Question #3

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Q&A

How is my personal usage information kept private and secure?

Answered by various utilities, security is a top priority for utilities:

AEP Ohio: The privacy, protection and disclosure of personal information are important to AEP Ohio. Cyber security is essential to the success of any smart grid project. AEP Ohio intends to advance the cyber security of the smart grid by establishing a dedicated cyber security operations center in Columbus. Cyber security is a familiar concept to the utility industry. They have extensive experience maintaining security on the information systems needed to operate the electrical grid. Installing advanced meters adds a new component to their system, but the meters, communications and information management will be subject to the same Department of Energy security standards that keep the grid secure.

SDG&E: The Information Technology (IT) security controls SDG&E have in place for smart meters reflect energy industry best practices. They are designed to provide a very high level of assurance that our systems cannot be compromised. SDG&E considers security a top priority. SDG&E takes all reasonable and necessary steps to ensure the services they provide their customers are not only high quality and easily available, but also extremely secure. In addition, they constantly monitor for evolving threats and attempts to breach security and progressively update their system protection as needed.  They also regularly review, test and practice incident response processes.

SCE: Security protocols for Edison SmartConnect are adapted from the banking and defense sectors in order to ensure the highest levels of security and privacy. All information transmitted between meters and the utility is encrypted using U.S. government-approved and recommended standards, and we work with federal and state agencies to stay ahead of cyber threats.

Do smart meters help the environment?

Yes, a smart grid is a greener grid. Smart meters and intelligent grid can significantly benefit the environment by reducing consumption of fossil fuel resources, thereby reducing emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and other air pollutants. Environmental benefits can be achieved in three ways:

  1. Reducing electricity consumption and increasing transmission and distribution efficiency
    Studies suggest that given the ability to monitor their energy use more frequently in greater detail, many consumers may begin turning off unneeded appliances, change to more efficient lighting, adjust thermostats and make other energy-saving changes.  If consumers conserve energy, less power may need to be produced. Reduced emissions from potentially decreased power generation could translate into better air quality.
  2. Reducing utility’s vehicular needs
    Smart meters will also reduce the consumption of resources and associated emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants associated with performing basic utility services such as connections, disconnections, and meter readings, which can be conducted remotely for consumers with smart meters without sending out a truck. As of October 2010 for example, CenterPoint Energy has avoided over 300,000 "truck rolls" by completing service orders electronically.
  3. Promoting distributed and renewable energy production and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
    Finally, smart grid will create a platform that will promote the development and deployment of technologies for increasing distributed generation (DG) and energy storage capacity, such as wind and solar generation, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Smart meters measure surplus electricity generated as well as electricity delivered, eliminating the need for installation of expensive specialized DG metering. Distributed generation can help reduce the need for new fossil-fuel-generated capacity and therefore benefit the environment. The smart grid will also include technologies that facilitate the use of PHEVs, thereby reducing the consumer’s reliance on gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles.
Will meters readers lose their jobs once smart meters are installed?

Traditional meter readers, who will no longer be required to “make their rounds” to personally read meters, will have the opportunity to be re-trained for other jobs within utilities. Some roles for former meter readers would include network technician assistants, call center representatives and utility assistants (such as tree trimmers).

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