Smart Meters: Saying No, and Yes, You Can Switch Back to an Analog Meter

This is a summary of a series of articles in our monthly Japanese newsletter, Shouhisha Report, about so-called smart meters, or digital meters that use radio frequencies and electromagnetic radiation to transmit information about your home electricity use. They replace the analog meters that have to be checked by staff visiting your home. There is concern about privacy, as well as health risks, in addition to the huge cost of changing meters. In Japanese, smart meters are usually abbreviated as “sumame” and we want to clarify your rights as consumers.

The current problem is that power companies like Tepco or Kansai Electric Power are “demanding” customers to get new smart meters installed. This happens at the same time as Japan’s electricity market has been deregulated. In some cases, when customers have switched power company, the new provider has installed a smart meter without providing much information. In one such case, a CUJ member contacted us, explaining that the new provider had simply said: “Changing to a smart meter is necessary.” It later reversed its position, and admitted that this was not the case.

A staff member at our CUJ office had the same experience, and decided to dig a little further. When contacting the customer support center at Tepco, they replied in the same way: “You have to change to a smart meter.” This, however, is not true. The issue came up for debate in the budget committee of Japan’s Parliament in March, 2016, confirming that as far as contracts are concerned, smart meters are not indispensable.

The power companies have more tricks up their sleeves. Another lie is when they claim: “Analog meters are no longer manufactured, so we don’t have them in stock.” But according to experts like Taro Amishiro, author of books about electromagnetic radiation problems who is concerned about smart meters, most analog meters will work for much longer than 10 years, and don’t need to be exchanged so often. Old analog meters can also be reused.

It took our CUJ staff member several rounds of tough negotiations with Tepco’s call center to switch back to an analog meter, showing that it can be done. Another CUJ member told us that he had successfully gotten Chubu Electric Power agree to make the switch back.

The privacy concern is connected to how smart meters store data about your electricity consumption. The details are recorded by the digital device every 30 minutes. This can give power companies a very clear picture of your daily life, including when you switch on your TV or open your fridge. Okubo Sadatoshi, an expert on electromagnetic radiation and radio wave health problems, notes that even if the power company agrees to disable the transmission from your smart meter, the data is still stored digitally in the device. In other words, it can still be accessed and the problem of invasion of privacy remains.

Doorstep visitors or phone calls claiming they want to install a smart meter may be someone trying to scam you, so don’t fall for their sales talk. Says Michiyo Koketsu, CUJ: “Please pay attention to any information you get from your current power company as they roll out the switch to smart meters. You have the right to say no, and it is up to you to tell them that you prefer to keep your analog meter. If they customer call center gives you a hard time, just stand your ground. They can’t force you to switch to a smart meter, and you have the right to demand to switch back to an analog meter, if you so wish.”

Read more:

Tepco to hold bids for 17 mln smart metres

Can Japan’s Energy Reforms Make Renewable Energy Growth Smarter?

Posted February 23rd, 2017 in Energy

Do Not Shift Nuclear Power Plant Related Costs to Our Electricity Bills

The Japanese government is planning to charge all electricity consumers with the cost of the nuclear power plants that the power companies with nuclear power plants should primarily shoulder. Consumers Union of Japan is requesting the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to withdraw the introduction of the new system.

We are also starting a campaign to collect signatures to support our message: “Please do not shift the costs related to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident to our electricity bills.” Please cooperate and spread the word among friends and acquaintances. You can download the pdf file with the signature campaign appeal form here (J). The government’s plan seems to be to submit this bill during the ordinary session of the Parliament, so the deadline for Consumers Union of Japan’s signature campaign is January 31, 2017.

 

Withdraw the proposed new system to shift nuclear power plant related costs to our electricity bills

On December 22, 2016, Consumers Union of Japan sent a letter to Hiroshige Seko, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. We pointed out that the new system proposed by the government would spread the financial burden of nuclear accident compensation and reactor decommissioning at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant to new electricity suppliers, who would likely pass on their share of these costs to their customers. The government now estimates the total cost for reactor decommissioning plus Fukushima nuclear disaster compensation at some 8.3 trillion yen.

We oppose this proposal because energy problems are important issues that concerns our lives deeply. It is unacceptable that the Parliament will not properly deliberate Japan’s future energy plan in a democratic way, instead sticking to nuclear power generation. The proposal to relieve the current energy power companies of their responsibility goes against all common sense. We urge the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to not include nuclear power in the base load power supply, and instead focus on renewable and sustainable energy sources.

Posted January 18th, 2017 in Corporate Responsibility, Energy, Nuclear, Renewable Energy

Emergency Meeting: Definitely Cancel the Planned Move of the Tsukiji Fish Market to Toyosu!

Participants: Consumers Union of Japan & Food Safety Citizens’ Watch

CUJ & Food Safety Citizens’ Watch held an emergency meeting on November 10, 2016 to discuss the emerging problems with the planned move of Tokyo’s wholesale fish market from Tsukiji to Toyosu. We demand that Tokyo Metropolitan Governor Yuriko Koike should definitely cancel the move to the heavily polluted Toyosu Island in Tokyo Bay. We have followed this debate closely since 2006 and wish Mrs. Koike would listen to the voices of concerned consumers. At our meeting, we adopted a resolution highlighting the importance of food and to never allow a polluted place to become a market where food is handled.

Resolution: “We demand that the move to Toyosu Island is definitely cancelled for the sake of food safety and peace of mind”

Tsukiji Market is the world’s largest. We take pride in it being a place known as “Japan’s kitchen” and regard the move of the market to Toyosu as not only being a problem for the citizens of Tokyo. Read More »

Posted December 19th, 2016 in Chemical pollution, Food, Waste

Japan Resources – No 165

Please click here cuj-jr-165 for the latest issue of Consumer Union of Japan’s English newsletter, Japan Resources (pdf). The theme this time is safe & sustainable development, to highlight the need for those involved in production to better live up to consumers’ high expectations. We have also participated in events for peace and democracy, and will step up our efforts to reach out and raise awareness both abroad and at home.

We also share the story of how one small country, Bhutan, is aiming for 100% organic food production, truly a great idea and an inspiration.

We hope you will continue to stay updated with CUJ’s activities and news on our English website, and support our campaigns!

Contents:

From the Editors: Safe & sustainable development!

CUJ co-signed Joint Open Letter calling on UNIQLO to guarantee labour rights in its supplier in Cambodia

Global Focus on Fighting against Antibiotic Resistance

Stop Using Antibiotics for Farm Animals: Questionnaire

Newsflash:

Bhutan Aiming for 100% Organic Agriculture by 2020

 

Posted November 30th, 2016 in Japan Resources

CUJ co-signed Joint Open Letter calling on UNIQLO to guarantee labour rights in its supplier in Cambodia

Consumers Union of Japan has co-signed the open letter calling on Fast Retailing Co., Ltd., owner of the UNIQLO brand, to guarantee labour rights in its supplier in Cambodia. We are urging Fast Retailing to increase their leverage by cooperating with other brands, e.g. H&M and Lindex, sourcing from both Zhong Yin as well as from a number of suppliers belonging to the parent company, Beijing Joywin. We firmly call upon Fast Retailing to act swiftly and responsibly, to use all their leverage and ensure the fundamental rights of workers to freedom of association.

Read More »

Posted October 26th, 2016 in Civil Rights, Corporate Responsibility, Trade

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