Naperville addressing concerns with Smart Grid

Naperville City Council members unanimously approved a Smart Grid Bill of Rights, but not before attempting to quell the fears of about a dozen residents.

Several residents, a few of whom claimed to have just learned about the city’s Smart Grid initiative, asked the city on Tuesday to impose a yearlong moratorium on installing the grid so more could be learned about any harmful side effects.

Joane St. Yves, a 17-year resident who works out of her home, said she is concerned about health issues and the lack of long-term studies into the possible effects.

“How do you know for sure it’s safe? We need to be very careful how we proceed,” she said. “We should take 12 months to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep Naperville a safe place.”

City Manager Doug Krieger insisted the Smart Grid meters are safe, emitting far fewer electromagnetic fields than a cell phone, but said his staff is discussing alternatives for residents who remain concerned.

“If we thought we were doing something unsafe, we wouldn’t do it,” Krieger said. “We are looking at some alternatives for citizens who have concerns.”

The Bill of Rights approved Tuesday addresses resident concerns of another nature, outlining the rights electric customers will have regarding information, privacy, options and data security.

Customers will have the ability to choose between the time-of-day pricing model facilitated by the smart meter, whereby the price of electricity goes up with demand or to keep the same fixed-rate pricing currently available.

Customers also are guaranteed the right to “retain control of all in-home devices and appliances” and the right to file a privacy violation complaint with the city’s Public Utilities Advisory Board.

Ultimately the Smart Grid Initiative aims to help the city and residents save energy and money by placing new meters at roughly 57,000 homes and businesses starting this summer and ending in 2012.

The Smart Grid is a $22 million upgrade to Naperville’s nearly $360 million electric system that officials believe will cut energy costs for the city and its residents.

The smart meters are designed to help the city and residents do a better job of tracking energy use. Officials hope the ability to monitor consumption will encourage residents to use less energy or use it during off-peak hours.

Naperville is one of roughly 100 communities nationwide planning to install the new technology.

The city was conditionally awarded a U.S. Department of Energy matching-funds grant for its Smart Grid Initiative in October 2009 and the city agreed to move forward with the program in April 2010.