Much to do has been made of the s0-called “smart meters” – electric meters that monitor the times electricity is used and transmit the data back to the utility company in order to bill customers based on the time they use electricity – charging higher rates for peak demand time and lower rates for electricity used during times of low demand. The idea is that by doing so, they could encourage customers to better manage their electricity use and schedule energy intensive tasks for times of low demand – for example, washing and drying clothes. This could help balance demand and lead to less need for more expensive peaking and load-following generation. It also can supposedly save the customer money, but it often does not.
There are some valid reasons to oppose having a smart meter:
- They could be considered part of an effort to shift the burden for reliable power and grid stability to the end customer.
- Depending on your usage, they may not save you money and could result in your costs going up.
- Life is complicated enough without having to worry about scheduling your tasks around the electric price schedule.
- Once you get one installed, it’s likely to be impossible to get it removed, so if your electric company is asking for customers to volunteer for the new meters, it might be worth waiting to see if they really do end up saving money before taking the plunge.
- You can tell a lot about someone from the times they use electricity (what days of the week they work, when they get up, when they leave for work, when they get home, when they go to sleep, when they are away from home etc) Not all utilities have been very forthcoming about how they treat the information and whether they consider it private. A telemarketer would definitely like to know what time would be good to call and bother you. Even if the utility company does not sell the information, the government could certainly get it, and these days, at least in the US, the authorities have been acting like search warrants are obsolete.
- The utility company may charge you a fee to install or for rental of the unit. Not all utilities have been forthcoming about this, and it would be especially irritating if it turns out that the meter does not save you any money, AND you had to pay for it.
For all of these reasons, if my utility company were to offer the option of having a smart meter or opting out, I would opt out, at least until the meters had been installed for a few months and it was possible to find out whether other customers really did experience savings and did not end up getting targeted advertisements for insomnia medication or to have pizza delivered right at the time they have dinner.
But there is also a completely bogus reason to oppose smart meters: fears of radiation. It’s ridiculous, not only unproven but completely out of line with decades of understanding of non-ionizing radiation. Despite this, claims that smart meters are causing everything from cancer to headaches have become rampant.
The signalling methods of smart meters:
Smart meters communicate with the utility company at regular intervals, updating them on the electricity used by customers. They do this by one of three methods.
Some of the oldest smart meters (which were generally limited to being installed at some industrial and commercial locations) use a telephone connection and an analog modem. About once a day, they dial up the utility and transmit metering information. This, however, is considered obsolete and is rarely seen anymore.
Another method in use is power line communications. In meters of this type, the information is transmitted back through the power grid itself. The data is encoded on a carrier wave or as a series of pulses and mixed onto the power line. A disadvantage of this method is that the power grid often needs to have some modifications in order to allow the signals to bypass transformers, which would otherwise block the higher frequency signals.
Most smart meters, especially those used for residences, transmit the data wirelessly. They may do so through a dedicated network, run by the utility, or by existing phone/data networks that the utility contracts with to provide the data transmission. Many systems use what are known as “concentrators.” These are neighborhood-scaled nodes that relay data between the smart meters and the utility system. The concentrators are typically mounted on utility poles and serve customers within a small area.
The system deployed in California has received the most attention. It’s pretty typical of how most smart meter systems in the US operate.
Here California (and many other) Smart Meter communications system works:
Each of the meters contains an RF transceiver and modem which is used for communications. The system operates in the frequency range of 902-928 MHz, this is known as the “ISM Band,” which is used for short range communication by low power devices. The band is also used by devices like cordless phones, wireless headphones, baby monitors etc. The communication system for the meters uses FHSS (Frequency hopping spread spectrum), which helps avoid interference that may be on a particular frequency by distributing the data across the spectrum. There is built in error correction, so even if some of the data packets are lost, the data can be recovered.
The maximum transmission power of the meters is one watt. This is not very much, even by consumer device standards. Most handheld mobile phones transmit up to 500 milliwatts, but the maximum allowable transmission power for mobile phone devices is three watts. Cell phone booster devices and older phones, such as “bag phones” transmit at the full three watts. Handheld walkie-talkies may transmit at four or five watts and base-station and vehicle two-way radios can be substantially more.
The reason that the meters only need to transmit at one watt is that they do not have to communicate very far. Each meter communicates with a data concentrator, which serves the area where the meter is installed. Each concentrator can only serve 1024 customers, so they are located relatively close together, each one serving a neighborhood or small section of a town or city. The data concentrators are connected back to the utility company using an IP-based network that works through the local telecommunications infrastructure. They may be connected to wired data networks or they may use the local wireless phone and data network system, just as a laptop with a wireless modem would.
The image to the right shows one of the local concentrators used in the system deployed in California. Most systems in the US (and many elsewhere) use a similar system. The appearance of the concentrators may vary.
