2016-01-28 Court rules Berkeley can require advisory re. cell phones at point of sale.

  • Good news. A very important precedent.  Court rules Berkeley can require info. be provided re. cell phone hazards. This press release was sent out today:

For Immediate Release:

 1/28/16

FEDERAL JUDGE RULES AGAINST CTIA IN REGARD TO BERKELEY’S CELL PHONE RIGHT TO KNOW LAW

 CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association) recently sued Berkeley, CA over their Cell Phone Right to Know ordinance. In September U.S. District Court Judge Chen ruled that Berkeley’s law is not a violation of the industry’s first amendment rights but did tell Berkeley to remove one controversial line which they did.

 Last week’s hearing was to remove the ban now that the line has been removed and allow implementation. Ted Olson, attorney for the CTIA, had sent Judge Chen 25 pages of further argument after his original decision. The Judge agreed to allow further argument last week. Larry Lessig, Harvard Constitutional Law Professor and Robert Post, Dean of Yale Law School are defending Berkeley pro bono.

 Yesterday, less than one week after the court hearing,
Judge Chen removed the ban on the Berkeley law despite CTIA’s numerous arguments. Chen also denied the wireless group’s motion to stay his order dissolving the injunction pending appeal.

 Berkeley’s advisory at point of sale states:

“To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.”

 

  • Maine decision was not so good – in fact it seems to be one that was written by the industry and Exponent. A lot of money is spent hiring Exponent, a company that specializes in defending dangerous products. Why, if smart meters are so safe?

http://www.theforecaster.net/maine-supreme-court-agrees-with-puc-says-smart-meters-are-safe/

 

In a press release, the Maine group that brought the lawsuit points out that “risk assessment” was the deciding factor – the cost of making changes was seen to be prohibitive, and the scientific evidence was cherry-picked. This is all too much like the decision-making process of Health Canada.

https://skyvisionsolutions.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/smart-meter-decision-press-release-1-26-16.pdf

  • Cyberattack on Israel’s electrical grid shuts down power on the 2 coldest days this year.

“Yesterday we identified one of the largest cyber attacks that we have experienced.”

 http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Israels-electrical-grid-attacked-in-massive-cyber-attack-442844

 

  • The head of the Arizona Corp. Commission has resigned after being accused of conflict of interest. She also is head of a cable company.  How many of the public commissions and agencies that are in charge of protecting the public’s interest re. utilities have people with similar biases?

http://emfrefugee.blogspot.com/2015/12/susan-bitter-smith-resigns-from-arizona.html

 

  • Our privacy is at risk from all of the devices that are being put in and on our homes, schools and workplaces.

Anne Cavoukian, former Ontario privacy commissioner and now the executive director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University, said she was appalled when she saw the Shodan webcam search in action.

Yet, she said, it’s only a symptom of the wider problem with the so-called Internet of Things, where many webcams and other connected devices such as wearables, TVs and thermostats ship with a low level of security — and some with none at all.

“It allows people to steal glimpses of personal spaces in people’s homes, places of work, or inside a hospital — our most private spaces,” she said.

http://www.castanet.net/news/Business/157173/Privacy-a-thing-of-the-past

 

  • A “hack-athon” a few days ago resulted in proving that data can be obtained from computers even when they are not connected to a network or the internet! What about smart meters that are turned on 24/7 – probably no effort at all will be needed to hack into our personal data.

“The RAMEAR hack involved taking old desktop computer (an Ubuntu PC) and turning it into a wireless data transmitter. The catch? The computer wasn’t hooked up to anything one usually uses for data transmission. There was no ethernet cable, no WiFi, no Bluetooth.”

http://technical.ly/philly/2016/01/25/scary-hardware-hack-won-pennapps-ramear/

 

  • Below is an analysis of the costs and benefits of going off the grid and using solar panels as the main source of energy, written by Catherine Ann Andersen.

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Letters:

Subject: RE: Hydro One abandons 36,000 rural smart meter connections in Ontario
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 2016 23:35:51 +0000
From: Complaints BCUC:EX <Complaints@bcuc.com>
To:  X

Dear X

Thank you for your email to the BC Utilities Commission. The Commission Secretary provided your email to me so that I could provide you with a response.

In your email you raise concerns about BC Hydro customers being charged extra fees for opting out of the smart meter program when other customers with smart meters that have to be manually read are not paying any fees.

The Commission’s review of BC Hydro’s application for the charges related to the Meter Choices Program (including the Legacy Meter Charge) was limited by Direction No. 4 (Order in Council No. 391) from the government to the Commission. This Direction is available at: http://www.bcuc.com/Documents/SpecialDirections/2013/OIC-391-SD4-BCHSMI-Options.pdf

The provincial government made a policy decision by issuing Direction No. 4 to the Commission. In that direction, the government directed the Commission to set rates to allow BC Hydro to recover the costs for legacy and radio-off meters from those customers only. Specifically, the Commission was directed by government to set BC Hydro rates such that the program costs, investigation costs and infrastructure costs for legacy or radio-off meters are recovered from only those customers where a legacy or radio-off meter is installed. Accordingly, the Commission reviewed BC Hydro’s application and approved rates in accordance with Direction No. 4.

