7 Halloween Electric Meter Fears

By Vernon Trollinger, October 4, 2011, Energy Efficiency, FAQs, News

I noticed recently that grocery stores are carrying Halloween candy early this year. Some also have costumes and decorations out, too. On the web, a couple of blogs have set out some scary jack-o-lanterns of their own. The Electricity Providers’ blog article, “7 Reasons to Fear Your New Electric Meter” is a fun ghost story at best. Based on techno-dread and half-baked thinking, the anonymous Admin catalogues 7 fearful “facts” about smart meters that try to scare you out of your intelligence as 21st Century energy consumer:

1. They are a breach of your privacy…

Half-baked thinking. Admin doesn’t explicitly say what the threat to personal privacy is. Rather, he cryptically hints that Texas energy providers will gather all kinds of personal information without the consumer’s knowledge. The truth is that the meter shows data from fifteen minute intervals of power usage through out the day as well as whether there were any disruptions to the power supply in the house or outages outside the house. In addition, Texas Utilities Code 39.107(b) states “All meter data, including all data generated, provided, or otherwise made available, by advanced meters and meter information networks, shall belong to a customer, including data used to calculate charges for service, historical load data, and any other proprietary customer information.”

2. They threaten your health – The new electronic meter bombards our homes using radio-frequency radiation, the same as that of cellphones, which has been linked to a rise in brain cancer. People with “electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” or E.H.S., assert that radio-frequency radiation causes them to suffer dizziness, fatigue, headaches, sleeplessness or heart palpitations.

Techno-dread. Admin hope here that consumers are clueless when it comes to radio-frequency (RF) radiation. The fact is that the modern world is drenched with RF and electro-magnetic (EM) radiation from radar, radio and TV broadcasting, cable TV, cell phones, computers, doorbell transformers, toaster ovens, electric blankets, ultrasonic pest control devices, electric bug zappers, heating pads, induction cook tops and microwave ovens. Even the old style meter gave off RF and EM radiation due to the fact that any electrical current induces these kinds of radiation . EHS, meanwhile, is a highly controversial topic. The World Health Organization says, “EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure.” At any rate, it’s highly unlikely that most sensible consumers will spend hours with their heads pressed up against the smart meter’s transmitter.

3. You have no choice…

Half-baked thinking. Admin is saying the new meter is being crammed down the consumer’s throat by the REPs. The fact is that in 2007, the Texas Legislature voted that “advanced meter data networks be deployed as rapidly as possible to allow customers to better manage energy use and control costs” . Likewise, consumers might also keep in mind some other industry standardizations that are crammed down their throat that allow their electrical appliances to function: alternating current (AC), 110/220 volts at 60 hertz, polarized outlet recepticals, wire insulation standards, and grounded wiring. Shocking, indeed.

4. You have to pay for it – Most providers start a monthly charge once the new meters are installed.

Half-baked thinking. Admin makes it sound like it’s another fee from his REP. The fact is here from the Texas PUC: “Electric customers in the service areas receiving smart meters pay a monthly surcharge that is included in their monthly electric bill. The Texas Legislature and the Public Utility Commission authorized the utilities to recover the costs of (Advanced Metering System) AMS deployment through this surcharge. REPs get nothing from it.

5. You automatically become part of Obama’s “green grid” campaign…

Techno-dread AND half-baked thinking. Admin is pandering to the politically disaffected. Smart meters provide real-time usage data that allows transmission and generation companies to accurately monitor power usage when demand is so high that the power grid courts disaster (this summer’s triple digit temps). The fact is that ERCOT is reducing its surplus capacity to lower energy costs to consumers. One way ERCOT accomplishes this and maintains reliability is by having accurate real-time information on consumer usage and demand from Smart Meters.

6. The electric company can control your electricity –Sure, we all know that the electric company has the power to turn on or off your electricity at will, but now it takes even less time.

Half-baked thinking here. Admin hints that electrical power is actually an entitlement. Grown-up consumers in the real world know that electricity is both a commodity and service.  Unless you make your own Texas electricity, you must buy what you use and pay for its delivery. BTW: it takes just the same amount of time to turn it on.

7. Anyone can control your electricity – The new meters are compatible with the ZigBee communications system, allowing homeowners to “regulate and monitor” their electricity usage…

Classic techno-dread. Admin trots out the oft-flogged cliche of a gifted hacker who can hack into any electric utility’s network. He runs amok with whole sections of the Texas grid until he gets a date with a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. …And this happened how many times in the past two years?

Texas electricity consumers have a lot to contend with when they’re trying to find the best Texas energy rates to fit their lifestyle. With all the useful information available on the web, there is also a lot of poor, inaccurate information. And then there are blog pages (like Admin’s here) that are impoverished of any accurate information save that of half-baked thinking and fear. They’re more like jack-o-lanterns: scary on the outside but hollow and dim on the inside.

Happy Halloween.

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