Smart Grid Funding Misspent on Obsolete Technologies, Says New Report

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December 05, 2012 | 317,035 views

Story at-a-glance

  • A recent report highlights widespread misunderstandings about the alleged benefits of the new ‘smart’ utility meters among state and local government officials, energy policy experts, advocates for renewable energies, environmental nonprofits, and experts at the highest federal levels.
  • About four billion dollars, yes that is billion with a “B”, in federal subsidies for “smart” utility meters have been misspent with our tax dollars on meter technology that will not lead to energy sustainability, or contribute to the possibility of a more efficient and responsive electricity grid.
  • Other nations, such as The Netherlands, Germany and Japan are properly investing in incentives to rapidly build a sustainable energy economy, while the United States continues to financially prop up coal-based utilities that have no financial incentive to promote energy conservation or movement toward non-polluting, less expensive sustainable energy.
  • The roll-out of wireless “smart” utility meters pose privacy, security, safety, health, financial, homeland security and other risks, in addition to national economic risks by not investing in the right technologies.
  • The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has released a position paper on EMF and radiofrequency health effects, calling for “immediate caution regarding smart meter installation,” citing several studies showing causality that led to its conclusion that “significant harmful biological effects occur from non‐thermal RF exposure,” such as that emitted from wireless smart meters.
  • Communities have been misled about the need for the new meters, in an effort that only serves the short-term bottom line interests of utility and meter companies while burdening ratepayers with an extraordinary range of risks and new costs.

By Dr. Mercola

On November 26, the National Institute for Science, Law and Public Policy (NISLAPP) published a new report entitled "Getting Smarter About the Smart Grid1," authored by Dr. Timothy Schoechle, an engineering and policy consultant with expertise in smart grid technologies.

He currently serves on several international smart grid standard setting committees and has decades of experience in the utility, computer, and communication industries, including being involved in the development of the AMI meter standards and building utility meter reading and demand response gateways.

"Smart meter" is the term used to describe a wired or wireless electrical energy meter that transmits energy consumption data back to your local utility company at regular intervals.

It is replacing conventional hard-wired meters we have had on our houses for decades that only collect usage data and have to be read by some means. However, serious health, privacy, security, homeland security, fire and cost concerns over this technology have been raised, and grassroots resistance groups2 have sprung up in at least 18 different states.

The rebellion against the "smart meters" seems to be uniting people from a range of political persuasions, all expressing common values we share — including the right to privacy, and the right to live and thrive in healthy, safe and secure environments.

Unless there are other motives for the meters, it is hard to understand why our government would be promoting and subsidizing "smart meters," when safer and more secure meter alternatives are available. Former CIA Director James Woolsey even has said that on security grounds alone, the new grid design is "…a really, really stupid grid."

American Academy of Environmental Medicine Calls for Caution

On April 12, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) released a position paper on EMF and radiofrequency (RF) health effects,18 calling for "immediate caution regarding smart meter installation." The Academy cites several peer ‐ reviewed scientific studies showing causality that led to its conclusion that "significant harmful biological effects occur from non‐ thermal RF exposure," such as that emitted from wireless smart meters.

According to Dr. Amy Dean,19 board certified internist and President of the AAEM:

"More independent research is needed to assess the safety of 'Smart Meter' technology. Patients are reporting to physicians the development of symptoms and adverse health effects after 'Smart Meters' are installed on their homes. Immediate action is necessary to protect the public's health."

The AAEM also calls for:

  • Accommodation for health considerations regarding EMF and RF exposure, including exposure to wireless "Smart Meter" technology
  • Use of safer technology, including for "Smart Meters," such as hard wiring, fiber optics or other non-harmful methods of data transmission
  • Recognition that electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a growing problem worldwide
  • Consideration and independent research regarding the quantum effects of EMF and RF on human health

Opportunities to Intelligently Move the United States Forward

The featured report doesn't stop at simply pointing out the many problems, however. It also presents an alternate plan. In the foreword of the report, journalist and political analyst Duncan A. Campbell, Esq. writes:20

"Dr. Schoechle examines and explains the prevailing confusion about the 'smart grid' and offers a clear path forward, lucidly showing an alternative to patching up our overly complex, vulnerable, and increasingly expensive energy system — thus creating a truly smart and genuinely sustainable electricity system ."

