“FAT ERROR” Edison estimates smart meter bills

Originally posted in the Santa Barbara Review
written by Loretta Redd PhD 9/10/2013

A few months ago I received my monthly bill from Southern California Edison, and noted with equal parts suspicion and delight that the amount owed was $0.00.

Curiosity led me to check my newly installed Smart Meter which displayed a message among the flashing, repeating numbers:  ”FAT ERROR.”

I didn’t know whether the error was overweight or Edison was now monitoring my caloric intake via its microwave technology, but if it resulted in free power while my lights still functioned normally, who was I to call and report it? After all, they were the ones who insisted all this fail-safe, energy saving transmission be done without two-legged “meter readers.”

Today, a young technician in an Edison van came to my door, stating that my meter had to be replaced due to a “fatal error” message, resulting in the loss of transmission capability since June 26th.  That explained the zero sum billing, but I was curious as to what might have caused the Smart Meter to dumb down after installation.

His reply was refreshingly forthcoming.   Actually innocent in a way, because none of the upper level management at Edison, the Public Utilities Commission or the manufacturer whom I contacted admitted to knowing anything about the Smart Meters failure rate.

The technician went on to disclose, “These meters are failing left and right.  In fact, they’ve brought me and four of my buddies in from Indio to help with the replacement.”

“Really?” I noted with curiosity, sensing a story brewing, “And why do you think they’re failing?”

“Not sure,” he replied, “but they’re made by Landis + Gyr, which is a pretty good company;  only these E130 FOCUS meters were all manufactured in Mexico.”   He explained that the failures were a result of spikes in the readings.  “Rather than a consistent pattern of 3, 6, 4, 6, 3, 7,” he said, “there would be a sudden spike of something like 22,000, so then an error message is transmitted to the main frame.”

After hooking some wire connectors to his laptop computer, he replaced the meter ‘face’ with one made by Itron, which interestingly had a prominent “USA” stamped on the front label.  After the technician departed, I started a Google search for information and began calling around the black hole of gargantuan corporations to find someone willing to discuss this problem.

The Public Relations officers from neither Landis +Gyr nor from Itron returned my inquiry. But my computer search uncovered that Landis + Gyr has produced over 300 million meters in over thirty countries, employs over 5,000 people and has sales of $1.5 billion.  They indeed have a “manufacturing high volume” plant in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

On the Itron website, interestingly, they heralded the joining of Itron with Landis + Gyr for “Product Integration Projects” such as the “Data Unification and Synchronization System,” which connects the communication technology of Landis with the systems analysis of Itron.  Titans of industry joining forces for a global installation of new energy data-transmitting  systems…

and we thought the NSA was big.

Indeed, when I checked the meter of a friend in Goleta, I found the Itron symbol at the top, and the Landis + Gyr at the bottom.  It wasn’t labeled “USA,” so I’m not sure of its manufacturing origin, but hopefully it won’t suffer from the Mexican meltdown problem or Fatal Error disruption apparently plaguing our area.

I use the term “meltdown,” because in my research, I came across not only the usual conspiracy articles on Smart Meters’ electromagnetic fields frying our brains and resetting our pacemakers, but an entirely different problem in Pennsylvania (PECO Energy,) where overheating and melting had occurred as a suspected result of arcing and spiking.  To my dismay, these were SENSUS meters, made by General Electric, and their installation had been stopped in 2012 while they replaced 1.6 million residential and commercial meters.

Whoa. Now we’ve got non-transmission for months at a time, and potential for fire as well??

I was relieved and pleasantly surprised when, by the end of the day, representatives from both the California PUC and SoCal Edison had returned my calls.

Ironically, I received my electric bill in the mail while waiting for those calls.

Total amount due:  $84.41.  On page 1 of my 10-page Edison bill, the “Summary of your billing detail” included the two prior months of meter readings in the amounts of $42.49 and $41.92.

Oh well, so much for “free” electricity…but how would they possibly know the number of kilowatt hours I had used, if in fact the meter had not been functioning since June 26th?  While Mr. Miller from the PUC insisted that the front page of the bill clearly stated this was an “estimate,” I insisted otherwise, and read him the text verbatim.

Finally, on page 5 of 10, in small italic type, the word “estimated” appeared for the first and only time.   The estimated amount owed for each month, according to Mr. Miller, was based on prior years’ use.  If you are a new owner, I’m not quite sure what they use as a baseline.

I thought it was weird that the two months’ estimates would be close but still different, even when SoCal Edison was completely guessing the kilowatt hours I would have used.  In fact, I was out of my home for most of July…but without transmission of electrical data, how on earth could I ever prove a lower usage?

Indeed, how can the consumer challenge the amount owed, or verify any of this data anymore?

I would suggest we pay closer attention to the “new technology” which was purported to be a “self-management tool” for us in energy usage and conservation.  I hope my life is never so boring as to have sufficient time to go “online” and monitor my electrical usage, but I admit that I’m more inclined now than ever.

What really troubles me is that The Gas Company slipped an announcement into last month’s billing that they, too, would soon be attaching “smart meter” technology to their existing system.  I haven’t inquired about the risks of “spiking” with pressurized gas lines, but it could just give “fatal error” a whole new meaning.

Smart Meter Film- Take Back Your Power- Watch NOW!

Take Back Your Power, Josh Del Sol’s full length documentary film on Smart Meters is now available to watch online (72 hr. rental) or purchase.

