EWEB, WIRELESS “Smart Meters” and the “Smart Grid”

Appealing to a technology-infatuated public despite mounting evidence of  serious risks, EWEB is proposing to join a nationwide stampede among utility companies motivated by federal incentive funding to replace mechanical analog electricity and water meters with a version of a WIRELESS digital “smart meter” that transmits utility use data via Radio Frequency (RF) sometimes known as Microwaves (MW) electromagnetic radiation communicating eventually with “smart enabled appliances”  (in the trade this is referred to as ADVANCED METER INFRASTRUCTURE + (AMI+) linked into eventual “smart grids.”

(Some other utilities are installing smart gas meters, but EWEB provides only water and electricity.)

An October 5, 2010, Scientific American article described the Smart Grid as “a dangerously dumb idea” that would tie our electrical power system to the Internet, making entire regions as well as individual households vulnerable to private hacking, malicious disruption, electricity theft, government surveillance, criminal and other rogue surveillance and risks not fully identified (as we have discovered with other digital technology).

Moreover, newer electrical smart appliances equipped to communicate with the smart meters COULD allow information on ratepayer daily habits to be accessible to others without ratepayer permission.  Disabling these communication devices would generally invalidate the customer’s appliance warranty.

With strong criticism of the smart grid coming from many directions, energy corporations and governments now are challenged to explain to an increasingly disapproving public why they continue to fast-track smart meters in hopes of realizing an increasingly nebulous smart grid. It is as if one branch of the government does not know what the other is doing.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey has called the smart grid “REALLY REALLY stupid.”   In a recent survey 77% of information technology professionals showed great concern about the insecurity of the smart grid.

Citizen groups and organizations throughout the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere have launched legal actions to stop installation of smart meters, citing cost increases, (faulty meters have indicated bills doubling within a month and other disparities), health risks, safety problems, privacy concerns, grid vulnerability and undemocratic processes.

In British Columbia, Citizens for Safe Technology <www.citizensforsafetechnology.org> and the BC Coalition to Stop Smart Meters are leading a growing challenge. Recently, B.C. changed course and is allowing ratepayers to OPT OUT of wireless meters – for a fee.

Options for opting out of the smart metering program have been announced in Ashland, OR, California, Maine, Vermont, Louisiana, Michigan, Connecticut, Quebec, the UK and the Netherlands.  HOWEVER, with WIRELESS smart meters – if a neighbor across the street has a smart meter installed and you do not – you may still experience adverse health effects. SO CAN YOU really opt out?

In the US, several regions including the counties of Santa Cruz and Marin are enforcing moratoriums. But individual consumers choosing to “opt out” of the smart grid system are typically charged an up front AND additional monthly or quarterly fee, thereby advantaging those more affluent ratepayers who can afford to protect their health and security with this option.

EWEB must follow the prudent lead of those choosing the “precautionary principle” to protect the health and safety of all its ratepayer-owners as well as itself from potentially massive liability – which could be the future if the fires and explosions and health related issues of other areas are allowed to be repeated here.