BGE Smart Meter Facts vs the Truth

BGE published a double-sided single flyer titled “New smart meters are coming to your neighborhood” that is an introduction/FAQs on the smart meter deployment.  Below is a side-by-side view of the information from the flyer and our fact checking results so we (the consumers) can get the full story.

The Smart Grid is an upgrade to the communication capabilities of the electrical grid; however, this upgrade consists mostly of 2-way communications capabilities and do not address the critical issues of the core infrastructure of the electricity grid. In other words, we still have the same above-ground wires that require the same infrastructure maintenance and upgrading requirements with the same vulnerabilities, plus some additional vulnerabilities that this 2-way communication system exposes us to, such as increased risk of fires; interference with vital medical equipment such as pacemakers; health risks; national security vulnerabilities; and privacy issues.For a more detailed explanation of how the smart grid and smart meters work, please see this explanation that references Cindy Sage’s investigation >>
Yes, a smart meter is a digital meter, but you should also know that smart meters have a switching mode power supply that operates without a filter. This unfiltered mode-switching device can deliver voltage spikes and transient currents onto the electrical wires of your home, possibly causing interference.  As a result, several hundreds of homeowners across the US have had to replace blown out appliances at their own expense.For a more detailed explanation of how the smart grid and smart meters work, please see this explanation that references Cindy Sage’s investigation >>
FCC standards are outdated and focuses on thermal RF (i.e. heated tissue).  Long since then, scientists have identified non-thermal biological effects well below these guidelines and that these non-thermal biological effects have serious human health consequences.Also worth noting: while utilities state that smart meters are “not expected to cause harmful interference” with vital medical equipment, this has not been the experience of many individuals living with smart meters, particularly those with a  pacemaker. Smart meters were designed based on outdated guidelines.  The fact is there has not been a single study on the short- and long-term human health effects of smart meters.  In effect, we have become human test subjects in the largest experiment in our history.
A more relevant point is that we could not find any study or case where the consumer actually saved energy except for one Pepco pilot in Washington, DC.  In this study, the utility raised the time of use rate or peak rate from 11 cents per kwh to 75 cents per kwh (that’s a 581% rate increase) to compel the consumer to cut down on peak use time.  This resulted in a savings between 22% and 34% during peak times only.  The annualized energy/cost savings amounted to less than 1%.If the goal is energy savings, an in-home real-time energy monitor, which does not require a smart meter, has been shown to save between 9%-27% on electricity consumption and do not pose the additional risks that smart meters do. All studies show that smart people save electricity, not smart meters.
Traditional analog (non digital) meters

