Indiana Utility Commission Rejects Electric Company's 1.9B Plan to Install Smart Meters
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by K.T. Weaver, for Take Back Your Power
May 19, 2015
Indiana regulators reject Duke Energy’s $1.9B plan to install ‘smart’ meters
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has wisely rejected Duke’s request to install radiation-emitting surveillance and metering devices.
INDIANAPOLIS – State regulators have rejected a proposal from Duke Energy to raise customers’ rates. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission said in a ruling on May 8th that the company didn’t provide enough details for its $1.9 billion, seven-year plan.
The proposal would have put Duke Energy’s Indiana customers on smart grid technology and have installed privacy invading digital smart meters in every home, tracking detailed energy consumption and transmitting that data using potentially harmful radiofrequency emissions.
Privacy experts nationwide have also voiced major concerns about where that granular energy usage data goes.
From the Order by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission:
“Duke looked at the proposed costs of AMI and compared those costs to quantifiable benefits, such as savings from meter reading. … The main quantifiable benefits arise from the elimination of monthly manual meter reads, enhanced theft detection that can be conducted without a truck roll, and the ability to conduct customer requested service disconnects and reconnects remotely.”
Analysis: Note that the above so-called “quantifiable benefits” are for the utility to eliminate the jobs of meter readers and reduce theft.
“Near-term customer benefits include hourly interval usage data (next day) through a unique website portal, allowing customers to better understand their energy usage and save energy, and the convenience of remote turn off / turn on for customer moves. Future, advanced-metering benefits could include time-differentiated peak pricing rates, pay as you go billing options, pick your own due date options, and customer usage alerts.”
Analysis: What does the soft “benefit” of customers better understanding their energy usage have to do with the utility’s sole obligation to provide “electric utility service,” the plain meaning of which is described in the Indiana commission order as “the infrastructure necessary to transmit electricity from the generation facility to the customer”? … It doesn’t.
The future “benefit” of time-of-use pricing rates would also favor the utility by being able to charge dramatically higher rates during the day. Most consumers are not able to shift meaningful amounts of energy usage to the middle of the night; thus, this future “benefit” is not a benefit at all.
To provide perspective, it seems appropriate at this point to quote the Attorney General for the state of Illinois who made some important common sense observations, as appropriate today as they were in 2011:
“The utilities want to experiment with expensive and unproven smart grid technology, yet all the risk for this experiment will lie with consumers. … The pitch is that smart meters will allow consumers to monitor their electrical usage, helping them to reduce consumption and save money. … Consumers don’t need to be forced to pay billions for so-called smart technology to know how to reduce their utility bills. We know to turn down the heat or air conditioning and shut off the lights.” [Reference: http://lisamadigan.org/Newsroom/lisainthenews/item/2011-06-lisa-madigan-opinion-editorial-comed-experiment-too.]
Although smart meters involve many risks to consumers and society such as health issues, privacy invasions, cyber threats, fires, etc., just based upon an objective financial analysis alone, they cannot be justified. We applaud the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for recognizing this and where it states in its Order:
“In the absence of any sufficient evidence to support Duke’s cost estimates, even for the first-year projects in the T &D Plan, we cannot find that the estimated costs are the best estimate of the costs of the eligible improvements as required by Ind. Code § 8-1-39-10. It is not enough for Duke, or even Black & Veatch, to simply assure us that the costs estimates are reasonable or best estimates. …
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED BY THE INDIANA UTILITY REGULATORY COMMISSION that:
1. Duke’s request for approval of its T&D Plan is denied for the reasons set forth above.”
It looks like that Duke Energy was saying, “Just trust us” on our cost estimates and that the benefits outweigh the costs. The Indiana commissioners weren’t buying it.
K.T. Weaver is a health physicist who was employed in the nuclear division of a leading electric utility for over 25 years. He served in various positions, including Station Health Physicist, Senior Health Physicist, corporate Health Physics Supervisor, and corporate Senior Technical Expert for Radiobiological Effects. K.T. has earned a B.S. in Engineering Physics and an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering with a specialty in radiation protection. He also operates the “SkyVision Solutions” website at www.skyvisionsolutions.org.
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