IREA has completed installation of nearly 20,000 advanced meters, totaling 12% of the 160,000-plus we will install by the end of 2020.
These meters will allow us to better monitor demand, increase reliability, and more quickly identify and respond to outages. They will also allow IREA personnel to drive fewer miles – about 400,000 less annually. Customers also will have more visibility into their energy usage.
These benefits are often clouded by misinformation found on the internet, and we want to clarify some key issues. We also encourage you to visit https://www.IREA.coop/ami for more info about our AMI project.
Some claim that AMI meters can cause cancer due to the supposedly large amount of exposure to radio frequency (RF) transmissions. Critics of AMI argue that in the field the meters actually transmit much more than they do in lab conditions.
We studied the transmission of about 7,000 meters we have actually deployed in the field and found that all meters transmitted at levels well below the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) limits. In fact, the median transmission time was less than two minutes per day; 90% of the meters transmit 3 minutes or less per day. Because our meters transmit at such a low power level, if they transmitted all of the time, their transmission would still be within the threshold the FCC has determined to be safe.
According to the FCC, RF exposures from smart meters are much lower than other sources. On average, you have 12,667 times greater RF exposure from a cell phone next to your head, 313 times greater from a microwave oven, and 67 times greater from a Wi-Fi signal.
We are confident that these meters do not pose additional health risks to our consumers, or we wouldn’t be installing them.
Our meter manufacturer has shipped over 7 million meters with our configuration to date, and our inquiries found no evidence of any meter-caused fires. The track record of these meters speaks for itself, and there is good reason for this safety record.
All of the advanced meters we are installing have been designed, manufactured and tested to meet standards published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Both the manufacturer and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) test to verify standards compliance.
AMI opponents still claim the meters are fire hazards because they supposedly do not have surge protection and use batteries.
Analog meters use metal clips, known as surge suppression tabs, to handle surges (or spikes) in voltage. AMI meters do not have these tabs, but don’t need them. Instead of using suppression tabs, the circuitry of the new meters and the materials of which the meters are made protect the meters from surges.
Our advanced meters also do not use batteries. They instead use capacitors that give them their “last gasp” ability, which alerts us when the power to the meter goes out. Capacitors do not have the fire risk that batteries do because they do not use a chemical process to charge or store energy. These meters also monitor temperature, which helps us detect heat from bad electric connections. Our current non-advanced meters do not have this capability. Finally, our AMI meter installers are checking for “hot sockets,” which are damaged or defective meter sockets that can cause heat build-up, as well as inadequate vegetation clearance, and other hazards.
The bottom line is that when we finish the AMI project, our meters and our entire distribution system should be safer than before.
Another common misconception is that our advanced meters will transmit personally identifiable information.
No personally-identifiable information is transmitted through your advanced meter. Data transmitted is limited to the quantity and quality of energy delivered to the meter, and AMI diagnostic information. Meter data is tied only to a number we have assigned to your meter, not to your name or service address. Even if someone could access the data, they would not know whose data they were looking at.
Another security concern is that transmissions by the meter can be hacked. Our AMI network uses AES 128 encryption for all data traffic. Routine penetration tests are done on the network, and the circuitry on the meter has tamper protection. And again, the data is limited to non-personal information, so even if someone were able to decipher transmissions, the data would have no context.
It is also claimed that hackers can use AMI meters to access appliances or computers in the home. AMI meters are not portals into your home; they measure only up to the metering point. Someday they may be able to do this, but not without each customer’s approval and involvement, and not using only the meters we are installing.
A more outrageous claim would have you believe that we are “spying” on customers, even doing so at the behest of government or large corporate interests.
We are not installing AMI at anyone’s behest. We are doing so because customer energy demands are changing rapidly and we need to meet them. We also do not share personally identifiable customer data with anyone unless we are legally obligated to do so, such as when we are served with a subpoena or court order.
We cannot, nor do we want to, track your daily routine, unlike many of the GPS apps you likely have on your phone.