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Oct 21st
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Smart Meters

News_smartmeterHow can something so intelligent cause such uproar?
California is tangled up in a controversy involving Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)’s latest energy-monitoring gadget, the SmartMeter.
The SmartMeter is PG&E’s way of "connecting the energy business with the 21st century” by using wireless technology to read electric and gas usage. The SmartMeter is able to report usage data to PG&E every hour, eliminating the need for meter readers and enhancing their ability to access updated account information.



Santa Cruz leaders recently made their opinions of the new “energy-saving” devices clear when the Board of Supervisors opposed the implementation of Smart Meters in June, and the Santa Cruz City Council made the decision to support San Francisco’s lawsuit against the installation of the Smart Meters. With petitions circling, moratoriums being instated, and the debate over the future of California’s energy heating up, Good Times sat down with a handful of local players to hear out the perspectives surrounding the SmartMeter controversy.

GT: What are some of the major concerns about from PG&E’s Smart Meters?

Assemblymember Bill Monning, representing California’s 27th Assembly District: There are four main concerns being raised: billing, accuracy, privacy and health impacts. In my opinion, PG&E did not sufficiently engage and educate its customers prior to the deployment of SmartMeters. This, coupled with reports of dramatically increased utility bills, has caused PG&E customers across the state to question the validity and merits of this new technology.

Tammie Donnelly, local petitioner against Smart Meters: Electromagnetic radiation, among other concerns like higher electrical bills, interference problems, fire hazards, privacy invasion and lost jobs.

Paul Moreno, PG&E spokesperson: Some customers have expressed concerns about higher bills and whether the new meters are recording their energy usage correctly. We want them to know that SmartMeter devices are more than 99 percent accurate and that the metering technology that calculates energy use has been around and in use since the 1980s.

Joshua Hart, co-founder of Scotts Valley Neighbors Against Smart Meters: One of the largest rollouts of technology in history—a $2.2 billion dollar project—has been approved with virtually no public consultation, and barely any notification.

GT: How effective have the lawsuits, petitions, moratoriums and general public input been? How is PG&E responding?


Monning: The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has regulatory authority over PG&E and supervises smart grid deployment plans. In response to consumer complaints about inaccuracies and inconsistencies with the SmartMeters, the CPUC is conducting an independent third-party evaluation focusing on customer criticisms, and evaluating the overall SmartMeter program. The findings of this independent investigation will allow the CPUC and policymakers to hold PG&E accountable for substantiated errors and inconsistencies.

Moreno/PG&E: We are committed to rebuilding customer confidence in our SmartMeter program. We are responding to concerns by working more closely with communities to discuss the benefits of our SmartMeter technology. Regarding the lawsuit, Fores v. PG&E, the judge issued a decision to delay further proceedings until the CPUC independent third party evaluation is completed. We have wholeheartedly supported this evaluation.

Hart: The decision by the city councils of Capitola and Scotts Valley to sign on to petition to the CPUC to halt the meter roll-out on the basis of health and accuracy has made waves statewide.

GT: What are the specific health and safety risks, and how can they be addressed?

Donnelly: This is electro-smog. Exposure to electro-smog has been documented to have major biological effects on living tissue: DNA breaks sleep disturbance, memory loss, headaches, chest pain, heart palpitations, memory loss, premature aging, learning impairment, fatigue and reduction in melatonin secretion and cancers. Having a SmartMeter on my home back in January caused me many health challenges. It gave me very intense pressure in my ears and head, along with severe dizziness. We need to feel safe in our homes.

Monning: Some in the community have been expressing their concerns about the potential adverse health effects of the radio frequencies utilized in the WiFi systems used by SmartMeters. While studies by the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health state that exposure to radio frequencies from wireless network devices do not constitute a health threat, all new technologies should be treated according to the precautionary principle.

Moreno/PG&E: Some of our customers have asked about any health effects related to the radio frequency (RF) that transmits usage information wirelessly to our data centers. Our SmartMeter devices are connected to low power radios, and their signals resemble those of other devices such as cell phones, microwaves and laptop computer, though their average RF levels are much lower than those devices. Specifically, the signal strength of a SmartMeter at a distance of 10 feet is only about one one-thousandth as much as a typical cell phone.

GT: How do we make THE technology safe?

Donnelly: We need an opt-out [option] for everyone with any of these concerns. [At] this time there is no opt-out for anyone.

