Why turn our homes into large microwave appliances,
even if the constant always-on setting may be a lower one?
While only an estimated 8% of the population reportedly notice physical health issues related to wireless so-called “smart” meters (smeters), increasing numbers of people are concerned about other smeter problems. To mention a few: Forbes magazine pointed out how smeters are a great deal for utilities and a raw deal for consumers; CBS news and other media have widely reported over-charging smeters; Wired Magazine reported unacceptable security holes in smeter networks; the Denver Post described privacy issues; Security Week investigated smeter safety issues; and an international physician’s group is calling for a halt to installation of wireless smeters, due to health risks. The ever-increasing body of evidence suggests energy consumers should have the right to opt-out from smeters, and the fact that these individuals were never advised of the risks nor did they consent to have smeters installed makes it clear that such opt-outs be free of charge.
So-called “Smart” Meters (smeters) Aren’t “Green”
Though safer technologies are readily available to create a smart grid, this one’s a sweet financial deal for PG&E. We customers pay all conversion costs, already $2.2 billion (roughly $250 per meter) bringing PG&E an immediate profit of $300+ million. PG&E makes phony greenwashing claims about the meters encouraging conservation, but when you factor in the extra energy needed to broadcast all these pulses night and day, the program will actually likely cause a net increase in our overall carbon footprint. And the meters aren’t bi-directional, so they can’t be used for net metering for folks who have their own rooftop solar installations. Also, what is the likelihood that people will make toast at midnight when it’s cheaper instead of for breakfast, assuming that they get a meter on their toaster to measure energy use first, and then look it up on their computer? Timed metering need not be wireless, and it is cheaper to install using existing infrastructure (such as phone landlines) which would also minimize privacy concerns.
(Smart Meters: Not So Sharp For Consumers, Forbes 21Oct 2009, http://onforb.es/1GubeK )
There have been reports of more than 50,000 inaccurate smeters to date that PG&E has acknowledged. There have been numerous cases of customers being overbilled, some charged even 1,000 times their former rates. In one observed smeter defect, some Pacific Gas and Electric Co. smeters overcharged customers when they become too hot, sometimes misreading electricity usage when their internal temperature goes over 100 degrees.
(Overheated PG&E SmartMeters Overcharge Customers, CBS, 3 May 2011 http://cbsloc.al/iEfk2M)
(PG&E admits to Smeter Billing Errors, offers scant refund http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=3973 )
Smeters Present Unacceptable Security Risks
A top cybersecurity firm recently tested five different brands of smeters for vulnerabilities, and found that they all could be easily hacked into, allowing someone to remotely shut down your power, inflate your bills, tell if you’re out-of-town (making you a target for burglary), commit identity theft, or even bring down the whole electricity grid. An article in Wired magazine sums up security risks neatly when it says, “The country’s swift deployment of smart-grid technology has security professionals concerned that utilities and smart-meter vendors are repeating the mistakes made in the rollout of the public internet, when security became a priority only after malicious attacks had reached mass levels. But when it comes to the power grid, the costs of remote hack attacks are potentially more dramatic. `The cost factor here is what’s turned on its head. We lose control of our grid, that’s far worse than a botnet taking over my home PC,’ said Matthew Carpenter.
(Security Pros Question Deployment of Smart Meters, Wired, 4 Mar 2010, http://bit.ly/bjHA3W )
Smeters Violate Rights to Privacy
While most of us likely feel we have nothing to hide, and trust our government and utility corporations, we would also be safe to assume that whatever rights to privacy we give away now, we give up for good. As the following article from the Denver Post explains, “Once a smart meter is attached to a home, it can gather a lot more data than just how much electricity a family uses. It can tell how many people live in the house, when they get up, when they go to sleep and when they aren’t home. It can tell how many showers they take and loads of laundry they do. How often they use the microwave. How much television they watch and what kind of TV they watch it on.”
(New Electricity Grids May Be Smart, but Not So Private, Denver Post, 18 May 2010 http://bit.ly/AaqYyA )
Smeters Adversely Affect People’s Health and Well-being
Many people noticed that after smeters were installed in their homes they began suffering from symptoms including: constant ringing in the ears, hearing impairment, nausea and headaches, difficulty sleeping, muscle spasms and twitches, vision impairment, and constant extreme pain. Some home-owners suffering these symptoms have been driven from their homes to live in their vehicles. Given the extreme affect smeters have on some people, it is reasonable to deduce that smeters are harming all of us somehow. This is an unacceptable risk, according to the international physician’s group, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), who have called for an immediate halt to installation of wireless smeters.
(Santa Cruz Health Officer Discloses Findings on Smart Meters, KSBW News, 24 Jan 2012 http://bit.ly/wAZC5S )
(International Physicians’ Group Calls Halt to Wireless Smart Meters, East County Magazine, 24 Jan 2012 http://bit.ly/xpqKUt )
Smeters Are Unsafe
There are safety issues related to smeters, such smeters failing and starting fires or exploding. Also, in a recent official filing, PG&E confirmed its smeters can damage customers’ sensitive electronics. The new smeter is effectively a remote control device in charge of your house or business, allowing PG&E the option of unilaterally rationing or cutting power to a property when the corporation deems it useful for their purposes, regardless of potential life-threatening consequences for some customers.
(Smart Meters Interfering With Home Electronics, Security Week, 23 Nov 2011 http://bit.ly/t6kf2Z )
(Smeter Fires/Explosions, http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?page_id=1280)
Smeters Are Illegal
Laws which were originally written to protect consumers and allow us choices have been twisted to protect the interests of profiteering utility corporations that harm the public interest. The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) does not actually have a right to mandate `smart’ meter installation. The law protects us from forced installation, Martinot finds: “We need to be calling for the PUC to obey the law, to stop being a law-breaking agency.”
(Smart Meters Are Illegal: A Nitty-Gritty Analysis, StopSmartMeters.org 5 Dec 2011, http://bit.ly/wqKcJA )
Smeters Eliminate Outdoor Jobs While Lining Utilities Pockets
Most meter readers prefer outdoor work to the temporary replacement office work energy utilities offer. Energy utilities are not passing on their remote meter reading cost savings to their customers, but instead pocket the difference as meter reading jobs are eliminated, replaced by automated systems.
The California Public Utilities Commission invites public feedback on the issue of “smart” meters at:
Feeling motivated to speak up and make a positive difference? This is a great time to make your voice heard and share your thoughts!
Wikipedia: cbs definition: Columbia Broadcasting System. →