Support AB 37. Opt-out of smart meters




smart meter

Technology can be a double edged sword.  Are readers aware of “smart meters?”

I would urge all of us to contact our state representatives to support CA Assemblymember [D] Jared Huffman’s AB 37 and lobby to “opt out” of the pending or existing “smart meter” program in your city or county.

In researching smart meters from Australia to Canada it reveals worldwide concern relating to potential health risks of radio frequency (RF) emissions.

Aside from the potential public health risks associated with this technology I would opine that readers agree that we have enough big brother in our daily lives.

A brief sidebar. The last thing I want is for a power company, be it on their own or a federal mandate, to monitor and potentially restrict the amount of energy we consume each hour of the day with “time-of-use” billing. We already are penalized for what they consider excessive energy usage.

Watch out. First our government wants to control what we eat followed by what kind of car we drive to where we should live in mixed use or high rise projects. Next we will be told when to “turn out the lights.’ Don Meredith will be missed.

A few years ago five concerned Mission Viejo residents attended a CPUC hearing in San Francisco where we testified about the harmful effects of radiation should additional 66 KVA power lines be installed near our homes.

In that same session we followed a group from Jefferson-Martin whose pending PG&E 230 Kv transmission line project was appealed. The five member CPUC voted that their power lines should be buried based on identical health concerns expressed by our members while we lost our appeal against SC Edison on a 3-2 vote. Sadly, former SC Edison executive Michael Peevey, CPUC president, should have recused himself rom that decision but voted against us even after another CPUC member requested additional discussion based on our testimony.

The Jefferson-Martin decision was mentioned in the following appeal.

In their October 2010 appeal before the CPUC the EMF Safety Network coalition of business and concerned property owners expressed the same concerns we expressed relating to health, environmental and safety impacts associated with EMF and RF emissions.

They argued that “PG&E’s Smart Meter Program was not developed in accordance with Commission-adopted policies. Specifically, Network noted that the Commission has “authorized the state’s investor-owned utilities to carry out ‘no cost and low cost EMF avoidance measurers’ in construction of new and upgraded utility projects. Network argues:

Network argued that “the Commission did not consider [in approving the AMI and Smart Meter programs] important issues about RF emissions from individual meters, including peak RF signals, duty cycles, and the cumulative impacts of multiple meters, repeaters and other equipment associated with the Smart Meter program.”

Network wanted the CPUC to revisit “PG&E’s Smart Meter program; require PG&E to submit independently prepared RF Emissions Study; schedule evidentiary hearings on RF health, environmental, and safety impacts.”

Based on this ongoing health debate, where European countries apparently take this health concern more seriously than Americans, I now share the following “press release” from Assemblyman Huffman and Jerry Richman’s blog posts for additional topic details.

December 6, 2010                                                          CONTACT:

Dan Okenfuss (916) 319-2006

Huffman Introduces New Bill Addressing
Consumer Concerns with Smartmeters

AB 37 gives consumers an “opt-out” alternative to wireless Smartmeters, requires disclosures regarding the technology and performance of wireless meters

Sacramento, CA – Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D–Marin)
introduced legislation today in response to consumer concerns raised over potential health effects of Smartmeters, the Advanced Metering Infrastructure currently being deployed by California utilities to better manage electricity consumption and pricing.

Numerous constituents, along with the Marin County Board of Supervisors and several city councils, have expressed concerns about the potential health effects of exposure to radio frequency (RF) emissions from the new Smartmeters and have questioned whether current federal standards are sufficient to ensure the protection of public health.

Huffman’s bill, AB 37, directs the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to provide an “opt-out” alternative for customers who do not wish to have a wireless Smartmeter installed, and to require utilities to make this option available using wired technology that provides equivalent smart grid reliability and efficiency.  It also directs the utilities to disclose important information about the Smartmeters to consumers, including the timing, magnitude, frequency and duration of RF emissions so that individual consumers can make informed decisions.  The bill directs the CPUC to temporarily suspend deployment of Smartmeters until this opt-out alternative is in place.

“This bill is about giving consumers reasonable choices.  Whether or not you believe RF exposures from Smartmeters are harmful, it’s only fair that consumers who are concerned about health effects be given complete technical information and the choice of another technology for devices that are installed at their homes,” said Huffman.  “We can do that while preserving the effectiveness of the smart grid and all the benefits it will bring for consumers and the environment.”

In July, Huffman asked the California Council on Science and Technology, a non-partisan, impartial, non-profit group that provides expert advice on science and technology to the Legislature, to examine the issue and assess whether current safety standards are sufficient.  The Council is in the process of conducting a thorough review of the safety of Smartmeters and a preliminary report is expected later this month.

