NYSEG Smart Meter Installations Start This Week: What You Need to Know

Categories Energy, Ithaca

This post is adapted from research and emails from Ithaca resident Jerone Gagliano, who has been investigating NYSEG’s installation, starting this week, of smart meters to monitor the electricity usage of about 12,400 households and natural gas usage of about 7,300 households in Tompkins County. If you have information, links, or research you think your neighbors could benefit from, share it on TruthSayers: email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org or use the “Contact Us” form.

Gagliano had this to say about his research into the “smart meters,” which have two-way wireless communication capabilities, and are connected into a data center via routers installed on utility poles.

“My goal is to make sure people feel informed before they have a change to their home that they will have to live with for the rest of their time living in that home. I do not subscribe to the conspiracy that smart meters cause cancer. I take an engineering and precautionary stance. What are the long-term and commutative effects of radio frequency [RF] emissions from our cell phones, wi-fi routers, wi-fi laptop, cordless phones, smart meters, etc? The data are not available yet. What are the long-term effects of eating GMO [genetically-modified organism] vs non-GMO food? Organic vs non-organic? I think it is best to inform oneself, then decide what one can and cannot live with.”

NYSEG plans on installing smart meters in Ithaca, Dryden, Etna, Freeville, Groton, and Lansing in the next month. Here’s the NYSEG proposed schedule for installations.

Avangrid came to Gagliano’s house on First Street on July 12 to install the smart meters, which he chose to deny. It’s your right as a homeowner or tenant to opt out of the smart meters, according to this FAQ published by Cornell Cooperative Extension. NYSEG’s phone number to call to discuss opting out of smart meters is 800.925.1559.

Here’s Gagliano’s July 3rd email to the Northside United listserv, followed by an exchange that Gagliano had with Cornell Cooperative Extension EnergySmart program liaison Rosalyn Bandy. You can reach Bandy with questions at energysmartcommunity@cornell.edu or at 607-220-3563.

Gagliano writes: “Originally on NYSEG’s website, they made a listing of the houses that would get them, which looked like a random sampling but when I called to confirm they said that list was outdated and they are trying to install them on all homes …
I know some people including myself have expressed concerns and have questions about this program that they are rolling out. I am very interested in the electricity and gas usage data and potential new rates available to those who get smart meters, but still have reservations about potential health risks.
California and Europe have had smart meters for some time and that is where most of the studies and research is coming from.  The main concern that people have is of exposure to the radio frequency (RF) radiation.  Exposure level and related health risks vary greatly from sources. NYSEG, like most of industry trying to promote these, is dismissive of any risks comparing it to your cell phone or baby monitor. You should only trust third-party studies not funded by the industry. Even those vary greatly. Just like all other RF emitting devices (e.g. wi-fi router, baby monitor, cell phone), it depends on proximity to the device while it is transmitting, how often it transmits, and the power level of transmission.
While the stated transmission level appears to be similar to other devices we already have in our home, our concerns are:
1) How often will they transmit data to the mesh network (four times/day, see email below ) and if/when that will increase as demands for real-time data increase?
2) How often will surrounding meters transmit data through our meter since all meters will communicate with each other in the “mesh network”. This is their way of aggregating the data from all homes to one of the nearby collector poles. (In the email chain below, there is not an answer to this. But, the closer you live to one of the seven collector poles, the more frequently data from downstream meters will pass through yours. NYSEG will not disclose the location of the seven poles.)
3) Our biggest concern is that unlike our wi-fi and cell phones, we cannot control the RF of the smart meters that we will have for the duration of living in our home. Since we have a young kid and and toddler, we try to limit RF exposure in our home since long term effects are not known.  I think of how my first cell phone was around age 25, wi-fi around 30, and smart phones at 35. Very different than what our children are being exposed to from the day they are born.  We limit our exposure by setting the wi-fi to low power and turning it off at night, keeping phones off of 4G and away from the kids, and using hard wired Internet when we stream something on the computer.
If you are concerned about smart meters, read more from studies not funded by the industry or from a utility as they have a vested interest to install these meters.  Any household can opt out of the installation of these meters as stated in the FAQ link from CCE. Opting out should greatly reduce any RF exposure from the mesh network of nearby houses, but it depends on the distance from your neighbors’ smart meters.
A “smart meter.” Photo: Cornell Cooperative Extension


Bandy had this response to Gagliano’s first request for information in late May:
“I was able to get some answers to your questions from one of the project engineers at NYSEG,” Bandy wrote. “Some of the answers they were not able to make public such as where the transmitter poles, i.e., collectors are located. They don’t disclose that due to security issues.   I also have attached a paper on the smart meters being installed. The paper was provided by the  manufacturer of the meters and may provide some of the technical information that you are seeking. In addition to that (in case you are craving more to read on the subject) I’ve provided some links on health research as well as more technical information and statistics.”
Here are the links, with paper or page titles hyperlinked:
(a U.S. International Trade Commission working paper)
(U.S. Energy Information Administration webpage)
(statista: ‘the statistics portal’ page)
(Global Smart Grid Federation webpage)
(Vermont Department of Health document, 15 pages, 2012)
And Bandy’s responses to specific questions from Gagliano:
  1. How often will usage data be transmitted?

The meters will transmit data when interrogated by the system, which will be configured to interrogate each meter four times per day.

  1. What transmission power level will the meters be set to?

Meters have an adaptive power level system which allows them to transmit only the required power to obtain enough link quality. In any case, the maximum power allowed is 29.88dBm.

  1. Did NYSEG consider a hard-wired communications option rather than wireless?

The topology of the distribution grid, in general, is not appropriate for wired communications. However, the meters we are deploying includes both an RF interface and a power line communications (PLC) module, which uses the power grid to transmit telecommunication signals. PLC is used when its link quality is appropriate.

  1. Will meters communicate directly with the transmitter pole?

Understanding that transmitter pole means “collector”, which are the devices gathering the information from the meters and sending it back to the system, some meters will connect directly with the collectors while others will use the help of other meters acting as relays to reach the collectors.

  1. Will most streets have a mesh network to get data to a transmitter pole?

The meters create a mesh network in order to help each other reach the collectors.  The mesh network covers the grid upgrade area (see the grid upgrade map on the NYSEG Energy Smart Community website).

  1. Where are the transmitter poles located? One per major intersection?

There are seven collectors for the ESC footprint.

And here are Bandy’s answers to a second round of questions that Gagliano sent her:

1) Will Avangrid/NYSEG “interrogate” the meters more than four times per day in the future?  It depends on the requirements from the regulator.

Not planned at this moment.


2) Will all meters be interrogated at the same time of day (eg 8am, 2pm, 8pm, 2am)?

This strategy is not yet defined.

3) Will the Itron meters be configured to use the PLC first and then use RF only if there is too much noise over the power lines?

No, first option is RF.

4) The Itron sheet stated that the duty cycles are higher for meters near the “network routers”.  I assume that this is the same as the white box “Connected Grid Router” that you mentioned in your other email, correct?

Yes, the network router is called Connected Grid Router (CGR).

5) Just to make sure I understand this better, will there one white box collector (router) on each of the seven transmitter poles?


6) How tall will the transmitter poles be? Are they free-standing or will they be mounted on the top of an existing power pole?

The CGRs are mounted on existing power poles. The height is not the same for all of them. It depends on the pole and the other assets existing on it, if any. Typically, they will be between 25 and 40 feet.

Share your experiences dealing with NYSEG’s smart meters program with TruthSayers News. Email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org or use the “Contact Us” box at the top of the page.


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Josh Brokaw is an independent reporter based in Ithaca, N.Y.
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