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.) 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.)

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.

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)

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.

“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.)

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.

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/ )

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.

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.

 

NB:  If you are interested in the smart meter issue, please sign up to the email newsletter on www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz

 

What is Time of Use (Tou) Pricing and how could it affect you?

Some NZ electricity companies currently offer different pricing plans, some of which offer different tariffs at different times of the day.   Such pricing plans are often referred to as “Time of Use” (ToU) tariffs or pricing plans.

In some places where ToU pricing has been introduced electricity costs can be double at peak times relative to off peak. See: http://www.energy.gov.on.ca/en/smart-meters-and-tou-prices/

At the moment in NZ, “Time of Use” pricing plans are options, rather than being mandatory.  Don’t count on time-of-use pricing to remain optional, however, or for the government to come to the rescue of struggling households (or businesses that cannot change the time of day at which they need to use electricity, and theref0re face excessive costs.)  No, the government is all for the smart meters and has started a “smart grid forum”.  (More on this below.)

In a report by the Electricity Commission, “Advanced Metering Infrastructure in New Zealand: Roll-out and Requirements” (3 Dec. 2009) the purported benefits of “smart meters” are extolled:

“‘Smart’ electricity meters, and the infrastructure that accompanies them, can provide a richer information base with which consumers can make better decisions about electricity use. The functionality in ‘smart’ electricity meters allows consumers to participate in the electricity market by allowing them to respond to market signals by altering their consumption patterns.”

“Those ‘smarter’ meters can also provide better information to electricity lines companies about network performance and consumers consumption patterns, allowing better management of networks and more informed investment decisions. ‘Smarter’ meters can also allow retailers to offer a range of tariff options to consumers that:

“(a) financially incentivises consumers to respond to market signals in the form of tariff pricing by altering their consumption patterns to reduce delivered electricity cost;

“(b) allows tariff changes to be carried out remotely. Before smart meter technology, changing tariffs required a site visit and a physical change of meter; and

“(c) provides information to consumers that allows them to choose the best pricing plan for them.” [Emphasis added]

The Electricity Commission considered this differential pricing to be beneficial because it will force people to use less electricity at peak times as many people won’t be able to afford it. This allows the electricity industry to reap the profits from time-of-use pricing while delaying investment in any new generation capacity needed if NZ’s population continues to increase.  (Too bad if air pollution in cities increases because people can’t afford to run electric heaters on winter afternoons and evenings and therefore burn coal instead or people  in low income households can’t afford to eat hot meals.)

“Developments in AMI have the potential to allow additional peak demand to be managed, delaying the need for investment in new generation, transmission, and distribution,” stated the Electricity Commission.

The government has now created a special “smart grid” forum to move ahead plans for “smart” meters and the “smart grid”.

 http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/energy/electricity/new-zealand-smart-grid-forum

Yes, “smart” meters have a lot of advantages if you are an electricity company.

If you are a member of an ordinary family or run a small business (which can’t negotiate with the government for enormous discounts on your electricity), you will be bearing the costs of the implementation of the  “smart grid”, will be exposed to additional electromagnetic radiation from “smart meters” and associated infrastructure, and may have higher power bills to boot.  What a great deal! (Not.)