What’s the problem with smart meters?

CenterPoint Smart MeterDo you have a smart meter installed at your house?  I do, and I’ve always disliked the fact that I had no choice about installation.  Texas residents are not given a choice.  Even though I don’t like having the smart meter–it’s located less than 10 feet from where I sleep and from where I work on my computer many hours a day–I didn’t try to stop the installation and have never protested the process.

That’s why I really admire Jennifer Stahl of Naperville, Illinois.  She helped organize Naperville Smart Meter Awareness (NSMA) in her community to protest the installation of smart meters.  I recently learned that she was arrested by local police when she refused to allow a smart meter installed at her house. She is truly courageous–willing to put her energy and actions, not just words, on the line to defend what she believes is the safest and best for her family.  Not only was she arrested, but a neighbor photographing the arrest was also arrested.  Jennifer has retained an attorney to fight the charges against her.  The NSMA is holding a fund-raiser today, February 24, to help her defense.

Here’s a video of her arrest: [I found a video from the local CBS station to replace the YouTube video that was taken down.]

Are there any problems with Smart Meters?

Well, it appears that there are many problems with smart meters, and they include health concerns, increased cost for little benefit, as well as safety and privacy issues.

Are there health concerns?

Health concerns are paramount for one doctors’ organization.  The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) is concerned enough about potential health hazards from smart meter emissions to issue a recommendation for “patients with a broad array of illnesses”:

The recommendation, which includes reference to 20 peer-reviewed studies showing biological harm from wireless technologies, indicates that patients with neurological, neurodegenerative diseases, genetic defects, cancer, and other conditions would benefit from avoiding pulsed RF radiation from smart meters.

The AAEM recommends: that no Smart Meters be on these patients’ homes, (and) that Smart Meters be removed within a reasonable distance of patients’ homes…” (source)

Have the utility companies, the public utility commissions, or government agencies made any effort to avoid installation in homes where any of these conditions exist or in neighboring homes? Have they given any consideration to this potential health hazard? Certainly the employee who installed my smart meter didn’t ask if we had anyone in the house (or a neighbor’s house) with any medical conditions.  Harm could come from a neighbor’s smart meter as well since many houses are within 10 feet of each other in our crowded neighborhoods.  I could not find any evidence that the companies or governmental agencies have given any consideration to health issues.  It’s admitted, however, that “Harm from wireless signals — especially from smart meters — hasn’t been proven or disproven.” (source)

Are the benefits worth the cost?

Costs compared to benefits were evaluated in a Consumers Digest report, January 2011, which suggested that “From a consumer’s perspective, the potential negative consequences outweigh the benefits in three critical areas: Cost, Rate Changes, and Energy Savings. [emphasis added]  Increased costs include upfront charges for installation and use of smart meters as well as the potential cost of appliances and equipment designed to work with smart meters.  Utility companies may use increased rates for peak time use to push customers to buy the extra equipment that would be needed to monitor and control electricity usage.  Some pilot studies indicate that energy savings have been overestimated unless customers buy and use that necessary monitoring equipment.  All of the required changes would be very expensive and the savings in energy has not been shown to be worth the additional expense.

Another study of randomly selected households in the Chicago area found little benefit from the installation of smart meters.  It found “that fewer that 9% exhibited any amount of peak usage reduction, and that the overall amount of reduction was ‘statistically insignificant.’”

A review of 57 international residential smart meter programs by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy concluded that smart meters must be used with in-home displays and well-designed programs that “successfully inform, engage, empower and motivate people” in order to realize energy savings. “Smart meters in and of themselves are just not ‘smart’ enough to get the job done for consumers and our economy.” (source)

Are smart meters safe?

Installation of smart meters has caused fires, explosions, and burned out appliances across the United States, Canada, and Australia.  A fire captain in California reported electrical surges following smart meter installation.  The EMF Safety Network has compiled many examples of damage resulting from smart meters.

