CUC halfway through installing smart meters

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The Caribbean Utilities Company is in the process of installing 27,560 new “smart meters” throughout Grand Cayman to allow consumers to monitor and better manage their power consumption.

According to CUC, the meters may also help consumers anticipate cheaper off-peak “time of use” pricing.

The $5 million program, which started in 2011, is nearly halfway finished. The company intends to have all its residential and businesses customers connected to the meters by the end of the year.

“The meter itself will not save the customer money,” said a CUC spokeswoman, but it “will allow the customer to get more detailed information on the quantity and timing of their electricity usage, allowing them to better manage their consumption.”

The device samples usage information every 15 minutes, including such anomalies as power outages. “The data is communicated wirelessly back to data collectors, which then re-transmits this information back to the systems at CUC headquarters,” the spokesperson said. “Customers can use this information to analyze their usage patterns and as a result, identify opportunities to save energy. These meters allow CUC to read more efficiently for billing and can also remotely provision and disconnect service without having to deploy field crews.”

The system also enables advance billing based on recorded data rather than on estimates of projected use.

The costs of the replacement program will not be charged back to consumers, the CUC spokesperson said.

“CUC is making this investment in its advanced metering infrastructure with the approval of the [Electricity Regulatory Authority],” the spokesperson said.

The company appears to have left the door open in regard to possible security. While the meters do not employ Internet protocols to move information, the wireless transfers are still electronic.

The possibility exists that hackers could manipulate consumption – and therefore billing – data or simply wreak havoc in the system.

“Our system does not use the Internet at all. It is a completely isolated network, owned and operated solely by CUC,” said the utility representative, although she conceded that an individual might try to intercept transmissions.

“CUC recognizes this risk and has mitigating systems in place,” she said without elaborating.

CUC uses meters supplied by Sensus of Raleigh, North Carolina and General Electric Digital Energy based in Atlanta, both of which have trained local crews in installation, troubleshooting and “meter configuration,” the utility says.

Other fears center on the possibility of overheating and subsequent fire, a problem reported in both the U.S. and Canada, although both suppliers have improved their equipment in the last year.

The spokesperson acknowledged the historical complaints about the meters, and said CUC had faced similar problems, but said they had been few and quickly addressed.

“Not unlike many other utilities, CUC has experienced failures of a small number of meters,” she told the Cayman Compass. “In most cases, investigations indicated that the meters were damaged due to heat building up in loose connections on the customer’s meter base or water intrusion into the meter base causing the electronics in the meter to short circuit.

“Sensus has upgraded their meters to resolve these issues,” she added.

Approximately 12,500 meters have been installed throughout Grand Cayman’s five districts. To date, no one has declined to participate in the program.

“CUC hasn’t had any such requests; on the contrary, customers are becoming aware of the benefits to them, and CUC has received requests for exchanges to be made sooner,” the spokesperson said.

James Whittaker, chairman of the Cayman Renewable Energy Association and founder of the Greentech Group, points out that smart meters are not particularly innovative, but need to be coupled with a broader program of energy conservation and even use of renewables.

“With the ability to gather data on a property’s energy usage in real time, in theory the power company can more accurately make decisions to be more efficient, and that should cut down on costs to them and, at least in theory, to the consumer,” he said.

Smart meters, Mr. Whittaker said, “could definitely be a good thing if used to their maximum potential and for the right reasons. Are we going to build a smarter grid and adopt cleaner and more stable sources of clean energy for the long-term benefit of the country and our consumers? Are we going to use these technologies to reduce their [CUC] costs and then pass those savings on to the consumers?

“Whether or not this is a good thing comes down to how effectively it’s used as a tool to benefit consumers and the country as a whole, versus improving the internal efficiencies and/or profits of the power company.”

Smart meters can potentially enable cost reductions through “time of use” information, encouraging users, for example, to operate washing machines at 3 a.m. rather than during peak afternoon and early evening hours.

“CUC does not offer time of use’ rates at this time,” the spokesperson said. “By changing its meters to the smart meter type, CUC will be able to consider the introduction of TOU rates in the future.”

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CUC has installed approximately 12,500 smart meters throughout Grand Cayman. – Photos: Taneos Ramsay
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  1. I’d you are on the other side of the smart meters, google smart meters health complains,danger, EMF safety etc. and start looking for another renal.

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  2. The CUC spokeswoman states the meter will not save customers money, but how much does CUC spend on employing meter readers to visit every single meter all over Grand Cayman, every month?. This expense will no longer be incurred and the savings should therefore be passed on to the customers.

