NHEC Clarifies Smart Meter Privacy Limitations

Press release

New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) has made available technical research that proves the digital electric meters being installed across its service territory are not capable of gathering personal information, nor any information that could compromise a member’s privacy in any way.

NHEC has installed approximately 81,000 smart meters across its service territory since June 2011. The company is scheduled to complete installation of all 83,000 meters this month. Elster Metering, the manufacturer of the REX2 digital meter being installed by NHEC, has issued a detailed report that concludes “…the REX2 meters deployed to date are not capable of identifying electricity use by specific appliances located within members’/consumers’ premises.”

NHEC has posted the complete report at NHEC.coop/AMI. Despite NHEC’s repeated assertions to the contrary, a small number of smart meter opponents have insisted that the REX2 meter can be used to determine what appliances are being used in the home or business and that NHEC could sell that information to third party marketers or provide it to the government. According to the meter manufacturer, the microcontroller in REX2 meters cannot be programmed in any configuration to capture such data.

“The only resources available for Elster programming on this chip are 256k Flash and 8kb RAM memories. This device is not capable of identifying electricity use by specific appliances, regardless of firmware,” the Elster report concludes.

The primary benefit of the smart meter system is the meter’s ability to report readings via a small, one-quarter watt radio that transmits usage data to NHEC approximately 15 seconds per day, promising substantial savings on meter reading. The system will also offer NHEC members the opportunity to better manage their energy usage through reports that show whole-house energy usage in monthly, weekly, daily, even hourly intervals.

It’s important to note that all the information provided by the REX2 meter, namely, the energy consumption of the entire household, not what appliances are being used, has been available to NHEC and its members since the company was founded. NHEC has policies, procedures, and technologies in place to protect member data.

Earlier this year, the New Hampshire Legislature passed RSA 374:62, which requires the written consent of a property owner to have a so-called “gateway” electric meter installed at the property. The gateway meter is equipped with special equipment that allows it to communicate with devices (i.e. an In-Home-Display) within the home. NHEC has provided approximately 450 members with these gateway meters in order to participate in a voluntary pilot program that tests the impact of time-based rates on their electric usage.

These members have all volunteered for the program and provided their written consent to NHEC to have a gateway meter installed. All of NHEC’s remaining members have or will be receiving non-gateway meters that are not capable of discerning what appliances are being used at the property.

New Contract Approved

In other NHEC news, the Board of Directors of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) voted unanimously last month to approve a new contract with members of the union representing 85 employees.

The new five-and-a-half-year contract agreement was reached on October 4 and was approved by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1837 on October 5. Union employees had been working under the terms of a five-year agreement that expired September 30. The new contract is in effect retroactive to October 1.

NHEC is a member-owned electric distribution cooperative that serves 83,000 members in 115 New Hampshire communities, including Andover.