One Director: “I think the 166 dollars up front will convince them they can really afford a lot of tin foil hats.”
Another Director: “But they’re already wearing them.”
This is an amazing, damaging audio. I wouldn’t be surprised if it disappeared. (See note** below.) It’s an audio of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) board of directors at a 2/29/12 committee meeting discussing their smart meter opt out program. This audio besides revealing the sham opt out that SMUD is offering their 600,000 customers (they offer only a radio off smart meter with severe restrictions and fees) is also a warning to residents everywhere about how the utility companies are trying to kill the opt out options while pretending to be customer responsive.
Sacramento Municipal Utility District, their website says, is “the nation’s sixth-largest electric utility that’s owned by its customers.” However, they do not seem very friendly to customers who don’t want smart meters. They see the opt out option as a temporary blip (something they are tolerating while they machinate about how to make it as unpalatable as possible) in their goal to have 100% smart meter compliance.
At about 20 minutes in the tape below (about 1:10 on the official tape), the discussion becomes “juicy,” as if someone had planted a mic in a back room, closed door session. I took notes as I listened:
They discuss the opt out fee. They are trying to balance (for their reputation) a fee which will make it appear that they are being fair and sensitive to customers—that is the highest number they can get away with so that it still looks like they are sensitive–but which will actually discourage people from choosing the opt out, which is their goal (to have no opt out option).
One Director: “This is going to be subsidized, but it’s a very small amount of money because the number’s going to drop off precipitously. And you’ve priced it and I understand the logic of how you priced it so it’s not totally out of the ballpark for someone to be able to pay. So what’s going to happen is people will say–that’s fine. I’ll take the meter. So my guess is you are going to be down under 500 when they see these numbers. . . .”
The Fee Can Go Up But Never Down. They want it Only One Way (their way). They discuss “periodically” making price “adjustment[s]” based on participation. They are, however, very concerned that social media and publicity will mean more people will want to opt out of smart meters. If that happens, they don’t want to lower the cost. So they want to set it up so that the cost can go up if fewer people actually opt out–but not go down. If, for example, a lot of people actually (via social media) were to get on board–then that would be “damaging to the project.”
Their goal is to kill the opt out. One of the persons even says if it gets to a low enough number such as 90 people, then they will be moved to a smart meter: “the remaining 90 customers must move to a smart meter or tell them they will increase it by quite a bit.“
Here’s another (partial) quote: “Making sure we’re not making it too easy for customers to not go along with the program–but not be responsive to customers. . . think this is a right balance. $124.00 and $54.00 a month is going to be very expensive for the vast majority of our customers. . .We’re willing to work with you. More than that money would look so cost prohibitive, would look like we’re not going to give them an option.”
Are these guys former tobacco company executives?
Tell As Few Customers as Possible About Their Right to Not have a smart Meter: They want as much as possible to keep this “under the radar”(one actually used that phrase). So they will only send a letter with information about the opt out to people already on the list. They will not advertise it on their web site.
They discuss how to handle this with the press/Sacramento Bee.
One Director: “Smud adopts opt out–working to have a neutral story–giving the messaging point we would discuss today. We would not communicate or discuss with the press the nuances of different rate options. We would simply be very direct and focused. This is our opt out policy (on lots of complicated issues been able to mitigate and neutralize the press. . .) Story would pretty much be a non story very quickly.”
“We’ve constrained this pretty tightly”
Keeping the cost high so the customer will say “Never mind. We’ll take the meter.”
Higher Up Front Costs by “creating a shorter payback:
Director Sherman: “Can we narrow our rate action strictly to 2500 [customers] and there is no opt out for the folks who already have them[Smart Meters]. Just narrow it just to those folks and also I’m wondering . . .given Nancy’s calculation shall we reconfigure it with a shorter payback [laughter]. There ought to be—–These are actual costs and we’re giving you a break because we’re doing it over these many years versus. . what we ought to do is tell you to pay it right up front–all of it.”
This (their phoney program) is the “cost to get past this problem”:
Director: “So my guess is you are going to be down under 500 when they see these numbers–that middle number that you put up so SMUD is going to bear the costs, but it’s a cost to get past this problem. That’s really what it is. With the constraints that you’ve put on it–If you put the constraints of nobody else except this group and if you move the meter goes in, the calendar will take care of the problem.”
If You Move You lose the Opt Out. Their concession to offer an opt out is not good faith or fair and square with their customers (whom they laugh at repeatedly in the meeting) but rather as one director put it: “A bridging effort toward getting everyone on the smart meter grid. . .If someone feels trapped in their home, they may feel trapped in their home for a whole host of reasons.”
(The trapped discussion has to do with they are making this such a narrow opt out that someone will not be able to move to a different home and have the opt out)
To Make It Still Harder: “Sunset clause–opt in prior to end of year–Closed after that.””After 9 months no new enrollments“
[This is also so the social media doesn’t get onto it and people learn they can do this. So they are making it available in a very small window period.]
Disparaging toward customers (as in the quote at the beginning):
Customers health concerns about effects of radiation is called an “extreme” viewpoint. One Director: “I have no sympathy. Clearly their concerns are unfounded in my mind. If you think it will give you a stomach ache, it will.”
What to do with recalcitrant customers who refuse to have their Analogs Changed out: Turn off Power or call the Sheriff.
“The less that’s said about this [opt out option] the better.”
**Note/Update One: The website EON3EMF Blog as a public service recorded the smart meter opt out discussion portion of the SMUD board meeting and posted it to youtube.
Update Two. Burbank and Glendale Opt Outs, As Bad as SMUD’s. Directors and/or staff on the SMUD tape also discuss how they are networking with other utilities to develop strategies to discourage the opt out. The residents of Burbank and Glendale just received very restrictive sham opt outs also, with Burbank’s being one of the worst in the nation as Kiku Lani Iwata, co-founder of Burbank Action writes in an opinion piece in The Burbank Leader. Like SMUD customers, Burbank/Glendale customers will not be allowed to keep their analog meters; they will have a limited 60 Day period in which to opt out, but if they ever move, they may be forced to have a radiation emitting “smart” meter.
We need to tell our utility companies and our elected representatives that these type of (to use Sandi Maurer’s phrase) “shenanigans” are unacceptable, a violation of the public trust. Utilities need to work with ratepayers in Good Faith. Customers should be given a true option. As Kiku Lani Iwata writes in her opinion piece:
“Burbank Water and Power officials compare smart meters to cell phones and wireless routers. But those are not mandated in our homes, and we have freedom of choice to turn them off.. . .Our federal government and state do not mandate that [the utility companies] force these on our homes. Give us back our privacy, our freedom of choice, civil liberties and homes, and respect our right to protect our health, happiness and quality of life within the safety and sanctity of our own homes. Our homes are not public spaces.”