Given that the Commission set rates as directed by government, your concerns may be better addressed by government, specifically the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

For additional information, you can review the Commission’s decision regarding the fees on our website at: http://www.bcuc.com/Documents/Decisions/2014/DOC_41269_04-25-2014_BCH%20Meter%20Choices_Decision_G-59-14_WEB.pdf.

I trust this information is helpful. Thank you again for contacting the Commission.

Regards,

Patrick Wruck
Customer Relations Analyst
British Columbia Utilities Commission
6th Floor, 900 Howe Street
Vancouver, B.C.  V6Z 2N3
Website: www.bcuc.com Email: complaints@bcuc.com
Phone: 604.660.4700 | Fax: 604.660.1102 | Toll Free: 1.800.663.1385
—————–

From: X
Sent: Saturday, January 16, 2016 3:15 PM
To: Commission Secretary BCUC:EX
Cc: AWatson@rdck.bc.ca; ashadra@telus.net
Subject: Hydro One abandons 36,000 rural smart meter connections in Ontario

 

Dear Ms. Hamilton

I am writing in response to the letter by Andy Shadrack, sent to the Commission Secretary of the BCUC regarding the recent decision by Hydro One in Ontario to abandon Smart Meter service to some 36,000 rural customers. It’s obvious BC Hydro is having the same problems as Hydro One because their Smart Meters require a manual reading also. I would like to know why I am paying $32.40 a month to have someone come to my home to read my analog meter when my neighbours are having their Smart Meters read manually for FREE!

Every second month the meter reader walks from house to house in our neighbourhood and manually reads the Smart Meters, never setting a foot on my property to read my analog meter. A couple of days later the meter reader then comes to my home to take a manual reading of my meter. I am paying $64.80 for a service that was already done a few days before in my neighbourhood.

WHY?

Reading all the meters on our homes should be included as part of the service we as customers are already paying for in our Hydro bill. This legacy fee is purely punitive.

Respectfully.

X

From: A member in the Columbia Valley
Sent: January 27, 2016 2:57 PM
To: Sharon Noble <dsnoble@shaw.ca>
Subject: I Got an Analog!

Hi Sharon,

I received the letter from Hydro in early September asking for access to my meter. I had a lock on it and lots of signs refusing a smart meter. I was directed to contact Hydro within the following 10 business days, which I did. I was assured by Mark that my analog meter would be replaced by another analog meter and he explained to me how I would be able to tell that it was an analog. He explained at the time that they were running about 6 – 8 weeks behind on these exchanges but that I would be called and a time set up when a contractor was in my area.

Monday I got a call from a technician who wanted to set a time to replace my old analog. He came yesterday afternoon (roughly 20 weeks later.) I turned off my computer and threw the main breaker while he did the swap. He was in a Hydro van with ‘contractor’ on the side. He explained to me that he was an electrician and we had a chat about the smart meters and how they are not anywhere near the quality of device that the old analogs were. The date on the analog he took off my house was 1974 – the year we built this house! That would make it 42 years old and still working just fine. The replacement analog is the same make as my old one – a Ferranti Packard. The electrician mentioned that the replacement analogs that Measurement Canada has recertified are often older.

Anyway, even though I am still not happy about the extra $35 a month I am being charged to keep an analog (my meter is only read every second month), I am happy that I was not forced to take a smart meter or a radio off digital meter. I got the impression that I was lucky to get an analog as they are mostly being disappeared by Hydro rather than being recertified.

XX

———————

Article and analysis by Catherine Ann Andersen
The Task

There has been much written about “green” energy and more particularly, electrical energy. It has many citizens asking what they might do to be part of the solution while waiting for the more traditional leadership to take initiatives that would lead to reductions in the consumption of fossil fuels.

Solar energy has captured the imaginations of many spurred in a major way by the leadership of several European countries.

Because the financial entry huddle for a solar panel installation is relatively small, individuals are now giving the idea of personal, residential installations very close examination.

As finances are at the heart of this kind of consideration several people thought it would be helpful to have a look at the cost / benefits to see if the benefits might exceed the up front costs in 2015/2016.

The Method and Assumptions

Investing money in a 10 panel, net metering installation is easy to determine simply by asking those who are now doing these installations for a quotation.

Since there is no one size fits all, because the installations are all custom built ,everyone is understandably shy about giving too firm a price for the package.

