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FPL Begins Installing Smart Meters in Flagler as PSC Takes on Devices’ Emitted Controversies

| September 19, 2012

smart meters smart grid fpl utilities controversies

Time to replace them.

The smart meters are coming.

Florida Power & Light, which has installed the controversial meters in about half the state so far in its $800 million upgrade, is beginning to install the meters in Flagler County this month, and will continue to do so through the end of summer, fitting almost all its 50,000 customers with the new devices.

Coincidentally, the Florida Public Service Commission staff on Thursday is devoting a daylong workshop to smart meters and some of the controversies they’ve generated, in hopes of answering questions about the device’s health effects, privacy matters, data security and smart meter alternatives, according to a brief agenda circulated by the PSC.

The workshop will be televised through the web on the PSC’s website (at www.Floridapsc.com) and through Flagler County’s website and cable TV channel, as well as through the Florida Channel, which is also available on the web.

FPL’s Honeywell subcontractor technicians will be installing smart meters at all its customer sites, but FPL is giving customers the option of refusing installation by contacting FPL first. Those customers’ meters will remain unchanged until the middle of 2013, DFPL spokeswoman Elaine Hinsdale said today, when FPL will then decide how to proceed. By then, the Public Service Commission will presumably have clarified the matter. Meanwhile, installations will go on, although FPL doesn’t have a precise route mapped out.

“We’re moving from the southern area to the north,” Hinsdale said, “so one could surmise that our meter installation will begin coming up from Volusia County into Flagler with our team, but it really depends on where they are staging the meters and where the contractors are coming from, because we use contractors to install these meters.”

Hinsdale recommends that homeowners and other FPL customers ask meter installers for proper Honeywell identification, which the contractors should have on their vehicles and on their person. “If they have any question they can simply call FPL, that’s why we sent the fliers to our customers, they can call us, they can go on fpl.com,” Hinsdale said.

A small but loud group of Flagler County residents, with a sympathetic following among tea party and like-minded groups, lobbied the Flagler County Commission to adopt a resolution similar to one passed in Port Orange earlier this month asking the PSC to make smart meter installation the choice of the home-owner. FPL says it already is. But home-owners have to actively op-out of the program in order to not have a smart meter installed at their home or business. Port Orange is asking the PSC to require customers who want a smart meter to opt in instead. That would mean that no customer would be on the smart meter list except for those who actively seek out the meters. If the PSC agrees, FPL fears that far fewer people would end up with smart meters.

The Port Orange resolution, of course, is mostly moot, pending action by the PSC: meters are the property of FPL, and FPL customers are essentially in a contract with the utility company, agreeing to  the company’s rules–and technology. Since electric utilities are monopolies in places (FPL customers can’t drop FPL and choose a different provider), the PSC serves as a regulator, speaking on consumers’ behalf (when the Legislature or the governor, who appoint PSC members, don’t game the PSC board in favor of the industry, as they have on occasion in the recent past).

Flagler County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, who sympathizes with the opponents of smart meters, brought up the issue of opt-outs and opt-ins at a commission meeting in  May, when 3.3 million smart meters had already been installed on FPL customers’ walls, and tens of millions more across the country.  His fellow commissioners rejected his suggestion that the commission send a resolution to the PSC asking for an opt-in provision. The commission agreed to an opt-out instead, which was already in place. (Read the account of that meeting here.)

So far, about 14,000 customers, or 0.3 percent of FPL’s total customer base, have refused smart meter installation. FPL is asking the PSC to allow it to charge customers more, should they decide to stick with the old meters. “Assuming a modest number of customers maintain refusal to allow FPL to install smart meters,” FPL states in its presentation to the commission on Thursday, “the FPSC should assert jurisdiction to implement a program in which FPL will be authorized to recover all costs associated with maintaining an alternative metering process.” FPL adds: “It would be unfair to ask all customers to subsidize the costs incurred as a result of other customers’ decisions.” (See FPL’s full presentation to the PSC here.)

It was the Public Service Commission that approved the use of smart meters in 2009, and directed FPL to begin installing them.

Smart meters are part of the modernization of the nation’s electric grid. They send signals to the utility company, streaming data about power usage in the home or the business. They allow quicker detection of power outages. They provide daily or hourly summaries of energy use, and allow a home to know when it’s using electricity at peak time versus non-peak time, eventually allowing customers to calibrate their use of electricity accordingly–and save money, because utilities could charge more for peak time use. For the utilities, that sort of more efficient use of electricity would reduce wholesale consumption of power, and reduce the need for additional power plants. One survey found that utilities are generally not prepared to handle the flood of data smart meters produce.

