, but yet the consumer is not asked for consent to assume these risks nor does the consumer have the option to refuse participation in the smart meter program. What sort of “right” is this?
The Naperville Customer Bill of Rights and cyber security plan may be appropriate for the consumer who consents to time-based electrical usage rates and the smart metering that is necessary for implementing those rates. However, the Customer Bill of Rights completely evades and ignores the fundamental “rights” of those consumers who do not want to assume the risks involved with smart metering and who do not elect to participate in other optional energy control programs.
I will now present an instance where the City distributes misleading information, in this case, with regard to individual privacy. Question 2, page 26, of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative Question/ Response Inventory, dated January 28, 2013, states, “Can the utility monitor my consumption and know when I’m home?” The City’s response is, “The utility cannot detect the presence of people in their homes; only the consumption of electricity is measured for billing purposes.”
The above statement by the City should be considered false, on two (2) different levels:
- The first phrase in the response is false based upon information previously presented from the NIST document that indicated that 15-minute interval smart meter electrical usage measurements can reveal intimate details regarding consumer behavior, including whether the consumer is home or not.
- The second phrase in the above response is false due to the fact that much more consumption data are measured than is required for billing purposes. A digital smart meter records a consumer’s electrical usage up to 2,976 times per month. For a customer with a traditional fixed-rate pricing program, only one (1) consumption data point needs to be measured and recorded per month for billing purposes. The City of Naperville thus records almost 3,000 times more consumption data than required for billing purposes.
Based upon the clear and overwhelming factual information available, it is disconcerting and perplexing to observe the City to continue to insist that detailed electrical consumption data of the nature collected by the City of Naperville cannot reveal personal behavior patterns or that data are only collected to the extent necessary for billing purposes. Also, there are questions that need to be answered by the City regarding all of the excess data being collected. For what duration is the data being retained? For what purpose is the data being maintained? These are questions of critical interest to the consumer due to the risks involved where a surveillance device, placed upon one’s home without consent, essentially records everything he or she does around the clock in this world where we depend so heavily on the use of electricity in our daily lives.
Summary of Risks Associated with the Smart Grid
To this point in my comments, I have provided convincing information that could be briefly and simply summarized as follows:
Elements of the smart grid system, including the installation of digital smart meters on private property, are associated with a number of serious issues:
- Government reports reveal that our privacy is at risk because data are recorded that can reveal activities inside homes;
- Government reports reveal that inadequate cybersecurity measures may result in misuse or theft of personal data;
- Scientists warn that radiofrequency (RF) radiation emitted from wireless meters and other smart grid components may cause adverse biological effects and that current FCC limits are outdated.
Need for Informed Consent
Based upon the information presented, people can now have an informed debate on how significant the above risks are in terms of privacy, data security, and health effects. However, there can be no doubt that at least some risks exist and that the risks could actually be quite significant. A fatal flaw with the implementation of the current Naperville smart grid system is that consumers are not being allowed to provide informed consent for these additional risks to be incurred.
It is clear that the requirement for receiving electrical service is the disclosure of one’s identity and the amount of electricity used. The disclosure of this information is solely for the limited business purpose of establishing and maintaining this electrical service. For a consumer with a traditional fixed-rate pricing program, the amount of electrical usage information required for monthly billing purposes is the collection of one data point of electrical usage per month. On the other hand, a digital smart meter records a consumer’s electrical usage up to several thousand times per month. For a customer with a fixed-rate pricing program, the customer is provided no mechanism to either accept or refuse the significant financial, health, privacy, and security risks associated with the collection, storage, transmission, and/or disclosure of data in excess of that required for billing purposes.
The scenario described above would be different if consumers opt-in to timed-based rates or utilize other electrical management tools that actually require smart metering of electrical service. In those instances, consumers could consent for the City to collect data necessary to implement the smart metering options being requested.
The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, PURPA Section 111(d), as amended by The Energy Policy Act of 2005, contains language that requires state utility commissions and unregulated utilities to consider whether it is appropriate for utilities to offer customers smart metering for those who request it. I agree that it is acceptable for people to be provided with smart metering for those who request it, consistent with the original intent and language of The Energy Policy Act of 2005.
However, when the City elected to provide every one of its customers with a smart meter, whether or not they would ever request time-dependent rates and other features that require two-way communication between the consumer and the utility, I argue that a careless and improper act was committed.