Monning: At this time there is an inadequate amount of information available that would allow the CPUC to guarantee a definitive fix by PG&E in the overall SmartMeter system. PG&E should be encouraged by everyone to pursue a more defined public education program that includes independent scientific assessment information about Smart Meter technology, as well as a commitment to protecting consumer privacy and health.

Moreno/PG&E: We’ve created multiple resources to ensure that their concerns are addressed. Our current resources include a dedicated SmartMeter customer call center, the addition of 165 customer service representatives and more customer Answer Centers so customers understand how their new meter can empower them to control and reduce their energy usage.
Comments (16)Add Comment
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written by Lowell Lannert, November 26, 2011
Proponents of smart meters: I feel one argument is constantly overlooked. Arguments seem so focused on RF power as if that's the culprit. Could it simply be that certain people are dialed into certain frequencies? My wife is moving out of our home and seeking an area where she can be safe from this stuff because her health has been seriously compromised since the meters were put in. She and I will have to live separately until we can come up with a solution. Do I have a right to be pissed? Absolutely. PG&E came into our neighborhoods with the government's full blessing and installed something without us having a choice. Unfortunately, just removing our meter is not the solution as we're surrounded by meters just as close to us as our own.
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written by MichelleC., September 15, 2011
It is difficult to find hard scientific data about something so new and suddenly imposed upon the public. I'm sure we'll hear about massive health problems within a year or two when it's too late. Even if the radiation damage were significantly less harmful than cell phones, wifi, etc (which I doubt it is) why add another unnecessary radiation-emitter to the home? Makes no sense, bunch of PG&E rubbish.
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written by Jim on the Peninsula, September 14, 2011
Jus a word to the wise for people finding this on Google long after the fact - I had a so-called smart meter installed and my bill jumped *dramatically*. One more anecdote... they are robbing us blind.
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written by John in Santa Cruz, August 10, 2011
I find it pretty amusing to hear all the health concerns / complaints over the "Smart Meter". I would consider it safe to say that the same people complaining about health problems or concerns don't have any problem with having wireless internet, a microwave oven, a garage door opener, and most importantly a cell phone. All these devices produce RF, and all produce greater amounts then the "Smart Meter". Also, in terms of RF and health, proximity is key. A cell phone to your head is exponentially far greater risk then a meter attached to the outside of your home that most probably is rarely in close proximity to a person, and has barriers (wall construction materials) diminishing the strength. Another detail... I keep hearing people commenting on EMF health risk. EMF is a far greater component of the older type of electrical/mechanical (disc) meter. The old type of electric meter has a small potential transformer as one of it's operating components. A transformer produces large amounts of EMF in comparison to the electronic meters now used in "Smart Metering". I think people don't know the facts, and many like to protest just to protest. Funny thing - "Smart Metering" is in line with "Green Technology" as it enables users to view their consumptions and have ability to make decisions based on usage, enabling them to potentially curtail personal demands. Utilities are trying to implement the "Smart Grid" ideals that can help to diminish the need for beefing up infrastructure and building more generation plants to keep up with demands. "Smart Metering" is a key component to achieving this; you would think those "Green" minded individuals would educate themselves to see this, realize that with knowledge of their personal energy use, they can combine this information, buy appliances that have programmable timers to have their dishwashers, dryers, etc. come on during low demand periods, thus circumventing usage during peak demand periods, and therefore allowing more evenly distribution of energy across the grids over a 24 hour period, and staving off further utility growth. I can only imagine how the European community must be viewing these protests. I can just hear them now, "Stupid ignorant Americans - again." Europe is embracing "Smart Grid', they have certainly proven over and over again the importance of education - and they don't rely on government or industry to provide it; they understand it is their responsibility to become educated.
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written by marcella cantalupo, July 19, 2011
I'm very concerned about these meters and just declined the first installation. They seem very scary and i do not have enough information on them to make educated decision as to weather it's a good or bad thing. People are complaining about there energy bills being higher,not to mention that cancer is on the rise and these meters are a health risk from what I'm reading.They feel very wrong to me, and I feel were being treated as a mass of ignorant people that are going along with something that we know nothing about let alone being installed in a very sneaky way, it's maddening and people should be very aware of what is going on.