The meters are also capable of “mesh networking,” in which communication can be routed between meters, with each meter acting as a relay station. This is especially useful in an environment where there may be obstructions between a meter and the concentrator. It also allows the meters to operate reliably at a lower power than would otherwise be possible, since they only need to be able to communicate with another nearby meter to connect to the system.
The communication is two-way, with the concentrators polling the meters at regular intervals. The meters therefore do not transmit continuously but only when they are pinged by the network.
The electric meters also transmit metering data for water and gas meters. The water and gas meters communicate with the electric meters using a low power 2.4 ghz radio link. Water and gas meters are not “smart” in the sense that they do not account for the time when water and gas are used and are not programmable, but the radio link means they can be read automatically without dispatching a meter reader to the residence. The electric meters are basically a gateway for the water and gas meters to communicate back to the network.
Diagram of how the system used in California (and many others) operates:
A few things to note about the RF radiation given off by such a system:
- It’s on similar to or less than many consumer devices that have been in use for years.
- The frequencies used are identical to those used by consumer devices. They are also very close to (and therefore behave the same as) the frequencies used for mobile phones. In some countries, these exact frequencies are used for mobile phone networks.
- Similar local wireless communications systems have been in use for decades for a variety of purposes.
- As a consequence of the inverse square law, the level of exposure to the RF field from a meter located on the side of a building will be orders of magnitude less than a device kept near one’s body, such as a mobile phone, cordless phone, baby monitor etc.
Yet, despite this, people have been going nuts over these “smart meters,” claiming that they produce some kind of magical radiation which causes illness in ways no other device does.
Without the health testimony on the record and no lawyer to represent them, Kurtz and Edwards fear the heart of their argument to the commission will be lost and they will have to pay for the removal of a device they feel is making them, and a number of others they’ve encountered in the process, sick.
Neither Kurtz nor Edwards have a smart meter installed in their homes, but both feel they are, to varying degrees, hypersensitive to electromagnetic waves.
Kurtz has a master’s degree in anthropological archeology from the University of Michigan, is a biodynamic cranial psychotherapist and a massage therapist. She’s spent hundreds of hours researching electromagnetic studies and the logistics of smart meters — and noted that there are no scientific articles that examine the health effects of smart meters on humans.
“That’s how science works,” Kurtz said. “A lot of people had to get sick before the powers that be decided something needed to be changed.”
Kurtz said the compounded exposure to the electromagnetic waves associated with smart meters, wireless internet networks and cell phones has plagued her with insomnia.
“This is not something I would be doing if it were hypothetical,” Kurtz said. “The people who are becoming involved in this … they are people who have not been politically involved, nor activists in any way. People are getting involved only because they can’t sleep and their ears are ringing 24/7.”
Edwards is a landscape gardener and works in retail. She began noticing she was having difficulty sleeping after coming home from work late at night in the summer. Coupled with a tightness she experienced in her temples and an aggravated heart condition after spending long hours under the fluorescent lights at work and in certain conditions, she said she didn’t start to connect the dots until she was forwarded an article on smart meters from a friend.
Well, damn! If you can’t trust a biodynamic cranial psychotherapist and a massage therapist to give it to you straight, who can you trust? (Yes, that is sarcasm)
Here, however, is one of my favorites.
‘Radiation Refugee’ Files $120 Million Suit vs. Calif., SDG&E from W. Virginia
RAMONA, CA—Deborah Cooney was valedictorian at West Boylston High School in Massachusetts, an economics graduate of Brown University and a vice president of Peoples Savings Bank in Worcester, MA, for 10 years.
But after being laid off during an ownership change in the mid-1990s, she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a professional musician.
But in April 2011, she was suddenly pained by a high-pitched ringing in her ears.
“I remember the exact moment the tinnitus started,” Cooney said Friday. “I was just relaxing in my house in between [teaching] sessions. And all of a sudden it was like somebody turned something on.”
She suspects it was triggered by a bank of 100-plus wireless smart meters installed at a nearby apartment complex.
The miseries multiplied, she said via telephone from her home in rural West Virginia.
“I couldn’t stand the house anymore,” Cooney said. “I couldn’t sleep in the house. I couldn’t eat any of the food in the house … it got so radiated it got me sick. … I was eating out. I was trying to sleep on the beach.”
Interesting. So the meters were unbearable but the fields produced by the telephone receiver next to hear ear are no problem?
Her beloved cat died.
Mimi was a purebred Himalayan adopted in 2003, whose “behavior completely flipped,” Cooney said. The feline went from being an indoor “queen of the house” to one who stayed outdoors and eventually ran away, only to return “completely dehydrated, having heart palpitations … the same things I was suffering from.”
“She came back because she realized there was no place to go,” Cooney said. “Our whole neighborhood was radiated.”
I’m sorry to hear about her cat, but cats do die – they do not live nearly as long as humans. It’s also quite common for animals to start behaving very strangely when they are becoming very sick, as is often the case before they die. But then, I’m not a veterinarian, and I have no idea what actually killer her cat.
Finally—on Aug. 24, 2011—Cooney decided she couldn’t sleep, work or live in her own house, so “I think I’d better just leave.”
