Thinking Tech

"Berkeley of the East" calls for smart meter moratorium

Posting in Energy

Smart meters are supposed to further the environmental cause, so why do some people want to put a stop to them?

I live in one of the greenest, crunchiest, granola-loving towns on the east coast. And I love it. But there are times when even I'm taken aback by local sentiment. The latest case in point is the flyer that appeared on my street calling for a wireless smart meter moratorium. The purpose of smart meters is to measure and report energy usage. More data helps utility companies better manage peak loads, which in turn has the potential to help conserve energy overall, and even save consumers money on their monthly bills.

There is apparently, however, a dark side to smart meters.

The flyer in my neighborhood warns of radiation, potential fires, interference with pacemakers, and (my favorite) the VIOLATION OF PRIVACY imposed on citizens forced to use smart meters.

I'm all in favor of rigorous radiation testing, but I also know that I don't plan to sleep with my head pressed up against a smart meter. Potential fires? Maybe. But I could also end up with one of those from the citronella candles I light on my porch.

As for pacemaker interference, there are many sources of radio frequency signals today, which is why pacemakers manufacturers are required to test their devices for susceptibility to interference.

And then there's the privacy matter. If you want to opt out of modern society, so be it. But it strikes me as a bit absurd to condemn the power company for collecting data on power usage -- particularly when anyone sitting outside your home could tell just as easily as the power company when the lights are on.

I don't mean to be flip, but creating more energy-efficient homes and a more sustainable power infrastructure are important issues. Let's not let paranoia get in the way.

And for further reading on the subject, check out Charlie Osborne's recent smart meter health round-up.

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Mari Silbey

Contributing Editor

Mari Silbey is an independent tech writer based in Washington, D.C. With a background in cable and telecom, she's a contributor to several trade publications, and part of the GigaOM analyst network. She also writes for the long-running digital media blog Zatz Not Funny, and has written for both corporate and association clients focused on broadband networks, mobile apps, and video delivery. She's a graduate of Duke University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure