Advanced Meters DO NOT pose any risk to [people’s] health, finances, or privacy – electricity company employee

The headline for this post (“Advanced Meters DO NOT pose any risk to [people’s] health, finances, or privacy – Graeme Purches”) is a slightly edited quote from an message that I received today (August 5, 2015) from Graeme Purches. (The only editing I did was the substitution of the word [people] in place of a pronoun.)

I strongly disagree Mr Purches’ assertions but thought the [slightly edited] quote would make a catchy headline.

If you have read the recent posts on of www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz the name Graeme Purches may be familiar to you as he did not appreciate a recent post that I wrote.

You can read that post here: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/otago-daily-times-reports-no-emissions-from-smart-meters-according-to-electricity-company-representative/

Mr Purches sent some comments to me following that post (which I used for the basis of another post which you can read here: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/government-and-electricity-industry-positions/electricity-company-employee-insists-smart-meters-have-benefits-for-consumers/  )

Sadly, Graeme Purches seems no happier with the post in which I discussed the advantages of smart meters.

I received the following comments below earlier today:  Mr Purches’s comments included quotes from my post, which I have left in standard text;  I have put Mr Purches’s new comments in italics so that you can tell it was written by him.

Where I have commented on Mr Purches’s latest comments I have underlined the text.

I have edited the text of Mr Purches’s comment to remove any typos that I noticed.  I also removed the text discussing ultrasound in pregnancy and possible increased risk of non-right handedness as the post to which Mr Purches was responding had not mentioned ultrasound. (He and I had had a brief email exchange on the topic of ultrasound.  I have appended Mr Purches comments on the link that I sent him to a paper discussing ultrasound and increased risk of non righthandedness to the end of this post.)

 

Katherine

I think you should post this on your front page.

If you cannot, then I think some of us will have to start an alternative website to balance the argument:

Electricity company employee insists smart meters have benefits for consumers As regular visitors to www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz may have noticed, there are no comments at the end of posts. This is due to lack of time to moderate comments. (The site has a Contact Form so that people who need help with smart meter related problems can get assistance.) I did receive an interesting comment from Graeme Purches, Trust Power’s community relations manager in response to the post at this link: www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/otago-daily-times-reports-no-emissions-from-smart-meters-according-to-electricity-company-representative/

The comment expressed disappointment that www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz was purportedly providing inaccurate information. (I have sent an email to Mr Purches and invited him to point out any factual inaccuracies on the website because I do strive for accuracy when compiling site content.)*

* I received a polite reply to that email but no examples of any factual inaccuracies in the content of www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz.

The comment also expressed frustration that the post mentioned the advantages that smart meters offer to the electricity without mentioning that, in Graeme Purches’ opinion, smart meters also offer advantages to consumers.

Quoting from the post, the advantages to the electricity industry from smart meters that I mentioned were the following; “…allowing electricity retailers or lines companies to take control of appliances in a home via a smart meter and also making it possible for companies to charge more for electricity at different times of the day…great for profits…not great for consumers…please see these links for details: www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/could-a-smart-meter-mean-you-are-miserably-cold-during-winter/ and http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/what-is-time-of-use-tou-pricing-and-how-could-it-affect-you/

In fairness to Mr Purches, the advantages to consumers from smart meters (that he included in his comment) are the following:

“Why was there no mention of the fact that Advanced meters also allow electricity companies to sell power at lower prices at times of the day or during periods when electricity prices are lower than average? No advantages for consumers? No meter readers calling, more accurate bills, accurate information about their electricity use which enables them to plan better and make savings…. the list of advantages for consumers goes on.”

Mr Purches’ comments are interesting because at no time in the post in question did I state that there were no advantages to consumers from smart meters. I simply stated some key reasons (in my opinion) why the electricity industry is so keen on installing smart meters, that is the ability to charge more for electricity at different times of the day and to be able to control customers’ appliances. (Lowering labour costs by being able to lay-off meter readers is another advantage for the industry.)

