By Nancy Thorner –
As ComEd rolls out 4,000,000 Smart Meters in an effort to “modernize the electricity grid,” many Illinois residents are pushing for a no-cost or at least low-cost option to keep their existing analog meters. Instead of benefits to the consumer, these residents see risks and increased electricity bills associated with digital Smart Meters. They are not alone.
The National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy report calls Smart Meters “a canard—a story or hoax based on specious claims about energy benefits.” It goes on to say, “Congress, state, local governments, and ratepayers, have been misled about the potential energy and cost saving benefits paid for in large part with taxpayer and ratepayer dollars.”
Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General writes, “Utilities have shown no evidence of billions of dollars in benefits to consumers from these new meters. The utilities want to experiment with expensive and unproven technology, yet all the risk will lie with consumers. The pitch is that smart meters will allow consumers to monitor their electrical usage, helping them to reduce consumption and save money. Consumers do not need to be forced to pay billions for smart technology to know how to reduce their utility bills. We know how to turn down the heat and shut off the lights.”
Judge O’Connell of the Michigan Appellate Court writes in an opinion on an opt-out-rate case, “The Public Service Commission and Consumers Energy advance the notion that smart meters will save the public money on their utility bills. Unfortunately, this argument is inherently illogical: how can smart meters save money when Consumers seeks to add millions of dollars to the base rate to fund the AMI [Smart Meter] program? It appears, as the Attorney General argues and as in other states, that the smart meter program actually increases rates.” ComEd promotes the same illogical reasoning.
Some state and local jurisdictions across the country are becoming aware of risks associated with Smart Meters and objecting to deployment and/or insisting on opt-outs. In California there are 57 jurisdictions opposed to installation and 15 have passed ordinances making Smart Meter installations illegal. In spite of the opposition and opt-outs being offered in California and other states, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has interpreted a state utility law to mandate compliance. Therefore, 4,000,000 Wireless Smart Meters are to be installed on ALL homes and buildings in the ComEd service territory.
Warrenville Environmental Advisory Commission (WEAC) put in their newsletter: “WEAC would like to make a true opt-opt possible; the City does not have regulatory authority to do so.”
It now rests on the shoulders of informed citizens to educate their lawmakers, local government officials, community leaders, and neighbors. Many citizens are diligently working to secure an opt-out option and protect their families from the health effects, fire hazards, privacy violations, and cyber security risks which continue to be reported in the U.S. and around the world. There are 200 environmentally conscious groups opposing Smart Meter deployments in their countries and local communities.
Ironically, Wireless Smart Meters are not necessary to modernize the Smart Grid and are certainly not “Green”. These meters add layers of RF radiation to the environment and require extra energy usage for collectors, routers, and to run various functions of the mesh networks.
Illinois lawmakers must have been misled with regard to the “benefits” and not told about the consequences to have allowed this ill-advised program to proceed. What is essential now is for lawmakers to secure a permanent low-cost or no cost opt-out for their constituents.
The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) argues that allowing customers to refuse a Smart Meter is good public policy because forcing customers to accept a Smart Meter will not be conducive to gaining widespread customer acceptance. CUB is further convinced that forcing customers who, whatever their reasons, do not desire a Smart Meter [to accept one] unfairly punishes those customers.
Judge O’Connell, when discussing the issue of an opt-out fee in the case referenced above, writes, “Why penalize those citizens… who have pacemakers and implant devices [by] being exposed to smart meters that are not UL certified safe for these devises. Electro-sensitivity may prevent some citizens from installing smart meters or visiting homes that have working smart meters.”
In the same decision when addressing health consequences, Judge O’Connell writes, [Smart meter] “issues are of great concern, not just locally, but also nationally and internationally. I note that 50 years ago, only a few brilliant minds were concerned about the health hazards of smoking, and we have only recently become aware of the health hazards of second-hand smoke. I suspect there is no need to mention the health hazards of lead-based paint or radium painted glow-in-the dark watches. At the time, all of these products were not considered health hazards.”
The Judge continues, “Historically, it is less burdensome to address these issues as they arise than to attempt to reform 20 years of ill-conceived policy decisions.”
Some of the reasons why Smart Meters are an “Ill-conceived policy decision”:
1) In May of 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified Radio Frequency emissions from Smart Meters as Class 2B Carcinogen. According to Richard Conrad, Ph.D., “This means in order to continue to receive electrical power, people are forced to live with a device on their homes that emits possibly carcinogenic microwaves 24/7. The results of thousands of studies strongly suggest that microwaves are not safe for humans. If the smart meter roll-out plan had been submitted as a proposal for an experiment on human beings, which it undeniably is, any institutional Review Board…would have rejected it outright.
2) Utilities were exempt from conducting environmental or health impact studies. Electric companies were excused from any governmental or public review showing how the decision to implement Wireless Smart Meters was safe for humans, plants, animals and the planet.
3) Privacy is a great concern. Household activities and behavior within closed doors can now be monitored through the collection of detailed discrete data. Personal habits, work schedules, and family activities are being recorded. Interpreting the data can let the utility or unwelcome parties know when the family is home or on vacation. Electric companies selling the data to a third party is now in question. In the end, the data is more valuable to the power company than the rates collected.
4) Using wireless Smart Meter Networks to connect every household appliance, alarm system, computer, car-charging station, etc., in every home, business, and government building to the Internet leaves every aspect of modern living vulnerable to cyber-attack.
On the issue of privacy Judge O’Connell writes, “Appellants argued that smart meters may in fact be the instrument of monitoring, listening, and viewing activities in individual’s homes. They also argued that smart meters are networked and, without proper security measures, anyone, including the government and hackers, could monitor a customer’s activities. I would find it disconcerting, if true, that a smart meter in conjunction with a smart television might allow others to listen and record private conversations in one’s living room.”
5) Every Smart Meter is an open portal or access point into the Smart Grid. This means foreign or domestic hackers on a larger scale and thieves on a smaller scale have an open invitation to whatever data they want to take or whatever system they want to disrupt. Consider the 4,000,000 access points ComEd is installing throughout Illinois and how vulnerable that makes residential communities.
6) Tom Lawton from TESCO on Smart Meters: “the number of reported fires in the United States has increased dramatically to the point where [Smart] Meter fires have dominated the news locally, nationally and internationally at various times in the past three years. Utilities going through a full deployment are seeing incident rates one and two orders of magnitude greater than normal, leading to a media frenzy and a public focus on the safety of the [Smart] Meter on the side of their house.”
7) Norman Lambe (LA Home and Business Insurance Examiner) writes, “The real problems concerning the installation of 51 million Smart Meters in this country are being ignored, in spite of the evidence that we have a clear and present danger. When the electrical utility determines that a Smart Meter is the issue, they have been removing the meter. [That means] tampering with evidence concerning the cause of the fire. However, the real issue as to why all the [Smart] Meters are failing is not being dealt with.”
Smart Meters can well be considered an “ill-conceived policy” in light of the health threat, invasion of privacy, hacking potential, fire risk, and increased electric bills for the majority of residents. It is unjust and not the American way to force these meters on every home without warning residents of the potential risks and offering them a choice. ComEd customers who want to ensure their family’s privacy and safety should have the option of an opt-out for their own peace of mind.