Smart Grid Advocacy Group Disseminates Propaganda

Fact or Fiction ClipartIntroduction

A smart grid advocacy group, called the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC)*, has produced a video that claims 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.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The video under the pretence of being a “credible” source of information, exudes propaganda, makes nonfactual statements, and denigrates concerned citizens through hyperbole.

The video, called “Separating the Facts from the Fiction about Smart Meters,” begins by stating that “there has been some misinformation floating around the Internet about smart meters.”  It proposes to dispel three main falsehoods:

  1. Smart meters “infringe on your right to privacy.”
  2. Smart meters are “allegedly harmful to your health.”
  3. Smart meters are “the fourth horseman of the apocalypse that will wreak havoc on your life.”

The above items will be addressed in reverse order.

*The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) identifies itself as a “consumer-focused 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed to bring about an understanding of the benefits of modernized electrical systems among all stakeholders in the United States.”

Discussion of the Evidence

The Apocalypse

The item about “the fourth horseman of the apocalypse” is nothing more than an unseemly hyperbole.  Does the SGCC think this issue to be a joke?  There are citizens (stakeholders) across America with legitimate concerns and questions about smart meters.  The video content at this point is basically a straw man argument about an apocalypse that has no basis in fact and does not refute anything; it only serves as an attempt to marginalize and mock people who have concerns.

Health Issue

RadioFor the health issue, the video starts off by talking about conspiracy theories and mentioning that “smart meters do emit radiofrequency energy, but so does your radio,” while the video shows a picture of a common household radio.

Fact Check:  A common household radio, in general, is a radio wave receiver, not a transmitter.

The main point of this portion of the video is that “Even if you cozied up to a smart meter all day, it would require you to snuggle next to one for 375 years before it would equal the exposure of having a daily 15-minute cell phone call over the course of one year.”  At the same time, the video shows a cartoonish guy hugging his smart meter.

Fact Check:  This statement regarding a person snuggling next to his smart meter is totally false and is a misrepresentation of the facts.  Before explaining this misrepresentation, let it be clear what the SGCC is stating.  In a press release from August 14, 2012, the SGCC makes the following additional statement, “It would take 375 years of direct contact [emphasis added] with a smart meter to equal the same amount of radio frequency exposure from a daily, 15-minute cell phone call over the course of one year.”

The above statements are misrepresentations of testimony given by Peter Valberg, before the Public Service Commission of Maryland on April 6, 2012.  Speaking on behalf of Baltimore Gas & Electric, Peter Valberg made the following statements:

“[F]or cell phone use of 15 minutes per day, the integrated RF daily dose (900 seconds x 0.50 SAR) is about 375 times greater than the RF exposure from one day of standing continuously within 10 feet [emphasis added] of a smart meter (120 seconds x 0.01 MPE).  Put another way, you would have to be exposed to the RF from a smart meter for 375 years to get a dose equivalent to that of one year of 15-minutes-per-day cell phone use.”

Snuggle Up to Your Smart MeterFact Check:  The statement made by Valberg was made based upon EPRI** data for radiation measurements at a distance of 10 feet from a smart meter.  The radiation levels at contact with the smart meter would be much, much higher.  The video portrayal of a cartoonish guy hugging his smart meter is complete deception.

**EPRI stands for the Electric Power Research Institute.

Continuing with the health issue, there is considerable information available on this website and elsewhere that substantiates health concerns related to exposure to radiofrequency radiation.  To summarize just a few important elements to provide perspective:

From May 24-31, 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a Working Group of 31 scientists from 14 countries, met in Lyon, France “to assess the potential carcinogenic hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.”  The conclusion of the IARC Working Group was to classify “radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) …  A positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer for which a causal interpretation is considered by the Working Group to be credible, …”

Beyond the potential cancer risks, smart meter advocates do not want to acknowledge the existence of people who report being afflicted with electromagnetic hypersensitivity or EHS.  Admittedly, the subject of EHS is controversial.  From a World Health Organization (WHO) perspective, “The majority of studies indicate that EHS individuals cannot detect EMF exposure any more accurately than non-EHS individuals.” On the other hand, “The symptoms are certainly real and can vary widely in their severity.  Whatever its cause, EHS can be a disabling problem for the affected individual.”  So, if the symptoms are real, why not treat them as real?

Furthermore, it is reasonable to question whether it is wise for an entire new smart grid industry to further saturate our environment with an added layer of RF emissions.  Alternate technology could have been utilized.

Cell phone exposure is normally intermittent and is a voluntary experience, while wireless smart meter radiation exposure is chronic and involuntary.  Smart grid advocates never want to acknowledge this important aspect.  Nor do they acknowledge one of the basic tenets of risk perception, whereby people perceive risks differently based upon the nature of the risk, e.g., whether the risk is voluntary or involuntary.  Involuntary exposure to RF emissions may be deemed as high risk if a person concludes that there is no desired benefit in return for the exposure received.

