Friday, July 04, 2014
Smart meters generate strong feelings — how will they be received in Bermuda?
The electricity utility could face a surge of opposition to controversial plans to install smart meter units in every Bermuda home — if experience elsewhere is anything to go by.
Smart meter installations are one of the first things that Belco plans to transition Bermuda’s electricity generation from being powered by diesel oil to liquefied natural gas.
Faced with recent faulty readings from existing meters, Belco believes that installing new technology meters would solve many problems.
They are following in the footsteps of other jurisdictions which have already installed the units, or advanced a plan to do so — but not without finding the issue to be a live wire.
In fact, the controversy over the use of these devices has already electrified communities across the United States, Australia, Canada and the UK.
And one California anti-smart meter campaigner, after reading about the Belco plans in an online story from The Royal Gazette, has questioned the Bermuda move.
Joshua Hart of Stop Smart Meters! in California told us: “The question is, with all the evidence of harm from other smart meter deployments around the world, why is Bermuda rushing forward with a risky, expensive scheme whose benefits have not been demonstrated by utility and smart grid firms?”
Mr Hart has worked in the energy industry, as a transportation planner, environmental advocate, and freelance journalist.
He said: “Here are some important points to consider:
“1) There is no independent evidence that smart meters actually reduce energy consumption. There is significant evidence that when the running costs, manufacturing costs, and replacement costs are considered, smart meters actually consume more power than they save. (http://af.reuters.com/article/idAFLDE6860P520100908?pageNumber=2 & virtualBrandChannel=0)
“2) While we support local renewable energy development, such as solar thermal water heaters and solar photovoltaic, the first thing that needs to happen is a focus on energy efficiency. So-called ‘smart’ meters benefit the utility in several ways, but take away the rights of the consumer to be safe from radiation that the WHO classifies as a possible cancer causing agent, be free from privacy invasions, home fires, and to be billed for energy in an accurate, transparent way.”
A Belco statement in response to our queries yesterday said: “Internationally, there are vocal supporters and opponents to smart meters and smart metering programs. Smart meters have been widely deployed in many jurisdictions.
“In order to be successful, smart metering should be thoughtfully rolled out with agreed-to objectives that take into account consumer interests and the value of the programme to consumers and the utility.
“These considerations will be important as Belco formulates a recommendation for Bermuda.”
Belco is not alone in defending the use of smart meters. The American Cancer Society’s website says: “Because smart meter antennas typically are located outside the home, people are much farther away from the source of RF waves than with personal cell phones, cordless phones, or Wi-Fi routers. “In addition, walls between the person and the smart meter’s antenna further reduce the amount of RF energy exposure. For these reasons, the exposure to RF energy from smart meters is estimated to be much less than the typical exposure people receive through cell phones, cordless phones, and/or home Wi-Fi routers.”
Stop Smart Meters! (UK) is an independent, not-for-profit voice calling for an immediate halt and reversal of the UK’s Smart Meter programme.
They say: “Our campaign aims to raise awareness about Smart Meters so that people can become informed about Smart Meters and take necessary and appropriate action to resist them. This is a very long way indeed from what Big Energy and Big Utility are trying to do.”
They quote Dr Dietrich Klinghardt MD PhD on their website: “The ‘Smart’ Meter is #1 in terms of devastation to our nervous system ... [the radiation] permanently destroys and alters the manufacture of brain proteins ... meaning that it completely changes the human organism — permanently.”
They are not alone. There is a surprising number of anti smart meter web sites online, reflecting a wide cross-section of communities.
Florida Against Smart Meters website lists these fears as follows:
“Smart Meters operate wirelessly by pulsing radio frequencies every few seconds, 24-hours per day. They cannot be turned off. This RF is the type of radiation produced by cell phones and microwaves. The utility providers openly admit that this is the same technology, but at a much lower level. However, they omit that you will not only be affected by the device operating at your house, but you will be within range of all of your neighbours Smart Meters. The more neighbours you have increases your exposure to the device radiation.
“Across the country people are experiencing heath problems from Smart Meters. Many people have sensitivity to electronic radiation and will suffer ringing in the ears (tinnitus), sleep disruption, headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, skin cancers and fatigue. There are numerous studies that link cancer to exposure of RF radiation. Not to mention that these devices can interfere with pace makers and other medical equipment inside of the home.
“Most people are aware of the health risks posed by cell phones and microwaves and these devices are not generally run 24 hours per day. As a consumer you have the right to not use these devices, however you do not have the option with Smart Meters. Tests have been performed to prove that Smart Meter radiation is penetrating the exterior walls and can be found at constant and persistent levels within the interior of the home.
“Smart Meters will be measuring your electricity usage multiple times per hour and wirelessly sending this information back to your utility provider. This information will allow the study of your usage and can reveal much about your personal habits and daily routine. Such examples include:
— What time you get up in the morning.
— How long you are at work and when you get home.
— If there is activity in the middle of the night.
— When you are absent from home for prolonged periods (such as a vacation).
“Your activity will be chartable and possibly even predictable over time. You will be able to review this information on FPL or JEA’s website, but they will be storing this information in their database and many other people will have access to the records. There has been no indication or assurance (such as a contractual agreement with the utility company) that this data is completely private and confidential.
“The utility provider could sell information collected about you to third parties, such as advertisers and the government. Even if your identity is kept anonymous, do you feel comfortable knowing that your personal habits and routine are being watched and documented permanently?
“There have been numerous incidents of fires involving Smart Meters due to their construction and faulty installation.
“Consumers are reporting increases in their monthly utility bill rather than a savings after the installation of a Smart Meter. Since electricity consumption is being monitored in real time instead of once per month, the utility company can regulate and ration electricity usage. This has been documented in many areas of the country.
“There are proposals for appliances in the near future to include corresponding technology. They will be able to remit data wirelessly to the utility company about the type of appliance and its usage inside your home.”