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updated: 12/19/2011 5:25 AM

Con: Expense, safety, security, privacy make meters bad choice

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  • Jeff Perkins

      Jeff Perkins

By Jeff Perkins

As an electrical engineer who worked in the power industry, I wanted to know, "What makes 'smart meters' smart?" I found that due to expense, safety, security and privacy, their deployment is not smart at all.

"Smart" meters will enable the city to bill residents based on peak load and time of use, rather than monthly energy usage. As a result, the variable cost of electricity will eventually be passed on to Naperville ratepayers.

Smart meters include a "kill" switch enabling the power to the whole house to be remotely shut off by the city for any reason, or by any third party who hacks into the unsecure system.

The "choice" offered customers requires the purchase of additional equipment by the ratepayers in order to benefit from eportal reporting capabilities. Possibly a cool function, if you have time to monitor it.

Naperville's business case alleges a positive return on the $22 million project. Most of the "savings" are overstated. The biggest source, "conservation voltage reduction," doesn't require smart meters at all.

Voluntarily shifting electricity usage to cheaper times is another alleged savings. Studies are very clear: most residential loads are not time-shiftable; users want access to electricity when they need it, not when it's cheapest.

The "business case" makes no provisions for ongoing maintenance (particularly of the software). Additionally, in order for wireless meters to transmit data, residents are being asked to destroy trees, landscaping and property improvements without compensation. To date, the $22 million project is upward of $36 million, resulting from the interest accrued on bonds needed to fund the project.

Smart meter proponents claim the meters emit less radiation than cellphones and meet FCC guidelines. FCC guidelines are inadequate in assessing today's RF exposure.

According to the WHO/IARC, wireless RF emissions are a possible carcinogen. The meters emit radiation 24/7 according to utility executives' own admissions. Naperville's RF study disclaimer reads: "This report does not address or comment on the potential health impacts of low power non-ionizing RF." (9/22/11, pg. 6)

The wireless component of "smart" meters creates grid system security risks, state top security firms. As recently simulated in Seattle, a virus was propagated through the system, cutting power to residents and blocked the ability of power to be restored.

Smart meters provide intimate knowledge of users daily habits via electric profiling.

Mandating "smart" meters erodes our constitutional rights and infringes upon our civil liberties and personal property rights.

On Nov. 15, more than 4,200 residents filed a petition to have the "smart" meter project placed as a referendum item on the March 2012 ballot. Residents demonstrated they want to vote on this project.

Governments in California, Nevada, Maine and elsewhere are rethinking their desirability.

This is a highly marketed project on a hyped up gadget that is not showing return on investment. We can't afford them and ratepayers assume all the risk. The smartest thing to do with smart meters is to keep them out of our community.

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