published Monday, November 28th, 2011

Groups decry sharing of electricity consumption data

Karen Chastain recently convinced the Electric Power Board to remove a smart meter that she says was installed at her home without her knowledge or consent. A group of homeowners are putting up signs warning installers not to put in the new smart meters.
Karen Chastain recently convinced the Electric Power Board to remove a smart meter that she says was installed at her home without her knowledge or consent. A group of homeowners are putting up signs warning installers not to put in the new smart meters.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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Do you oppose having a "smart meter" placed on your home?

Chattanooga’s new “smart” electric meters were designed to reduce the impact of outages and give consumers more control over their power bills, but some residents say the loss of privacy is a slippery slope and the new meters aren’t worth the benefits.

Members of the Chattanooga Tea Party say information supplied to EPB by more than 90,000 installed meters amounts to government surveillance, as the real-time readouts on wattage spikes could be used to determine when a person gets home, takes a shower or is gone for an extended period.

“It is a huge government intrusion,” said Hixson homeowner Karen Chastain.

She returned from a vacation to find that the utility had installed its new meter without her permission. However, she was able to get the old meter back after threatening legal action.

Chastain and dozens of other residents are affixing signs to their current meters warning utilities not to install the new digital meter.

“What bothers me the most is that a lot of people are allowing it, not questioning it,” she said. “They say, ‘Oh, it’s a smart meter, it sounds really good.’”

Each digital meter comes equipped with a 4-watt cellular radio used to broadcast data back to the city-owned utility — data that eventually will be used for time-of-day pricing, spot problems before they turn into high energy bills, or to manage energy usage for customers who want the utility to do that, officials say.

“Regulation of consumers’ use of energy is one of the factors involved. It’s one of their aims,” Chastain said.

But Harold DePriest, president of the Electric Power Board and strong proponent for the meters, told a tea party gathering that the fears are unfounded.

The company did acknowledge, though, that appliances could be turned off for customers who want help managing their energy usage and agree to participate.

  • photo
    Electric Power Board president and CEO Harold DePriest
    Photo by Margaret Fenton

What’s a Smart Meter?

The technology doesn’t currently give EPB enough information to determine anything significant about a homeowner’s habits, even for a seasoned engineer such as himself, DePriest said.

“Surveillance is a long stretch,” he said. “I can’t tell if someone is asleep or awake, if they’re cooking or watching the TV.”

While utility officials can hazard a guess at what an energy spike means — a large increase in wattage on an August afternoon is probably the air conditioning kicking on — it’s hard to know for sure, he said.

“In years to come we will have time-of-use rates” for customers who choose that pricing structure, DePriest said. “TVA charges us a premium for those usage spikes.”

Remotely throttling back a homeowner’s air conditioner or hot water heater isn’t possible without additional wiring and an agreement from the resident, he added, because EPB owns only the meter, not the house.

Regardless, he promised that those changes won’t happen in his three remaining years as head of EPB.

Costs and Benefits

Even without hourly pricing and smart appliances, there are benefits to keeping the meters in place, DePriest said.

Smart meters and the federal stimulus-funded Smart Grid combine to form a more robust, virtually storm-proof power grid that allows engineers to reduce outage times drastically during storms and to reroute power in the blink of an eye, DePriest said.

In addition, the new meters eliminate the need for human meter readers because they essentially read themselves and send the data back to EPB. That could save the utility about $3 million per year in operating costs, he added.

But civil libertarians aren’t convinced, pointing to examples in other states and countries where the technology has been upgraded to provide more detailed information and give utilities more control over residents’ power consumption.

“The technology is there for them to greatly expand and enhance it,” added Mark West, head of the Chattanooga Tea Party. “How many times have we been assured by utilities, bureaucracies and elected officials that this is where we are starting and this is not going to go any further? But five, 10, 20 years later you wouldn’t even recognize the system or program they started with.”

Sharon Peker, who serves on the Chattanooga Tea Party’s leadership committee, said, “It wouldn’t take an electrical engineer” to see if someone is home because power consumption necessarily would go down when someone is absent.