In the earliest roll-out of smart meters in California, in 2008 and 2009, many complaints had to do with the accuracy of the meters, not their health effects or their impact on privacy, Customer after customer documented sudden surges in their monthly electrical usage that contrasted sharply with their historical usage.  Dozens such customers turned up at hearings organized by state or local lawmakers. The state legislature in California convinced utilities to bring in independent auditors to ensure that the devices were measuring electrical use properly. Eventually, claims of inaccuracy evaporated, especially after the release of an independent study affirming the accuracy of the devices by a Houston-based energy consultancy.

Opposition then mobilized around the potential health hazards of the smart meters. While the bulk of the opposition was formed of conservative and tea party adherents, greens usually associated with the left have also been among the opponents. That opposition cites fears that the electromagnetic radio frequencies emitted by the smart meters are dangerous, and a health hazard. No serious studies have shown that to be the case. But no serious studies have entirely ruled out the possibility of health hazards from any form of electromagnetic radio frequencies, either. The bulk of available studies, however, endorse the safety of smart meters.

In that regard, the smart meter controversy is similar to the “controversy” surrounding global warming: the scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that man-made global warming is real, that it’s affecting the atmosphere and the environment, and that it is resulting in dire consequences. (On Wednesday, for example, scientists revealed, according to the Times, that “The amount of sea ice in the Arctic has fallen to the lowest level on record, a confirmation of the drastic warming in the region and a likely harbinger of larger changes to come.”) Yet there remains a staunch minority of global warming deniers who still claim considerable hold on media and the public. Smart meter opponents and global warming deniers likely intersect more than not.

The California Council on Science and Technology in April 2011 released one of the few studies focused on smart meters. It concluded that “smart meters, when installed and properly maintained, result in much smaller levels of radio frequency (RF) exposure than many existing common household electronic devices, particularly cell phones and microwave ovens.” Also, that “to date, scientific studies have not identified or confirmed negative health effects from potential non-thermal impacts of RF emissions such as those produced by existing common household electronic devices and smart meters.” But the study notes that not enough is known about such radio frequency emissions “to identify or recommend additional standards for such impacts.” (See the full study below.)

Several communities, especially in California, have passed laws opposing the meters. Those include the towns of Fairfax and Watsonville, Santa Cruz County and Marin County. (Read Marin County’s Ordinance opposing smart meters here.)

In California, the meters cost about $220 apiece, including the cost of installation. But the savings, to utilities and presumably to customers, should be immediate: utilities estimated three years ago that it cost 50 cents a month to read each old meter–likely more with the rising cost of gas. In Flagler County alone, that would mean the monthly cost of meter reading was $25,000, or at least $300,000 for the year. Replicated over the state, FPL stands to immediately save millions of dollars a year in meter-reading costs. Also, shutting off a customer’s electricity will also be done by remote control, further saving the utility manpower, therefore money.

The California Council on Science and Technology on Smart Meters Safety and Health Hazards

The California Council on Science and Technology on Smart Meters Safety and Health Hazards

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29 Responses for “FPL Begins Installing Smart Meters in Flagler as PSC Takes on Devices’ Emitted Controversies”

  1. Samuel Smith says:

    I don’t have any real issues with smart meter installation, assuming that they actually contact me before installation and they allow access to the statistics generated by the meter. Otherwise I’m stringing a Faraday cage around it.

    • Geminga says:

      For those not aware the WHO(World Health Organization) has classified wireless devices as a possible carcenigen. Kids are paticularly suceptible due to immature immune systems. Older persons also have less robust immune systems. The American Academy of Enviornmental Medicine states medical literature has repeatedly shown health risks to exposure to microwave radiation. They have called for a halt to installation until the real safety can be determined. Remember you can turn off your cell phone and your wifi but these operate 24/7 365 days a year. Smart meters send pulsed microwave energy hundreds of meters away. So if you and your neighbors have a smart meter your radiation exposure is……well I guess it is up to you to decide if this is what you want for your children and family. Alliance for Natural Health has good information and the studies so far on this important topic…that is if you care.

  2. Michelle says:

    “…..we sent the fliers to our customers…”
    Hmm, did anyone get this flyer?
    I know I did not.

  3. DoubleGator says:

    Drag me kicking and screeming into the next century. Thank you FPL. Glad you are doing your job.