Katherine, you did not say NO ADVANTAGES, but equally, at no time in the post did you acknowledge that Smart Meters (as you call them) DO OFFER ANY ADVANTAGES to consumers!

The industry already has the ability to control hot water heating and night store heating, if, the customer has chosen (yes – it is the consumer’s choice!) to be on a controlled tariff for those items. This controlled tariff allows the company to turn those items off at times when prices are high, and pass those saving on to the customers. It also allows network companies to reduce load at peak demand, which means they do not have to invest in larger lines and transformers, which results in line charges being able to be held at lower levels.

I have absolutely no problem with people choosing to have controlled hot water heating using the traditional “ripple control” system method which has been used for decades in NZ.  I think this is a very sensible way of managing peak demand for power.

If consumers haven’t opted for a “controlled” option for water and night store heating, they are charged an “averaged” rate, which takes into account the peaks and troughs in spot market pricing. For many people, this means they are paying more than they need to for their electricity. Smart meters give consumer who have the ability to do so the option to make choices about when they use their power, therefore reducing costs.

It is currently a legal requirement, that regardless of meter, consumers must be given the option to have an averaged price. So just because they have an Advanced Meter, does not mean they are automatically exposed to variable pricing.

I never stated that a smart meter meant that people were automatically exposed to variable (or TOU) pricing. I said that a smart meter faciliated the use of  Time of Use pricing and that these types of tariffs could potentially significantly increase electricity bills for people who need to use electricity at the times when it is most expensive.

It is also my belief that the electricity industry would not be spending the very large amounts of money that it is spending on installing smart meters if it did not expect to benefit financially from this expenditure.

This is your belief Katherine, and it is right. Of course the industry expects to benefit financially, thanks to a reduction in operating costs due to simpler automated handling of consumption data, and easier integration of consumption information into billing systems. At the same time, large numbers of the old style meters are reaching the end of their life cycle, and the cost of either replacing them with the same style of meter or having them re-tested for compliance is little different to replacing them with an Advanced Meter.

Certainly, smart (or “advanced”) as Mr Purches terms them, meters, allow companies to charge less for electricity at some “times of the day” (or when “electricity prices are lower than average”, as he states.) However, overseas the “Time of Use” (ToU) pricing plans made possible by smart meters can mean that people may pay twice as much for electricity at peak times than they do at times of lower demand. I see this as an advantage for the electricity industry, not ordinary households. (For example, see http://www.hydroone.com/TOU/Pages/Default.aspx)

This is very misleading Katherine. Time of Use or TOU is the term not only “overseas” but here in New Zealand where it describes commercial metering, often on larger industrial or business sites, using TOU meters – not residential meters.

I dispute the claim that TOU is a term that applies only to commercial metering installations.  Time of Use pricing plans are used in NZ  and TOU is a term that is used in NZ in relation to domestic electricity pricing plans. 

For an example, see this link:  https://www.powerswitch.org.nz/powerswitch/site-info/powerswitch-faqs/pricing-plans

The businesses opting for TOU do so because on average they pay less for their electricity than on a normal fixed rate tariff, thanks to them having the flexibility to reduce load when prices go high. I am not aware of any large retailer applying TOU pricing to residential customers, although a couple of small start-up companies have begun offering this, and it is increasing in popularity.

While theoretically, it is possible to use ToU pricing to save money (for example by doing some electricity-hungry tasks at off-peak periods) this will not work for many people who are at work during the day and need to sleep at night. So-called “smart” appliances that could be programmed to do tasks at off-peak times (and/or can be controlled by a “smart” meter) may be much too expensive for low income households, especially working families who have the most to lose from ToU pricing.

This is also misleading. There is no theoretically about it – this is real. For example, retired folk that are home in the middle of the day would be able to do their washing, wash their dishes in a dish washer, pre-prepare an evening meal, view TV programmes they have recorded overnight in front of a heater in winter etc because electricity prices are generally cheaper in the mid-portion (11am – 3pm) part of the day, than earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon or evening. A quick visit to Harvey Norman or Noel Leeming will show that more than half of the new washing machines and clothes driers can now be programmed to start and stop – something that, other than delaying the start for an hour or so, wasn’t possible a couple of years ago. Other appliances such as dishwashers etc. are now coming out with the same features.

