Frequently Asked Questions
Will it cost me anything if I don’t participate in the smart grid?
Under our proposal, customers will be informed ahead of meter installation and, despite the benefits, can choose not to upgrade to a smart meter. Under Hawaiian Electric's proposal, similar to the program implemented by the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and other utilities across the country, residential customers who choose not to have a smart meter installed would pay a monthly charge to help pay for the cost of continued manual reading and maintenance of their non-standard meters. We are proposing a monthly charge of $15.30.
However, unlike KIUC's program, which also charges a one-time fee for a residential customer who wants to use a nonstandard meter, under Hawaiian Electric's proposal a one-time initial fee (proposed amount: $49.32) only applies if the customer decides to not participate after the existing meter has already replaced with a smart meter and we need to go back and install a different meter.
On Kauai, customers of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative who chose to opt-out of the smart meter program pay a monthly charge of $10.27 as well as the one-time nonstandard meter fee.
What is the meter installation process?
The process of removing the old meter and installing a smart meter typically takes less than 15 minutes for a single-phase residential installation and 30 minutes for a polyphase commercial installation. While the old meter is replaced, customers may experience a brief one-to-three-minute interruption of electrical service. After the installation, customers may need to reset digital clocks on appliances or equipment. In most cases, customers will not experience a power outage. In the rare instances, when a planned outage will be necessary due to safety reasons, the meter technician will inform customers and coordinate the schedule.
Will the utility be able to control my appliances and electronic equipment in some way through the smart meters?
No, the Hawaiian Electric Companies will not be able to control customer equipment or appliances with the meters.
What are smart meters?
Smart meters are modern electric meters with two-way communications capabilities that enable the exchange of data between electric customers and the utility through a secure wireless communications network. Smart meters can offer unique capabilities such as remote meter reading that improves efficiencies, data collection of energy use in 15-minute intervals to enhance use of energy management tools and options for customers, and power outage detection that will help the utility restore power faster.
Are smart meters safe?
Yes. Smart meters use low-level radio frequency (RF) transmissions to send data to the electric utility and the meters operate within safety guidelines established by the Federal Communications Commission. Smart meters have been installed in more than 50 million homes and businesses across the country, including on Kauai.
Some people may have heard misleading claims about smart meters that has caused concerns about the safety of RF. Scientific studies from credible third-party health and research organizations have shown that smart meters are safe. The level of the emissions is generally lower than other devices in your home that also communicate with RF, such as cell phones, Wi-Fi routers, and FM radio and TV broadcasts.
What are the RF emissions of smart meters?
Radio frequency (RF) is a form of electromagnetic energy that include frequencies used for everyday communication such as radio and TV broadcasting, cell phone transmission and Wi-Fi routers. Smart meters use low-level RF transmissions that are generally lower than other RF-emitting devices in your home such as microwave ovens and cordless phones.
Will RF emissions from smart meters have any kind of impact on health?
Smart meters are safe and are used by more than 50 million homes and businesses across the country including Kauai. According to the Federal Communications Commission, the Electric Power Research Institute and the World Health Organization, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from RF signals produced by smart meters or other wireless networks.
Do smart meters increase the risk of fire?
No. Based on research and the experience of other utilities, smart meters would not increase the potential risk of a meter-related fire at a customer's premise. Statistics show that fires resulting from any type of electric meter are a rare occurrence.
Meter-related fires that have occurred are not exclusive to smart meters, but apply more generally to all types of electric meters due to faulty connections or failed components (e.g., loose stab connections) in the customer's meter box. Therefore, one of the best strategies for preventing meter fires (whether "smart" or mechanical) is to properly inspect meter boxes and devices prior to installation and to thereafter ensure that the meters are properly installed. The Companies will be taking steps to ensure that all meter replacements continue to comply with the Companies' current meter replacement policies, in which all sockets are thoroughly inspected to ensure that that meter replacement is safe.
Smart meters meet safety requirement and standards spelled out in the National Electric Safety Code. Public service commissions also require independent certification, proving that smart meters are safe and show resistance to heat, fire, voltages, surges, and self-heating.
Is the data that is transmitted secure?
Yes. All messages to and from the smart meter go over a private network, not the open Internet. This network is protected by strong authentication and authorization controls. Private networks are used by governments, the military and private businesses such as commercial banking.
As an added level of security, we have conducted security planning and testing of the smart meters. We have also developed security processes and procedures, many of which are adapted from the banking and defense industries.
Will customer data be kept private?
Yes. Customer information is considered confidential and protecting our customers' privacy is very important to us. The rules and safeguards we currently have in place to protect customer privacy will continue to apply to smart meter data. We do not sell, rent or lease personal information. We do not use personal information for anything other than ensuring that customers are being billed accurately and are provided with safe and reliable electrical service.
Smart meters do not store or send any customer-identifying information. Customer usage information is encrypted using U.S. Government-approved and recommended standards and these standards are regularly reviewed to remain current with industry and government security protocols.