Smart Meters Subject to Hacking — KPHO-TV

Smart Meters are dangerous devices that, in addition to being subject to hacking, cause house fires, invade your privacy and may make you sick.

Here is a video of a news cast led by Lindsey Reiser on Channel 5 in Phoenix on March 20, 2015 entitled “New Utility Meters Could Be Vulnerable To Hacking” —>

Here is a 2011 commentary from James Woolsey, a past Director of Central Intelligence on the Smart Grid

Q: Are you saying also on a federal level there is no one in charge of cyber security, policy and defense.
A: There is no one in charge of security for the grid, whether its cyber or transformers or whatever.  You can search forever thru the Federal Code to try to find who that person might be.
Q: You think it should be the President?
A: Well I think it’s — there is a very good reason for it perhaps to be the Chairman of the, of FERC.  Or, but to try out to see what would work, I think having the Defense Department work with the local utility is the best.
What they’re doing now, they’re constructing what they call a smart grid and they’re going to make it easier for you and me to call our homes on our cell phone and turn down our air conditioning on a hot afternoon if we’re not there.  Great!
But that may well mean that a hacker in Shanghai with his cell phone can do the same thing or worse.  And, a so-called smart grid that is as vulnerable as what we’ve got is not smart at all.  It’s a really, really stupid grid.

YouTube Video is available at https://youtu.be/MAid1bS8t9U

[to be continued]

Beware of the Dangerous APS “Demand” Charge for Electricity; It Uses Smart Meters

In early 2016, residential customers of Arizona Public Service (APS) in Arizona began hearing about a new mandatory charge based on “demand”. For the past several decades, electrical bills have been based almost solely on energy usage measured in kilowatt-hours. Demand, on the other hand, is measured in kilowatts, usually averaged over a short period of time like 30 or 60 minutes. And demand charges are typically very high, often over $13.00 per kilowatt. For example, a “demand” of five kilowatts, that occurred on only one day during an entire monthly billing cycle, could result in an added charge of $85.00! This could be caused by an ordinary central air conditioner for a typical three-bedroom house in Phoenix during July and August.

Demand charges are possible only because of smart meters, wireless computerized devices that send your data several times per minute to APS. They may be hacked by a terrorist, invade your privacy (are you home?), sicken five percent of the population, and set fire to your house.

Large appliances running at the same time can create a huge demand and a shocking charge of around $150.00 in addition to the regular charge for energy (kilowatt-hours) actually used. Under even the lower winter rates, the demand charge could TRIPLE your electrical bill. (In the summer, the charge could increase your bill by about 75%; e.g., $200 to $350.)

Common large appliances include central air-conditioning, an electrical stove, an electrical clothes dryer, an electrical water heater and anything else that uses a high power heating element. For example, my A/C unit draws over four kilowatts when its compressor is running; my electrical stove has four surface elements, two of which draw three kW and two oven elements, one of which draws over three kW when the element is on; a typical electrical water heater draws four kW then its heating element is on. As you probably know, all of those appliances cycle on and off to maintain a set temperature. But it is not only possible but actually very likely that the on-times of several appliances will overlap, producing a very large power “demand” of sufficient duration to be counted by APS after being averaged over 60 minutes or even as little as 30 minutes. (APS is proposing 60 minutes; the Arizona Salt River Project (SRP) is now using 30 minutes.)

There is little a customer can do to avoid high charges for demand, since a usage error on just one day out of an entire month of 30 days is enough to produce a $150 demand charge. For example, you can be careful to use your clothes dryer only during evenings and on weekends, but a one-day need for afternoon drying can blast your bill into the stratosphere! Similar afternoon dryer usage will not affect the high demand charge either way; one error will “ruin” the entire month!

Wealthy customers have the option of replacing high power electrical appliances with equivalent gas units. If your house is supplied with gas, you can consider purchasing a modest gas stove and a gas water heater for a total of about $1,000. Installation of the stove may be do-it-yourself, but the water heater installation could easily cost over $500. Unfortunately, the success of this substitution depends on your gas company’s never adding a “demand” charge!

APS and other electrical suppliers may suggest installing a “load shedding” system. Hardware cost alone for such a system is beyond most middle-class homeowners, and the installation cost will be prohibitive because you must hire an electrical contractor for the job.

Now for some mathematics. APS defines the “demand” itself as the “average kW supplied during the 60-minute period of maximum use during the customer’s On-Peak hours”.  Recall that demand is measured in kilowatts; the new demand charge is in addition to the (regular) energy charge measured in kilowatt-hours.

