Advanced Metering: FAQ

Click here to download a PDF of this issue paper.

Texas is among the nation’s leaders in rolling out advanced metering technology. Sometimes called “smart meters,” these devices allow for two-way communication between the home or business and the electric utility, providing benefits for consumers.

Advanced meters help consumers understand the impact of controlling their energy consumption, better managing their bills and reducing their environmental impact. They also automate utility functions, such as meter reading and connection for new service. This reduces the cost of service while reducing emissions from utility trucks.

Advanced metering will allow retailers and utilities to offer new, time-of-use products to interested consumers, thus promoting adoption of energy efficiency technologies and reduced electric consumption. In addition, fully deployed advanced metering system allows electric grids to operate more efficiently, creating system-wide improvements in reliability and reduced emissions.

See below for responses to common questions regarding advanced meters and the smart grid.

Q: Smart meters emit radio frequency radiation to communicate with utilities. Are they safe?
A: Yes. The intermitted radio frequency fields produced from advanced electrical meters are well below those of other household items, such as cordless phones and microwaves. The amount of radio frequency emitted is in line with what a typical baby monitor produces, though smart meters are, of course, located outside the home and not used for personal communication. In addition, smart meters typically communicate only a few times per day for a very, very short period of time.

Q: Are there standards regulating advanced meter radiation?
A: Yes. The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission have developed safety standards, with which all advanced meters in Texas comply. The FCC has found no known scientific evidence that suggests the weak intermittent RF emitted by smart meters pose a health or safety risk.

Q: Are the FCC radio frequency safety standards adequate?
A: The FCC studied RF for years prior to adopting its Maximum Permissible Exposure limits for radio transmitters of all types, including advanced meters. The FCC also adds a margin of safety. The advanced meters in use today operate at a level far below those limits.

Q: Will advanced meters interfere with home wireless networks?
A: No. The bands of spectrum are unlikely to overlap, and even if they do, WiFi networks are designed to work in the presence of other radios.

Q: Will advanced meters interfere with wireless or cordless phones?
A: No. Advanced meters typically have their own frequency band that does not overlap with wireless or cordless phones?

Q: Advanced meters record usage throughout the home. Doesn’t this make advanced meters a violation of privacy?
A: No. Under Texas law, the customer owns his or her electric usage information. There are specific consumer protections in place related to how that data is used and who has access to it. Electric utilities in Texas are legally bound by state law to protect consumer information of all types, including meter data, and exercise great care to do so.

Q: Are advanced meters vulnerable to hackers?
A: Utilities apply best practices to protect all their information networks, including advanced meter communications. This information is protected through many firewalls, and utilities are vigilant to monitor and refine their cyber security tools.

Q: If a consumer does not want an advanced meter, can he or she opt-out?
A: No. Part of the policy reason for installing advanced meters throughout the system is that the benefits are most apparent when all consumers have them. If some consumers have traditional meters that are unable to communicate they would require special assistance — such as a continued need for meter-readers — thus eliminating the system-wide efficiencies and reduced costs. Advanced meters are an integral part of the electric infrastructure, and the way electric companies provide service today depends on these advancements to bring the benefits outlined above.

Q: Are advanced meters more accurate than traditional meters?
A: Yes. Comparison tests of advanced meters with traditional meters show they are more accurate, in addition to providing greater detail of energy usage.

Q: What products are available that take advantage of advanced meters?
A: Advanced meters can make possible products ranging from pre-paid service, time-of-use rates and energy analysis tools to give consumers the information they need to reduce energy usage. Advanced meters can also become the central network to allow consumers to remotely control electric appliances, thus using power at times of day when it is least expensive and most efficient.

Click here to download a PDF of this issue paper.

 

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