I believe that my point that working households who cannot afford new appliances and need to use electricity for cooking, heating their home, bathing children etc. on winter evenings have a lot to lose from the introduction of TOU pricing is still valid, even if people who are retired and spend their days at home may be able to cook etc. during the day when electricity may be cheaper than at a peak time.

“Smart” appliances also add to the microwave radiation level in the home environment.

(For this reason, they are not a smart choice, in my opinion.)

I am pleased you said “your opinion”. The more valid (in my opinion) opinion of reputable experts from Universities and others that have studied this in depth, using scientific measurement, differs.

Actually, there are a large number of scientists who recently petitioned the United Nations for better regulation of EMR because of the large body of research showing adverse biological effects from levels of microwave radiation that are permissible within many national standards. 

http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/emf-scientists-appeal-to-united-nations-for-better-safety-standards-for-non-ionising-radiation/

Sadly,  NZ’s national standard for microwave radiation is among the most lax in the world.  NZ2772.1:1999 is designed only to prevent thermal injury, shocks and sudden death.

For more information see this link: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/read-an-environmental-lawyers-perspective-on-proposed-changes-to-regulation-of-electromagnetic-radiation/

And the appliances I have just mentioned above do not contain the Smart Technology you are referring to.

I hope Mr Purches is correct in this statement.

If you have a heat pump and want to know if it can be controlled via a smart meter, please see this link: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/could-a-smart-meter-mean-you-are-miserably-cold-during-winter/

Graeme Purches seems to think that not having a meter reader visit your home is an advantage.

Personally, I would much rather a meter reader have a job than have a smart meter blasting out pulses of microwave radiation to send information about electricity use. I know that many other New Zealanders feel the same way.

Again, I am pleased you have added the rider “personally”. Trustpower receives regular feedback about how much many people appreciate our meter readers, and the human face they bring.

Yes, it’s shame how many nice people risking losing their jobs if other people uncritically accept smart meters.

However, the electricity industry is under constant pressure to keep prices down, and it is an inescapable fact that moving to Advanced Meters will assist with that. The comment about smart meters “blasting out pulses of microwave radiation” is an example of emotive misinformation. Scientific evidence, as distinct from emotive opinion, does not support the use of terms such as “blasted”.

Some of the smart meters on the NZ market can expose people to pulses of microwave radiation that are millions of times higher than the estimated natural (pre-industrial) microwave radiation level.  I think under the circumstances “blasting” is quite an appropriate term.

For information about different smart meters’ microwave radiation outputs, please see these links:

http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/government-and-electricity-industry-positions/is-the-wel-smart-box-a-health-hazard/

 http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/uncategorized/how-much-radiation-does-the-smart-meter-at-your-home-produce/

http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/uncategorized/does-the-modem-for-this-smart-meter-produce-more-radiation-than-is-legal-in-nz/

Another type of meter (it looks from the photo to be an Elster gREX smart meter) was measured as producing 1,360,000 microwatts per square metre.

See:  http://www.organicnz.org.nz/node/501

 

And the term microwave radiation is also being used emotively by you in this argument. You may be interested to know that I am one of thousands of kiwis now wearing hearing aids that have bluetooth technology which allows the aids in each ear to communicate with each other (though my head), as well as with the TV set and a range of other devices. None of us have died or become ill as a result of this yet.

Personal experience of  using a new technology without any obvious  adverse effects on health is not the best way to judge whether or not the technology may be safe or unsafe.  For start, people do vary in their tolerance of electromagnetic radiation.  Being able to use a technology without experiencing symptoms does not mean that the device is harmless.  There may be a long latency period before any adverse effects are apparent,

Everyone knows that smoking cigarettes significantly increases the risk of developing lung cancer but typically it takes decades before smokers develop lung cancer – and many smokers do not develop lung cancer despite smoking heavily all their lives.