But Richard Beeland, spokesman for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, called opponents “conspiracy theorists.”

“This is so fringe, it’s a shame that we have to discuss the smart meter program in the city,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything that we can say to them that can make them believe what we’re doing is a good thing.”

Agenda 21

In fact, allowing appliances to communicate and follow commands isn’t just a possibility, it’s one of the goals for the technology, which is being rolled out worldwide.

Smart Grid opponents say the philosophy of monitored energy use evolved from the United Nations’ “Agenda 21” agreement, which called in 1992 for controlling the rise in energy consumption through smart, sustainable technologies.

On Nov. 10, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it would make $8 million available to “encourage utilities, local governments, and communities to create programs that empower consumers to better manage their electricity use through improved access to their own electricity consumption data,” according to a news release posted on SmartGrid.gov.

But officials’ plans could take longer than projected if resistance continues to build.

The Associated Press reported that a number of communities have placed moratoriums on the devices, including several counties and more than three dozen cities, and utilities like PG&E are allowing consumers to keep the old meters — for a monthly fee.

  • photo
    Karen Chastain recently convinced the Electric Power Board to remove a smart meter from her home after it was installed without her knowledge or consent. A group of homeowners are putting up signs warning installers not to put in the new smart meters.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Symptoms and Causes

The meters are just a symptom of a larger problem with government regulators, DePriest told residents at a question-and-answer session.

“Our country has had an energy policy for years, and it’s high-cost energy,” he said.

TVA’s average plant is 60 years old, and most were designed to last 40 years, he said.

“Last year TVA shut down six units, and they have to replace all their units in 20 years,” DePriest said. “The savings for them is new generation that they don’t have to install.”

And new plants are taking longer and costing more to build, encouraging utilities simply to charge more for energy to discourage its use rather than build new plants.

“Our power companies are trapped,” he said. “The cost of permitting a power plant of any time is huge, and it takes 20 to 30 years to get one online.”

Though he acknowledged that smart appliances and time-of-day pricing are coming, DePriest doesn’t think that “anybody at TVA has the cojones” to force it on consumers without their permission.

EPB plans to finish its installation of 170,000 meters in summer 2012.

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about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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RobertWilliams said...
November 28, 2011 at 2:32 a.m.
acerigger said...

Nice to know that we have a choice in the matter. I had the impression that the "smart meters" were mandatory,even though I don't like the idea of them being able to control my usage, plus the meters cost readers jobs.

November 28, 2011 at 5:42 a.m.
Emersization said...

But Harold DePriest, president of the Electric Power Board and strong proponent for the meters, told a tea party gathering that the fears are unfounded. [...] The technology doesn’t currently give EPB enough information to determine anything significant about a homeowner’s habits, even for a seasoned engineer such as himself, DePriest said.

“Surveillance is a long stretch,” he said. “I can’t tell if someone is asleep or awake, if they’re cooking or watching the TV.”

Either Harold DePriest is dishonest or just plain uneducated about business driven technology.

Smart meters are able to chart behavioral metrics at EPB, just like point of sale transaction systems at Walmart, in determination of wattage use. I don't buy EPB's rhetoric on reassuring the public that they don't know what is going on.

The sensitivity of the watts are a big factor in recognizing appliances such as a water heaters, stoves, hair-dryers, computers, electric blankets, and night-lights.

November 28, 2011 at 6:30 a.m.
sage1 said...

"But Richard Beeland, spokesman for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, called opponents “conspiracy theorists.”

Ah yessss. Typical snide remark from the Littlefield administration. Attact anyone who disagrees with you. I gotta say the "Little" in your name sure fits.

And then we get this: “This is so fringe, it’s a shame that we have to discuss the smart meter program in the city,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything that we can say to them that can make them believe what we’re doing is a good thing.”

The usual Littlefield attitude: Just trust me on this people.....I know what is best for you!