To more fully describe the nature of this careless and improper action, I assert the following:
Due to the fact that smart meters collect significantly more energy consumption information than is required for customer billing purposes (for a consumer with a traditional fixed-rate pricing program), there is no business relationship basis for the City to impose on the consumer the additional and unnecessary financial, health, privacy, and data security risks that are associated with having a smart meter installed on one’s own property without consent. Put in another way, there is no voluntary assumption of risk and no informed consent on the part of the consumer for the clear additional and unnecessary risks involved with digital smart meter technology, and thus the City violates fair business practices and creates the trigger mechanism for constitutional infringements dealing with rights of privacy, security, and a healthful environment.
Smart Grid “Costs” Outweigh “Benefits” for Consumers
Before completing these comments, it is appropriate that I address one of the City’s purported benefits of the smart grid system, namely to “Provide consumers with tools to control their energy expenditures.” I contend that these hypothetical benefits are part of a marketing scheme to establish acceptance by consumers, probably so they won’t notice the downplayed or unadvertised consumer risks and costs associated with the smart grid system and smart meters. To substantiate this claim, the following supporting information is offered:
As stated by the Illinois Attorney General in a news article in June 2011, “The utilities want to experiment with expensive and unproven smart grid technology, yet all the risk for this experiment will lie with consumers. … The pitch is that smart meters will allow consumers to monitor their electrical usage, helping them to reduce consumption and save money. … Consumers don’t need to be forced to pay billions for so-called smart technology to know how to reduce their utility bills. We know to turn down the heat or air conditioning and shut off the lights. The utilities have shown no evidence of billions of dollars in benefits to consumers from these new meters, but they have shown they know how to profit. I think the only real question is: How dumb do they think we are?”
A twelve-month pilot study in the United Kingdom involving thousands of families found that smart meters “may not have much effect” on consumption. According to Dr. Tom Hargreaves at the University of East Anglia, “Rather than feeling motivated to save more energy and money, householders were left feeling frustrated and despondent that the changes they could make were very small.”
According to a document published by the National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy, entitled, “Getting Smarter About the Smart Grid,” November 2012:
- “The smart meter is a canard—a story or a hoax based on specious and grandiose claims about energy benefits ostensibly derived from the promise of ‘two-way’ communication with the customer. … These energy benefits have not been delivered, or have been only minimally delivered by the meter networks.”
- “Following the initial hype about smart grid and all of the benefits it could bring, the smart meter rapidly became ‘low hanging fruit’ that would provide ‘two-way communication’ to the end user that could deliver all the wonderful benefits of the smart grid. So the narrative went. But this starry-eyed account turned out to be wrong. In reality, the smart meter delivered unemployed meter readers and a deluge of meter data that utilities had no idea what to do with. It delivered little or nothing of value to the consumer.”
- “Much early rhetoric about the smart grid and its potential was visionary and grandiose, but what has been delivered has been less impressive, offering little or no public benefit but much public expense. The meter has come to symbolize a ‘bait-and-switch’ situation, mainly to the benefit the utility industry and its vendors as well as to politicians and bureaucrats. In their present form, smart meters offer few or no benefits to consumers, but pose significant risks and costs to them and to society.”
Refer to the full document at the following link:
Summary and Conclusions
To address the serious issues that I have described in these comments in terms of adoption of the EISA Standard and the consideration of smart grid system factors of security and societal benefit, the following actions should be taken immediately:
The City should reconsider the implementation of the current smart grid system, or at a minimum, consider a smart grid system that does not employ the use of wireless technology. This would reduce potential adverse health effects and also reduce cyber security risks dealing with unauthorized individuals hacking into wireless communications associated with the currently planned smart grid system in Naperville.
Should a smart grid system employing wireless technology be used, consumers may be charged no fees to retain a non-wireless electrical usage meter.
For individuals with the traditional fixed-rate pricing program, informed consent must always be obtained from the consumer in order to have more data collected from the home than would be required for monthly billing purposes. If consent is not given, then those individuals have the right to retain an analog meter. Alternatively, creative individuals or programmers could likely provide software upgrade capabilities for digital smart meters that would provide different and more appropriate options for data collection, based upon the customer needs for billing purposes.
In conclusion, although adoption is recommended for the EISA Standard, “Consideration for Smart Grid Investments,” because of the foregoing information provided, it must be concluded that the City of Naperville has not yet sufficiently addressed the smart grid-related factors of security and societal benefit. The City should therefore immediately suspend all activities related to its smart grid initiative until such issues are adequately addressed. In particular, the current [Advanced] Metering Infrastructure (AMI) must be completely reconsidered in order to ensure adequate conformance with the EPACT and EISA Federal Standards. In the meantime, upon request of consumers, and as a remedial action, it is necessary that analog electrical usage meters be returned to those requesting them. Continued usage of analog meters or the non-wireless meter alternative (NWMA) must be done without imposition of any associated fees.