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Crossroads 2012: meters and the future

I'm seeing conflicting reports on the state of grid modernization, from rosy scenarios on spending to dire warnings of a drop-off in spending. 

Meanwhile, the drumbeat against interval meters continues. Could a wholesale uproar over meters affect grid modernization and spending on same? I occasionally bring examples of anti-meter rants to your attention because I think the industry needs to know what it's facing. 

"Smart grid equals worse than dumb idea" is the title of an op-ed column appearing in the Gaston Gazette last week in Gaston County, North Carolina, by Cheryl Pass. 

Now, I have reservations about how so-called smart meters have been sold, and I think there are legitimate concerns about data privacy. But you and I both know that, if done right, interval meters enable a great deal of intelligence on the distribution system. They enable reliability and efficiency by playing a role in outage detection and restoration and serving as sensors that allow utilities to measure the effects of voltage conservation, among other things. 

On the customer side, yes, utilities have been slow to follow meter swap-outs with clear value for the customer, but regulators are keeping up the pressure for them to do so. 

Comes now Ms. Pass with her recent op-ed piece. 

"When utility companies and government collaborate, the buyer better beware," Pass wrote. "When complicit media tells you to reduce your energy consumption because of catastrophic climate predictions, followed up by government regulations forcing you to reduce your energy consumption, and then utility companies figure out how to make you buy less of their product while charging you more for it, you need to put the dots together and figure out why and who is driving this policy."

Naturally, my mind instead goes to what's driving this fact-less tirade?

"The first fact you need to know is that there is no man-made Global Climate Change Catastrophe," Pass wrote. "Environmentalists have gone from Chicken Little lunatics to modern-day scam artists." 

Hmmm. So far, not much about distribution system intelligence. 

"The latest energy scam?" snarled Pass. "Smart meters. Modernizing the energy grid for our nation seems like a good idea. Everyone wants a reliable energy supply. But the devil is in the details. Smart meters are an offense to all citizens for many reasons: 


1. Real-time surveillance by utilities and government

2. Health risks due to higher radio frequency concentrations

3. No cost-benefit to consumers, higher prices, peak-hour rates, opt-out fees

4. Higher danger of home theft, strangers' knowledge of personal activities within the home 

5. National security issues, larger grid networks at risk of hacking

6. Personal energy use information will be sold to manufacturers

So far, so good—an almost perfectly fact-free "opinion" piece. But there's more!

"Are you willing to pay astronomically higher rates to cook your dinner in the evening or take your shower in the morning?" Pass wrote. "Are you willing to give some stranger access to your personal life habits? Are you interested in exposing your family and yourself to extremely high radio frequencies? Do you think our energy grid should be one huge system, vulnerable to enemy hackers? Who do you want in charge of your thermostat? Laundry at midnight, anyone?

"Over recent years, the public has been told that fossil fuel energy is too scarce, when new sources of oil and gas energy and methods of retrieving them are being discovered daily," Pass continued, sowing a veritable field of straw men. "The public has been told that it is bad to buy from evil enemies of the U.S. and that our only option is to cut our energy use to the bone, when, in fact, it is government restricting supplies.

"Governments at all levels are pushing energy consumers into some guilt-ridden psychosis, with the goal of forcing Americans to use less energy. While efficient energy use is a reasonable personal goal, our leadership has gone into the netherworld of zero allowable carbon goals, completely unattainable goals that will require rationing. The perfect tool for rationing would be the smart meter. 

"I urge you to adamantly reject any utility company placing a smart meter surveillance device on your home or business. I also encourage you to alert your lawmakers that you will not, now or ever, accept the installation of such a device on your home or business."

What can I add here, except that it might behoove a utility executive to rebut this tangled web of paranoia and misinformation. I'd like to feature such a rebuttal.

I could write such a piece. But I'd rather hear from the power industry on this one. Any takers to rebut Pass' assertions? It's no biggie to me, girding as I am for a whole summer of lies as the presidential election warms up. But the critics of interval meters aren't going away. And they make well take the future of grid modernization with them. 

For more fun with meters, see: 

"IEE's Wood: Opt-out? Pay the Cost!"

"Dayton Power & Light: An Exception Worth Considering"

Phil Carson
Intelligent Utility Daily


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