Who controls your heat pump? You? Or your electricity company?

SITE EDITOR’S NOTE August 20: I have received some feedback on this article, which stated, in part, that most “smart” meters in NZ do not contain ZigBee chips. (See below.) The post below in its original version did state that “not all” smart meters in NZ contain ZigBees;  however, for the sake of clarity I have re-edited the post to make it clear that most smart meters in NZ do not contain ZigBees.

I will write a follow-up post in response to other comments as soon as I can.

SITE EDITOR’S NOTE August 28:  I have followed up on other criticisms of this post and found out that it is not mandatory for heat pumps to have ZigBees or “demand response functionality”  in NZ (despite the statements on the website of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment; see below for the reference.)  However, there are heat pumps that are registered as being for suitable for use in NZ and Australia that do have “demand response functionality”.  This “demand response functionality” allows for the heat pumps to be turned down to their lowest setting, rather than be turned off. 

I will be writing a new post that explores these issues and give references so that you can find out whether your heat pump is one that may be able to be controlled remotely by your electricity company in a new post as as soon as I have time.  In the meantime, I have added Editor’s notes to the post below to correct the errors. If you would like to be notified when the new post has been written, please join the email list at www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz.

 

Who controls your heat pump…You?…Or your electricity company?

Do you have a heat pump in your home? I bet you appreciate its reliable warmth, especially when NZ is in the grip of a southerly that has come straight up from the Antarctic.

However, if you have a “smart meter” in or on your home, don’t count on always being able to enjoy that wonderful warmth….even if you always pay your bill on time.

Why not? Because your electricity or lines company may be able to turn off your heat pump remotely. [Ed note:  Actually the electricity or lines company may be able to turn your heat pump down, rather than shut it off altogether.  See Ed note of August 28, above.]

Smart meters which are fitted with a ZigBee communications chip have the ability to “talk” to “smart” appliances – and since 2011, according to a document on the website of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment heat pumps in NZ have been required to be “smart”.* [Ed note:  There is actually no such requirement at this stage, despite the statement on the website of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment; see Ed note of August 28, above].

Not all smart meters in NZ contain ZigBee chips at this point;  in fact, to the best of my knowledge most smart meters that have been installed to date here do not contain ZigBee chips.

However, the “smart boxes” being rolled out by WEL Networks Ltd in the Waikato and the Landis+Gyr E350 series smart meters being rolled out by Network Tasman Ltd, Counties Power and some other companies that are part of the SmartCo consortium do contain ZigBees.  (The ZigBees are part of the Silver Spring model 454 Network Interface Card (NIC) which the meters use to send information back to the lines company and/or electricity retailer. The default setting of the ZigBee part of the Network Interface Card is claimed to be “off”.  However, it may only be a matter of time before the ZigBee is turned on.  I have no information regarding how the ZigBee can be turned on;  it is possible this may be able to be done remotely.)

The Labour party would like to see all smart meters fitted with ZigBees: see http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/uncategorized/labour-party-2014-election-questionnaire/

(Please note that the Labour party is one of many parties that support smart meters in general;  see the 2014 Election Questionnaire from www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz if you want to learn about other parties  that support smart meters http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/category/2014-election-questionnaire/.

If you have a smart meter that contains a ZigBee, your power or lines company may therefore potentially be able to switch off your heat pump remotely. [Ed note:  Actually the electricity or lines company may be able to turn your heat pump down, rather than shut it off altogether. See Ed note of August 28, above.] Of course it’s done in the name of managing energy better, of course; but what may be great for your lines company may not be so wonderful for you. (Goodbye cosy warmth.)

If you do not yet have a smart meter, count yourself lucky;  you control your appliances; your lines or electricity company cannot switch them off  [or otherwise interfere with their operation] when you least expect it – or most need them.

 

 

Please see this link for information on how to keep your home “smart meter”-free.  http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/faqs/how-to-avoid-getting-a-smart-meter/ )

 

PS: Interested in learning how smart meters can affect your electricity bills?  Read this post:

http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/faqs/how-to-avoid-getting-a-smart-meter/

 

*According to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s  “Analysis of submissions on Smart meters: How households and the environment can benefit Briefing for Commerce Committee: “From 2011 in New Zealand, all new heat-pumps will be “smart”. New heat pumps will be required by the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) to have “demand response functionality”. This means they will be able to “talk to” a HAN. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) is looking at extending this requirement to more appliances.”

SOURCE LINK:  http://www.pce.parliament.nz/assets/Uploads/Reports/pdf/Smart_meters_submission_web.pdf

(NB: Even if there is no “smart meter” in the home, appliances which contain the ZigBee communications unit may still produce microwave radiation at  in an attempt to communicate with a non-existent “smart meter”, so if buying new appliances, it is prudent to avoid those that are marketed as being “smart” if you do not want to unnecessarily expose yourself to RFR in the microwave range.)

 

Labour Party: 2014 Election Questionnaire

Given that this is an election year, in May 2014, I prepared a formal Election Questionnaire on behalf of www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz and sent it to all the parties I knew to be contesting the 2014 general election.

For the record, I am neither a member of any political party, nor a donor to any political party.

