By Patty Durand, Executive Director, Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative
Take Back Your Power. It’s ironic this statement is the title of a forthcoming documentary spreading misinformation about smart grid and smart meters, as mentioned in an August 12 USA Today article titled “Documentary looks at possible problems with smart grids.” The statement “take back your power” should be associated with the benefits of a smart grid for consumers --- after all, a smart grid will give consumers the ability to take control over their energy usage, have more information about their energy consumption and experience fewer surprises on their energy bill than ever was possible before. We live in an increasingly digitized world, and digitization means more data and more knowledge for everyone, especially consumers.
The transformation of our electrical system to a smarter grid, which combines our electrical system with an information technology overlay, essentially allows a two-way flow of information about energy usage and delivery. Benefits include the potential to decrease carbon emissions as much as 9 percent, decrease the average household electric bill as much as $500 a year, and onboard more renewable energy resources like wind and solar power.
A critical element of a smart grid is digital meters – electric meters that enable two-way communication between consumers and their utility. Digital meters do this wirelessly, without the utility having to go onto private property to read a meter. Armed with this data, consumers can take control over their energy consumption and monthly bills and a utility can make better decisions about how they produce and dispatch electricity.
Yet the installation and deployment of digital meters as a foundational element of a smart grid occasionally comes under attack by various groups concerned about the health and privacy impacts of the digital meters. Research shows these concerns are unfounded:
- Health: The Radio Frequency (RF) emissions emitted by digital meters is well below the limits set by Federal Communications Commission and is ten-times below levels produced by other common household devices like cell phones, baby monitors, satellite TVs, and microwaves.
- Privacy: The privacy of consumer data is protected now as always. Ongoing efforts to protect utility data continues just as it does for banking, health, telephone, and all data. Utilities work constantly to safeguard it and that will not change with the use of smart meters.
The bottom line: the benefits of a smart grid will allow our nation to improve our aging electrical infrastructure and improve management of the growing demand for energy into the future. Most important of all, it will empower consumers, the opposite of what the article and documentary says. To learn more about the benefits of a smart grid, we encourage readers to visit www.whatissmartgrid.org. Too bad the Take Back Your Power crowd doesn't realize their position actually gives away consumer empowerment to manage their electric bill and know details about their usage.
SGCC has a working group responding to anti-smart meter campaigns. If you would like to become involved please let me know. We welcome your participation.