Another Utility Lie Exposed – “Smart” Meters are Little Used for Outage Alerts

-3Information & Perspective by Warren Woodward

Sedona, Arizona ~ April 29, 2015

As part of their “smart” meter propaganda, utilities nationwide – including ones in Arizona – have promoted a myth that “smart” meters reduce their response time to outages. For example, here’s a typical sampling of website hype from four Arizona utilities:

Navopache Electric Coop: “… AMI helps locate and respond to outages faster ….”

Mohave Electric Coop: “… improve system reliability through improved outage management ….”

APS: “In addition, the meters have the potential to assist APS in providing faster outage response to customers.”

SRP: “More benefits will include quicker outage restoration ….”

Gee whiz, ain’t “smart” meter technology grand?! Indeed, SRP headlined its webpage “TOMORROW’S GRID TODAY” in enormous font.

The reality however is what I have been telling the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) for years: Utilities still rely on customers to tell them when the power’s out.

My assertion has just been confirmed by the BRIDGE Energy Group, self-described as “the leading consulting and systems integration solutions company focused on improving utility operational performance.”

BRIDGE recently released their 2015 Outage & Restoration Management Survey Results Summary. Over 20,000 utility employees – executives, managers and engineers – from 90 utilities across North America were surveyed.

81% of the surveyed utilities had installed “smart” meters, but only 16% use “smart” meters as their primary source of power failure alerts. Customer calls come first.

Secondarily – after customer calls but well before “smart” meters – utilities rely on SCADA systems for outage alerts. SCADA stands for Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition. It is technology employed by utilities for decades and does not involve metering but operates at the transformer and substation level.

I brought SCADA to the ACC’s attention over a year ago when I sent them the declaration of one of New England’s largest utilities, Northeast Utilities. Northeast trashed “smart” meters in detail, saying there was “no rational basis” for their implementation, and that “smart” meters did not reduce outages or “modernize” the electricity grid.

On page 4 of Northeast’s comments to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, Northeast explains:

“For example, utilizing SCADA-enabled smart switches will both reduce outages and mitigate the effects that outages have on customers. Substation monitoring, remote controls and microprocessor relays can mitigate the impact of widespread outages; manage load constraints; and help to optimize the use of assets in real time.”

[my 2/12/14 letter to the ACC including Northeast’s complete statement is here]

BRIDGE’s full report is here.  Slow-learners at the ACC need not fret over its 19 page length. It’s mostly very large print, pictures and pie charts – so simple even a child could understand.

Warren Woodward of Sedona, Arizona has been debunking popular mythology since at least 1960 when, after staying up all night Christmas Eve to check, he stood before his second grade class and announced there was no Santa Claus.

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3 Responses to Another Utility Lie Exposed – “Smart” Meters are Little Used for Outage Alerts

  1. Lois Dennison says:

    Only benefits is the green going into investors and stockholders WALLETS. Myself, I AM ALLERGIC TO AMI and DTE, MPSC have BOTH REFUSED ANALOGS BACK IN MY HOME, gas and electric AMI. Filed CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT and HAVING METERS replaced. My body can’t take anymore of the radiation from these AMI SMART METERS. DTE is using locks as safety issues on ANALOG METERS, DTE is putting locks on AMI meters, these are the METERS WITH THE REAL ISSUES OF SAFETY. Look around, you will see AMI METERS WITH locks, locks on meter housings which actually belong to home or business owners.

  2. Song Ping says:

    Thank you William Woodward, it’s nice to see someone who knows something about the electrical power grid being featured on this site (most of what I read here has been science fiction myths and false information).
    Where I live, we have a “dirty plant”, wires are run in the woods up in the hills and sometimes there are outages. Every time I have a power outage ( I don’t have a SmartMeter), if I am home I get on the landline and call the utility immediately (if not sooner). Every time, the dispatcher says that they are not aware of an outage yet in my area, even though at least half of the houses on my street have been fitted with SmartMeters.
    I know my linemen who work in this area, they told me that when an outage occurs, they have to send up a crew and fix the problem, and then have to inspect the entire line back to the substation if it is a big storm. They just don’t energize a line without knowing that the whole line is good, that would put their efforts in vein.
    It’s true, SmartMeters don’t detect outages, don’t help at all in repairing the outages, and are basically a waste of time and money, there are no advantages to the customers to allowing SmartMeters on your private property, the only advantage is the utility can lay off some meter readers, and in 2019, might be able to mandate TOU pricing schemes.

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