For those people who oppose the installation of wireless smart meters, there is an element of principle involved.  A person can eliminate or curtail the use of other common wireless devices in the home, but in most cases across the country, for the wireless smart meter, a person cannot.  If there is an “opt-out” provision, a fee is usually involved in order to prudently avoid a newly added source of RF emissions for the home.  From a principled standpoint, those who oppose smart meter installations do so on the grounds that people should not have to pay penalty fees in order to avoid the various risks associated with such meters which not only include RF radiation but also privacy and data security risks as well.

Privacy and Data Security Issues

On the issue of privacy, the video merely states that “Smart meters only know how much power you are using, not specifically how you are using that power.”  This is just such a childish, simplistic treatment of the subject matter.  It is true that the smart meter is merely a conduit for collecting and transmitting energy-related usage data.  Obviously, an inanimate object can’t “know” anything.  That is not the issue.  The issue relates to the incremental and granular type of data that is collected and transmitted by the meter to places where it can be intercepted and stored and analyzed by others (real people) to be able to provide information about the usage patterns for individual appliances.

Books have been written on this subject, but for purposes of this article, let it suffice to quote a government document, NIST Document NISTIR 7628 (vol. 2), where it states:

“Smart meter data provides information about the usage patterns for individual appliances—which in turn can reveal detailed information about activities within a premise through the use of nonintrusive appliance load monitoring (NALM) techniques. … For example, research shows that analyzing 15-minute interval aggregate household energy consumption data can by itself pinpoint the use of most major home appliances. … such detailed information about appliance use can also reveal whether a building is occupied or vacant, show residency patterns over time, and reflect intimate details of people’s lives and their habits and preferences inside their homes.”

Beyond that, you have the U. S. Government Accountability Office stating in GAO Report #GAO-11-117, that:

There is a lack of security features being built into smart grid systemsSecurity features are not consistently built into smart grid devices.  For example, our experts told us that certain currently available smart meters have not been designed with a strong security architecture and lack important security features, including event logging and forensics capabilities which are needed to detect and analyze attacks.”


So why wouldn’t and why shouldn’t informed citizens question the wisdom and prudence of a wide-spread proliferation of smart grid technology?  People have demonstrated legitimate complaints, and they seek just and proper responses, and in some cases accommodation, from their government officials and utility executives.

Based upon what has been explained, and with a critical eye, feel free to view the SGCC video that proclaims to separate fact from fiction on the topic of smart meters.

Addendum Regarding Cell Phone versus Smart Meter Comparisons

Smart meter advocates like to make comparisons between potential cell phone exposures and smart meter exposures.  It sets up a straw man argument based upon the assumption first of all that cell phone use is safe and second that the exposures from both devices are technically comparable.  Neither assumption is necessarily true.

As stated earlier, cell phone exposure is normally intermittent and is a voluntary experience, while wireless smart meter radiation exposure is chronic and involuntary.  In addition, the spatial characteristics of the exposures from the two devices are vastly different.  Exposure from the cell phone is usually highly localized to a couple of specific body locations, namely the head area and possibly another area of the body if a person attaches the phone to the hip or another area during use.  For the smart meter, the exposure to the body is generally more uniform in nature.  It is technically very difficult to truly compare the RF emissions from a cell phone to the emissions from a smart meter.  They really are apples and oranges.

In addition to the above points, once it is finally accepted that some people in our population are electrosensitive and that nonthermal exposure effects are possible, then it will also be acknowledged and understood that the potential adverse effects of RF radiation are not necessarily related to the field strength of the emissions from a device but are more related to the frequency and characteristics of the signal, i.e., whether the emissions are pulsed and intermittent or continuous in nature.

Nevertheless, smart meter advocate groups continue to make the device comparisons in an effort to further promote the continued use of wireless smart meters.  Others are then forced to respond to those comparisons to at least put their claims in perspective.

For an article showing how smart meter RF emissions can actually be comparable to if not greater than those from a cell phone, please read the following: A Critical Review of the ComEd Radiofrequency ‘Fact Sheet’.

SkyVision Solutions Video

Although SkyVision Solutions doesn’t have the funds to produce a video quite as professional looking (and inaccurate) as the one produced by the industry funded SGCC, we have created a much more fact-filled video to help counter the SGCC propaganda as shown below.

Archival Reference


About SkyVision Solutions

Raising public awareness and finding solutions for smart grid issues related to invasions of privacy, data security, cyber threats, health and societal impacts, as well as hazards related to radiofrequency (RF) radiation emissions from all wireless devices, including smart meters.
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