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October 09. 2012 11:58PM

NHEC says smart meters only measure useage, not what's being used

PLYMOUTH —Smart meters are not as smart as some opponents in New Hampshire are contending, officials of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative asserted Tuesday.

“We refute claims that meters in any way are infringing on privacy,” said Seth Wheeler, spokesman for the member-owned utility.

He was responding to allegations by a group of Bristol residents who opposed the installation of so called “smart meters” in their homes, claiming it is possible it could be detecting individual device use and recording it.

Joan Wirth of Bristol, a member of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Smart Meters told the N.H. Union Leader opposition is growing to the device.

State Rep. Paul Simard, R-Bristol also said there are privacy concerns with the meters that can tell the utility how much electricity is being used.

“We don't even know at this pont what they're capable of doing. There are privacy issues related to the sale of the information, and what else that information will be used for,” he said.

Wheeler said it is not as if the device can tell if you are using a hair driver or a clothes washer and that NHEC is not about to sell that information to marketing companies, anyway.

“They cannot discern what appliances are being used,” Wheeler said.

“There is no way this meter can record anything other than how much electricity the whole house is using.”

Members of the coalition went to court last spring to get a judge to prevent the installation of the meters at their homes, arguing the meters would emit radio frequencies that could be harmful.

Grafton County Superior Court Judge Peter H. Bornstein rejected those claims and said the Federal Communications has had “exclusive authority to set health standards on effects of radio frequency emissions and said that a case at the state level would likely fail on its merits.

NHEC is undertaking a $35 million upgrade to use smart meters. Rather than having meter readers come to a person's house to read how much electricity is used monthly, the meters can transmit that information by frequency.

Tuesday, NHEC made available technical research, which it states “proves the digital electric meters being installed across its service territory are not capable of gathering personal information, nor any information that could compromise a member's privacy in any way.”

NHEC has installed approximately 81,000 smart meters across its service territory since June 2011. The company is scheduled to complete installation of all 83,000 meters this month.

Elster Metering, the manufacturer of the REX2 digital meter being installed by NHEC, has issued a detailed report that concludes “…the REX2 meters deployed to date are not capable of identifying electricity use by specific appliances located within members'/consumers' premises.”

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Paula Tracy may be reached at ptracy@unionleader.com.


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