Smart meters: no problem

I’m sure this won’t change any minds in the anti-smart meter crowd, but…

A report commissioned by the Vermont Legislature on the potential threat to human health posed by smart meters… found the devices emit only a small fraction of the maximum exposure levels set by the Federal Communications Commission.

The report found that the maximum peak radio frequency level, as measured a mere one foot from a meter, was 3.9% of the FCC’s top exposure limit. And nobody, ever, ever, spends any significant amount of time standing one foot away from a utility meter.

By comparison to that one-foot maximum: a cordless phone emits 1% of the FCC’s limit; a microwave oven emits 6.5%; and a cellphone hits 10.5%. And if you own any of those devices, you’re a hell of a lot closer to them than to the nearest utility meter.

“It is concluded that any potential exposure to the investigated smart meters will comply with the FCC exposure rules by a wide margin,” said the report, which was released Wednesday.

I would now invite Senator Bob Hartwell, the new chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, to recant his previous opposition to smart meters. Since he bears the responsibility for being the Senate’s chief voice on environmental issues, and this report was commissioned by the Legislature, it’s the only responsible course he could take.

Granted, that’s assuming Hartwell is “responsible.”

The AP reporter tried to reach anti-everything Vermonters for a Clean Environment for reaction to the report, but “no one from the organization responded.”

I think I can fill in the blank:

The report was skewed, the consultant was in the pocket of Big Energy, the FCC is corrupt, our own favorite research says otherwise, Big Brother is Watching, the black helicopters are coming, and wind turbines are worse than nuclear power.  

Did I get that about right?

12 thoughts on “Smart meters: no problem

  1. Some people are not terribly well versed in math or science, and any technology that requires understanding concepts such as “inverse square of the distance,” or “declines exponentially” may as well be some magical device of great (and thus harmful) power.  

  2. You’re precisely right about VCE.  Here’s the Brattleboro Reformer this morning:

    “But Vermonters for a Clean Environment, which describes itself as an environmental advocacy group that works to ensure citizens have a voice in the regulatory process, said the study was flawed.

    “Our concerns have to do with the need to accurately assess the emissions from the wireless smart meters,” said Matt Levin, the group’s outreach and development director. “While I have not read the report in detail, based on our conversations with department staff and the consultants who performed the report, we do not believe the testing was accurate or done in an unbiased, independent manner.””


    “”There’s another set of health concerns — anecdotally people experience nausea, headaches, dizziness — heart problems, that seem to correlate with exposure to the wireless smart meter,” Levin said.

    Levin said his group had asked to work with the state to establish the scope of the study and select the firm to conduct it.

    “All we have is another thing to argue about, and that’s not helpful,” Levin said.”

  3. Are there more smart meter legislative mandated studies pending? A Rutland Herald article from Jan. 2nd mentions one study due at the end of next month(Feb.) and another that was going out to bid.(It appears this will be paid for by the GMP by the way)

    The department paid the Washington-based Richard Tell Associates $68,000 to perform the work, results of which will be presented to the Legislature next month. Porter[DPS] said the department had not yet seen the findings.

    The second study – the bid deadline is Jan. 18 – seeks an expert to review the growing body of scientific literature on radio-frequency emissions, then submit an update to the Department of Health.

    Lawmakers didn’t attach a dollar figure to the study, and the request for proposals doesn’t stipulate a maximum cost. Porter said he has no idea how much the study will cost or whether price will figure in the department’s decision to pick one bidder over another.

  4. Ah, yes, the contempt and belittlement of those that are sensitive to RF.

    There actually are people that are sensitive to RF, just like there are people sensitive to perfumes and cigaret smoke.  Just because you are not, doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to be rude to those that are.

    When my RF sensitive friend comes to visit, I graciously turn off all my RF devices: wireless phone, cell phone, wireless network router and computer cards.    This is called ‘being polite’.  But I wouldn’t be able to turn off the electric meter.  So my guest would not be comfortable.

    GMP could have chosen the wired version of these meters, but they did not.  When I called GMP to ask about having a wired meter installed instead of the wireless version, no one there even knew that a wired smart meter even existed.  If GMP’s Marketing Department would have allowed for the wired meters, I would have been happy to install one of those.  But they chose to only buy the wireless versions (and deploy them in places that doesn’t have wireless coverage so they are useless anyway).

    GMP has decided that one-size-fits-all and to hell with those that complain.  It seems that GMD supports that contempt.

  5. To the best of my knowledge, there are, as yet, no restrictions on who has access to the information generated by these smart meters. No commitment from GMP to keep the info private, although you’d think they’d have a vested interest in keeping it private, no requirement in law for any police agency to get a search warrant or a subpoena for any given customer’s information from GMP.

    Not much different from warrantless access to the prescription drug database or collecting and retaining teraflops of license plate data (including date, time and location) on people who have done nothing to trigger such surveillance.


    The fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a greater danger to the privacy of the individual. ~ Earl Warren

  6. Comrade R., your friend is sadly deluded. People have studied the “RF sensitive” and found in double blind studies that these people can’t truly tell when an RF source is on or off. Their supposed detection abilities are no better than chance.

    No contempt, at least on my part, but weariness in the face of magical thinking, yet again. It’s a common human trait we all need to fight against.

    I’ll echo Nanuq’s privacy concerns, but that is a legal, constitutional problem, not a psychological one.

  7. The health effects simply don’t exist, but there must be controls over data access. Of course, there should already be controls over access to the data they already have. Most of what comes from a smart meter is information they already gather, with a few tweaks if a household contains any smart appliances (like a refrigerator that sends a signal saying “I’m a refrigerator”).

    Of course, they already receive data about the power spike when the refrigerator kicks in, but not all appliances have differentiable power spikes. Right now, your dishwasher and your water pump may look the same in the data, unless one or the other is a smart appliance that sends a self-identifying signal. It’s a topic that needs to be addressed whether or not smart meters are rolled out.

    And just for the record, if we want to address climate change, we must update the grid to make it possible to direct power where it’s needed, from the nearest source. This makes it possible to use a much smaller “baseload” of power (by reducing line losses, which are a huge waste of energy), thus allowing a much larger percentage of sustainable power technology. A smart grid can only do its job with real-time data from the consumption end.  

  8. I’d like to see the data flow in the other direction. Consider the possibility of real time pricing, with the data about the momentary price of electricity flowing back to your house. Your home control system could decide whether or not to turn on an appliance depending on whether demand (and therefore price) is high or low. You could look at a display on the wall and decide whether to turn on the washing machine or wait.

    Back in the 70s some friends of mine had what they called “the evil eye” on the wall of their kitchen. Just a little light in a switch plate. They were on time-of-use pricing and the light came on when there was on-peak pricing. Cheap, simple, and it saved them a bundle.

  9. The display in their kitchen tells them the current price of electricity, the # of kwH they’re currently consuming, the amount their solar panels are producing, and the amount they will pay (or receive) for the difference between the two.

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