November 28, 2011 at 7:06 a.m.
rolando said...

They do admit that control of our power usage -- when we can run what appliance [a/c, waterheater, lights] and for how long -- is absolutely going to happen.

Just another link in the ever-lengthening chains of government control of every aspect of our lives.

Being retired and on MediCare, I sometimes wonder if the ObamaCare Death Panels might not be such a bad idea after all...

November 28, 2011 at 7:31 a.m.
jameslcole1979 said...

THESE SHOULD BE MANDATORY, not optional. They will allow the utility provider to better determine when peak times are and work to make sure that production rates can ebb and flow with peak demand. As for costing meter reader jobs, oh by all means let's take that factor into consideration too. While we are at, let's get rid of all the garbage trucks and go back to horse and buggies to haul garbage. We would have to hire more garbage men that way. If we got rid of all the electric street lights and switched to oil lamps we would have to hire more people to keep them lit. If you buy cheap crap at Walmart do you take into consideration the American manufacturing jobs that you just got sent over seas with your purchasing power? I bet you don't. The outrage of convenience!

People, use common sense please. This isn't big brother at work, they aren't OUT TO GET YOU. My god how come paranoia is so rampant.

Your energy consumption effects the price of energy for everyone around you. It should be public knowledge! So should internet usage. Stop drinking the tea people, it's gonna cause dementia if you aren't careful.

November 28, 2011 at 7:52 a.m.

Wow can anyone say paranoid? It amazes me how silly people can be when it come to technology. I bet each and everyone of you that have said something negative have cell phones, but think nothing about using them and who might be listening to your conversations. Just grow up people.

November 28, 2011 at 7:59 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Please, no more conspiracy theories, the horses are out of the barn already. What are you worried about, they will know you are growing grass in your house?

The government already has enough capability to track virtually everything you do and say. Your cell phone lets them track your position, your phone calls can be monitored in real time, and probably are already, and analyzed by computer. Your financial records, charge cards, bank activity, etc., are available to the government. Cameras are intersections, on bridges and light poles over sidewalks monitor your coming and going. Face-recognition software lets them analyze and identify every friend whose photo you post on Facebook or google+or store in cloud storage. They know who/where/what you search for with a search engine on the internet,. Your e-mail is an open book.

You guys that encouraged the Patriot Act are probably the same ones complaining about electronic meter reading.

Your life is an open book. Get used to it.

November 28, 2011 at 8:16 a.m.
KWVeteran said...

This is another government type intervention into controlling our lives. I sure don't need the government informing me how to control power usage. My monthly utility bill and common sense tells me that much. Big Brother in every facet of living!

November 28, 2011 at 8:43 a.m.
acerigger said...

It's not paranoid to want to use whatever amount of electricity that I'm willing and able to pay for,not to have someone else determine that for me!

November 28, 2011 at 9:11 a.m.
sarms58 said...

Let people choose to use the smart meter or keep the old style meter. Of course, if your meter requires a person to read it each month, you will need to pay that cost as well. Probably no more than 10 to 20 dollars a month but if people want to keep their old meter, so be it. And of course when pricing goes to houring rates, those with the old style meters won't be able to take advantage of the discounted prices for off peak consumption...but they are free to choose...

November 28, 2011 at 9:48 a.m.
freethinker1956 said...

as a freethinker i question a lot of things but this is not the fight that i would or any one should chose. as i understand it they can only turn things off if you sign up for that program when it becomes available. also i know that the area i live in, Volunteer Energy, they use a technology that does not use cell phones in the meter because i have inquired about it, it is hard wired with no air wave transmission.I would be more concerned about cell phone and internet use.

November 28, 2011 at 10:09 a.m.
fiberopguy said...

The smart meters are more of better choice for consumer and the EPB. It does help conserve electricity as well as helping your pocket. Who in this economy does not want to save as much as possible? We here in America are in a power shortage that many are not aware of.The info the meter takes in is not to track a bath or when the heating and air is on to find you, its used to help cut back some of your killowatt usage.I can assure you the EPB only cares about energy , not anything personal ..

