While concluding a proceeding to investigate the parameters and intricacies of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) opt-out programs, the Kansas State Corporation Commission has ruled that the utilities should not be required to establish such programs.
Two of the states’ major electric utility companies, Kansas City Power and Light Co. (KCP&L) and Westar Energy Inc., who had been the subject of customer complaints, had argued that they should not be required to create an opt-out program for AMI meters when the commission had already found that AMI meters do not pose health risks, cybersecurity risks, or fire hazards. According to the commission, KCP&L and Westar’s AMI meter system uses unique network IDs and encryption protocols. No customer identifiable data is stored on KCP&L and Westar’s AMI meter system.
KCP&L and Westar also pointed out that a total of five customers have enrolled in the Missouri opt-out program while AMI meters have been deployed for hundreds of thousands of customers. The commission Staff also noted approximately 96% of meters used by KCP&L and Westar, as well as two other Kansas electric utility companies, Southern Pioneer and Empire District Electric Company, combined, are AMI meters. Staff added that analog meters are not readily available, become less accurate over time, and the capability of testing and repairing analog meters is no longer realistic.
The commission concluded that there is no basis for requiring electric public utilities to maintain an inventory of analog meters necessary to implement an opt-out program. It pointed out that customers benefit from improved metering, communication (e.g., billing inquiries and outage notification), and rate design. In addition, the utilities have demonstrated considerable effort would be required to implement an opt-out program with little perceived benefits.
A key concern during the investigation of the complaints concerning Westar and KCP&L’s use of AMI meters was cyber-security threats. Customers were concerned their personal information could be revealed in the event of a meter-related breach. The commission found that KCP&L and Westar’s AMI Meter System uses unique network IDs, depending on the utility, as well as encryption protocols. As a result, no customer-identifiable data is stored on KCP&L and Westar’s AMI Meter System. Other than energy usage data, Southern Pioneer’s AMI meters do not collect customer-specific data.
The commission concluded that the use of an AMI meter cannot pose a threat to a customer’s personally identifiable information if the information is not part of the AMI metering system. Regarding health risks, the commission found that the evidence indicated AMI meters and associated radio frequency exposure was safe, and any radio frequency exposure was much lower than that received from cell phones, wireless phones, or microwave ovens. Re Customer Opt-Out Program for Advanced Metering Infrastructure Digital Electric Meters, Docket No. 19-GIME-012-GIE, Mar. 14, 2019 (Kan.S.C.C.).