Although the industry claims that smart meters meet FCC regulation requirements, those guidelines appear to assume that the smart meters will be located farther from our living space than is actually likely to occur. As I mentioned earlier, our smart meter is easily within 10 feet from where we spend many hours every day.  In fact, FCC radio frequency (RF) radiation limits are based primarily on thermal dangers, in other words, the FCC limits are to prevent you from being “cooked” by RF radiation  However, there are many other potential problems from RF radiation besides just heat. (source)

A community based group is filming a documentary about some of the dangers from smart meters.  Here is the trailer for their film:

How are Texans dealing with Smart Meters?

According to Texas State Representative Dennis Bonnen, the Texas legislature did NOT intend for installation to be mandatory.  He wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission on February 10, 2012, urging the Commission “to correct this oversight by providing a simple, customer-friendly process for opting-out of the advanced metering technology.”  Although Rep. Bonnen’s letter was sent over a year ago, I could find no reference to any response from the Texas PUC.

Texas State Senator John Corona has filed Senate Bill 241 to mandate that Texas customers have the choice to opt out of having a Smart Meter.  He says that if the Public Utility Commission is responsive to customer needs, he would be willing to withdraw the bill.  Texas State Representative David Simpson filed House Bill 1171 to allow customers to opt out without being charged a fee.

I found one Texas organization, Ban Texas Smart Meters, that is fighting the mandatory installation of the meters.  The organization is filing several lawsuits seeking a ban or at least an opt out provision for Texas homeowners.  A few homeowners in Texas have refused the installation, but I haven’t heard of any arrests.

As of August 2012, Texas had already installed  6 million smart meters, representing 87% of the final 2016 target. (source)

What’s happening in other states?

Several states have allowed residents to opt out of smart-meter programs, including California, Vermont, Maine and Nevada; however, others are forcibly pursuing mandatory installation.  For example, Jennifer Stahl, in Naperville, Illinois, was arrested for refusing the installation of a smart meter on her house.  Her neighbor was also arrested for photographing the arrest.  She had helped form an organization protesting the installation of smart meters, Naperville Smart Meter Awareness (NSMA).

What does an opt out mean and what would it cost?

Believe it or not, the utility companies probably don’t mind an opt out.  They don’t think many people will choose to opt out, AND, if they implement it like some other states, they probably will charge fees, sometimes incredibly high, for your right to maintain your privacy and protect yourself and your family from potential harm from the RF radiation.  They get more money either way because they add a fee to your electric bill when your smart meter is installed ($2 or $3 a month in Texas) AND they will charge you a fee if you choose opt out!  Either way, you will pay more!

To get some idea of how Texas might structure an opt out provision, here are a few examples of how other states charge for opt out provisions: California does not charge any extra fee to customers who have a smart meter but does charge a $75 setup charge and a $10 monthly fee to those who opt out with some reductions for low-income families. (source)  A Portland, Oregon, company “charges a $224 opt-out fee and a monthly $54 manual read fee.”  Nevada Energy charges its customers an opt-out fee ranging from $98.75 to $107.66 and a monthly reading fee ranging from $7.61 to $11.00.  Wisconsin charges a monthly fee of $7.78 for a quarterly meter reading (water). (source)  Vermont does not charge for opting out.  (source)

What is really behind the forced smart meter installation?

Sadly, the most likely impetus behind the whole smart meter program is very similar to many other coercive programs.  Since there is little evidence of significant energy or cost savings, the primary motivation appears to be increased profit for the energy industry, although there is also certainly the appeal of the enhanced ability to control the power grid.  The Consumers Digest report said “In helping to create the smart-meter industry, politicians from both parties have done what’s best for the industry rather than for consumers.”  Here’s what the report said about potential savings: “So far, smart-meter systems have produced little energy savings except in small and carefully controlled projects in which consumers have basically been spoon-fed on how to realize the maximum benefits. These projects have included time-of-use pricing and often include home-area networks that allow participants to monitor and control electricity use.” [emphasis added]

Whatever the real reason for implementation of the smart meter program, is anyone concerned about the potential damage to health? Could this be another system that is being implemented without adequate testing?