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  3. L. Bell,

    I did some search on about health complaints. It’s all on the boundary of pure speculation. There is no scientific evidence to support these claims. Still, if anybody experienced health problems after installation of new meters it would be interesting to hear. Though one or two complaints are not evidential as easily can be pure coincidence.

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  4. @Stanislav Zholnin,
    the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.
    Why Compass won’t publish my second comment with the links?
    WOULD YOU WANT YOUR CHILD SLEEPING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF A WALL OF SMART METERS?
    We tend to ignore things we can’t see, hear, smell or touch, just like potential dioxin accumulation in the environment from the burning Dump.
    Human body is resilient and able, was designed to, survive unimaginable assaults. But everything has a breaking point.
    Knowing that you can reduce your exposure to an invisible threat by simply moving your bed away from a wall or redesigning your bedroom into a living room can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
    Let people decide for themselves.

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  5. L Bell while you’re moving your bed or redesigning your house, you might just want to back away from your computer or smartphone you’re using to post this or just move away from civilization altogether. Claims of health problems from smart meters are just more quackery anti science, along the lines of anti-vaxxers.

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  6. Christoph, L. Bell,

    I am cautious about such things as science already had situations when what was considered harmless was later recognized as deadly. Beginning with cocaine in children cough syrups and ending with leaded fuel being no-risk to human population. So we have to be cautious even if there is no proof of harm. I bet that Clair Patterson got his own share of accusations of anti-science back in 1960-ies, while now scientists link reduction in violent crimes in US in 1990 to reduced lead concentration in environment. So be sceptical, but beware.

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  7. @Christoph Walser
    It is appears that earth is flat and ground beneath you is stable and unmoving.
    Around 1513, Copernicus first wrote down his discovery that the earth goes round the sun. This discovery, one of the greatest in the history of human thought, would be violently opposed by ignorant Christian churches for the next three hundred years.
    Common sense observations are illusions, the world is not as it seems. What we think is intuitive, obvious and common sense, cannot be trusted to be true.

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  8. … so many scientists and medical experts urgently recommend that measures following the Precautionary Principle be applied immediately such as using wired meters to reduce biologically inappropriate microwave exposure. We are not advocating the abolishment of RF technologies, only the use of common sense and the development and implementation of best practices in using these technologies in order to reduce exposure and risk of health hazards.
    (Canadian magazine, La maison du 21e sicle the house of the 21st century, Dr. David O. Carpenter, a distinguished physician and former founding dean of the School of Public Health, State University, Albany (New York), has just published a letter called Smart Meters: Correcting the Gross Misinformation.(**) Google for the letter in its entirety.)

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  9. Rather be safe than sorry
    Smart meters

    Wireless smart meters typically produce atypical, relatively potent and very short pulsed RF/microwaves whose biological effects have never been fully tested. They emit these millisecond-long RF bursts on average 9,600 times a day with a maximum of 190,000 daily transmissions and a peak level emission two and a half times higher than the stated safety signal Perlingieri’s italics, as the California utility Pacific Gas Electric recognized before that State’s Public Utilities Commission. Thus people in proximity to a smart meter are at risk of significantly greater aggregate exposure than with a cell phone, not to mention the cumulative levels of RF/microwaves that people living near several meters are exposed to.

    People are exposed to cell phone microwaves primarily in the head and neck, and only when they use their device. With smart meters, the entire body is exposed to the microwaves, which increases the risk of overexposure to many organs.

    In addition to these erratic bursts of modulated microwaves coming from smart meters that are transferring usage data to electric, gas and water utilities, wireless and wired smart (powerline communication) meters are also a major source of ”dirty electricity” (electrical interference of high frequency voltage transients typically of kilohertz frequencies). Indeed, some scientists, such as American epidemiologist Sam Milham, believe that many of the health complaints about smart meters may also be caused by dirty electricity generated by the switching power supply activating all smart meters. Since the installation of filters to reduce dirty electricity circulating on house wiring has been found to relieve symptoms of EHS in some people, this method should be considered among the priorities aimed at reducing potential adverse impacts.
    (from Smart Meters: Correcting the Gross Misinformation.)

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  10. CUC is so poorly managed. After 5 years of buying shares through the customer purchase program, I sold my 5000 shares during 2013 after being discouraged from poor capital gains, no dividend increase, and continuously taking on millions of dollars in debt with no end in sight of paying off this debt. Now, CUC borrows another 5 Million for meters to replace perfectly good working conventional style meters. After years of poor business performance, the president continues to expect that his personal, annual golf membership is paid by CUC, at the shareholders expense. Enough is enough!

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