For an easy example, assume for simplicity that you draw one kilowatt continuously all day every day for a one “month” billing cycle except for five minutes on one day when I draw ten kilowatts.  What is your “demand” (in kilowatts)? It is 1.75 kW, based on an average over 60 minutes, as follows: ((1 kW x 55 minutes) + (10 kW x 5 minutes)) x (1 hour / 60 minutes) = (55 kW-minutes + 50 kW-minutes) x (1 hour / 60 minutes) = 105/60 kW = 1.75 kW. Note that if you are a customer of the Salt River Project (SRP), your demand would double to 3.50 kW because SRP averages over only 30 minutes.

Here is another example, based on a slight simplification of the performance of an electrical stove. For simplicity, assume that your load is zero for an entire billing cycle except for the following appliance operation, which occurs once a day during the same hour every day.

The entire load is an electrical stove with three elements in use: two surface units at 3.0 kW and one oven element (for simplicity) also at 3.0 kW.  The stove is on for exactly 60 minutes every day, but the three elements are thermostatically controlled and cycle on and off independently of one another.  Each element cycles continuously for the 60 minutes and is on for five minutes and then off for ten minutes.  Is the demand calculable from the foregoing information, or does the demand depend on statistics regarding how the three loads overlap?

The demand is easily calculable, because the overlap, which varies greatly over time, does not matter at all.  Each heating element is on one-third of the time and off two-thirds of the time, and each one goes through four cycles during the 60 minute averaging period. Therefore, each element has an average demand of 1/3 of 3.0 kW or 1.0 kW, so that the total demand is three times that or 3.0 kW, independent of the overlap. (As long as each element goes through the same number of cycles, the foregoing calculation is correct.)

To be fair to APS, I understand that they intend to offer a plan similar to their present ECT-2 in the tariff. It has a high summer demand charge rate ($13.50 per kilowatt) but a lower rate for energy (5.7 cents average per kilowatt-hour instead of 13.4 average cents per kWh). If you have the money to purchase and install a computerized load-shedding system to control your demand and the expertise to maintain it, it is theoretically possible to save money, but you will be entering a gambling casino operated by APS. As with most casinos, the odds are against the gambler!

To avoid bankruptcy, switch to gas or install a load shedder. Better yet, file a motion with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) to “intervene” in APS Docket No. 16-0036 as a ratepayer. There is no charge to participate in ACC proceedings, and you don’t need a lawyer!

 

Smart Meters Invite Hacking By Terrorists

Revised 6 December 2015

In December 2014, a large group of APS customers protested to the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) about the adverse health effects of microwave radiation from so-called “Smart Meters”, but I believe that there is an even more serious danger from those meters: hacking by terrorists.  (There are also privacy concerns.)

These meters operate in an open wireless network in which each meter sends and receives signals with APS.  As a result, each meter can be hacked individually as can the entire network of meters without making any physical connections.  As we know from our experience with computers and wireless routers, passwords and encryption cannot provide complete protection.  An individual customer can hack his own meter to reduce his electric bill, but a sophisticated hacker can disconnect an entire neighborhood (or more) from power.  In an article from Maxim Integrated [Electronic] Products in February 2013, David Andeen wrote that “A former utility employee recently asked me, ‘If we network all of the electricity meters and grid infrastructure, can someone write a computer virus and take down the entire grid?’ Unfortunately, my answer was yes.”  See http://www.maximintegrated.com/en/app-notes/index.mvp/id/5537.  (To appreciate the extent of such hacking, just Google “hacking a smart meter”.)

So far, Smart Meters have not been shown to benefit customers in any way; they benefit only APS and other utilities by saving money on meter reading while the huge costs of Smart Meters increase their rate base upon which they get a guaranteed return on investment.  APS claim customer benefits, but the data available are at least 24 hours old and lack detailed time information.  The only “benefit” APS can assert is customer entertainment from colorful graphics that lack any practical use or value.

On the other hand, they do provide an invitation to terrorists to deprive entire cities of electrical power without using explosives or other destructive means.  Note that the old fashioned mechanical analog meters are 100 percent immune to wireless attacks.  Millions of smart meters provide easy access to countless vulnerable network points with much less cyber security than a power plant and comparatively little physical security.  It is time to end the use of these dangerous meters before the first terrorist strikes; the danger of massive power outages and potential health problems clearly outweigh any alleged benefit.

Here is part of an interview with former CIA Director James Woolsey  [courtesy of YouTube from 2011]

Q: Are you saying also on a federal level there is no one in charge of cyber security, policy and defense.  A: There is no one in charge of security for the grid, whether its cyber or transformers or whatever.  You can search forever thru the Federal Code to try to find who that person might be.

