'Smart Meters' Worry Some Seattle City Light Customers

Aug 22, 2013

Seattle City Light says new advanced electrical meters will let you monitor your power usage in real time. That way, if you see you’re using too much electricity at any given moment, you can run around and turn off a bunch of lights.

But Seattle is hearing from customers who say they’re worried the meters will collect too much data and also pose health risks.

The first public forum on what the city calls “advanced metering” was held Wednesday, Aug. 21.  Two more forums are scheduled:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 5 p.m. at Seattle Center-Shaw Room 
  • Thursday, Sept.  26, at 5 p.m. , New Holly-Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave. S. 

Concerns or no concerns, the city is going ahead with plans to replace  418,000 electric meters in the next two years with more high-tech models that send out information on usage through a wireless signal. There are all sorts of advantages to these so-called “smart meters," according to City Light spokesman Tyson Lin, including in case of a power outage. 

“Sometimes when an outage happens in the current state, the crews have to go out and troubleshoot. With advanced meters, it provides where the outage is taking place and crews are able to understand when, where, and why,” Lin said.

He added the new meters are also more accurate because they don’t rely on human meter readers. 

As for alarms raised about privacy, Linn said usage data will not be shared with third parties. And for those worried about the radio frequency transmitted by the meters, he said it’s less than what comes from a radio broadcast.