Oncor and other utility companies have been installing smart meters throughout Texas. These meters send electricity usage data every 15 minutes back to the utility company in real time which is a concern of many Texas residents. Joseph and Martha Milan are among the residents expressing their concerns.
Are smart meters an invasion of privacy?
“If you intend to install a ‘Smart Meter’ or any activity monitoring device at the above address, you and all other parties are hereby denied consent for installation…” Joseph and Martha Milan told Reliant Energy in a letter on March 30, 2012. The letter goes on to say “’Smart Meters’ violate the law and cause endangerment to residents…” The danger, expressed in the letter, is in regards to privacy and health.
After reading the letter I was compelled to do some research. I was shocked with the results.
Smart Meters | Invasion of Privacy
To test how easy it is to view electricity usage I went to smartmetertexas.com. All I needed to create an account was the ESI ID and the meter number. I had to accept the terms of service to view the usage but I did not have to verify ownership. It was easier then I expected. Once I had created the account I could see my usage up to the past two days. It was cool to see the data but it made me wonder how easy it would be to gain access to it. If anyone can see my electricity usage it would be possible to determine the likelihood I was home or not.
Acting like a thief, I would first need my ESI ID and meter number. I Googled “ESI ID Lookup” and found esiids.com. It was easy to create an account with esiids.com and look up an ESI ID with just an address and zip code. Next, I needed my smart meter ID which I found on my meter. If I was a crafty thief it would be easy to get my meter ID since most meters are installed on the outside with easy access for meter readers.
Result: It is possible for anyone to gain access to my usage data with little difficulty.
What Can I do About It?
According to FAQ on smartmetertexas.com, once I created the account I was the only one who could see my usage. If someone had already created an account with my ESI ID and smart meter ID it would have given me an error message. If this happened, I would have had to contact my provider to tell them about the issue.
I recommend customers get an account with smartmetertexas.com to stop anyone else from gaining access to their electricity usage data. As for consumers wanting to remove smart meters from their homes I would call the utility company to see if they can help.
The Milan’s concerns maybe inaccurate factually but the risks are real. Smart meters do not record specific electronic devices but the over usage of the home. Someone would have to analyze the data to get information about what is going on in the home.
Joseph and Martha Milan can refuse to allow utility companies to install a smart meter at their home. They can also choose not to use electricity.
As for the health issues raised in the letter, I recommend reading the sections titled “Are Smart Meters Safe?” on this page “Overview of Smart Meters.”
Here is a link on How to read smart meters
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Donny has been writing about the deregulated energy markets since early 2007. His knowledge has helped consumers lower their electricity cost.