Lawmakers Weigh In on Smart Meter Consent Issue


Lawmakers may again weigh in on just how smart a meter can be before consent needed

Article written by Michael Kitch, appeared in Laconia Daily Sun (Full article HERE)

Excerpt of article:

PLYMOUTH — “I feel that for the first time in nine months leadership is paying attention,” Joan Wirth of Bristol said yesterday. She has been at the forefront of an effort to stop the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) from installing so-called “smart meters” to its 83,000 customers in 115 municipalities, including a small section of Laconia and and all or parts of eight towns in Belknap County.
Last month, the Grafton County Commission voted two-to-one — with Commissioners Omer Ahern and Ray Burton in favor and Commissioner Michael Cryans against — to advise the NHEC to abandon the mandatory installation of smart meters in favor of a consensual program. Soon afterwards Representative Paul Simard (R-Bristol) expressed concerns that smart meters compromised the privacy of individuals and families while risking the health and safety of customers and said that if necessary, he would introduce legislation requiring that they not be installed without the customer’s consent.

Since the NHEC began installing smart meters in June 2011 the project has been dogged by controversy, most of it originating from Hundred Acre Wood, the neighborhood in Bristol where Wirth makes her home. In February, Wirth and others asked the Grafton County Superior Court to halt further installations. When their petition was denied, she said that rather than pursue costly litigation she turned to the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the New Hampshire Attorney General. Last week the PUC denied Wirth’s request for a public hearing while the Attorney General has yet to take action.

Apart from the privacy, health and safety issues, Wirth and her supporters contend that a state statute enacted last year (RSA 374:62) requires the NHEC to obtain the expressed consent of customers before installing any type of smart meter. Although that was the original intent of the Senate Bill 266, it was amended to implicitly distinguish between two types of smart meter — the basic smart meter and “smart meter gateway devices.”

The statute prohibits utilities from installing “smart meter gateway devices” without the consent of property owners. The law defines a “smart meter gateway device” as “any electric utility meter . . . which serves as a communications gateway or portal to electrical appliances, electrical equipment, or electrical devices within the end-user’s residence or business, or which others communicates with, monitors, or controls such electrical appliances, electrical equipment, or electrical devices.”

The basic smart meter — sometimes called a “dumb” smart meter — like a conventional meter, records electric usage, but displays it in a digital format and transmits through a microwave and fiber optic network to the NHEC’s headquarters in Plymouth. Each meter transmits for about 1.5 seconds between seven and 10 times a day, eliminating the need for meter readers.

Wirth insists that despite the definition the statute applies to all smart meters, which she described as “surveillance devices” that emit dangerous levels of radiation and pose severe risks of fire.
Seth Wheeler, speaking on behalf of the NHEC, said that the statute does not apply to the basic smart meters the utility is installing.

The NHEC has installed some 78,000 basic smart meters and expects they will be provided to the remaining customers by the end of October.


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