Thousands upon thousands of us have children and grandchildren who have for years now had baby monitors sitting beside their cot, in some cases not only relaying sound, but transmitting warning of breathing stops thanks to sensors in the mattress. This has prevented cot deaths – not caused them!

I did not state that there was any relationship between baby monitors and cot death.

I will state, for the record, that if I had a baby, I would not be using a wireless baby monitor.

Dr Magda Havas petitioned her government to issue a health risk regarding wireless baby monitors due to the risks from the microwave radiation. See:  http://www.magdahavas.com/health-canada-needs-to-issue-warning-about-wireless-baby-monitors/

And then there are the potential health effects from smart meters to consider. The electricity industry would like you to believe that there are no health risks from smart meters. (You can read about potential health issues with smart meters at this link: www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/health-issues/ )

Really? This link is your emotive website Katherine. How about giving people direct links, and highlighting them, to the wealth of credible scientific rather than emotive information available from reputable sources that disagree with what you promote?

The link www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/health-issues/ includes links to many other sources of information, including peer reviewed papers.

And please, please, please, put these links on your front page of your website, and highlight them, so we can get some balance in this. 

Based on previous correspondence, I think the links that Mr Purches was referring to was a link to the following:

1) The EPEC report (you can read a critique of the EPEC report by Don Maisch, PhD at this link: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/report-on-health-and-safety-aspects-of-electricity-smart-meters-debunked/ – and this link also has a link to the EPEC website)

2) The report on a Landis+Gyr smart meter (that is being marketed to the public by WEL Ltd. as a “smart box”) at this link: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/government-and-electricity-industry-positions/is-the-wel-smart-box-a-health-hazard/

It’s quite clear to me that Mr Purches and I do have quite different perspectives on the smart meter issue.

He’s paid to promote them.

Actually, my profession is communication, and it is my job to try and encourage balanced debate so that rational rather than emotive decision making can occur. Interestingly, I am a signatory to a professional code of ethics. Yes I get paid, but I presume you don’t, and if that is the case, I am sorry, but that simply doesn’t make you any more credible than me Katherine.

I (like many other public spirited people) volunteer my time to help New Zealanders understand the potential risks to their health, finances and privacy posed by this new (and unnecessary) technology.

Sorry Katherine – let me clarify this for readers by rewriting from my side of the fence.

I, like many professional people, get paid to help people.

Personally, I do not think that making statements to the effect that smart meters do not have health, privacy or financial risks actually constitutes helping people.

Especially not when many people have suffered awful symptoms after smart meter installations – for example, this lady: http://stopsmartmeters.com.au/2014/03/26/sofias-story-punitive-power-and-the-smart-meter-tyranny/

Some cases of New Zealanders who have allowed for their stories of smart meter related illness to be shared on this website may be found at this link: http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/category/user-feedback/

The list of people who are also paid to help people includes doctors, nurses, teachers, policemen, lawyers, and accountants.

In some cases, I help people by passing on the results of research so that people can make their own judgements, about whether to believe opinion, or fact.

If by “research” Mr Purches is  referring to the EPEC report (covered in this post and the report on the test results for the WEL smart box (covered in this post ) I would like to point out that both the EPEC report and the WEL smart box test results have the potential to mislead people who do not realise that the regulations that govern EMR emissions in NZ are lax. 

People who read the EPEC report and WEL smart box test results who do not realise that compliance with the New Zealand’s standard NZS2772.1:1999 is intended to prevent thermal injury, shocks and sudden death ONLY may assume that smart meters are safe because their emissions are lower than allowed under NZS2772.1:1999.

In this case I am doing this to help prevent people being misled by well-meaning but misguided folk, and help them understand that Advanced Meters DO NOT pose any risk to their health, finances, or privacy, and that the implementation of this technology (well over half of all New Zealand homes now have it) will ultimately not only be to their benefit, but to the benefit of the people supplying it, the nation, and indeed the world – because it will allow more efficient use of electricity.