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written by Bob Dobbs, July 11, 2011
I find it interesting that it is challenging to find accurate reputable information on these meters (for and against). I am all for health, well being, rights, and accurate and fair billing.
If it is such a huge threat, let's see the hard data (accurate, reliable, honest)
I'm just reading emotional speculations from both sides. I even got the PGE propaganda mailer about it with resident testimonials. Something doesn't feel right about this.
what about the health problems that may happen?
written by gabby, May 05, 2011
My bills have increased and so have my concerns about these meters. I am looking into solar as an alternative. No company should have the control to put what they want on your home.
You should be allowed to have a choice especially if their may potentially be a health risk. Big company with a lot of money and power vs. People. That are dependent on it with no other choices.
Who wins in the long run? You tell me. For some reason I have a home with every energy efficient appliance and my bill has gone up over two hundred dollars a month. Did I have a choice to put this meter on my home? No. Doesn't look like some of us got a choice while others have.
blue ridge electric young harris ga
written by ruth nelson, March 01, 2011
In 2009 I was using 9KWH a day with this company since I have a small summer cabin and no major appliances. They installed smart meters about 6 months ago without saying they were smart meters and immediately the meter started showing 18kwh a day of course the bill skyrocketed and I got no satisfaction from BREMC or REA I also began having health problems dizziness and stomach aches continuously which went away when I returned to Florida
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written by barbara bruce, November 29, 2010
I need to begin more research per remote smart meters emmissions to invironment. I have concern as I live in a large multi-unit apartment complex. Across the alley from our bedrooms is another multi-unit complex and to the side is another, with additional large complexes continuing down the street and alley.
Electric lines are 3ft from bedroom window with transmitter poles outside same.
EMF readings by gas and electric company read from 14.5 to 9 in bedrms and 7.5 to 3 in front of apartment. The livingroom is directly over the metor room housing meters to 45 units.
I have noticed a huge difference in over-all health as if aging quickly and have greater ringing of ears and abundance of jolts to my chest. I wake up feeling way worse than before the meters were installed.
I know I have an electric magnetic field sensitivity for years....
I wonder how much invironmental concern was directed toward the health concept of 'SMART' METERS
Smart Meters
written by diann frere sanchez, October 30, 2010
I want to know if there is any law suits going on now" from this?. My Son has been so sick! he has lost over 20+ pounds' in just the last few months!' he is so weak! and he feels like hes going to pass out! his stomach has been hurting! I'm been taking him to the Dr's but they keep saying they can't find why hes so sick?'. I told his Dr. that I' havent been feeling well' so he just brushed us off!!!" and said oh its just a virus then?"" I cant beleave what is happening? this all makes sense to me now! my son's bed room is on the same side of the house our meter is on! right on the other side" of his bed room wall!" and my bed room is on the same side as well!" I havent been feeling good at all" for some time now" I have lost over 20+ pounds' and my stomach has been hurting as well! and i have been getting a lot of head aches! and I feel so fatigue!" just not good!" and many times I feel' I half to run to lay down' because I all ways feel like I'm going to throw up!. A while back I asked my husband' may be' we need to check if theres carbon monoxcide in our home?' because why is this happening?' Now This All Makes Sense!" I' Cant Beleave P G & E Would do this to us!!!""" They Had to know what they were putting out!!!"""
homeowner/resident of Salinas, CA
written by Leslie Rede, September 19, 2010
Our first notification of SmartMeter installation was a letter to the home last week. Knowing of San Fransciso & Santa Clara areas concerns I immediately called regarding the cost issues on my monthly bill. I was told a new finding was on the web to take care of those concerns & I was welcome to view the report. I told the agent I would not have my meter installed until I watched for a year what happens in San Juan Bautista. The best the agent could do is request our address be put at the bottom of the installation list.
Unsubstantiated rubbish
written by Pete Haworth, September 15, 2010
I've seldom read such unsubstantiated rubbish as contained in the first comment on this article and the statements by Donnelly in the article itself. Vague references to studies and other misleading facts just don't cut it. Quote your sources if you want to establish any sort of credibility. And referring to the World Health Organisation as the equivalent of BP for health safety would be laughable if it wasn't so absurd.