November 28, 2011 at 10:36 a.m.
fofrleatherhead said...

It will be interesting to see if the local Tea Party will be resolute and all disconnect their fiber optics accounts with EPB for a more private alternative. Everyone should stop double paying EPB, through tax dollars as they are running off stimulus funds, and their current monthly charges for fiber optic service. It kills me to see signs around town with ultra conservative candidates (Ron Paul, Rick Perry) campaign signs in their yard right next to the "we made the smart move" EPB sign. If you want to make a smart move quit buying into this government run mess known as EPB!

November 28, 2011 at 10:49 a.m.
librul said...

The Tea Partiers are just upset because the Obama insurgents who they must believe have taken over the EPB and are operating an intergallactic data center in the basement of the monolith at MLK and Broad will be able to intercept and garble their daily marching orders trransmitted fffrom ttthe ggggreat gianttttt headddddd at Fox Neuzzzzzzz.

November 28, 2011 at 10:50 a.m.
heneh said...

When they talk about time of day pricing and paying more for peak times what time do you think will be considered peak? It has to be when people are at home. So the time from 6 pm to 10 pm will be the most used because that is when people get home from work and before they go to bed. So if you are the person in the housewhole that does the cooking, clearing,washing cloths and running the vaccum then you will have to stay up later at night to get the lower price or pay a lot more than you do now. Just be ready to change your schedule to fit EPB's.

November 28, 2011 at 10:55 a.m.
nowfedup said...

Suggest the tea klan paranoids go look at the data the www and sites collect,AND distribute on each of us, and heard rumor the ole FBI wants or got law that allows them to tap into anyone's net traffic, "Monitor" AKA copy with NO search warrant and to do so at will. Now if these do note have ole tea klan's knickers in a knot, it will at least make the meter thing look like nothing. So TK's go check how much is on file about you from just using the www, then go shout at someone about the real breach of privacy.

November 28, 2011 at 11:20 a.m.
prairiedog said...

What a bunch of alarmist hokey. For one thing, "peak" hours are during the daytime in the summer when everyone - particularly commercial businesses, retail stores and offices - is using air conditioning. The hours after dark will be the best time to do things like laundry, run the dishwasher, etc.

These meters will do the same thing for the electric grid that computers and electronic ignition have done for cars; make them more efficient and cheaper to operate. Also, when my power goes out, EPB will know it in seconds instead of waiting for me to call them - also nice if I'm not home at the time.

Using more efficient appliances (particularly compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs) will reduce the need for more power plants, reduce fuel consumption by the utilities, and lead to cheaper energy costs for everyone. Reducing the power demand for lighting by 75% (with fluorescent bulbs) to 90% (LED bulbs) is a huge thing to bring down the cost of energy in general, because it will reduce overall demand and encourage producers to lower their prices.

If somebody wants to know when you are home, and what you're doing in your home, they can park outside and watch you come and go. They can scan the heat signatures from the house, and watch lights go on and off. The question is, why would anyone want to do that? It's a lot of useless information that few people could decipher and understand, and I guarantee you, nobody in the government is smart enough to know how, or even care, and could never get funding to do it anyway.

If you are growing marijuana in your basement and are afraid that power usage will tip off the cops, don't worry. They are already doing that anyway. There's an easy fix; STOP GROWING MARIJUANA IN YOUR BASEMENT.

I'm afraid the Tea Party (and I sympathize with them in many respects) is made up of a bunch of ignorant Bozos. LEARN THE TRUTH, PEOPLE! Learn how to figure this stuff out. Don't be swayed by every nut case with an agenda to push.

The so-called "government" is made up of mostly people who can't get a better job. Have you been to the DMV, or social security office, or any of those places? Are there any people there who seem smart enough to spy on you? No. Unless you're a lot dumber than any of them, you have nothing to fear. Law-abiding citizens don't get attention, and neither do white collar criminals. There are too many petty criminals running around hurting people for the "government" to have time to chase anyone when it requires actual thinking. All of that stuff is Hollywood paranoia.

