Belleville resident calls Ameren's smart-meter plan a bad idea
Belleville resident Walter Krushall says he's done enough research to know the smart meter that Ameren Illinois wants to install at his house – or charge him $20 a month if he opts out – is bad news.
"I've been doing some research on it and this is a bad, bad deal for consumers and customers," Krushall said during a Metro East Sun telephone interview. "They're saying this is going to save us a lot of money and stuff. I did my research on it, they're saying they want to put smart meters on all of our houses around here. These smart meters are really, really bad."
The regulated electric and gas utility headquarters in Collinsville that services about three-quarters of Illinois is investing $3.5 billion over five years to improve its power and gas delivery service, according to information on the Ameren website. "We are fortifying utility poles, installing automated switches and sensors, replacing distribution lines and gas transmission equipment, and installing smart meters throughout our 43,700-square-mile territory," Ameren says on its website. "These upgrades will improve service reliability and give customers information they can use to take control of their energy usage and costs."
Ameren also offers a video download that reportedly shows "how simple the upgrade process is" and a link for residents to see when meter upgrades will arrive in their communities.
Gas and electric smart meters are expected to start arriving in Belleville next year and in 2019, according to that link.
Krushall said he already has received a notice from Ameren that the utility wants to install a smart meter in his home. After receiving that notice, Krushall said he spent about 20 to 25 hours researching smart meters. What his research turned up gave him pause, Krushall said.
One worrisome report Krushall said he found was Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's consumer alert issue last year about smart meters installed by Commonwealth Edison, or "ComEd," the state's largest electric utility that serves Chicago and northern Illinois. The meters could be used by unregulated, alternative energy suppliers to sell customers plans that could cost them more than their old analog meters ever did, Madigan said in her consumer alert.
"So there is a lot of potential for consumers to be deceived and ultimately spend more money," the attorney general said in her consumer alert.
Concerns about smart meters aren't new. Consumer Digest reported in 2011 that "smart meters might be a dumb idea."
Opting out of an Ameren smart meter will cost money, too – $20 to cover the cost of sending someone to read the old meter, Krushall said. "The $20 is to force you to capitulate," he said.
And it's unnecessary because no one reads the existing meter in his home anyway, Krushall said. "It's already electronic," Krushall said. "I haven't seen a meter reader in over 10 years."
Krushall said he also is concerned about potential health issues from smart meters. "I'm worried about the cost, I'm worried about the health part of it," he said.
"And then there's anytime that your data is transmitted back to the utility. Because this thing takes a reading every hour. So your data is transmitted back to the power company and, well, anybody can steal your data. That's another concern, that people can steal your data out there. And these meters have been catching fire, these new meters," he said.
Despite all those concerns, Krushall said he isn't sure he can be heard because of utility company lobbyists in Springfield. "The lobbyists work for them, so they've got the Legislature to draft this electric smart grid agenda on us and it's not saving people any money," he said.
But Krushall said he contacted the office of his state representative, Jay C. Hoffman (D-Belleville). "They said that they would look into the matter and then they'll call me back," Krushall said.