A 'Smart' Meter Primer. Should You Care?
You may know little or nothing about the issues surrounding the wireless "smart" meters currently being deployed throughout the United States by gas, electric, and water utilities. It is being done without public choice. You may wonder, should you care, or are there reasons to be concerned? Hopefully this will help you to get educated and form your own opinions.
The intent of "smart" meters (to monitor in great detail, and thus conserve energy use) is a good one, however the way they have been designed and their implementation, may well prove to be fatally flawed and a stupid idea, for the many reasons outlined below.
The standard reliable mechanical meters are being replaced across America in a massive campaign. "Smart" meters do not save energy in and of themselves, and many believe that the "hoped for" benefits of "smart" meters can be better achieved through less costly and safer, education and conservation, and not big brother controls.
In California, meters are being replaced by Pacific Gas and Electric, which is the same company responsible for the recent fatal San Bruno explosion and fire. Last spring P.G.$ E. spent $46 million of rate payer money on a failed ballot initiative, proposition 16, to protect their monopoly from municipal power sources. PG&E is also responsible for the toxic groundwater plume in Hinkley, Ca, (as portrayed in the movie Erin Brokovich with Julia Roberts) which has apparently grown and spread and still not been cleaned up after almost 15 years......
Many California cities and counties, including San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Marin, and Berkeley, have decided to reject "Smart" Meters. These municipalities and many smaller ones represent hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens. There is growing concern throughout the country.
Simply put, the main issues are:
1. Security of data and private information
2. Questionable accuracy and greatly increased bills
3. Loss of jobs and trained people in the field monitoring the infrastructure
4. Potential and unknown health risks from wireless radiation
5. Private property rights and your ability to choose for yourself in your own home
Any one of these issues is cause for concern and worth closer examination. Together they are cause for action.
1. Apparently there is little security built into the "smart" meters, making them susceptible to hackers. Potentially someone could turn on or off your power, change the amount of power which the meter shows you have used, or even be able to tell if you were home (inviting robbery perhaps.) Your energy use patterns and data are a gold mine to marketeers, and it can be determined what you are using, from a blender to a vibrator, within the walls of your home, by the energy signatures produced (more info on this in the 2nd video below.) This is a major change and a great invasion of privacy and personal space. Who owns the data and what safeguards are in place to ensure it's protection? Little to none currently. This should be protected and figured out BEFORE implementing the system. This issue is explained quite well on this youtube video link by attorney and Fairfax California, Council member, Larry Bragman.
Franchise agreements between municipalities and utility companies, which were written over 70 years ago, never foresaw "smart" meters or modern technology. We need to revise these agreements and demand more sane scrutiny of the new technology in favor of public safety and privacy.
2. Many customers throughout America claim that their bills have doubled or greatly increased with the installation of smart meters. Utility companies claim they are more accurate. There is no mechanical record, only a digital/electronic one that is hard to verify. Just what is to keep the meters "honest" or free from manipulation?
3. With "smart" meters there will no longer be meter readers walking the neighborhoods and visiting every meter on a monthly basis. This is not so great for two reasons. Do we really want to lose all of these jobs, especially in this economy? You know any money saved will not come back to the rate payers.
Without the knowledgeable eyes and "sniffers" of the meter readers who currently report unsafe conditions on their daily rounds, I expect that there will be more fires, accidents, and mishaps as monthly visual monitoring ceases to exist. Perhaps the resultant high costs of any mishaps will more than offsetting any savings?
4. Many people are concerned about Radio Frequency or "R.F." radiation which is put out by wireless "smart" meters. R.F. radiation is cumulative in our bodies and there is currently much debate upon just what the effects are and how great the danger is. Electro-sensitivity is a documented and recognized disability present in a certain percent of the population, and many people are having adverse health symptoms and reactions.
Each meter is capable of being a repeater and transmitter, transferring/cycling for other homes in the area, and may in fact be on and transmitting every minute despite claims that the R.F. radiation is merely occasional. The data offered in regards to just how much energy is pulsed and how often the smart meters cycle and transmit as repeaters or as individual units is unknown, misleading and or changing.
Consider multiple banks of "smart" meters at a duplex or apartment buildings. Which of you would choose to have yourself, your child or loved ones sleeping on the opposite side of a wall with dozens of "smart" meters? Are we to accept a "three-plex" of wireless "smart" gas, electric and water meters for every dwelling unit??
Many of the European countries that had heavy cell phone and wireless activity before the United States, are now eliminating the wireless systems from their schools and other public places. They have recognized that even very low levels of radio signal radiation have an affect on the brain and cells in a human body. Many people are experiencing discomfort and illnesses with the installation of "smart" meters on their homes. Customers are also reporting interference with home electronics and medical devices.
Is there a certain acceptable number of people whose health and well being we are willing to sacrifice? It's okay as long as it happens to someone else, and not our friends, children, or loved ones perhaps? Some people do appear to be more sensitive than others, but that does not make them nuts. What is nuts is corporate disregard and steamrolling with little regard to anything other than profit.
The R.F. issue can be avoided by hardwiring or using fiber optics, however this costs extra and is less profitable for the corporations. (It would also create more jobs.) As tobacco and asbestos proved in the past, many are suggesting caution now in our exposures and not having a huge "oops, sorry" in 20 or 30 years. Here is Rob States talking about exposures and background radiation.
5. Many people choose not to have or use cell phones, Wifi, or other wireless tech. That is their personal choice, regardless of what anyone else believes. Some people comment that there are already Wifi and cell phones everywhere. So, does that mean that it has no effect or "why bother," etc?
Do we not have the right to be secure in our own homes to live our lives as we choose? Regardless of what anyone feels, thinks, or believes, we should all be afforded the right to choose for our own living space and property. There is no opt out with smart meters. To some this is corporate dictatorship.
All of the above are just scratching the surface of these issues. Many suggest that we have a countrywide moratorium on smart meter installations until these issues are dealt with, and require utilities to keep any old meters and not destroy them. Corporate America is playing with our health, privacy and property in ways which will have many consequences in the future.
Government should be protecting the interests of "We The People," through sane nonpartisan policy. Although the CPUC and FCC are cited as keeping us safe under the current "acceptable" standards for privacy and for levels of exposure, many believe that the current standards are grossly inadequate and dangerous.
We are surrounded by ever increasing cell towers, and neighborhood wireless devices, and are subjected to these wireless radio and microwave frequencies with the resultant exponential rise in background radiation. We are all in the "soup", whether we are aware of the implications or not. There are effects and consequences from these technologies, which will not be known for many years. The growing abundance of these wireless technologies does not justify them, or make them safe in the long run. How much IS too much?
Short sighted or impotent governance has become increasingly beholden to the corporate gods -- the gods of profit and technology. Let's put these in proper perspective, at the end of the line following transparency, democracy, and community. Here are some links to information and organizations that are working to protect our health and safety, and who support freedom of choice.
This last one is just for fun, when all else fails perhaps... http://zapatopi.net/afdb/
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