Your electric meter: A villain or hero?

Before energy became a hot topic, no one cared about the electric meter.  It was the box on the house we all ignored except the guy from the utility who dodged the barking dogs to take a reading from it once in awhile.

It is a sign of our times that this box now inspires enough emotion for people to take to the streets. Protesters gathered outside the California Public Utilities Commission last week claiming that new metering technology not only makes people sick, but also violates their Constitutional rights. http://stopsmartmeters.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/feb-16th-protest-at... Such opposition has been going on in California for months and has spread to other states.

On the other end of the spectrum, new or ‘smart’ meters are hailed as the addiction counselors that will save us from our dependence on foreign energy. Thus, utilities are rapidly replacing our ignored ‘dumb’ meters with the new smart version. North America and Europe will replace 45% their meters with smart ones by 2015, according to Pike Research. http://www.pikeresearch.com/research/smart-meters

So it is not a surprise to see that the Electric Power Research Institute weighed in recently with a study on the safety of smart meters. The study concluded that the radio-frequency (RF) exposure levels from the meters – at least the type examined by EPRI  –are too low to be any danger to human health.  In fact, the study found smart meter emis­sions, even at the maximum point, are about equal to emissions from WiFi routers and radio and television transmission. They are far lower than exposure fields from cell phones or microwave ovens, according to EPRI. www.epri.com

Known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), the new wireless meter uses digital technology to allow for two way communication between the household and the utility. Used optimally, the smart meter provides price signals from the utility so that consumers can choose when to do laundry, cook dinner or undertake other energy-consuming activities. The idea is to discourage use of the electric grid when it is under strain. This allows us to cut back on the number of peaking power plants we must build. These plants, which use fossil fuels, emit harmful pollutants.

So whichever side you take, whether you think of smart meters as hero or villain, there are health issues to consider. Smart meters increase RF exposure; lack of smart meters over the long term increases emissions from power generation.

No doubt we will hear much more about this issue. Indeed, EPRI sees its study as just the first step in responding to public concern.

But one thing is for certain, the meter is no longer the ignored box on the house. Like much in energy, its significance is rising in US policy, economic and health debate. Energy is front and center in the public psyche. That’s a good thing, since smart boxes will only get us so far in energy planning; smart consumers are the key.

This blog is open source & copyright free with attribution to www.RealEnergyWriters.com. Visit Elisa Wood at www.realenergywriters.com and pick up her free weekly newsletter and podcast.

Views: 40

Comment

You need to be a member of Home Energy Pros to add comments!

Join Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros was founded by the developers of Home Energy Saver Pro (sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy,) and brought to you in partnership with Home Energy magazine.

Latest Activity

Craig Foley posted an event
Thumbnail

NESEA BuildingEnergy '15 at Seaport World Trade Center, Boston

March 4, 2015 from 10:30am to 12:30pm
High-Performance, Green Homes in Residential Real EstateInstructor Craig Foley will present three…See More
21 hours ago
Casey Gesell posted a video

ThermalDry® Insulated Floor Decking!

Larry Janesky, owner and founder of Dr. Energy Saver is once again On the Job insulating and finishing a basement in the northeast – and introducing a brand new insulation product: ThermalDry Insulated Floor Decking. ThermalDry Floor Decking was…
21 hours ago
Profile IconBergen Heat, Travis Thom and Amita Singh joined Home Energy Pros
yesterday
Tom White's video was featured

U.S. Department of Education Webinar for HVACR Educators

Rebroadcast from On April 30, 2013 Sharon Miller and Robin Utz of the U.S. Department of Education conducted a one hour webinar for HVACR educators to provide them firsthand information from Washington. Highlights include: * A blueprint to revise…
yesterday
Tom White posted a video

U.S. Department of Education Addresses HVACR Educators 4-30-2013

Rebroadcast from On April 30, 2013 Sharon Miller and Robin Utz of the U.S. Department of Education conducted a one hour webinar for HVACR educators to provid...
yesterday
Nate Adams's discussion was featured
yesterday
Bud Poll replied to Bud Poll's discussion CO poisoning in Yarmouth Maine
"Hi Chad, I sure would like to hear the follow-up on what caused the CO issue down there.  As…"
yesterday
Chad Mcaulife replied to Bud Poll's discussion CO poisoning in Yarmouth Maine
"I got a call yesterday from a homeowner who had a direct vent furnace installed a year ago and she…"
yesterday

© 2015   Created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service