Letters | Resident: ‘Smart meters’ are privacy threat
August 15, 2012 · 12:02 PM
Tanner Electric Cooperative recently replaced its power meters with digital “smart meters.” Three Tanner members, including my wife and I, have refused to allow installation of the new meter due to privacy and security issues posed by the technology. Other members would likely have refused had they been made aware of the risks beforehand.
Smart meters automatically read power consumption every 15 to 30 minutes, and some models as often as every 5 minutes. Readings are transmitted to data management systems where the information is processed for billing and other purposes.
The high frequency of data monitoring allows a power consumption profile to be established for every customer with enough precision to determine what appliances are operated and when, when someone is home or not, and your power usage habits. This technology can also be used to shut off power to your residence and even control appliances, heating, and air conditioning systems.
Smart meters are characterized by legal and security experts as surveillance devices. Who has access to your data and how it’s protected are serious issues. Your right to privacy and security are at risk once this data leaves your control.
Millions of utility customers around the country are saying “no” to smart meters”. Dozens of cities have passed ordinances prohibiting their use. In response, power companies are offering an “opt- out” choice for those customers not wanting smart meters.
For my wife and me, this technology brings no value and is nothing we need or want. It only poses an unacceptable risk. Other Tanner members may feel differently and that’s fine—they should be able to use it at their discretion. But, for members who feel like we do, they should be allowed to “opt out.” Power companies like Tanner do not require this technology to operate, it’s not required for billing, it’s not required for system maintenance, and it’s not required by regulation. Use of it should be a consumer choice, just as Congress provided for in section 1252 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.
If you are concerned, contact Tanner and let them know how you feel. If you do not want a smart meter, request that they allow you to “opt out”. After all, it’s your right to privacy, it’s your information to protect, it’s your residence to secure and as a member, you have the right to participate in the decisions of the cooperative.
Tanner is in a unique position to set a good example for other utilities around the state. By proactively establishing an “opt out” choice, Tanner can position itself as a leader in this discussion. As other utility customers confront this issue, Tanner can be looked to as the standard bearer for having responded to the concerns of its members.
Larry Costello, PE