Rush Limbaugh claimed that smart meters give "the government the power to wirelessly control your heat, your air conditioning, your water flow, your electricity all from the cozy central office." In fact, smart meters simply collect information on energy use for the benefit of consumers and utility companies; governments do not receive this information and have "neither the authority nor the capability to control consumers' heat, air conditioning or other in-home appliances," according to a major electric and gas utility consulted by Media Matters.
Limbaugh: Smart Meters Let Government "Control Your Heat, Your Air Conditioning"
Limbaugh Compares Smart Meters To "Death Panels In Your Home." From the March 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: Some of the greatest stories, finest reporting is coming out of the UK today. And I marvel at how on point a lot of it is. Here's a piece that ran on Sunday in the UK Telegraph by James Delingpole, entitled, "There's nothing smart about rationing electricity." And this generally is about the program in Britain that we have in some places already here, called Smart Meters, which gives the government the power to wirelessly control your heat, your air conditioning, your water flow, your electricity all from the cozy central office. Think death panels in your home - the ultimate method of nagging. [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 3/7/11]
Public Utility Commission Officials, Energy Company Debunk Limbaugh's Claim
CA Public Utilities Commission: "Smart Meters Convey Information Between The Home Owner And The Utility." Responding to Limbaugh's claim, Susan Carothers of the California Public Utilities Commission said, "Smart Meters convey information between the home owner and the utility. The government does not see that information." She further stated: "Smart Meters give consumers the power of information and with that, greater control over their energy use. For a utility, Smart Meters allow for faster outage detection and restoration, and the ability to read a meter remotely instead of sending a meter reader to a consumer's home." [Email to Media Matters, 3/8/11]
DC Public Service Commission Chair: "Government Has No Access To The Information" From The Meters. In a phone conversation, Betty Ann Kane, chair of the DC Public Service Commission stated that smart meters transfer information "between electric companies and consumers." She added, "Government, though public utility commissions, is involved in overseeing the rules that apply to the use of smart meter, just as with regular meters. Government has no access to the information." [Phone conversation with Media Matters, 3/8/11]
CenterPoint Energy: The Government "Has Neither The Authority Nor The Capability To Control Consumers' Heat, Air Conditioning." Leticia Lowe, spokesperson for Houston based electric and gas utility CenterPoint Energy, a company that is currently installing smart meters, stated via email:
CenterPoint Energy's electric utility is installing approximately 2.2 million electric smart meters in the greater Houston area. The Public Utility Commission of Texas strictly regulates the connection, disconnection, and reconnection of electric service; however, the government itself has neither the authority nor the capability to control consumers' heat, air conditioning or other in-home appliances, wirelessly or otherwise. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) governs electric reliability for most of the state of Texas. ERCOT can order utilities to take temporary emergency measures, such as "rolling outages", to preserve grid reliability. Such measures would affect consumers with and without electric smart meters equally. This advanced system will promote greater energy conservation and enable electric consumers the ability to better monitor and manage their electric use. [Email to Media Matters, 3/8/11]
NIST: "Utility Companies - Not The Government - Supply Power Directly To Consumers" And "Deploy Smart Meters." Responding to an email from Media Matters, the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the U.S. Commerce Department wrote:
In the United States, utility companies - not the government - supply power directly to consumers. It is these utilities that have the ability to deploy smart meters and access customers' usage information. Most U.S. utilities are privately owned. In some cases, customers are offered the option of saving money on their bills by allowing the utility to reduce their electricity usage during times of peak demand, but these programs are not mandatory. A customer would have to opt into the program voluntarily for the utility to make these adjustments. [Email to Media Matters, 3/9/11]
Smart Meters Give Consumers, Utilities, More Information About Energy Use
Smart Meters Provide More Detailed Information To Utilities. From a Wall Street Journal primer on smart meters:
A smart meter measures a household's electricity usage in short increments--say every five minutes or every hour. A wireless link sends the usage data to the utility in near real time and tells the customer the current price being charged for that power--during peak or off-peak hours--which could be an incentive to turn off some lights or appliances. [Wall Street Journal, 5/19/10]
Smart Meters Alert Utility Companies To Outages. From a Dallas Morning News article: "The digital meters are designed to communicate with Oncor, showing customer electricity usage throughout the day and alerting the company to outages. Oncor says this will help it restore power more quickly and allow consumers to understand their own usage and, in turn, cut back." [The Dallas Morning News, 3/10/10]
Smart Meters Provide Consumers With Information About Their Power Use. From an Arizona Republic report on the roll out of smart meters by utility companies Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project:
Customers are unlikely to notice immediate changes besides a momentary power disruption.
But within days of getting a smart meter, customers can get detailed information on the utilities' websites.
SRP smart-meter customers can compare daily power use and the daily temperature (indicating if air-conditioning was a big power draw).
They also can compare their bill to similar-sized homes', and see how much energy they used "on-peak" - the afternoon hours when prices are higher for some rate plans.
APS smart-meter customers get an even more detailed look, with an hourly breakdown of their power use for days past.
SRP plans to offer that detailed look eventually, and if the utilities decide to use it, the meters can show that information in real time.
Hourly data might allow family members to take the credit for energy use at particular times of the day, or reveal which appliances are using the most energy.
"You want to know what your consumption is so you can better manage your energy," said Barbara Lockwood, director of smart-grid programs for APS.
It is a big departure from days past, when customers would have to wait a month to see how much energy they had used, and had no indication of which days they used the most or which hours were their most expensive, energywise. [The Arizona Republic, 6/20/10]