The weirdos of Santa Cruz are out in force on this one.
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written by Laney, September 13, 2010
How exactly is "peak" usage determined?
SmartMeters Much Unknown
written by Frank McGinness, August 28, 2010
The RF waves of Smartmeters have not been throughly tested. The test that PG&E quotes is given as average waves and doesn’t give peak waves. Peak waves could be a problem: For those living in rural areas, these peak waves are 300,000 more powerful than a cell phone. Consider also in multi unit buildings having multiple meters 3x over for gas, electric, and water for some cities. I’d say pity the person who’s abode is right next to this array.

Enough people with Smartmeters have complained about higher bills with same usage, to give warning onto itself. Each meter also costs $500 to be paid by the consumer. That’s $1,500 each household will be paying. I’d personally rather pay someone checking our meters.

When I say forced that means PG&E plans to have most of these 3 meters in place in 6 months. Doesn’t that sound like railroading? Something is fishy. I’d rather deal from working knowledge so I've protested twice. PGE says over and over this metering will show peak usage hours that consumers can choose to lower their bills. Choose? That doesn't sound right given PG&E is forcing these meters on us. It's more likely PG&E will be using this peak hour info to charge the consumers more.
Are these concerns scientifically proven
written by StareClips.com, August 20, 2010
I'm curious as to the independent and qualified proof that the wireless radiation from smart meters is more harmful than, say, having a cell phone charging on your night stand.

The reason I ask is because Robert rightly said "No one speaks on a cell phone during the night when they are sleeping." However, cell phones emit radiation whether or not you are actually talking on the phone. So, if it's in your bedroom, plugged into the wall, and charging, then you are being bombarded by the wireless radiation throughout the night.

Also, if you happen to work in an office building of substantial size, there's a pretty good chance the office has a wireless access point setup for wireless access to the Internet (using laptops).

Furthermore, if you sit in (or in a building near) a Starbucks... a McDonalds... or if you stay in a hotel... or if you happen to live near a hotel... you are also being bombarded by wireless radiation.

In fact, if you have any device which can connect via WiFi, you can usually make it "sniff" for nearby wireless access points. Often times, more than a dozen can appear within your own home... especially if you live in an apartment complex or in close proximity to other buildings.

So, the ultimate question is... are those who are truly concerned about this radiation living in a home alone, far from other civilization? Or, is there a certain amount of information that's being left out?

If the information is true... and wireless signals can really physically harm us... I'd say at this point, it's too late... we're already bombarded to a significant degree whether we're sleeping at home, staying in a hotel, sitting at work, sitting in a crowded movie theater, sitting in a restaurant, sitting at a ball game or at any place where many others (with their cell phones strapped to their sides) are gathered, etc, etc, etc... so, are these smart meters really going to make a big difference, or is it only one target of a much larger battle has already been lost years ago?
SMART METERS ARE NOT SMART
written by Robert Williams, August 20, 2010
SMART METERS ARE EXTREMELY DUMB AND DANGEROUS.

Tests have been done that show that even a small amount of this type of RF exposure, 24 hours per day, is extremely dangerous. At night during sleeping hours, a body requires a non-stimulus resting period so that cell interaction and communication can occur uninterrupted to rejuvenate, repair and grow all the body tissues (muscle, bone, blood, etc).

MOST IMPORTANTLY, during the sleeping hours, CHILDREN literally grow and properly develop their organs (brain, heart, lungs, genitals, etc) and systems (respiratory, digestive, nervous, reproductive, etc) and this is done by brain-to-cell and cell-to-cell interaction and communication.

No one speaks on a cell phone during the night when they are sleeping. But Smart Meter RF Radiation continues all night, 24 hours per day.

The PG&E argument Smart Meters transmit less RF Radiation than Cell phones is intentionally misleading since it compares apples and oranges. A child can swim harmlessly in a pool with a million gallons of water, but if only 4 ounces of water are dropped on that child's forehead one drop at a time during the child's sleeping hours, the child's development will be stunted dramatically.

The Smart Meters do not only emit RF Radiation individually. Rather, an entire mesh network of meters is intentionally created such that each meter is sending signals to hundreds or thousands of other meters in proximity and these signals are being intentionally repeated within the mesh network, prior to the information ever arriving at PG&E.

This mesh network operation results in RF radiation exposure to people and CHILDREN exponentially greater than the individual RF radiation emitted by any single Smart Meter. In other words, the exposure to people and CHILDREN from this Smart Meter mesh network system can be tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands times greater than the exposure of any one single Smart Meter.

Tests that don't show the danger of RF radiation have only tested the simple-to-measure heat rise from this RF radiation. However, heat rise is only one measurement of thousands that impact a living organism.

The World Health Organization is the equivalent of BP for health safety. These same "Health" organizations have promoted Cigarettes, DDT, and Asbestos.

PG&E is the same company that poisoned and killed entire communities and then tried to cover it up, as was documented in the Erin Brockavitch movie.

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