Smart meters are a scam that “overcharge consumers by up to 582%” while at the same time collecting owner’s data which is then sold to third parties for further profit, according to the first major university study into the controversial technology.
Electric utilities have increasingly embraced smart meters, pushing hard for the mass rollout of the technology. Roughly 65 million of the devices have been installed in the United States over the last few years, with 57 million of them in consumer homes.
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The meters provide innumerable benefits to utility companies, often delivering an ocean of new remote access and monitoring tools to better manage the network and reduce meter reading truck rolls.
But the benefits to consumers have been less notable, including interference with some home routers, as well as the fact that a number of models have been shown to be relatively easily hacked.
Now the University of Twente in the Netherlands has published the results of a major study into the nine most popular smart meters used in the United States and United Kingdom, with the conclusion that smart meters routinely overcharge consumers, often by staggering amounts…
“In the experiments (which were entirely reproducible), five of the nine smart meters gave readings that were much higher than the actual amount of power consumed. Indeed, in some setups, these were up to 582 percent higher.
The inaccurate readings are attributed to the energy meter’s design, together with the increasing use of modern (often energy-efficient) switching devices. Here, the electricity being consumed no longer has a perfect waveform, instead it acquires an erratic pattern. The designers of modern energy meters have not made sufficient allowance for switching devices of this kind.
When they dismantled the energy meters tested, the researchers found that the ones associated with excessively high readings contained a ‘Rogowski Coil’ while those associated with excessively low readings contained a ‘Hall Sensor’.
Frank Leferink (Professor of Electromagnetic Compatibility at the UT) points out that “The energy meters we tested meet all the legal requirements and are certified. These requirements, however, have not made sufficient allowance for modern switching devices”.
Techdirt report: In addition to overcharging consumers, the sheer volume of data being gobbed up by utility companies via smart meters tells them an awful lot about you (when you wake, when you sleep, when you’re home or away). As we’ve seen with cellular location data, once companies collect this information, it’s often sold to any number of third parties who may be using this data in ways that aren’t always in your best interests.
This has sparked outrage from locals in places like Naperville, Illinois, where, since 2011, meter opponents have been fighting the intrusive nature of the devices:
“…Opponents say the meters provide so much information that everyone from cops to criminals to marketing departments can learn when people are home and what they do when they’re there. Last year, the anti-meter movement fell just short of collecting enough signatures to place a question on the ballot asking residents to decide whether the devices should be removed. They also have a pending federal lawsuit against the city alleging that their constitutional right to due process has been violated.”
So what can you do?
Do some research and determine whether you have a Hall Sensor or Rogowski Coil in your smart meter. If possible, make sure you have a Hall Sensor as these smart meters are associated with much lower energy consumption readings.
Also keep up the pressure on cities and electric utilities to respect consumer privacy. Successful lawsuits have been filed in Naperville and Illinois, demanding the right to privacy, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is currently hearing a similar case.
The right to privacy in your own home – not to mention fair energy consumption bills – is currently being fought.