Q: You think it should be the President?  A: Well I think it’s — there is a very good reason for it perhaps to be the Chairman of the, of FERC.  Or, but to try out to see what would work, I think having the Defense Department work with the local utility is the best.

    [A, cont’d] What they’re doing now, they’re constructing what they call a smart grid and they’re going to make it easier for you and me to call our homes on our cell phone and turn down our air conditioning on a hot afternoon if we’re not there.  Great!  *** But that may well mean that a hacker in Shanghai with his cell phone can do the same thing or worse.  And, a so-called smart grid that is as vulnerable as what we’ve got is not smart at all.  It’s a really, really stupid grid.

As a speaker said near the end of Black Hat meeting in Europe in 2014:

“You want to shut down a whole neighborhood? Or even a little more? Sure! Just start to ping MACs for a while to check who is around, then send the proper command! And you don’t really need to be even close to the meters, you just need a power plug!” (MAC = media access control address, unique for each network device.)

Yes it is a “really stupid grid”, and very dangerous as well.

To deal with vulnerabilities of Smart meters to hacking, Congressman Donald Norcross (R-NJ) introduced an amendment to HR8 in December 2015 and made the following remarks:

“Our society has become so reliant on the very electricity that we are standing under today that those who would do damage to our country might have a vulnerability here. And we need to act before they do. This is why I bring this amendment forward. I started out as an electrician many years ago, so I understand the power side of it. I sit on the Emerging Threats Subcommittee. I hear those threats each and every day. We have to make sure that we keep our homes, our businesses, and, most importantly, our military safe. We are talking about damaged equipment and potentially massive blackouts, not just like the ones we had in New York almost a decade ago but potentially taking down our entire grid. Smart meters are now part of the fabric of what we do day in and day out. This amendment very carefully identifies those vulnerabilities. I would urge members to support this.”

Moving briefly to health concerns, it seems that about three to five percent of people are susceptible to physical injury from the microwave radiation from smart meters.  In my small neighborhood of about 1500 people in about 900 single homes, up to 75 people could be sickened by those meters.  And having your smart meter replaced is only part of the solution; you remain surrounded by other homes with these radiating meters, so it is essential that at least your nearby neighbors have their smart meters replaced by analog meters.

I found the following report about judicial proceedings in Maine relating to health problems on the StopSmartMeters.org website:

1. Maine Supreme Court Justices Grill Utility Advocates As part of a potentially precedent-setting court case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court over the health and safety of smart meters, on November 3rd justices heard an appeal of a previous ruling that smart meters were essentially “safe enough.”   ***  Attorney Bruce McGlauflin represented lead plaintiff Ed Friedman of Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters in the Maine Supreme Court, and presented evidence from physicians, microbiologists, and other professionals that radiation emitted by smart meters poses a serious risk of physical harm, and should be recalled.

Finally, let’s realize that smart meters can be used to invade your privacy; in simple terms, they are computerized surveillance devices. The existing Elster meters transmit your personal usage information every few minutes, and the coming and more powerful Landis and Gyr meters do so at least every minute. That is much more than is necessary to measure your usage of electrical energy, and is frequent enough for each appliance that you are using at a given time to produce a “signature” that a computer can identify. The same computer can also determine when you are at home and can estimate the number of people living in your house.

What is worse, there are commercial enterprises that are now willing to pay APS for these data about you and your family. Yet, the smart meter does nothing at all for you; it is all detriment and no benefit.

The ACC recently cancelled charges that APS may impose on customers who wish to return to their mechanical analog meters: a $50.00 installation charge and a $5.00 monthly meter reading charge.  Right now, you can have your smart meter replaced with an analog meter for no charge at all, and your analog meter will also be read at no (additional) charge, at least until the next APS rate case in mid-2016.   It’s time for everyone who wants to avoid a blackout caused by terrorists or nasty neighbors to get rid of his or her smart meter now!

 

southwest gas decoupling adjustment charge

SWGas has agreed to make changes to its website to show information about decoupling, including naming the EEP Weather adjustment as the EEP Mo. Weather Adjustment.  Watch your next bill for changes.

