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Home Truths About Smart Meters

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August 15, 2012

Home Truths About Smart Meters

By Cheryl Kaften, TMCnet Contributor

Among utility ratepayers, smart meters increasingly are being bad-mouthed, because, “they say” the new technology is way too expensive, causes illness through exposure—and even facilitates domestic espionage.

For example, in June, blogger Gene Bifano urged Vermont residents to reject smart meters because, “Google (News - Alert) has announced it is working with electric companies and appliance manufacturers to build smart controllers in appliances; refrigerators, washer/dryers, heating systems, etc. This will enable the electric company or even Google to spy on your usage and … control your appliances.”

Similarly, in May, local activists fought back when Baltimore Gas & Electric proposed a smart meter deployment. Jonathan Libber, president of Maryland Smart Meter Awareness, told The Baltimore Sun that he preferred to keep his analog meter. Smart meters, he opined, “are a bad idea," adding, "There has been no demonstrated savings for the regulated ratepayer. That's the first problem. The second problem is that they're potentially very dangerous."

And even previous supporters are starting to become skeptical."Two years ago I didn't believe that any of this was real," said Joshua Hart, director of Stop Smart Meters, a California-based advocacy group. However, he remarked in a recent interview, "Now I am getting headaches when I am around smart meters and cell phones and Wi-Fi. There is no doubt in my mind anymore that there is a problem with the technology."

Are these urban legends—or should we lock our doors and put tin foil on our heads? 

The Roswell, Georgia-based Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) wants to help separate fact from fiction. This week, the group released a new video and fact sheet that fights uncertainty and fear with evidence and experience.

Now, civic leaders can make up their own minds when they view the following data:

  • Radio frequency exposure: It would take 375 years of direct contact with a smart meter to equal the same amount of radio frequency exposure from a daily, 15-minute cell phone call for one year.
  • Privacy infringement: Smart meters only know how much power is being used— not specifically how it’s being used —and utilities will continue to keep that data private, as they have done for decades.
  • Economic benefits: Smart meters could reduce the cost of power interruptions by more than 75 percent, saving the U.S. economy more than $150 billion a year.

“We’re setting the record straight about smart meters to help consumers lay their apprehension to rest and enjoy the many benefits of the technology,” said SGCC Executive Director Patty Durand.

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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