Below is the response from the Labour Party (http://campaign.labour.org.nz/). For a more general discussion of the 2014 Election Questionnaire and links to replies from other parties contesting the 2014 general election, please see this link: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/2014-election-questionnaire-2/

A general discussion of the responses from the political parties may be found at this link:   http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/uncategorized/2014-election-questionnaire-general-discussion/   (Reading this link is recommended for people who are new to the “smart meter” issue as it helps to put the statements made in some of the party responses into the overall context of the “smart meter” situation in NZ.)

The Labour Party did not respond to www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz 2014 Election Questionnaire.

However, based on the fact that Labour’s Energy spokesman, David Shearer has called for compulsory (“ZigBee”) monitoring chips to be installed in “smart meters”, it seems fair to assume that the party is pro-“smart meters”. (ZigBee chips are designed to emit higher frequency microwave radiation to communicate with any “smart appliances” in a home and may also be used to send information to an in-home energy monitor. The microwave radiation produced by a ZigBee chip (also called a ZigeBee unit) is in addition to the microwave radiation produced to send information about electricity consumption back to the electricity company.)

Labour’s press release may be read here:

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1407/S00218/smart-meters-are-plain-dumb.htm

A TVNZ story on the issue may be read here: http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/real-time-electricity-monitoring-chip-complusory-under-labour-6024403

I am not aware of any other publicly-available information on the party’s position on “smart meters”.  If anyone is aware of information regarding the party’s position, please email me through the Contact form at this link http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/contact-us/   

Special note to any representatives of the Labour party reading this post:  If you would like to complete the questionnaire, please email me through http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/contact-us/ and I will send the questionnaire to you.  Thank you.

Links to other political parties’ responses to the 2014 Election Questionnaire may be found at this link:

http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/2014-election-questionnaire/

 

The text of the 2014 election questionnaire sent to each political party was the following:

 

www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz

Political Parties’ Questionnaire (2014)

 

The new “smart meters” being introduced to measure electricity and water consumption use radiofrequency radiation (RFR) in the microwave range to transmit information to electricity and water suppliers. The RFR used has been classified by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a “possible carcinogen” (Type 2b.)

The website www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz provides New Zealanders with a local source of information about “smart meters” in NZ. It covers health, privacy and other “smart-meter”-related issues that are important to families and businesses.

The www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz questionnaire will be sent to all political parties and the results will be posted on www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz and will also be featured in the regular newsletters sent to the email list.

 

Please reply to this questionnaire by June 15, 2014. Thank you.

Replies may be emailed to [email address was here but has been removed from this online posting to prevent spamming]

Name of political party:

Name of person completing the form:

Position in political party:                                                           Email:

 

 

Question 1: Does your party have a formal policy on “smart meters”. YES   NO [Please circle/highlight]

If YES, is your party’s policy on “smart meters” available online at your party’s website? YES NO

If YES, please put URL where this information may be accessed:

 

Question 2: Does your party support the introduction of “smart” meters for electricity?

 

YES   NO   [Please circle/ highlight]

Why or Why not?

 

 

Question 3: The current legislation only stipulates the electricity meters must have a current certificate of accuracy, yet some power companies are using this legislation to force people to have “smart meters”. Does your party support the right of people to retain a functioning analogue (Ferraris) meter if they do not want a microwave-radiation emitting “smart meter” measuring electricity consumption at their home?

 

YES   NO   [Please circle/ highlight]

Why or Why not?

 

Question 4: Some electricity companies are trying to coerce customers into accepting “smart meters” by including in their Terms and Conditions clauses to the effect that the customer must accept a “smart meter” (the inference being that their electricity could be cut off if they do not accept a “smart meter”.) Will your party change the relevant legislation/regulations to make it illegal for companies to try to intimidate customers to accept “smart meters” through such means?

 

YES   NO   [Please circle/ highlight]

Why or Why not?

 

Question 5: Members of the public have reported to www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz that once a “smart meter” has been installed it can be very difficult to get it removed, even when it is causing health issues. Will your party make changes to the relevant legislation/regulations so that companies are legally obliged to remove “smart meters” promptly (and replace them with either a modern analogue – Ferraris – meter or another non-smart meter of the customer’s choice) when a customer makes a request for the removal of a “smart meter”?

 

YES   NO   [Please circle/highlight]

Why or Why not?

 

 

Question 6: In their Terms and Conditions, some electricity companies claim to own all data gathered by “smart meters” and the right to disclose it to other parties. We believe that this is a significant breach of privacy. Will your party change the legislation/regulations governing the electricity industry so that data gathered by “smart meters” may be used only for billing purposes and make it an offence to supply this information to any other party (with the exception of the account holder and the police if there is cause to believe that there is/was criminal activity at a home or other building.)

 

YES   NO   [Please circle/highlight]

Why/Why not?

 

 

 

Question 7: Given that the RFR produced by “smart meters” is a possible type 2 carcinogen, does your party support a moratorium on further “smart meter” installations until comprehensive research has been conducted into “smart meter” health effects?

 

YES   NO   [Please circle/highlight]

Why/Why not?

 

 

 

Question 8: Given that the EPEC Report states that “a sensible approach” is to site “smart meters” somewhere where people are “unlikely to spend longer than a few minutes per day at a distance of less than 1 metre from them,” does your party support a ban on placing “smart meters” on bedroom walls?

 

YES   NO   [Please circle/highlight]

Why/Why not?

 

Question 9: Does your party support the introduction of “smart” meters for water?

YES   NO   [Please circle/highlight]

 

Why/Why not?

 

Thank you for your time.