Go to azcc.gov and do a docket search for Docket No. 13-0327

Here is the complete story:

The Hidden Monthly Weather Adjustment Charge of Southwest Gas

Richard Gayer (rgayer@cox.net)

Revised March 22, 2015

In January of 2012, Southwest Gas (“SWGas”) first imposed its new and then hidden “EEP Weather Adjustment” Charge (“Charge”) on residential customers who heat with gas in apparent reaction to warmer winters caused by Climate Change. This adds a “delivery” charge for gas not actually delivered (and not used), according to a formula approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission (“ACC”), and found in Arizona Gas Tariff No. 7 dated January 1, 2012 on pages 92 through 96. If a winter month is colder than normal (rare these days), then a corresponding amount is subtracted from a bill. This new Charge, actively concealed by SWGas from its customers until December 2014, is said to be a way to “decouple” SWGas’ revenue from varying winter weather conditions. Because of Global Warming, nearly all of these new Charges will be additions to the monthly bill.

The Charge was hidden for over two years because SWGas discontinued itemization of its bills about nine months before it added this Charge. All customers became aware of the Charge after Gayer won a settlement in his case before the ACC in Docket No. 13-0327 in late 2014.

The formula, for a given month (the “billing cycle”), first calculates a customer’s usage in therms per heating degree day (“HDD”) by dividing the total therms consumed for heating during that month by the number of HDDs during that period. It then subtracts the Actual HDDs for the month from the “Normal” HDDs for that month. Those “normal” HDDs are based on a 10-year average that SWGas buys from a proprietary source. SWGas does not use the 30-year averages published by the National Weather Service that are freely available to the public, but it does now publish the 10-year averages on its website because of Gayer’s victory in 2014. See www.swgas.com/tariffs/aztariff/decoupling and for other information.

The difference between the normal and actual HDDs is then multiplied by the therms per HDD calculated previously to produce the number of therms that will be added to (or possibly subtracted from) the bill. The dollar amount of the Charge is calculated by multiplying the added therms by the current “delivery” charge per therm. (There is no additional charge for the cost of the gas purchased by SWGas.) Customers may get a fully itemized bill by calling SWGas at the “800” number at the top of their bills.

The validity of the formula is questionable, and SWGas tacitly admits that it has problems. First is the use of HDDs, which is the number of degrees that the average daily temperature is below 65 degrees. For example, if the average temperature on a given day is 65 degrees, then there are zero HDDs, but a customer may still need to heat his home to be comfortable. But the formula, with a zero in the denominator, will force this customer into bankruptcy! To prevent customers from discovering the Charge from such a shocking bill, SWGas used a few measures that kept its customers in the dark for over two years.

First is a policy that there will be no Charge if the HDDs for the month are zero. That prevents a zero in the formula denominator. Suppose there are just a few HDDs in a month, like two or three, or even one. A small number in the denominator will result in a very large Charge, so SWGas usually uses a linear “regression” to avoid such a result. From January 2012 to December 2014, it was used by SWGas to avoid alerting a customer to the mere existence of the Charge by a very large bill. (This is now explained on its website, also because of the settlement in ACC Docket No. 13-0327.)

A regression tries to predict how many therms a given customer should use in view of the current monthly number of HDDs. This is based on that customer’s usage during four (or five – SWGas is not clear on this) winter months (December, January, February and March – and perhaps April) for the current and past years, resulting in eight (or ten) data points of therms versus HDDs. The regression produces a kind of average ratio of therms to HDDs which is called the coefficient; Gayer’s is about 0.23. SWGas multiplies that coefficient by the difference between the Normal and Actual HDDs for the month, and then multiplies the resulting number of therms by the current “delivery” charge to obtain the dollar amount of the EEP Weather Adjustment Charge.

Another method used by SWGas is to limit the number of therms added by the Charge to the number actually used by the customer. That is, if a customer used 50 therms to heat his or her house, then the extra Charge could not be based on a larger number of therms, even if the formula on pages 92 and 93 of the Tariff or a “regression” produced such a result. (This method was used for over two years as one way to prevent altering customers to the existence of the Charge by the shock of a huge bill.)

The final method to limit the new Charge so that customers do not become aware of it is actually found in the Tariff. However, the monthly limits found on page 94 under Annual Component, EEP Balancing Account, and Item A are not applied on a monthly basis, but only once a year. This now appears on bills as the “EEP Annual Adjustment”.

Another problem: SWGas uses proprietary data for the Actual HDDs for each month and does not make them publicly available. Actual HDD data are available to the public without charge from the National Weather Service, but SWGas has refused to use those data. However, those data are close enough for customers to verify their bills. See http://www.weather.gov/climate.

All of these practices were used for over two years to prevent customers of SWGas from verifying the accuracy of their bills. As a result of Gayer’s settlement in No. 13-0327, SWGas has added a line item to every bill that shows the Weather Adjustment Charge as the “EEP Weather Adjustment”, a monthly item; it has also added a line for the “EEP Annual Adjustment”. However, customers should call the “800” number on their bills and demand a fully-itemized bill.