Until NASA takes over the IRS and the FBI, you're safe. Don't do anything to get your picture in the mugshots, and nobody in the government will know you exist as long as you pay your taxes.

November 28, 2011 at 11:27 a.m.
nowfedup said...

Hey tea klan, stop shopping at Malls after you read this one, and news flash, private business knows more about you then government

http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/thinking-tech/malls-to-track-shoppers-cell-phones-during-holiday-season/9433?tag=nl.e660

November 28, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.

Do I have a choice of buying my electricity from someone else? No?

The smart meter will not be used to monitor, analyze, and control power usage within the grid. That's already being done. The smart meter will be used to monitor, analyze, and control usage at the private residence. Which would be a great benefit to the owner of the private residence if he/she in fact had the same capability as the government owned EPB (has).

Give me that choice, EPB. The capability to better understand and manage what I'm buying from you.

November 28, 2011 at 11:42 a.m.

I am sure that anyone can use all the power they want when ever that want and the EPB wont mind at all. But if we can save on the cost by eliminating the meter readers in some areas I am all for it. I have personally called and complained many times about the readers in our neighborhood never getting out of their vehicles so paying someone for doing nothing is a waste for all of us. It is called advancement in technology so don't be afraid.

November 28, 2011 at 11:43 a.m.
librul said...

lovetheusaorleave said:

"I have personally called and complained many times about the readers in our neighborhood never getting out of their vehicles."

Dude, soon enough, you will have an electronic water meter which can transmit your water usage to a meter reader who just drives down your street without having to get out of the truck and raise the lid on your meter box, too. Wow, just think of the scary personal statistics TAWC could derive from knowing how many times a day you flush your toilet.

November 28, 2011 at 12:03 p.m.

Stop being IDIOTS chattanooga! There are multiple issues going on right now not just your petty paranoia! All this fuss over Meters! It's the most simple concept. TVA gouges EPB so EPB impliments fee hikes and "Smart Meters". All the previous posts especially the Wanda Worry Wort that started this article are morons. No one cares other than the companies (TVA and EPB) what your usage is. They will raise the costs regardless of what meter is there. The Key #1 reason for Smart Meters, Lower labor costs! no outsourcing to sub-contracted meter readers. The new meters digitize the info. They will be able to check it and shut it off with a switch flick. Please put some thought into your ramblings people. At the very least make a real point. Smart meters help with power outages and re-distribution during outages. They also hurt working folks who are out of jobs because labor cutbacks. It will help pinpoint the largest usage windows (which can help a person moderate their usage). It will also make raising the costs or micro managing the costs easier. These are business's good ole Corporate America not the government Nimwads! I will go as far to state that all the Republicans that posted on this issue previously voted to pave the way for these companies to gouge us all. But that was probably Obama's fault except that it occured long before he came along.

November 28, 2011 at 12:18 p.m.

We still live in the greatest country the world has ever known but, it's been way off track for years and we all know it! Will America rise from the downward spiral or not???? No matter what advancements in technology that come down the road, we will never see a lowering of cost! It's just business after all. This country's hardwired for Greed! Each and everyone of us are to blame. If not Greed then Gluttony.

November 28, 2011 at 12:24 p.m.
prairiedog said...

I think it would be great if the Eastside Utility District had the ability to drive down the street and determine that my toilet is leaking. I think it would be great if they had electronic billing and a website where I could log on and see how much I owe, and pay my bill. Right now I am paying them more than I owe and carrying a credit with them because half the time the post office loses my bill. I say, more "smart" meters are a good idea, and the less I have to deal with the U. S. Postal service, the better. If you're worried about somebody keeping tabs on you, or stealing your information, you need to be getting rid of the post office instead. Those are the people who can "lose" your mail, open it up and steal all the information needed to steal your identity.

November 28, 2011 at 12:29 p.m.