I completely dispute the claim that smart meters do not pose health, financial or privacy risks.

I offer the following links as a starting point for why smart meters do have health, privacy and financial risks.

http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/health-issues/

http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/category/privacy-2/

http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/latest-news/what-is-time-of-use-tou-pricing-and-how-could-it-affect-you/

 

Afterword

In conclusion, it does seem that Mr Purches and I will have to agree to disagree on the smart meter issue.  I have corresponded with Mr Purches off and on since December 2013. 

Our correspondence began after  I wrote to Trustpower (the company for which Mr Purches works) concerning the health risks of smart meters in the hope that the company would choose not to move to this technology.  (At the time that I wrote to Trustpower, it was the only large power company in NZ which had not begun to install smart meters in its customers’ homes. )

Mr Purches responded to my email on behalf of Trustpower, hence our correspondence.

An announcement on NZX on June 5, 2014 stated that Metrix had been chosen as Trustpower’s “preferred smart metering partner” and that “smart meter” installations for Trustpower customers are planned for 2015. See: https://www.nzx.com/companies/TPW/announcements/251233 )

 

 

Ultrasound discussion

 Comment excerpted from email from me (Katherine Smith) to Graeme Purches:

PS: Re the expectant father’s comments re ultrasound potentially causing left handedness;  there is some evidence that ultrasound exposure in utero may increase the chance that a child is not right handed.

See:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/uog.9055/pdf

 

Reply from Graeme Purches (in italics) and further comments in underlined type by Katherine Smith

I note you say “there is some evidence……”

Why do you not quote the summary from that report, which says:

“In conclusion, there is a weak statistically significant association between ultrasound screening and being nonright handed, but this does not mean that there must be a causal relationship. The current biological understanding of handedness is limited and partly contradictory of the epidemiological evidence. We will have to live with uncertainty regarding ultrasound safety in the years to come.”

 Do you really, seriously, believe that the statements “there is a weak statistically significant association”, “but this does not mean there must be a causal relationship”, “the current biological understanding of handness is limited and partly contradictory of the epidemiological evidence” are irrelevant here? Just because somebody has done some research on a topic because they wondered about something, and the research then proves inconclusive at best, doesn’t mean the original premise has to be taken as gospel! Sadly, this occurs too frequently on the stopsmartmeters web site.

Mr Purches’ comment that “inconclusive” research “doesn’t mean the original premise has to be taken as gospel”  does have some merit. 

In my email to him used the word “may” when referring to the paper that found a statistically significant relationship (albeit a weak one) between ultrasound exposure and increased risk of non righthandedness.  I did not mean to imply that there was definitely a causative relationship between ultrasound and the increased risk of non-right handedness.  (If I believed that there was definitely a causative relationship I would have said so.) 

Over the years, a body of evidence has accumulated that shows that prenatal ultrasound may not be the extremely safe pre-natal screening technique that it has largely been believed to be.  A thoughtful  discussion of this topic, written by a medical doctor, including links to further information may be read at this link:

http://sarahbuckley.com/ultrasound-scans-cause-for-concern

 

 

 

Peer-reviewed journal publishes article on smart meter health effects

An article by an Australian physician on adverse effects suffered by people who have had smart meters installed has now been published in a peer reviewed journal.  You can read about the article at this link:

http://stopsmartmeters.com.au/2015/02/07/australian-study-puts-victoria-at-centre-stage-of-the-smart-meter-controversy/

NB:  If you are interested in getting updates on the smart meter issue in NZ you can sign up to the free email list at www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz

NB: Not everyone suffers from health effects following a smart meter installation as people’s sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation varies.  However the EMR produced by smart meters has been classified as a possible carcinogen by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer so many people decide to prevent a smart meter installation for this reason.  (See http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/how-to-avoid-getting-a-smart-meter/ if you don’t want a smart meter.)