  • do not need to be replaced every 5 years
  • do not expose installers and homeowners to explosion and fire risks every 5 years when the smart meters need to be replaced
  • do not have untold future costs associated with upgrading technology and addressing ongoing security issues – think about it: what technology device have you ever owned that did not require perpetual costs in upgrades due to changing technology and security issues?  Furthermore, think about the costs of utilities becoming national security experts.
  • do not easily catch on fire like smart meters do (think plastic vs. glass and metal and the unfiltered switching power mode)
  • are not associated with appliance burn out complaints (due to voltage spikes)
  • do not contribute to electrical grid failure
  • do not interfere with vital medical equipment, such as pacemakers
  • are not subject to reading errors as a result of temperature changes to the meter itself
  • do not collect incremental, detailed usage data
  • cannot be used for time-of-use rates, which would certainly negatively impact businesses, fixed or low income homes, work from home professionals and stay at home moms (see AARP’s Public Policy Institute Report)
  • do not emit pulsed microwave RF all day and night
Many residents across Maryland have informed us that their meter was replaced without notice.  We’ve also heard from residents who have opted out only to come home to a newly installed smart meter.  Point is, if you decide to opt out, follow up with the utility is recommended.
If you decide to get a smart meter, then absolutely, you WANT to have the power off during the swap to reduce risk of fire and explosions.  Hot-swapping is dangerous to the installer (who wears a full face mask and gloves for protection) and your home.
This is true – the smart meter will operate without any intervention from you.  In fact, it will automatically transmit your usage information to the larger collector metersand back to BGE.To see an actual chart of the kind of data that can be gleaned by the use of a smart meter, please view this Colorado PSC commissioned study >>
At this time, smart meters do not control how you use energy, but be aware that BGE’s existing voluntary Peak Rewards program does have control over how and when you use your energy.  As more and more appliances are outfitted with RFID chips, there is a very good cause to be concerned that BGE will control how and when you use energy, right down to individual appliances.To see an actual chart of the kind of data that can be gleaned by the use of a smart meter, please view this Colorado PSC commissioned study >>
As stated earlier, these are in fact, 2 different initiatives.  Peak Rewards is voluntary and smart meters are not once installed.  It is true that the smart meter does not control appliances right now, but it is designed to communicate with individual appliances and can be controlled.To see an actual chart of the kind of data that can be gleaned by the use of a smart meter, please view this Colorado PSC commissioned study >>
This is accurate, except for the part where smart meters primary function is to read energy usage.  Smart meters serve as the communication gateway for utilities to control individual appliances outfitted with RFID chips AND also allow utilities to implement higher time-of-use-rates.  This means they can (and probably will) charge different rates at different times depending on demand, which means higher rates during hot weather.  Utilities admit to a special rebate program while implementing higher rates to compel consumers to use less during peak times.  See this Wall Street Journal article >>To see an actual chart of the kind of data that can be gleaned by the use of a smart meter, please view this Colorado PSC commissioned study >>
The remote connect and disconnect feature of smart meters appear to be a good idea, assuming there isn’t abuse of this ability or an unintended clerical error that shuts your power off at an inconvenient time for you.
The only clear confirmation from the utilities was that smart meters have been tested for accuracy and data transmission capability (NOT HEALTH OR SAFETY). However, because it is all digital, one single number off can skyrocket your bill (read testimony from a former meter tester).  Already installed smart meters have been shown to cause billing errors due to temperature changes on the meter itself (as in direct sunlight heating up the plastic smart meter and raising the meter’s temperature).Another issue with these digital smart meters is that if it malfunctions or fails to transmit your usage data (as is inherit in wireless technology), it is not recoverable.  This means the utility will resort to estimated billing for that period without notifying the consumer.  On Feb. 27, 2912, BGE files a Request to the Public Service Commission for Partial Waiver of COMAR – Acceptable Standards which includes a section describing how this will be computed.  There is no way to recover your actual usage information, so there is no way for anyone to know how much electricity was actually consumed in the event of data loss or malfunction.

Maryland residents with smart meters installed have already reported skyrocketing bills. If this happens to you, our advice is to document everything and be prepared to battle it out with your utility, because it will be your word against theirs.

It is best to pick up the phone and call.  The effectiveness of smart meters facilitating notifications has not been demonstrated.  Our research shows that there is a six hour delay in processing information sent from the smart meters to the central utility computers in the BGE/PEPCO wireless mesh network deployment.

The notification mechanisms BGE describes in unclear.  On the one hand, we’re told that they are supposed to only communicate 0.01% of the time, even though real life test indicate different (see this and this).  On the other hand, we’re told that they can tell whether or not power is being delivered by the communications mechanism, which means that there would have to be more frequent transmissions.  So, if it is supposed to be ‘off’ most of the day, then how with the central network operations center know?  This just doesn’t add up.

YES, the smart grid poses serious security risks.In fact, it’s arguable that utilities must now become national security experts as well – and we as consumers will be footing the bill for perpetual security, hardware, and software upgrades not only within the utilities’ facilities, but on the smart meters attached to our homes.
Even if utilities use banking-level encryption, we are still vulnerable.  Banks are now refusing to use wireless communications in their systems. Encryption is of little comfort when one realizes that the International Monetary Fund, a banking institution, suffered private information losses due to hacking, as recently did a leading computer security firm, Lockheed Martin. Wireless utilities will undoubtedly be attractive to all levels of hackers. Money spent on tracking and protecting against security breaches will be substantial, and paid for by us, the consumers. There is no such risk from a wired or analog system. Furthermore, there are no laws in Maryland to prevent utilities from selling our personal data to the highest bidder.  The utilities in California have already sold customer data profiles.  In fact, despite the utilities denial that this was ever considered, internal memos and documents clearly state that they were strategically planning how they can make the consumers’ personal data profiles more marketable to third parties, such as marketers, insurance companies, and law enforcement.
We sure hope that they are recycled or disposed of properly.  Also consider that utilities have $1MM on their balance sheet for the cost of analog meters – an expense us consumers will pay for through rate hikes, etc.
Absolutely you should contact BGE if you have more questions, but also conduct your own research.  It wouldn’t be the first time in history that a goods and service provider only told you part of the story to sell their goods or services.

