Northern California continues to protest Smart Meters

January 31, 2011

As PG&E continues to install wireless Smart Meters across San Luis Obispo County, the debate surrounding the controversial equipment continues to spark across northern California. [NY Times]

An eclectic mix of right-wing Tea Party members and left-leaning environmentalists are joining forces to try the stop further use of Smart Meter technology.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, “Stop Smart Meters” signs and bumper stickers have been multiplying on front lawns and cars. Four protesters have been arrested for blocking trucks seeking to deliver the meters.

And in Santa Cruz County, the Board of Supervisors recently extended a yearlong moratorium on installations. Officials in Marin County, north of San Francisco, approved a ban this month on meters in unincorporated, largely rural areas, where about a quarter of its population lives.

At first, the backlash against PG&E focused on the notion that the meters were giving artificially high readings, but that died down after studies confirmed their overall accuracy.

The new wave of protests comes from conservatives and individualists who view the monitoring of home appliances as a breach of privacy, as well as from a cadre of environmental health campaigners who see the meters’ radio-frequency radiation — like emissions from cellphones and other common devices — as a health threat.

The health concerns about the smart meters focus on the phenomenon known as “electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” or E.H.S., in which people claim that radiation from cellphones, WiFi systems or smart meters causes them to suffer dizziness, fatigue, headaches, sleeplessness or heart palpitations.

The two most recent government reviews of available research found no link between health problems and common levels of electromagnetic radiation. Both reports indicated that more research would be welcome; on that basis, opponents say the meters should not be installed until they are proved safe.

Since 2006, PG&E has installed more than seven million of the devices, which transmit real-time data on customers’ use of electricity.



  1. Kili says:

    Could law enforcement obtain information from PG&E to identify a meth lab or indoor marijuana grower?

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. willie says:

    Its all about money and convenience
    More than splitting hairs on safe radiation is the adding of hairs to the camel’s back i.e. cumulative EMF radiation or pollution we can live without.
    It is liken to process food where a safe amount of chemicals are added.
    Along with cumulative progress comes new subtle conditions being developed that medical research historically seems to never trace out a direct cause.
    There is nothing wrong about resisting or protesting more EMF pollution that typically when implemented will never be dismantle, instead only continues to cumulate.
    We can live the simple life and prosper without this catchy lobbying called green progress.

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  3. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    You know that people fighting against something, plain just don’t like it PERIOD, when the arguement keeps changing.

    First it was the arguement about faulty meters, which is stated as unfounded overall.

    Second in the EMF arguement that has yet to be proven.

    Now some are getting ready to transition into the privacy arguement.

    Bet most of these same people I could Google on Spokeo, or reverse 411, or their Facebook account and find out as much if not more information then what ever will be revealed from the privacy boogy man, over at PG&E.

    Just be honest and say you don’t like under any circumstances but PLEASE save us the LAME arguements.

    (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      BTDT: Can you point to a news article anywhere that specifically debunks the notion that the meters have been proved completely accurate? It is one thing to say that this has been proven, but a little evidence sure helps bolster an argument.
      “… the EMF argument has yet to be proven.” So, we just say “Okay, go ahead, I’ll be a guinea pig for a publicly controlled utility to make more profit, even though my children may suffer life altering medical conditions”? Instead of simply letting P G & E roll out a new technology that does not have the science to back up their assertion that it is completely safe, why shouldn’t we demand that there be some “proof” to back up their claims ?
      I am completely confident that someone with a little incentive and money to spend could find out quite a bit about almost anyone in our society; however, is that quite the same as a corporation such as P G & E gathering all of the information that the smart meters have the capability to gather, and then either sharing that information with other companies or our government?
      I do not want any company to have the “right” to change how they gather the information for the use of their product in a way that increases the different types of information they can obtain along with the possibility that the technology they want to use that could have severe health implications for any and/or all of their customers, and then add to that the possibility that they are going to be charging a lot more for the same product because their new technology has problems with accuracy and the possibility that the information may not even be secure due to using wireless technology.

      (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  4. Fedup says:

    “I’m from PG&E and I’m here to help”

    (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  5. PasoParent says:

    “The new wave of protests comes from conservatives and individualists who view the monitoring of home appliances as a breach of privacy”

    I don’t get this. How is having a smart meter invading my privacy? Can anyone explain?

    (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      Apparently the theory is that the meter will attempt to communicate with “smart” appliances; supposedly that info could be recored about what kind of appliances you have and your usage of those appliances. I’m not so sure that I understand how that is supposed to work, but as I understand the theory, that is what the “invasion of privacy” concern is about. Is it possible that this is all true? I don’t know for sure myself, but I’m not so sure that if it is possible that I would like that information recorded about my usage or what I have in my home. I’m sure that some may not care about the information that is recorded about them and is either stored by a corporation or shared with the government, kind of like when it was brought out that the NSA records all of our cell phone conversations and emails a couple of my relatives weren’t bothered about it, telling me that they had “nothing to hide”. I for one think that there should be some things that are still private, and P G & E does not need any information about what I have or how I use it, but maybe that is just me.

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
      • PasoParent says:

        Thanks Bob. Now that you mention it–I think I heard some concern about the smart appliance thing, too…That eventually the government could control how much electricity you use, when you use it, what appliances are OK to use, etc… Not sure I believe it all and definitely don’t understand it all but I appreciate your input.

        (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  6. ds_gray says:

    The reason PG&E wants so-called ‘smart’ meters is so they can charge more for the same product, plain and simple. The argument that this is being done to eliminate meter readers is silly – the meters cost more to buy, install and maintain than all the meter readers salaries for 10 years.