Jim Turner, Esq, Chairman of National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy, publisher of the new report, and legal counsel to several community groups and state legislators fighting for smart meter consumer opt out options, says:

"We're moving from a centralized to a 'distributed' economy. In a distributed economy knowledge and decision making move increasingly from the center to the periphery empowering citizens in this case, through a 'rooftop revolution,' to lower energy costs and participate in the energy economy. Consumer participation is the core power that a true smart grid, or as I like to call it a 'wise' grid, offers. Beyond the environmental benefits of breaking our over-dependence on fossil fuels, a 'wise' grid offers the opportunity for more efficient and empowering use of energy by consumers leading the way to a much stronger and more economically productive energy market."

"Decentralizing power distribution is part of an evolutionary trend that began when PCs replaced centralized mainframes making computing power available to all. We have seen this movement, as well, in the breakup of the telephone industry, the burgeoning of the locally grown farmers markets, development of the multi-billion dollar natural health market, and the growing mobile applications industry which is transforming the recording, movie and education markets."

"Dr. Schoechle's new report points the way to how federal energy policy can facilitate the democratization of energy generation--allowing the cumbersome and inefficient energy sector of the economy to join the burgeoning consumer driven markets--by investing in the right smart grid technologies. Such investing will ultimately be a boon for our economy including not only for consumers but also for the investors, managers and suppliers of energy to the consuming public. The movement toward a decentralized economy has the potential to be as significant as the industrial revolution. It is in nobody's interest for the energy sector to be left out of this transformation."

Summary of Seven Key Opportunities

In its press release,21 NISLAPP summarizes seven key points presented in the report — opportunities that can help the United States move forward in an intelligent manner:

  1. The U.S. must move away from dependency on coal baseload power generation and toward renewable sources. Renewables (e.g., wind and solar), augmented by flexible "peaking" generation (e.g., natural gas turbines, hydro, etc.) and advanced smart grid supply/demand balancing can completely replace baseload generation.
  2. Free, renewable energy resources must be prioritized and local opportunities for power generation and storage pursued. We must stop subsidizing a centralized, wasteful infrastructure approach that will not lead to sustainability or empower citizens to contribute to the grid.
  3. A clear legal and policy demarcation between customer premises space and utility space must be established. Utilities should not be the sole "gatekeeper" for access to energy applications controlling consumer use, storage, and generation of electricity. As occurred in the telecommunications industry, establishing a clear market demarcation could unleash the creativity and competitive market strength of consumer electronics, appliance manufacturers, homebuilders, solar installers, apps developers, etc.
  4. Develop and standardize distributed renewable integration technologies, in-home devices and smart appliances. The heavy lifting on smart grid deployment is yet to be done. It will require research, engineering, and standardization of new consumer premises equipment and communication protocols to support distributed, variable, and transactive control of electricity generation, use, and storage at the household level.
  5. Localize electric power, using distributed renewable sources, instead of large solar and wind farms where the economies of scale are not significantly greater than at small scale. Localization of power generation avoids the energy loss and environmental and capital costs that come with long-distance energy transmission, keeps money in the community, with a 3.5x multiplier effect, and enhances reliability, responsiveness and grid security.
  6. State legislatures should enable PUCs to fundamentally change the utility business model so it can be sustainable. Utilities must move to a service model that is not based on the present economics of commodity sale of electricity and rate of return regulation (ROR) that encourages unwise capital investments. Generation must be deregulated and separated from distribution, and the customer premises opened up to market competition in products and services for the premises-based generation, storage, management, and use of electricity. For example, some states are already moving to deregulate renewable generation for the charging of electric vehicles.
  7. Local communities must take it upon themselves to understand and obtain the safest and most secure technological options available for utility meters and other smart grid technologies. This education should be gained from independent experts with no vested interests in the present centralized utility paradigm. Wireless technologies should be avoided where safer more secure options exist.