    • DoubleGator says:

      Correct me if I am wrong. The transmission line from the transformer to the house is owned by the power company. The meter is owned by the power company. I think they can upgrade the things they own. Nice it they give us advance notice of the change out so that we’ll know the power will be off. It is my experience from another state (Duke power) that the “new” meters are the only ones used for new service. I would bet that the “old” meters will go the way of everything else old and outdated.

  4. Lonewolf says:

    ‘…utilities could charge more for peak time use.” This is what it’s all about..charging more.

  5. Nancy N. says:

    Michelle I live in Indian Trails and received a smart meter notification flyer in the mail a few days ago.

    Samuel, part of the smart meter program is that you will be able to go into a dashboard online on your FPL account at any time and see the data generated by the meter – how much power you are using when, how much your bill for the month is so far, etc.

    Unfortunately the flyer says that they won’t be telling you specifically when they are going to install your meter and I’m pretty ticked about that because installing the meter involves turning off power to the house and I run a home-based, computer-based business. So when they turn off the power they are turning off my ability to work. That is something I’d like to be able to plan for!

    Lonewolf, yes the meters do give FPL the ability to charge for power use at different times of day. But it’s also a straight up money saving device for FPL that lets them not have to pay to have meters read manually, and that eliminates issues with meters they have a hard time accessing.

  6. Magnolia says:

    I have heard/read that these GE meters are not UL approved. Does anybody know if that is true? Nobody from FPL has answered that question to my knowledge. I also read that the state of Vermont has outlawed these meters.

    Good time for us all to do some research?

  7. Geezer says:

    I am opting out of this. ———Only FPL will benefit from these meters.———–

    Some newer appliances down the road (and today) have chips installed that will “talk”
    to the smart-meter and relay information on your usage habits. This info that’s seemingly meaningless
    indeed has value, and FPL will sell this collected data to all takers. I don’t feel like sharing this info with
    FPL thank you.

    I will probably lose and FPL will likely prevail and install its stupid meter.
    But I plan to give off lots of noise, just like its smart-meter.

    FPL has the money to install these meters against our wishes…hmmm.
    Instead why not install line conditioners FREE on each and every home to arrest the power spikes they
    send into our homes? Ever notice those really quick outages where your lights blink?
    Well your Central AC units and refrigerators and computers certainly do!
    When the power returns there’s almost always a surge. Power surges destroy electronics.
    When FPL kills one of your appliances – the response is “We’re not responsible.”

    FPL is full of poop. They can shove their new meters.

    • Nancy N. says:

      While I’m fine with the smart meters, I do totally agree that I wish they’d put line conditioners in too! We go through lightbulbs like candy in our house because the surges fry them, and I refuse to plug practically anything but an alarm clock or hair dryer into the wall without it going through a surge protector!

      • Geezer says:

        That alarm clock of yours is living on borrowed time! :-)

        If anybody here uses (wall-outlet-powered) medical equipment–connect them to a good surge suppressor.
        e.g.: CPAP’s, nebulizers. oxygen generators, and etc.

        Thanks Nancy.

      • Tommy C says:

        Wake up people do you have a cell phone, wifi, power lines anywhere near your house. Guess what they put out more than the smart meters. With smart meter they can tell what areas are having power issues and then resolve the issues. They DO NOT control any appliance in your house unless you sign up for it. Most people now have electronics in their home put out more RF than the smart meter. They installed the smart meter on my home 2 yr ago they found and fix my power issues by replacing the transformer and power line going to my home. This is not a conspiracy for the utility to control or monitor what goes on in your home other than what you use and when you have peak usages. They are not going to start charging you for peak usage. The smart meters are being put in place to help utility’s monitor their power grid and to keep the cost of reading meters down. In short get the facts about smart meters and don’t believe everything that is put on the internet.

    • Gail says:

      I emailed Scott Plakon along with Heidi Ellenberger last week and had a FPL representative call me withing 24 hours. I OPT Out and was put on a delayed list. Their email is if anyone is interested.
      These smart meters are dangerous, not accurate and will not save the consumer any money. Yes it is very important that we all reduce our energy consumption but not at the expense of our health. Check out these websites. http://microwavechasm.org/ http://stopsmartmeters.org/
      Heidi.Ellenberger@fpl.com
      scott.plakon@myfloridahouse.gov

  8. rthomp11 says:

    My meter was changed to a smart meter over a year ago and since then my electric bill came down over $250.00. I’m sure part of this was due to my old meter being defective but part is also due to me being able to keep track of the usage. I can go out every day at the same time and take a reading and see how much we used in 24 hours and see what we did differently. Trust me, once you have one you will be very watchful of everything you turn on and off in your house.

