A bird started twittering around 5:45 a.m., and it wasn't me, though the dogs and I got up shortly afterwards and went walking in a flower-scented world that was already brightening, despite the dense gray clouds that delivered enough rain to send us running for the last quarter-mile back home. It's always so nice when nature waters the garden, which I fluffed up — some of the beds had been compacted by the recent downpours — and re-seeded at the spring equinox.
I was talking to Adam Asquith yesterday, about his smart meter lawsuit against KIUC, as well as the state of his taro patches. The loi at Kealia were totally submerged twice in the floods, but they're recovering well, although yields likely will be affected, he said, perhaps resulting in a poi shortage four or five months from now. The humans, meanwhile, are scurrying to repair the irrigation ditches that got blown out so they can get water back into the loi.
Just as KIUC was scurrying to do damage control with the press release it issued after Adam filed a complaint in federal District Court seeking a halt to the smart meter rollout. “I was really surprised because my family washes its laundry before we hang it out, and we hang it in the backyard so only one neighbor can see,” Adam said of the release. “This remains an issue between one homeowner and KIUC.”
Of course, the resolution of that issue will affect other homeowners, which is what worries KIUC. All Adam wants, he said, is for KIUC to “honor the sanctity of my home and never attempt to install a small meter without my written permission.” If the utility agrees to that, he said, the lawsuit will be over.
But if KIUC agrees, it will have to offer the same option to other homeowners, and that is obviously something the utility does not want, or it would have included an opt-out mechanism in its smart meter plan. Despite recent talk about a “deferral process,” the message from KIUC has consistently been that it is going to replace all analog meters with smart meters — no exceptions.
Adam said the press release, which brands him a “local smart meter opponent,” is “a total mischaracterization of my stance on smart meters. This is entirely an issue of the sanctity of my home and my right to deny installation of a very new and novel device at my home. I'm a strong proponent of smart technology and smart meters in certain applications. I really would like to be a voluntary participant in this federal project.”
The operative word here is voluntary. “If they would seek consent, they'd find it, but if they seek to force this, they'll find resistance,” he said.
It's a similar stance to the one Adam took on FERC. He's a proponent of hydroelectric power, but he didn't like the way KIUC entered into a contract with Free Flow Power that committed us to following the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process — before consulting with the members of the co-operative.
He filed the complaint in federal court because federal monies are involved — a Department of Energy grant is picking up half the $11 million smart meter roll out tab — as well as privacy rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. “People died for these flipping rights,” he said. “We shouldn't be so cavalier about just throwing them away.”
He suggested that people re-read the KIUC press release and change the words smart meter to camera, which may make it easer “to understand where I'm coming from.”
So what about those privacy issues? For starters, it might be helpful to read this press release issued by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), of which KIUC is a member. It's important to remember that we are participating in a pilot project:
“Our cooperatives will be evaluating how and whether these technologies can assist them in their mission to provide safe, reliable and affordable electric power to their member-consumers,” [NRECA CEO Glenn] English said.
And one of the things they plan to look at is, emphasis added:
The cooperatives’ demonstration project represents the first opportunity to conduct a nationwide pilot extending and testing end-to-end connectivity – from the power plant to the consumer’s home – and interoperability using MultiSpeak®, a specification developed by NRECA through the MultiSpeak Initiative. This project will extend the MultiSpeak specification to new functions and applications and include cybersecurity in the testing process. Cyber security consultants SAIC and Cigital will work with the cooperatives to explore security issues surrounding enhanced interoperability and connectivity.
This project is all about meshed networks that communicate with one another. So the data collected from our homes won't be sent only to the KIUC power plant, but bounced over to the mainland. And why would they be sending data there, other than to mine it to determine if there's something useful to sell to third parties?
Furthermore, the reason why the feds are funding it is because this is part of a larger national effort to connect everyone so the grid can be centrally monitored and controlled. Which is about as Orwellian as it gets.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether this pilot project will result in any meaningful benefit to those of us who are paying for it. According to the article “NRECA Releases Interoperability and Cybersecurity Plan” published in the December 2010 issue of “KIUC Currents”:
Each project tests the value of the new technologies for cooperative consumer members.
In the end, it's all well and good if everything works out fine, and we get a smart system at half the cost. But what if this thing turns out to be a big bust? Our co-op will be saddled not only with our $5.5 million share of the installation price, but any subsequent costs that might be incurred if the system needs to be revamped, tweaked or totally scuttled.
Which might be a risk we're willing to take, like paying FFP millions in hopes of coming up with a viable hydro project. But Adam's lawsuit drives home the key point: voluntary participation is always preferable to a KIUC management dictate.