Hey librul, if you would taken the time to fully read the post it would have been easily seen that I do not have a problem with the new meters and I am all for them. But instead you are like most read just a enough to think you have the full story then make some remark that makes you look foolish.

November 28, 2011 at 12:50 p.m.
tipper said...

So is Harold DePriest's "cojones" comment some sort of challenge to TVA? In any event, most people know that often Mr. DePriest has more "cojones" than grey mmatter.

November 28, 2011 at 1:34 p.m.
Haiku said...

@inquiringmind said... Please, no more conspiracy theories, the horses are out of the barn already. What are you worried about, they will know you are growing grass in your house?

LOL!! Now that's funny. Ironically, I was thinking the very same thing when I read the article. They might find there's more inside grass growing on the mountaintops, Hixson, Harrison, Soddy Daisy, Ootlewah than there is in the hood? Hmmmm, an intersting concept.

November 28, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.
adolphochs said...

They monitor me through my fillings.

November 28, 2011 at 2:42 p.m.
chestnutt said...

My colleague in France purchased a new washer/dryer set that has the "smart chip" to go along with her smart meter. She's now unable to do the wash between 6 and 9 p.m. daily-it automatically shuts down. Do you really want the govt. to dictate when you can use your appliances or what temperatures your home should be???

November 28, 2011 at 3:39 p.m.
heneh said...

Yes there are health concerns and some of the meters are being removed.

http://stopsmartmeters.org/2011/11/01/pge-begins-removing-smart-meters-due-to-health-effects/

November 28, 2011 at 6:56 p.m.
my2cents said...

I'm Not a conspiracy theorist. I want to reduce my energy bill, not increase it.

The EPB finally admitted that these meters are about hourly pricing. Since peak usage times are when you get up and return from work, you should expect an increase to your power bill.

The EPB and TVA have had remotely read, substation power meters for 20 years. They are read by a phone line and modem. You don't need a fiber optic network to read them.

Where did the EPB get the funds to invest in their phone, TV & high speed Internet?

"DePriest doesn’t think that "anybody at TVA has the cojones" to force it on consumers without their permission."

TVA currently bills utilities like EPB based on Peak and Off-Peak demand times. Why would TVA want to force a consumer to pay for peak times when they already recover those charges through normal TVA/EPB bills? That is double charging by TVA + EPB which would be illegal.

When EPB hourly pricing is initiated you can reduce your energy bill by changing your usage patterns. For an 8 to 5 work day you could take a hot shower at 5 AM and cook dinner after 9 PM. It's all about the money and EPB wants more money.

I could be wrong. Maybe The EPB will reduce my cost/KWH during off peak times? When my heat pump starts up at 2 AM it will cost me practically nothing! Yes, I believe in Santa Claus, too!

Quote:"They will allow the utility provider to better determine when peak times are and work to make sure that production rates can ebb and flow with peak demand."TVA cannot ebb/flow a coal fired steam plant or a Nuclear plant. They run at FULL POWER 24 X 7 or are SHUT DOWN. That's a FACT. I think the Kool Aid needs sugar.

November 28, 2011 at 7:33 p.m.

Please read this before calling those opposing these Smart Meters conspiracy theorists. It is not a theory if it is true. There are numerous links so you can read it for yourself in the original form on the official UN website. This is not to be ignored. Smart Meters are a step toward aligning Chattanooga and the surrounding area into compliance with the UN Agenda 21. You make the decision, don't let anyone make it for you. You will regret missing this opportunity one day.

http://americadontforget.webs.com/.../Fact%20Sheet_UN%20Agenda%202...

November 28, 2011 at 10:16 p.m.
pignapoke said...

I can comment on this . . when I received a letter in the mail from the EPB telling me that smart meters were to be installed, I sent an email asking if we had a choice to have installed or not. I received an email reply from EPB Customer Service telling me that installing smart meters was NOT an option, I did not have a choice in the matter. I still have the email. Two days later the EPB showed up and installed one on my home.

February 8, 2012 at 4:16 p.m.
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