    Currently, PG&E uses rate tiers to charge; i.e. so many kilowatts for the first tier at $0.14 per Kilowatt/Hr, the next tier goes higher, the 3rd goes higher still. You just have to look at your bill to see how quickly the rates go up. These meters allow PG&E to measure WHEN you use your electricity, and therefore charge you MORE during ‘peak usage’, when supposedly the same electrons moving though the same wires cost more to deliver. If you bounce into the 3rd tier and PG&E can charge you the max rate during the day in summer for electricity, they’ll be able to get you for more than $1 per KwH – OUCH! That is what this is about. Think about paying $6-$7 per hour to run your air conditioner when its 110 outside. There is also the attempt to keep ‘grid-intertie’ systems out of the mainstream, but that’s a whole other can-o-worms…

    (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
    • pasowino says:

      Just to help you understand how the rates work: When you get your smart meter, the electric rate you pay will be exactly the same as it is/was before the smart meter. The meter still records how much energy you use and you will be billed accordingly. You won’t be charged more for daytime energy unless you voluntarily sign up for a time of use rate schedule, in which case, you will be charged more for daytime energy use, but will get a lower rate for your nighttime energy use.

      With regard to running your air conditioning, let’s assume you have a 5-ton (pretty standard for 2,000 ft2 house) air conditioner. We’ll assume that the efficiency of said air conditioner is 1.25 kW per ton of cooling, so 6.25 kW. The highest tier in the rates (non time of use rate) is about $0.40 per kWh, so if you happen to be in that top tier, you’ll be paying about $2.50 per hour that your air conditioning is actually running.

      I hope that helps. I have my smart meter and my bill hasn’t changed. So far so good. :)

      (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
      • ds_gray says:

        You left out one important word – YET – your bill hasn’t changed YET. Once the meters are installed statewide, there will be no need for PG&E to keep the tiered rate structure, and you will have NO CHOICE but to pay the ‘time of use’ rates.

        As an aside, the ‘smart’ meters were originally an ‘opt-in’ program for PG&E as well. Now they are being forced on the customers PG&E ‘serves’. And they’ve (a) lawyered up to make sure it happens, and (b) their top execs in this smart meter program have been caught posing as laypersons on message boards, claiming to be common consumers and spreading ‘goody goody’ messages on these boards – in other words, an ad-hoc propaganda campaign.

        THAT is the purpose of the smart meters. Charge more for the same product. Your example figure of $0.40 per KwH is just the start.

        Enjoy your new meter! If you can explain why electrons are worth more in the daytime than at night, I’m all ears!

        (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
        • zaphod says:

          why electrons are worth more in the daytime than at night
          Supply vs Demand. During the day you turn on the air-conditioning in the air-conditioner factory.
          Global Energy Network

          (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
        • pasowino says:

          Zaphod is correct about supply and demand. Basic economics says that as supply and demand get closer together or when demand exceeds supply, the price will increase. Here is a look at the demand for energy in the state of California and what the available supply of energy is. From this, you can tell that daytime power should be more expensive than night time power. Granted, in the winter time it’s not near as obvious, but come back and check this web site on a hot summer day and you will see exactly why daytime power is more expensive.

          (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  7. Paperboys says:

    Smart Meters are an attempt by PG&E to cull its payroll of meter readers. The meters will also give the company the ability to reach out and shut your electricity off immediately if you don’t pay.
    Does the PUC really think we are so stupid to believe that PG&E is so benevolent as to want to help us save energy? They are in the business of producing and selling gas and electricity.
    Since they are a regulated utility company, they are limited to how much profit they can make. When profits drop, the PUC lets them raise rates. You never hear about rates going down do you?

    (2) 16 Total Votes - 9 up - 7 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      If people pay their bills, they won’t have to worry about having PG&E shuting off their power.

      (-1) 15 Total Votes - 7 up - 8 down
      • zaphod says:

        Nothing to see here PGE finds other positions in the company for meter readers, mesh network transmitter is up the pole NOT in the meter.

        (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
        • Al says:

          I think you are incorrect on the meter transmission. It needs to transmit the data to the pole mounted repeater. Maybe they use PLC (power line carrier) data transmission to pole but I doubt it.

          (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
          • Kettel says:

            I’m getting mixed info on the meter to pole communications. A meter reader I know tells me it’s PLC up the drop wire (uses less power, subject to less interferances) to the pole mounted mesh device.
            The PG&E web page says “network radio, which transmits meter data to a electric network access point”
            So I guess we will find out.

            Funny fact, the current smart meters will not go backwards so customers with photovoltaic grid systems can’t us them and won’t get them for some ?time +- a bit.

            (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
            • Al says:

              PLC data would make sense to a central transmitter on poles. Most if not all solar installations use Time Of Use meters to optimize output.

              I don’t think a “smart meter” can actually disconnect a customer by remote command, in other words PG&E can’t turn you off without a trouble man coming out and physically disconnecting.

              PG&E Corp is not your ally! The service people who work at PG&E are great.

              (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
      • BeenThereDoneThat says:

        So I have a question to the people that think it is o.k. to not pay their bills. Then is it o.k. if your boss doesn’t pay you come payday??

        (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
    • Kettel says:

      “The meters will also give the company the ability to reach out and shut your electricity off immediately if you don’t pay.”

      Yes and turn it back on remotely so you don’t have to wait a day or more for a lineman to hook you back up.

      (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down

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