In many communities throughout the world, smart meters are being installed with absolutely no fanfare. According to a recent news story in the Chicago Tribune, “the devices are capable of using wireless signals to relay detailed information about an individual consumer’s power consumption.” Moreover, they’re designed to be highly efficient. The utility companies as well as many cities and towns see the smart readers as a major upgrade to meters of the past used to report on energy use for each household. In Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, some people are so opposed to the mandatory installation of smart meters that one mother was led away in handcuffs for her opposition.
Jennifer Stahl, a mother of three, was arrested after she tried to prevent installers from hooking up a smart meter to her Naperville home. She is the face of a movement that is against smart readers. On the organization’s website called Naperville Smart Meter Awareness, smart readers—their pros and cons—are explained. Stahl, like an increasing number of others, view these meters as being too smart. Opponents of the smart meters, according to the Chicago Tribune, assert that “the meters provide so much information that everyone from cops to criminals to marketing departments can learn when people are home and what they do when they’re there”. Stahl also believe that the meters are capable of literally making people sick.
Smart meters have a wide fan base, however. Their accurate reporting of energy use and advanced design is all part of the plan to upgrade power grids everywhere. Many believe that the meters will decrease the stress on regional power grids. While they provide utility companies with readings of energy usage (so they can generate a bill, of course), they can also help consumers by alerting them when energy costs become reduced. During these inexpensive periods, consumers could run appliances like washing machines in order to take advantage of the lower rate. Each device reports over a wireless signal back to the utility company. While there are many models produced by various companies, the smart meters have been marketed as helpful devices; thus far, there have not be major outcries against them, but the Naperville group has been pointing out the cons of smart readers and causing many to consider them more carefully.
Smart Meter Installation on the Rise
According to the Chicago Tribune’s report, “as of the end of 2012 [there were] 60,450,428 smart meter installations in the U.S. and Canada.” According to Wired.CO.UK, “by 2019, the government plans to have replaced 53 million gas and electricity meters across the UK with smart meters” (wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-12/21/smart-meters). Many government “roll-outs” of the smart meters are in the works and designed to blanket areas with these new devices. By touting the energy and cost-savings that these devices are supposed to help achieve, they are growing immensely in popularity.
Naperville Is Not Alone
Yet, Naperville isn’t the only place where groups have emerged to oppose the installation of smart meters. The UK group Stop Smart Meters! This group and others are beginning to challenge the notion that smart meters are safe; that is, safe in terms of health for the occupants of the homes where the meters have been installed. People, including some in the health and medical professions, assert that the continuous exposure to radio frequency radiation could pose serious health risks to people. Many groups believe governments are squashing reports of these risks to push their smart meter initiatives.
A Growing Body of Concern
As new groups of concerned citizens of various countries continue to emerge, more focus will be placed on the smart meters and their performance. Already, the meters have been accused of “spying” and some families have been left in the lurch without power for refusing the installation of the meters. The story is by no means finished. As reports continue to surface, there will likely be much more to consider when it comes to smart meters—their positive and negative qualities.