Smart Meters — The Tip of the Iceberg...

According to Camilla Rees, MBA, founder of ElectromagneticHealth.Org22 and the Campaign for Radiation Free Schools,23 and overseer of the smart grid report for the National Institute for Science, Law and Public Policy:

"While smart meters pose privacy, security, health, financial, and other risks, when one looks at this problem through a wider lens, as has been done by Dr. Schoechle in 'Getting Smarter About the Smart Grid,' one sees a far greater problem—one that relates to our long-term national economic prospects, national security and the U.S. contribution to global carbon emissions. And we see what Dr. Schoechle has called a 'canard' or a 'hoax,' and what some might call fraud.

Noise-making over the meters, while completely justified, is the 'tip of the iceberg' under which one finds political and corporate decision making processes gone very wrong.

Serving only short-term financial interests of the utility industry, instead of acknowledging the reality that there is no role for baseload coal generation in a renewable energy future, these myopic, selfish decisions have essentially sold our energy, economic, environmental, health and privacy interests down the river. It is high time citizens insist that the entire impact of technological decisions, in all areas of life, be more carefully considered."

What Can You Do Right Now?

The scenario described in "Getting Smarter About the Smart Grid" by Dr. Schoechle is sobering. Like so many other situations where corporate interests have been put before society's interests, such as in GMO foods, it is essential that citizens speak up. Here are a few things you can do right now:

  • Write to Congress. Citizens for Health, Chaired by Jim Turner, Esq. of the National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy, has launched a campaign to help citizens communicate with Congress on this matter. It is important citizens ask why Congress subsidized $4+ billion in meters with our tax dollars that serve no good or needed purpose except corporate profits and have the potential to harm our health. Write to Congress at the following DemocracyInAction link.
  • Attend Media & Community Conference Calls. For those wanting 1) to learn more about the present smart meters and the technology needed for a true smart grid, 2) have questions about the risks of the present approach, such as the privacy, security, safety, health, solar flare, homeland security or economic risks, or 3) want to learn how communities might begin a legal process toward energy municipalization, as Boulder, CO has begun, join Dr. Schoechle and other experts on monthly Media & Community Leader Conference Calls. Email to receive announcements.
  • Dr. Schoechle's report outlines Immediate, Medium-Term and Long-Term Action Recommendations on Pages 41-43 of the report. Included here are actions that can be taken at the state and local level through appropriate legislation and regulatory policies, such as "deregulation of power generation, local renewable subsidies, net-metering tariffs, feed-in tariffs, solar gardens, efficiency programs, unified and simplified building codes for solar installation, etc."'

    An essential step will also be establishing a demarcation line so that the utility business can be separated into two parts — one that is about the wires and poles, and another focused on the most efficient and safe means of energy generation. These will all be discussed on upcoming Media and Community Leader Conference Calls, Contact for the schedule.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 National Institute for Science, Law and Public Policy, “Getting Smarter About the Smart Grid” (PDF)
  • 2 September 25, 2012
  • 3 PBS Newshour July 20, 2012
  • 4 November 15, 2012
  • 5 June 22, 2012
  • 6 October 12, 2012
  • 7 See ref 3
  • 8 National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) of the Executive Office of the President, Policy Framework for the 21st Century
  • 9 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “Renewables Electricity Futures Study” (PDF)
  • 10 National Institute for Science, Law and Public Policy, Press Release, November 26, 2012
  • 11 See ref 1
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15 Radiation Research Trust, “Smart Meters, Smarter Practices”
  • 16, “Dumb and Dangerous-The Problems with Smart Grids”
  • 17
  • 18 American Academy of Environmental Medicine, April 12, 2012, Electromagnetic and Radiofrequency Fields Effect on Human Health (PDF)
  • 19 See ref 11
  • 20 See ref 1
  • 21 See ref 7
  • 22
  • 23 Campaign for Radiation Free Schools, Facebook