The closest number for a 10 panel array from a co-op program seems to be about $6,500 to $7,500. This is where the investor receives the benefit of no commercial mark-up on the cost of equipment. Clearly a quote from those doing installations where there is a mark-up will be higher.

The next part of the process is to make assumptions. For the reader’s benefit he/she might get value out of reading the 2015/16 – 2017/18  BC Hydro Service Plan, as submitted to the BC Utilities Commission (1).  This document is useful for context, especially pages 15 and 16. BC Hydro increased electricity rates in 2014 by 9%; in 2015 by 6% and in 2016 plans to increase rates by 4% and in 2017 by 3%.  These rate increases are election cycle driven and do nothing to clear the $5.3 billion yet to be collected from customers and held back from investment expenses over the period 2006 through to 2015.  To overcome an absence of any official outlook for future rates an annual 2.5% increase, representing a CPI change, is used in the calculations (2).

To have future benefits, in this case an avoidance of paying BC Hydro for self-generated electricity, it is necessary to discount those benefits to their present values (PV). The traditional way is to pick the prevailing long-term bond yield. The current Government of Canada long-term yield is approximately 2.2%. Provincial bond yields are normally a little greater so the discount rate picked for these calculations is 3%.

So to recap, the future rates for BC Hydro are projected to increase at a rate of 2.5% annually, despite recent different experiences, for the next 23 years after 2017. These future rates are the benefits if the resident does not have to pay them because of self-generating 2,750 KWhrs each year. To bring to a PV a discount rate of 3% is applied.

The BC Hydro Residential Rate Format

Readers are likely familiar with the BC Hydro billing, but for the record it includes a basic /fixed daily amount of 17.64 cents. There is no indication this may change but one cannot be certain. There is also a 5% “rate rider” amount that is adjustable and is variable because it is a percentage on the previous amounts that include charges for usage.  These two charges have not been brought into the PV calculations.

The PV calculations are only based upon the projected future rates for KWhrs consumed. BC Hydro is currently using a two Tier rate system where the Tier one rate is 7.97 cents per KWhr and the Tier two is 11.95 cents per KWhr.

A residential customer can enjoy the lower rate for up to 1,350 KWhrs in a 60 day billing period then slides into the higher rate for all above that amount. In annual terms Tier one is about 8,000 KWhrs. The generally accepted view is residential customers use on average about 12,000 KWhrs per year. Customer life styles, where  one lives in BC and what access  one has to natural gas supplies, makes the notion of an average annual consumption very problematic .

There is an obvious advantage for a customer to be able to keep his/hers usage/demand below the ceiling amounts for Tier one rates.

The chart that follows demonstrates the consumption pattern for one residential customer who is living on a Gulf Island where there is no natural gas available. Winter months consumption is suppressed by the use of a wood furnace and a heat pump.  This individual used 12,000 KWhrs in 2015 so used a blend of both Tier rates to arrive at a final billing amount for the year.  The Tier two rates mostly affected the winter billing months.

The Seasonal Generation Pattern for Solar Panels In the Gulf of Georgia

 

With a look at the same chart it is readily seen that the generation of electricity by solar panels is highly seasonal and in direct contrast with residential customer demand.  This data is from an operating array on Saltspring Island. For this installation the per standard panel annual generation was 310 KWhrs, so the lesser amount used in these PV calculations of  275 per panel is conservative. BC interior sites could generate 328 KWhrs per year per panel.

The Present Values of Tiers One and Two

The following chart is a simplification of the effect of the preceding assumptions and projections. The area above Tier one is where the economics of an investment in solar panels begins to be positive. When a person’s life style and living circumstances dictate annual electricity consumption levels above 14,000 KWhrs then there is a strong likelihood that all self-generation will be replacing higher electricity rates. Obviously some self- management of consumption can increase benefits.

The PV of only using Tier one electricity is $5, 240. The unknown risk is if the top of Tier one is dropped to a lower ceiling amount. This does not appear a great risk mostly because the use of this Tier is to help financially challenged customers.

The PV of substituting all self-generation at the Tier two rates is $7,926. This amount is sufficiently greater than the likely cost of a new 10 panel installation, particularly if done using the co-op model to reduce the cost of the hardware.

If BC Hydro becomes more aggressive in setting rates post 2017 then it only makes the net value of the solar panel installation greater.

Supplementing these PVs would be any credits one could earn with generation surpluses sent into BC Hydro.

Conclusions

There is a reasonably persuasive financial case supporting the investment in a 10 solar panel array, with net metering, by residential customers of BC Hydro if their annual consumption of electricity is 14,000 KWhrs and above.

There is a case for a larger installation if the customer is using close to or more than 20,000 KWhrs annually.

  • 2015/16—2017/18 BC Hydro Service Plan

Statistics Canada; Consumer Price Index, historical summary (1996 to 2015

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Newsletter prepared by Sharon Noble

 Power of the People is stronger than the People in Power