What should we do if we are concerned

I could not find any conclusive evidence of studies showing the safety of smart meters.  Although the FCC and the industry dismiss any concerns about the safety of FR radiation saying that we already have cell phones, wi-fi, microwaves, and many other sources of RF emissions, that may be the real problem–the fact that we are increasingly being flooded with waves of emissions.  Maybe the harm is from the cumulative effect of all these sources of RF radiation, and we are just now reaching a critical level of exposure.  How do we know?  At least we should learn what we can about the potential dangers and minimize exposure wherever possible until we know the true impact.

Here’s what you can do right now–you can tell the FCC not to raise the radio frequency radiation limits for smart meter emissions, but you must do so by March 6.  Until we know more about the safety of smart meter emissions, we should NOT allow the limits to be raised.  We don’t even know if current limits are safe!

You can also support the local and national organizations that are protesting the installation of smart meters.  Here are a few I found; if you know of others please post them in the comments.

Ban Texas Smart Meters
Stop Smart Meters! (California)
Naperville Smart Meter Awareness (Illinois)
Center for Electrosmog Prevention (California)

To learn more about smart meters:

‘SMART’ METER OPT OUT FOR TEXAS: UNACCEPTABLE
Ban Texas Smart Meters
Doctors Warning: “Avoid Smart Meter Radiation”
Bill Could Allow Customers to Opt-Out of Using Smart Meters
Houston woman Thelma Taormina pulls gun on electric company worker for trying to install ‘smart meter’
Smart meter installation hits Texas resistance
A Lot of People Don’t Want Their Electric Meters ‘Smart’
Smart Meter, Wikipedia
Why Smart Meters Might Be a Dumb Idea
Smart Meter Fires and Explosions
Are California Smart Meters Causing Fires?
More resources on risk of smart meters
Smart Meter Opt-Out: Are We There Yet?
Smart Meter Dangers
ACEEE Study Finds “Smart Meters” Not Smart Enough to Slash Residential Power Use and Significantly Reduce Consumer Electric Bills
The Dangers of Smart Meters Hit Home [Resource added 3/22/13]

This post was shared on Fight Back Friday and Fat Tuesday.

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3 Responses to What’s the problem with smart meters?

  1. Linda says:

    I never thought about radiation with the smart meters, but I guess they act similar to a microwave or TV set. All send off amounts of radiation. I was totally happy to have a smart meter installed! I have dogs, and our meter readers would jump the fence, unsetting the dogs, even after I had called in and put us on a lost that said “stay out of our yard unless you call first”. I caught a meter reader one day in the back of our yard on top of a green electrical box, hitting my dog with her belt!! SHE DID NO BELONG THERE!! I called that in right away, but not sure it did any good. Soon after that they installed a smart meter (I was one of the first to get one), and it was wonderful! NO meter readers in our backyard! But then I found meter readers leaning over the fence, or actually trying to go into my backyard again! I caught one, and he explained to me that the meters they used to read the smart meters would fail, and our electric/gas company would not fix them! So instead of being able to just walk down the street and get readings, they had to get close to the meter to get a reading. I called in for him, but not sure it did any good. I understand the problem of radiation, but I would rather have that than strangers in my backyard hitting my dogs!!

  2. Great article! The radiofrequency radiation emitted by smart meters and other wireless devices has detrimental effects upon human and animal physiology. In humans, it has been shown to disrupt melatonin production, inhibit heat shock proteins (which protect the body from cancer and other threats), damage the blood-brain-barrier, and even adversely affect heart rhythm. For those, like the commenter above, unsure of the dangers of RF radiation, I suggest reading the 2012 Bioinitiave Report: http://www.bioinitiative.org/table-of-contents/

    • admin1 says:

      Most of us don’t realize the potential problems with the rapid increase in exposure to this type of radiation. Thanks for your informative article. I didn’t find it until after I had published this one.

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