9 Responses to BGE Smart Meter Facts vs the Truth

  1. Darlene Engebretsen February 2, 2015 at 1:11 am #

    It is certainly NOT true that Smart Meters only pulse a short time each day. Anyone who claims that is either grossly ignorant of the facts, or is purposely lying. In truth, they pulse out radiation almost 24/7. If you want to find this out for yourself, you can measure it with a Stezter meter, which costs about $100. There are other brands available online which can also show what is going through your wires and is being transmitted from your house. The power companies are lying to you and do not care about your health. They may say that smart meters do not emit ionizing radiation, so they are safe. They and the FCC KNOW VERY WELL that radiation can be low frequency and non-ionizing while it still causes damage to human health. Children are especially at risk from wireless devices. I suggest anyone who wants to learn more should get online and study the 2012 BioInitiative Report, The Sage Reports, The 2012 Safe Schools Report, and the BabySafe Project. Those are just for starters. Also, smart meters tend to be poorly, cheaply made in Mexico and China. Because the utility companies are in such a rush to get them installed before the public develops awareness of their dangers, the meters installations are often illegally subcontracted out to poorly trained workers instead of to licensed electricians. These cheap plastic things have been responsible for literally hundreds of fires throughout the U.S. and Canada. Many of these fires have been covered up by the utiliity companies.
    I have a relative who lives in Kentucky. She came home one day to find that her air conditioner would not go on. She called an electrician, who told her that her smart meter had shut off her a/c without her permission. It’s another Big Brother device.

  2. Thom H September 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    BGE swapped a Smart Meter for a Smart Meter, then billed me using an estimated reading for the old meter. The bill was for over 1,500 kwh that I did not use!

    Who else has been billed for an estimated reading for a Smart Meter? Was it accurate?

    The PSC says that BGE must photograph the reading of every meter it replaces. I am waiting to see that photo!

  3. moshe werdesheim May 31, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    I am also reconsidering my decision to opt out of smart meter installation due to the same financial reason cited by Jan Steinberg above. I don’t like paying the extra assessed fees but I also don’t like worrying about possible safety and health hazards. I’ll do more research before I change my decision.

  4. moshe werdesheim May 31, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    I also am reconsidering my decision to opt out of smart meter installation for the same financial reason cited by Jan Steinberg above. I resent having to either pay the extra monthly fees of $11 and the one time $75 fee or continually worrying about the health and safety issues. I won’t be surprised if there are more fees assessed by BGE to maintain the smart meters. I don’t trust the PSC either since the regulators are often in the “pocket” of the energy provider. I’m not sure whether to take my chances with the smart meter or opt out and pay the fees. I will do some more research.

  5. Jan Steinberg May 6, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    I just succumbed to BGE, despite all of your warnings, because I do not want to pay all of the additional charges of not having a smart meter installed. But I’m very upset that I caved and that I will have a smart meter installed. It’s absurd that those charges would be imposed. This should never have been agreed to by the authorities. Our society is in such trouble!

  6. Bill Wilson March 5, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    I recently received an unscheduled visit from a “representitive” of BG&E who informed me that having a smart meter installed will eliminate having my meters read since all information is transmitted to an “office” where billing is prepared and allows former meter readers to stay home in bed on these cold mornings. I’m hoping they’re not sleeping when the “attacks” that Mr. Long refers to actually happen….YIKES!!!

  7. Charles Long February 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    Sounds to me like 1984 X100. BGE could, if the local authorities asked, shut down individual meters at a moment’s notice, for instance if somebody called the 1-800-xxx-tips line and falsely reported that his neighbor, whom he doesn’t like, is engaged in terrorist activity. Shut him down now, ask questions later. Turns out the neighbor is on supplemental oxygen which is plugged into the wall, well, too bad. We tried. If BGE finds you’re using peak power, say to cook your dinner at 7:00 PM and heat your water, and run your furnace, and play the big screen TV, all at the same moment, well, shut him down, ask questions later. What about the gas meters? Are they going “smart” too? Terrorists will have a heyday. All they need to do is send out some coded radio signals and plunge a whole city into darkness, then start their terror activities. They don’t need to shoot the insulators off high tension wires to do that any more.


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Scientists Say…

  • Current US and ICNIRP standards for radiofrequency and microwave radiation from wireless technologies are entirely inadequate. They never were intended to address the kind of exposures from wireless devices that now affect over 4 billion people. Olle Johansson, PhD
    Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute