How Smart Are Smart Meters?

Smart phones, smart thermostats, smart door locks - it seems that anything today can start with the word smart if it performs its function remotely. This prefix certainly applies to the new “smart meters” O&R has begun installing in our area. These smart electric and gas meters give the the utility company the ability to switch off the power to our homes remotely and instantly. They are also able to provide the utility company with almost real time access to our power usage. This has caused concern about who has access to this data. For example, knowing the power consumption in your home can easily give someone access to information about whether you are home or not. Also, a controversial episode happened this past fall when victims of hurricane Harvey had their power cut off before the arrival of the hurricane in a pre-emptive move by the grid operator, causing anger and frustration with customers trying to evacuate.

The new meters transmit data via a microwave signal generated by a transmitter on the meter itself. Although the transmitters do not emit any ionizing radiation, the transmitter sends a signal in the same area of the electromagnetic spectrum as our cell phones, and other high frequency transmissions, creating an ever greater amount of electromagnetic pollution in our everyday lives. This has caused great concern among people who claim they are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation. Some states have begun to take notice. The state of New Mexico is pushing back against the installation of smart meters on private property.

O&R has not loudly advertised its decision to install smart meters, and many meters in our town have already been replaced without the knowledge of the homeowner, including this author’s. Customers can opt out at a cost; a penalty of $10 a month for electric, and $15 a month for both gas and electric. If a smart meter has already been installed, and you want it removed you will be charged a one time fee of $45 per electric meter, $55 per gas meter or $90 if you are a dual-service customer.

Go to the link below for the opt out procedure, which I must add, isn’t so “smart.” It needs to be mailed in on paper the old fashioned way.