  9. Reinhold Schlieper says:

    I have much more of an issue with the fact that FPL pays whole-sale prices to customers with solar devices but charges them retail prices for the electricity from the grid. Seems to me that I’m not producing whole-sale anything when I have opted for renewable energy. Anyway, I’m eager to see what kind of device will take the replace of the dual counters I have now.

  10. Deep South says:

    Change is good. Bring us into the 21st century.

  11. Alex says:

    I love this “job creation” by business. More meter readers to the unemployed group.

  12. suewho1010 says:

    I will be opting out. This is just another way for FPL to make more money and be a bigger cash cow. They will save millions of dollars when they fire all the current meter readers. Just what Flagler needs more family’s losing their jobs. My meter reader is a wonderful young man with a wife and small children. I will not be part of him losing his job for a smart meter
    And how much consideration has FPL given our local residents suffering from lost from jobs, limited income. NONE… FPL-nothing but a Corrupt Cash Cow .. that takes takes and takes …. rates are always on the rise and you bet as a customer in Flagler with no other choices we will eventually get surcharges of some sort that the goverment will improve for FPL to collect back all the money they spent out on installing these new invasive smart meters.

  13. Ralph says:

    Smart meters will be able to measure the startup surge of electric for motor driven appliances. The current meters will not do this. Our electric rates are set according to the old technology. I have records for past years usage and if my electric consumption goes up with out any changes in my lifestyle then this would be equal to a rate increase without any public hearing.

    Investor owned utilities have done everything they can to kill distributed electric initiatives in Florida. Whole sale paybacks are a disgrace as a result. We could all have solar on our roofs if the pay back from net metering was decent. Other people in the country have this especially in the Northeast. This is one of the worst failings of the current administration. The Property Assessed Clean Energy act was designed to allow us to afford solar and the Distributed Electric legislation was designed to create an economic environment to make all this work.

    The former administration set all of the above in motion and Obama dropped the ball.
    I plan on going off grid in another house in the near future. Who needs them.

  14. Dave says:

    It’s about time they decided to replace all of their out dated meters , the power company is not forcing any of us to buy their power, We all have the right to use solar or wind power if we choose to do so , I elected to use the wind power to cut my bill down and for anyone interested in it the web is filled with great information, Thank you FPL for giving us a head’s up .

  15. barbara says:

    Everyone should do their homework on smart meters that are either installed or going to be installed. When you do you will be very surprised at what fpl is doing to our health, privacy and safety of our homes. Wake up people…..this is not a good thing that is being forced on us. You can call fpl and request to be put on a list that will postpone the installation. You will eventually get the meter installed but their are many, many people and organizations working on this and just maybe something will come of it.

    I work hard at trying to stay healthy and i dread the day the meter goes in. There have been house fires caused by these meters too. The meters are not UL approved and FPL blames old wiring and will not take the blame. This is BS. There are report from all over the states that peoples bill increasing and the electric companies say is was due to incorrect reading from the old meters. This is also BS. Just one more thing, all this is coming from the UN Agenda 21 program which our government is a part of. This is also part of Obama’s stimulus giving fpl 200 million to install the meters.

    • Gail says:

      Health problems, due to constant exposure of RF radiation, already reported include: migraines, nausea, vomiting, vision impairment, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), muscle spasms and nerve pain, heart palpitations, chest pain, and sleeplessness caused by intense bursts (pulsing) of radiofrequency radiation that has recently been classified as a “possible carcinogen” by the World Health Organization. These smart meters are wireless which means someone can hack into your usage, know when you are home, sleeping, etc. Why can’t they be wired instead of wireless? I do feel it is important for everyone to reduce your carbon footprint, I have reduced my FPL bills from $280 to $140 per month over the past 3 to 4 years. LED lighting, new a/c and appliances, solar water heater.

  16. anon says:

    I telephoned FPL this AM attempting to Opt Out.

    There is no Opt Out only a temporary hold. Again FPL has no Opt Out policy and this was stated by the Customer Advocacy Group representative.

  17. James says:

    Smart Meters can actually help consumers save. Here, they have the option to choose time-based rates wherein they can request a lower demand of electricity during peak-periods. To eliminate controversies on the implementation of the Smart Meters, i think it is best that we educate everyone, like put up a public service video of some sort.

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