Assemblymember Jared Huffman represents the 6th Assembly District, which encompasses southern Sonoma County and all of Marin County. First elected in 2006, Huffman chairs the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and also serves as Co-Chair with Senator Fran Pavley of the Legislative Environmental Caucus.
Capitol: State Capitol – P.O. Box 942849 -Sacramento, CA 94249-0006 – Tel: (916) 319-2006 – Fax: (916) 319-2106
District: 3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 412 – San Rafael, CA 94903 – Tel: (415) 479-4920 – Fax: (415) 479-2123

Following commentary is from Jerry Richman’s blog

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In one of the latest examples of consumer-driven push back against smart meters in California, California Assembly member Jared Huffman (D-Marin County) last week introduced a legislation (Bill AB 37) that would enable consumer to decline the smart meter installation.

According to Mr. Huffman’s statement on the proposed legislation, Bill AB 37 directs the California Public Utilities Commission to provide an “opt-out” alternative for customers who do not wish to have a smart meter installed – and to require that utilities make this option available using “wired technology that provides equivalent smart grid reliability and efficiency.”

The opt-out “alternative,” however, is not defined in the bill. Rather, AB 37 directs that by January I, 2012, the CPUC must identify alternative options for customers that decline smart meter installation and “ensure that these options are made available to customers.”

The bill also directs that utilities disclose the timing, magnitude, frequency and duration of radio frequency (RF) emissions. Finally, AB 37 directs that the CPUC temporarily suspend smart meter deployment until this opt-out alternative is in place.

In his statement, Mr. Huffman says his bill “is about giving consumers reasonable choices. Whether or not you believe RF exposures from Smartmeters are harmful, it’s only fair that consumers who are concerned about health effects be given complete technical information and the choice of another technology for devices that are installed at their homes.”

The prospects for this bill are not certain – Assembly Member Huffman represents one of localities where resistance to smart meters has been most vocal, and it is unclear how much overall support AB 37 will have in the California legislature.

Moreover, by tying the “opt-out” provision to some undefined “equivalent” alternative, this bill demonstrates the potential conflict between consumer “empowerment” and efforts to achieve energy efficiency. As one commentator has noted, “[t]he bill may offer some sense of control for consumers over how their utility information is gathered, but it could also change the effectiveness of an integrated smart grid if chunks of consumers choose not to participate.”

Of course, and this appears true of most smart meter debates in the United States, consumers generally become part of the serious debate only against the backdrop of ongoing utility smart meter installation. When the history of smart grid development is written, I expect that the record will demonstrate that utilities should have engaged their customers on these issues prior to smart meter roll outs.
on and Smart Meters: One More Battlefield

The California Public Utilities Commission today, by a 4-1 vote, declined to go forward with the requested health inquiry discussed below, determining that the matter was outside the agency’s area of technical expertise. The CPUC decided that it instead should defer on this issue to the Federal Communications Commission. (Technically, the CPUC voted to adopt the decision of an agency administrative law judge dismissing the request for an inquiry. The decision adopted by the CPUC can be read here.)
Although we don’t usually think of them in such terms, smart meters are radio transmitters, sending radiofrequency microwave radiation (RF) signals from both electric and gas meters. As the public has become more aware of smart meter roll outs, there have been increasing public concerns over whether such RF signals constitute a public health risk. While industry groups such as the Utilities Telecom Council point to studies indicating no significant health risks, smart meter opponents are not so sure. And concerns over RF emissions are becoming a new battleground in the smart meter wars.

For example, in Maine, opponents of Central Maine Power Company’s smart meter installation have asked the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which approved the $192 million program, to stop it and investigate potential health effects. And similar concerns are being raised in California.
California, of course, long has been ground zero in the smart meter wars, largely due to the consumer revolts that have dogged Pacific Electric & Gas’ smart meter installation. Concerns over radiation entered the mix this year, and the EMF Safety Network, a group concerned about electromagnetic radiation, filed a request with the California Public Utilities Commission asking for a health study of PG&E’s smart meters. PG&E, in response, asked one of the CPUC’s administrative law judges to dismiss that request, and the judge tentatively agreed.
However, in written comments filed earlier this month, the CPUC’s Division of Rate Payer Advocates – a unit within the CPUC charged with seeking the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels – recommended that the CPUC investigate those health questions. In its comments, the DRA argues that the CPUC has a responsibility to ensure that PG&E’s wireless meters do not endanger public health. The DRA does not itself take a position on the health issue one way or the other. However, the DRA argues that the fear of potential health effects has already helped undermine public confidence in the new meters and must be addressed: “Unless the public’s concerns can be put to rest, there is a very great risk that PG&E’s SmartMeter deployment will turn out to be a $2.2 billion mistake that ratepayers can ill afford.”

I certainly do not have the expertise to weigh in on the health issue, although it’s unclear to me that smart meters present any concerns not already present with our ubiquitous cell phones, iPads, blackberries, wireless notebooks, etc. But there is a broader issue here. Fears over smart meter radiation are just one more example of apparent industry failure to anticipate consumer concerns. A major obstacle to smart grid advancement – indeed, perhaps the most important obstacle – remains the absence of real consumer input at the front end. Consumer concerns would be best addressed, and consumer buy-in better achieved, if issues such as smart meter radiation were fully debated before smart meters roll outs actually begin.

About Larry Gilbert