Not only are the new "smart" meters utilities have been installing around Vermont more likely to report higher usage, but they create power quality problems that can disrupt the current coming into your home leading to equipment malfunctions.
Radio Frequency interference has been implicated in computer hard-drive failures and other IT equipment and appliances. In manifold areas, complications from wireless smart meters are on the rise.
In a diagram depicting a "smart" house as envisioned by a DOE Micro-grid Demonstration Project, there are 14 Radio Frequency Radiation (RFR) emitting gadgets including the smart meter; appliances, gateway, portal, battery storage unit, home area network etc. . . to enable the homeowner to better monitor his/her electricity use. According to NY Times science writer and author Blake Levitt: "This is massively complex, over-engineered and insane.
The whole concept is it's own Achilles heel." The cartoon characters George Jetson and family might feel at home in this futuristic tech-designer showcase, minus the EPV charging station; the Jetsons skipped EPV's and went straight to mini-spaceships. Cartoon characters aren't bothered by high levels of ambient RFR either.
Meanwhile, after a 10,000 customer pilot study showed no energy savings and discriminatory rates, Connecticut's Attorney General George Jepsen concluded a wireless smart meter project wouldn't merit the $500 million price tag.
Considering pilot study participants are paid, provided with interface gear and spoon fed instructions on how to maximize savings, the forecast for the general public isn't promising. Out of 300 million smart meters deployed in California, only 25 thousand homeowners, or 1percent, participate.
Utilities enthuse about empowering customers with knowledge of their electricity use, but that knowledge is intended to coerce homeowners through punitive, tiered pricing, ie behavior modification.
Jump through those hoops or pay the consequences. But even If you can afford to buy expensive electricity monitoring and control systems and "smart" appliances, it's unlikely you will ever re-coup those costs through energy savings. If you aren't inclined to micromanage your use, utilities are.
"Eventually, CVPS (GMP) intends to introduce active load control. Through active load control, a customer would agree to allow CVPS (GMP) to turn pre-determined appliances on or off based on real-time prices." (VT Environmental Law Center, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Energy Efficiency and Demand Response Presentation) In theory, "shaving" peak use means utilities will buy less of the most expensive electricity, but utilities' control of appliances introduces a host of potential liabilities. What happens if you're away and your "smart" oil burner is accidentally shut off in winter, or an oven turned on? Nationally, many utilities have transitioned to new rate schemes, with often shocking results. In a New York Times article, "'Smart' Meters Draw Complaints of Inaccuracy" by Tom Zeller Jr. (Nov. 12, 2010), Sgt. John Robertson 2nd says the smart meter is "inaccurately measuring his family's power use and driving up his bills some months by as much as 50 percent, to as high as $320 since it was installed in December. This, he said, is despite his efforts to cut back on energy use.
"I've done two tours in Iraq, and when I come home I'm getting ripped off by my electric meter," said Sergeant Robertson, who with his wife, Kim, is raising four children on a tight budget." Traditional flat rates meant utilities bore the risk of fluctuating energy markets. With the introduction of tiered pricing, from Time of Use to Real Time Pricing (hourly pricing), the risk is shifted onto customers. The Vermont Public Service Department approves rate increases, but a Dynamic Pricing scheme is based on volatile, hourly rates; what level of risk is acceptable? If a speculator in the electricity market decides to gamble a la Enron, it is likely rate-payers will be on the hook.
If we could wipe the state clean of wireless smart meters, a simpler solution would engage Vermonters' sense of civic duty. Some thought recycling wouldn't work; now the majority do their part to reduce waste.
There are roughly 100 hours of critical peak electricity during the year, one of the highest days being the 4th of July. Is this information classified? Why not invite Vermonters to participate in reducing their electricity use during those peak times of day, holidays, temperature extremes etc. . . Instead, we have a complicated, extortionate scheme where utilities benefit at the expense of homeowners. And unlike cartoon characters, human beings are not immune to the harmful effects of microwave radiation.
Call your utility's customer service and Opt Out now; there is no fee.
Martine Victor is a resident of Manchester