By Patty Durand, executive director, SGCC
I attended GreenTech Media’s Networked Grid event on March 20-21, northwest of
Los Angeles, where an incident occurred that may require the power industry’s
attention. (Of course, the conference overall was informative and
At an evening reception on March 19, I chatted with a woman who asked me about
health and safety risks from smart meters and cited the Fourth Amendment in the
Bill of Rights, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure.
I responded that smart meters are safe and not instruments of privacy invasion.
I offered her an SGCC fact
sheet on the matter; she declined.
(The link above is to an SGCC smart grid FAQ. The SGCC also offers fact sheets
meters and radio
The next day, I recognized this woman among a handful of protestors who
apparently registered for the event as students and who proceeded to disrupt a
panel on scaling intelligent distribution grids. The protestors shouted loudly
about “bias,” “safety” and “forcing people out of their homes,” according to my
notes. They were escorted from the room. Outside the venue, perhaps 30-40 people
were involved in a related protest march. I had experienced related activity
last October at GridWeek 2012, where a radio frequency emissions expert and a
data privacy expert were prepared to answer questions from anyone, including
At the risk of providing a platform for people who charge, without evidence,
that smart meters are dangerous to human health or the instrument of Big
Brother, I wonder whether the power industry is doing enough to counter these falsehoods.
While I understand the desire to avoid undue controversy by raising the issue
or by paying attention to people who seem impervious to factual information,
research conducted by the SGCC would appear to underscore the alternative risks
of remaining silent.
Our research shows that fully half the American public has never heard of
“smart meters” or “smart grid.” In fact, the general public’s perceptions on
these topics are a blank slate. The good news is that when people are informed
about the implications of grid modernization for greater energy efficiency,
reduced frequency and duration of outages and home energy management, they tend
to be receptive and positive.
While many if not most utilities that are deploying smart meters or adding
intelligence to their grids provide solid information on a Web site and/or make
aggressive outreach efforts to educate their
customers, much of what reaches local, even national headlines are the wild
claims of opponents.
In short, that blank slate is getting plastered with graffiti and my question
is whether the power industry as a whole needs to step up its game in this
regard and/or put forth national spokespeople who can provide solid, factual
information to compete with the baseless negativity.
Certainly there are legitimate questions from decent people simply seeking
reassurances that smart meters and smarter grids are safe and provide value.
Data privacy and security are bona fide concerns, as are questions about who
pays, why and what value can be expected as a result.
For its part, the SGCC has posted a “Myth Busting” video on
YouTube for industry stakeholders to use – it’s not
just up to the utilities alone to inform the public. We’ll soon post a “Pricing
Plan” fact sheet on the SGCC website to give stakeholders a sense of how to
manage and benefit under a dynamic pricing offering.
As the SGCC’s executive director, I’m taking this message far and wide this
year. My next speaking engagement will be tomorrow at the Smart Grid Road Show
on April 2-3 in Scottsdale, AZ, on the topic, “Understanding Consumer Awareness
of Smart Grid.”
I welcome your thoughts on today’s thesis and how best to provide factual
information to a public that remains largely unaware, but potentially susceptible