Taking the high ground on meters
SGCC offers resources to inform consumers
Opponents of smart meters have had a field day for years now, demonizing the technology and misrepresenting the technology's purpose. And, by extension, discrediting the electric utilities that seek to use the technology for improving system efficiencies and to develop new rate structures and associated programs for customers.
A handful of us have wondered aloud (and at length) why the power industry has not consistently and even-handedly promoted factual information to set the record straight.
If readers would like to review some of the misinformation being spread, you can refresh your memory by checking these columns:
And let's be sure to separate the meter-related craziness around purported health effects and spying from legitimate concerns over data privacy and security, which I've outlined in the following columns:
One might reasonably speculate that utilities haven't been forthcoming about meter-related misinformation because they don't have satisfying answers on legitimate questions around privacy, security and why the technology needs to provide appliance-level granularity within a customer's home. But today let's set that aside for a moment to applaud the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) for its work on behalf of the industry.
After years of distractions around meters, the SGCC—which is supported by utilities, vendors and consultancies with an interest in understanding the residential energy market and meeting its needs—has done us all a favor. More on the details in a moment.
First, I'll acknowledge that holding "the industry" responsible for a collective lapse in setting the record straight can be a mere rhetorical exercise because, obviously, "the industry" is a diverse set of individuals, companies and organizations. But that's kind of bending over backwards to excuse inaction, don't you think?
As for the thinking behind that lack of response to the outrageous or silly misinformation being fomented by various individuals and groups around the technology and role of interval meters, I've heard a few rationalizations. One is that by engaging people who willfully disregard the facts, you're only drawing attention to their fallacious claims. Another is that there's no reasoning with people who are convinced that Big Brother doesn't stand behind every utility. Etc.
True, individual utilities have provided basic facts about interval meters and their deployment of advanced metering infrastructure, either out of genuine concern for their customers' need for information or because that outreach is mandated by regulators. But I've personally not seen good examples of utilities reaching out to local media to inform, answer questions and promote good information over the meter-related lunacy that long ago went viral.
One laudable effort in this picture appeared yesterday, when the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative issued a fact sheet and video expressly aimed at countering the myriad efforts to discredit the technology, its purpose and, by extension, the power industry.
Readers probably know that I like straight talk—the shortest distance between two points, when possible. So I took pleasure in reading the first sentence of the SGCC's press release:
"Let's face it: advanced electric meters, or "smart meters," have a reputation problem. Consumer concerns about health and privacy have given these devices a bad rap."
But let's add a bit of real-speak to that generous sentence. Legitimate consumer concerns are one thing, and disingenuous tommyrot is another. The meter-related madness has been aided and abetted by individuals simply riding the wave of gullibility that attends the inane bashing of government prevalent in the past three years but which was conspicuously absent in the preceding years when government spending and ineptitude reached its apex.
The SGCC release offered to "separate the facts from the fiction about smart meters and provide consumers with reliable information about the technology that refutes the most commonly circulated myths:
- Radio frequency exposure: It would take 375 years of direct contact with a smart meter to equal the same amount of radio frequency exposure from a daily, 15-minute cell phone call.
- Privacy infringement: Smart meters only know how much power is being used—not specifically how it's being used—and utilities will continue to keep that data private as they've done for decades.
- Economic benefits: Smart meters could reduce the cost of power interruptions by more than 75 percent, saving the American economy more than $150 billion a year.
Once again, responsibility now lies with the power industry's myriad players to do something with the information and tools provided, in this case, by the SGCC. Let's see this effort put to good use.
Intelligent Utility Daily