Opinion

Smart meters shouldn’t be forced on customers

In this Sept. 28, 2010, file photo, Central Maine Power technician Gary Sturgis installs one of the company’s first “smart meters” at an apartment building in Portland, Maine. Maine’s Supreme Court ruled on, Jan. 26, 2016, affirmed a decision by the Maine Public Utilities Commission that Central Maine Power’s “smart meter” system poses no credible threat to the health and safety of customers. (AP Photo/Joel Page, File)
In this Sept. 28, 2010, file photo, Central Maine Power technician Gary Sturgis installs one of the company’s first “smart meters” at an apartment building in Portland, Maine. Maine’s Supreme Court ruled on, Jan. 26, 2016, affirmed a decision by the Maine Public Utilities Commission that Central Maine Power’s “smart meter” system poses no credible threat to the health and safety of customers. (AP Photo/Joel Page, File) AP

I live in the center of Raleigh in one of many condominium complexes. Recently, we received a notice from Duke Energy that smart meters (SMs) were soon going to be installed. According to the American Cancer Society, SMs give off Radio Frequency (RF) radiation, and “there isn’t much you can do to lower your exposure to RF radiation from smart meters.”

In May 2011, the International Agency for Research in Cancer (part of the World Health Organization) “classified radio frequency EMF — such as that sent and received by smart meters — a class 2B carcinogen, meaning it is possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Utility companies say SMs are only “on for 45 -60 minutes a day when sending and receiving information.” However, Prof. David Carpenter of the Albany (NY) School of Public Health revealed that “under court order, Pacific Gas and Electric admitted that their SMs generate 14,000 spikes of communication per day.” While it is true that the SMs send and receive information only 60 seconds a day, the utilities companies usually do not reveal that these seconds are split into microsecond impulses that occur throughout each day.

Smart-meter technology allows a utility to read a meter through mobile communication technology, eliminating the need for meter readers to visit homes and businesses. The utilities add that the remote reading will produce more accurate bills than those based on estimates. The Duke Energy notice, for instance, states that customers will have “the ability to see your detailed usage data daily, making it easier to use energy more efficiently and lower your bill.” However, according to a senior assistant to the attorney general for public utilities in Illinois, Susan Satter, their own report on SMs “shows zero statistically different result in usage compared to business as usual.” And according to a survey by Toronto Hydro, “80 percent of homeowners with smart meters reported price increases on their bills, which is the exact opposite of what the smart grid promised to deliver.

The American Cancer Society has concluded that “because the amount of RF radiation you could be exposed to from a smart meter is much less than what you could be exposed to from a cell phone, it is very unlikely that living in a house with a smart meter increases risk of cancer.” However, banks of SMs that are placed in apartment or condominium buildings (like mine in the center of Raleigh, where all the meters are placed right outside my kitchen window) can emit densities many, many times those at which adverse health effects can occur. In the documentary “Take Back Your Power,” one can see footage using Darkfield microscopy showing how blood cells react in people standing one foot away from a SM for two minutes. Also, hundreds of SMs have caught fire.

All of this might be why at least 40 cities and towns in Michigan passed resolutions against SMs between 2011 and 2016.

Finally, a congressional research report, “Smart Meter Data: Privacy and Cybersecurity,” published in February 2012, concluded SMs are in fact a violation of the Fourth Amendment, noting that: ‘In no uncertain terms the Court has asserted that at the very core (of the Fourth Amendment) stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable government intrusion....With smart meters police will have access to data that might be used to track residents’ daily lives and routines while in their homes, including their eating, sleeping and showering habits, what appliances they use and when, and whether they prefer the television to the treadmill, among a host of other details.”

Neither my 94-year-old mother, nor I, nor anyone else should be forced against our will to have SMs, especially a bank of SMs, outside their kitchen windows.



Dennis Cuddy, Ph.D., of Raleigh has been an economic and political risk analyst for an international consulting firm.
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