She piled some dresses into her 2003 Hyundai Accent, left her “significant other” Frisbee champion boyfriend and drove 2,600 miles from Chateau Drive to the National Radio Quiet Zone in West Virginia.
Interesting. So.. apparently, she was just fine living her entire life in a world full of television and radio transmitters, cell phones and towers, CB radios, radar guns, wireless routers and alike, but as soon as they install some one watt transmitters (that are not even on all the time) she has to move to the National Radio Quiet Zone? Hmmm, something here does not make a lot of sense.
Her suit alleges the following:
[Cooney] could feel the immediate effects of radiation when she walked in the front door, experiencing a pins-and-needles feeling all over her skin, muscle contractions, stiffness, and pain, ataxia, dehydration, etc. Plaintiff felt a shock to her heart … at exactly 1:00, 5:00, and 9:00, as if something was being transmitted every four hours, on the hour. The shock would initiate cascading heart attack symptoms: chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, nausea, circulatory problems, edema, numbness and an impending sense of doom.
Well that’s interesting. These symptoms all sound very generalized and subjective. But then how does one actually know they are experiencing circulatory problems? Did she have a doctor there to evaluate the circulatory problems that suddenly crop up at these times? Also, how does an RF field make you dehydrated? If there’s water in your body before the field occurs then what? Does it make you urinate or does it just cook the water out of you?
Acting as her own attorney, Cooney in her 12,000-word civil suit [attached] blames SDG&E and others for the loss of her ability to live in California and their failure to protect her from harm.
Acting as her own attorney? That’s strange. You would think with millions of dollars to be made lawyers would be lining up to represent her for free in exchange for even a small cut of the settlement.
Cooney is no stranger to legal action. After an August 2008 altercation with a lifeguard at La Jolla Cove, she was sent to the county mental hospital. A staff psychiatrist found nothing wrong with her and granted her release, but Cooney sued over a 20-hour involuntary detention.
I think they might need to hire a new staff psychiatrist.
“The more you let the abusers get away with this stuff, the bigger and badder the abuse becomes,” she told Patch. “The more lawsuits we can hit them with, the less profitable it is to hurt us. … When you are dealing with corporations and the government-industrial complex, the only thing they notice is profit. That’s the only language they speak.”
She readily acknowledges she doesn’t expect to win $120 million, “but the reality is my damages are well beyond [that]. … I’m just conservatively saying $100 million, but really it’s worth billions. It’s worth trillions.”
Interesting that she evaluates herself and her suffering as being worth so much. Perhaps I am just a cheap self-loathing whore, but I can’t imagine any pain I might be subjected to being worth “trillions.” Hell, I’d be willing to live for a year in some pretty miserable conditions, while experiencing chest pain and the other listed symptoms and do it all for less than fifty million dollars. Hell, you could nail me to a cross and then take me down and give me one hundred million dollars and I’d be happy with the deal.
But even though cell phone towers are banned and even the local library lacks Wi-Fi, smart meters have invaded, Cooney says.
“They’ve completely dropped the ball on smart meters,” she says. “I can’t stand it here either.”
She says she visited her father in New Jersey over Christmas—“and there are no smart meters anywhere around them. …. I felt great there—all analog meters.
Wow. Those damn smart meters must really be full of black magic! They produce emissions so low they actually qualify for use around sensitive radio telescopes, but even in such an area, away from much larger sources of RF radiation, those damn meters ruin everything. Yet in an area where there are far more transmitters of all types, she feels better because the magic meters are not installed.
I was thinking: Maybe I should move to New Jersey—of all places. Like who wants to live in New Jersey, right?”
This statement here is really telling. Actually about nine million people live in New Jersey, generally by choice. New Jersey may get a bad rap from shows like Jersey Shore and from the fact that it does indeed have some pretty rough cities, but in general, it’s as nice a place as anywhere else to live. New Jersey is mostly suburbs, but there are even a few rural areas. Some portions of the state are actually very expensive. The median income in New Jersey is $70,378, the second highest in the US and well above the national average.
Joking aside, New Jersey is, in fact, as nice a place to live as any other, but apparently it’s not good enough for Ms. Cooney. This attitude seems to be pervasive amongst the hypochondriac class. There seems to be an obliviousness to completely insulting others for the place where they live and proclaiming oneself to be some kind of tortured hero who is entitled to the world and too good to live in most of it.
It does not seem to even occur to Ms. Cooney that there are plenty of people who happily live there and actually like the state. Why would someone so concerned about social justice and equality go around and insult the homes of others? Perhaps it’s okay to insult their home because she considers them to be less important. Or maybe she is just so wrapped up in herself that it never even entered her mind.
It seems little surprise, really, that the ones getting all hot and bothered about these smart meters seem to be extremely well off Caucasians living in the suburbs of California and other relatively affluent areas.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 at 10:38 am and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Enviornment, inverse square, Just LAME, Misc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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