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Take Back Your Power

Utility companies are replacing electricity, gas and water meters worldwide with new generation “smart” meters at an unprecedented rate. Take Back Your Power investigates the benefits and risks of this ubiquitous “smart” grid program, with insight from insiders, expert researchers, politicians, doctors, and concerned communities. Transparency advocate Josh del Sol takes us on a journey of revelation and discovery, as he questions corporations’ right to tap our private information and erode our rights in the name of “green”. What you discover will surprise you, unsettle you, and inspire you to challenge the status quo.

Smart meter surveillance use confirmed

SpyToday the San Francisco Chronicle confirmed utilities are giving customers smart meter data to the government and third parties.  Reporter David Baker writes, “Phone records and e-mail aren’t the only kinds of personal data that government agencies can collect on Americans.  They can look at your home’s energy use, too.  And that information can be revealing.”

Smart meters are a surveillance tool, best described by Jerry Day in this video– which has reached over 1.7 million viewers.  And now we have proof that if you have a smart meters on your home, your privacy: what you do in your home, or if your not home, when you cook, watch TV, or  if you get up in the middle of the night is provided to third parties for “legal” purposes when requested.  The smart meter data when analyzed  shows a detailed pattern of your life.

The Northern California ACLU writes, “transparency reports filed by the California utilities companies and obtained by the ACLU of California show that a significant amount of data about the energy use of Californians is also ending up in the hands of third parties.  In 2012, a single California utility company, San Diego Gas & Electric, disclosed the smart meter energy records of over 4,000 of its customers. “

The “privacy” rules, adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) allows disclosure of smart meter data for legal purposes, or pursuant to situations of imminent threat to life or property.  San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) disclosed the records of 4,062 customers. PG&E disclosed 86 and SCE disclosed one.

“In 4,000 of those [SDGE] cases, the information was subpoenaed by government agencies, often in drug enforcement cases or efforts to find specific individuals, according to the utility. The other 62 disclosures came as the result of subpoenas in civil lawsuits. Some of the released information focused solely on billing information, account addresses and other data that could be used to locate an individual.” David Baker- SF Chronicle

According to the ACLU “a single legal request can potentially result in the disclosure of millions of customers’ records.”

More: ACLU website.

Cindy Sage Challenges the “Smart” in LADWP’s “Smart” Grid

LADWP project manager guarantees “smart” meters are optional!

Last week at a Woodland Hills City Council meeting, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) presented information about their Smart Meter deployment plans, while environmental consultant Cindy Sage, co-editor of the BioInitiative Report, presented information warning of the deployment risks.

Marcelo Di Paolo, manager of the LADWP Smart Grid project said they received a $60 million dollar federal grant and that the research institutes of USC, UCLA and Cal Tech/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) doubled the project funding for a total of $120 million dollars.  Hmmm… what does a Jet Propulsion Lab have to do with smart meters?Hmmmmmm.....

Di Paolo stated this is a demonstration project and would be in three areas around UCLA, USC, and Chatsworth.  LADWP is planning to deploy 52,000 Itron smart meters.  Hmmm, 52,000 meters is a demonstration project?

He also said the meters only transmit 3 times a day!  Hmmm….Haven’t we heard that before?  PG&E used to say their meters only transmitted 6 times a day. Then they admitted up to 190,000 times a day, per meter.

Di Paolo also said that the project is “purely a volunteer optional program” and that the community can “pick and actually choose whether or not to participate.”  

In stark contrast to Di Paolo’s optimism was Cindy Sage who warned about the evidence for health problems from the  pulsed radiation Smart Meters emit.  She stated,  “Those wireless impacts are biologically very similar to the impacts you would have from a cell tower.”  She wisely urged them to learn from the mistakes the Investor Owned Utilities have made.  She asks, “Is this a smart business model, to provide a device for energy conservation…if there are going to be unintended consequences in terms of health impacts for people?”

Di Paolo said the deployment would start in a couple weeks, but two LADWP customers  said they already had Smart Meters on their home, that they were sick from the exposure and that when they complained, LADWP refused to remove it!

Meanwhile, although the manager claims LADWP sent out letters stating at the bottom of the letter that participation was voluntary, nowhere in the Smart Grid L.A. Letter  does it say the meters are optional. At the end of the meeting Di Paolo guaranteed the meters were optional and provided his direct line for people to call: 213-367-1388.

PastedGraphic-1-9Deploying Smart Meters at a time when multitudes of people worldwide are complaining about the health and safety impacts is beyond super dumb, and reckless endangerment of innocent lives.  Our children are the most vulnerable.  Chronic exposure to pulsed radiation is harming everyone’s health.

Thanks to Ecological Options Network for providing the videos of the event. Here’s Part 2 of the meeting:

Maine utility admits smart meters cause interference

Utility meters are breaking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule not to interfere with other radio frequency devices.

The Portland Press Herald reports the Maine Public Advocate’s office released a statement this week saying:

“Smart Meters are interfering with a wide range of household electronic devices, from garage door openers and WiFi devices to security systems.”

On Central Maine Power’s FAQ, in answer to the question: “Will the smart meter interfere with my other household appliances such as computer routers, television signal, cordless phones, etc.?” they respond: “Separating interfering devices usually reduces interference, so make sure the wireless device is located as far from the smart meter as possible. Also, adjust the position of the antenna on the device, if possible, and move the wireless device away from any walls that may absorb the signal.”

According to the FCC Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: the meters are not supposed to cause interference, and if they do the FCC states,

“The operator of a radio frequency device shall be required to cease operating the device upon notification by a Commission representative  that the device is causing harmful interference.”

Anyone experiencing interference please file a complaint with the FCC!