The “Smart” Grid Is Not Smart, Safe, or Green

Not Green“The smart grid is increasingly understood as an over-engineered, ill-advised, financial boondoggle at taxpayer expense, capable of endangering the security of the entire national grid, violating constitutional privacy protections, and endangering public health.  In addition, the smart grid/metering has not been found to save energy when all the new variables in the system are factored in.  Plus, time-of-use pricing is largely punitive to those who can least afford it.  Time-of-use pricing is fundamentally a Wall Street model designed to maintain shareholder profits as we transition to more energy efficient models that will reduce demand.”

The problems with smart grid/metering are so legion and potentially catastrophic that it boggles the mind.”

The above sentences are extracted from a document prepared by the Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council (BLEC) in commenting to the State of Connecticut in December 2012, on the state’s draft energy policy.  This website posting provides a compilation of selected sections of that public comment letter, a significant portion of which dealt with smart grid technology concerns.

It is hoped that you will find the quoted comments informative and enlightening.  The website moderator has taken the liberty to bold and/or underscore selected sentences and phrases for emphasis.  In addition, illustrations have been added.

Health Concerns are Real

HAN House“The smart grid is a 2-way communications system that will eventually turn all of our appliances into radiofrequency radiation (RF) transceivers just like cell phones, capable of being controlled remotely by us and the utility companies. …  The average home has at least 15 appliances.  This is an involuntary ambient exposure that does not now exist and no government regulatory agency regulates for cumulative background exposures such as this.  It is a large-scale system being forced on citizens at a time when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, has classified RF in these frequencies as a 2B (possible) carcinogen along with formaldehyde, lead, DDT and exhaust fumes.”

New appliances are already being equipped with internal antennas that cannot be deactivated without voiding warranties, even when people do not want such exposures.  All of these indoor transmitters communicate with smart meters attached to the outside of homes and businesses, which will, in turn, transmit utility usage information several times a day, and sometimes several times a minute, to a new centralized hub like a cell tower or newly installed equipment on distribution poles throughout neighborhoods.  Peak power bursts of RF when a device first transmits have been measured in excess of federal guidelines.  These are unsafe, involuntary exposures, especially to the elderly, the infirm, pregnant women and children.”

“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has standards in place but they only regulate for acute, short term, high-intensity exposures capable of heating tissue the way a microwave oven cooks food.  Although a safety margin is built into the standards, any effects below that thermal threshold are simply unregulated.  In addition, the FCC categorically excludes from review any device or application that falls below a certain power density which most wireless products, including smart meters, do.  That means that there is no true regulatory oversight of just about all of the wireless products in use today with the exception of cell phones which have to meet a threshold for a specific absorption rate of energy deposited in tissue.”

“The FCC standards are based on a dosimetry model of how to make communications systems work with the least amount of transmitted power necessary, not on true biological models regarding the consequences to living systems in the path of technology.”

RF Health Hazard Image“In addition, the FCC standards – indeed no state or federal regulatory entity – regulates for cumulative exposures from myriad sources all functioning together.  RF power density and categorical exclusion are considered one product at a time.  The smart grid/metering will add a whole new layer of ambient RF exposure that does not now exist.”

“What’s more, man-made radiation creates very different kinds of exposures — with unusual signaling characteristics like digital pulsing, phased array and saw-tooth waveforms, and at much higher power intensities than anything found in nature.  RF is actually a form of energetic air pollution.  Myriad species are known to be fantastically sensitive to low-level energy and may be affected by these increasing background levels.  No federal or state agency has standards to protect wildlife from RF.”

“Scores of studies … demonstrate that low-level RF affects every aspect of biological function.  This is a body of work that we ignore at our own peril, especially with the deployment of smart/grid/metering into every home and business.”

Privacy and Liability: Smart Meters as Surveillance Systems

Privacy and SecurityPrivacy is of enormous concern with smart grid/metering and constitutional issues are on the table.  This alone is reason to halt the deployment until such time as questions are settled.  Smart grid/metering provides for the first time near-real-time energy use, including specific information on when people are home, how many people live in a home, what appliances one owns, how appliances are used, whether one owns a security system or high-end consumer products like plasma TVs and whether they use certain types of medical equipment, for instance.  Critics say there is far too much ‘granularity’ in smart metering that opens us up to everything from insurance companies changing personal homeowner’s and medical policies, unconstitutional police searches and seizures, and home invasions/burglaries.”

“The simple truth is that a lot can be known about a person through their energy consumption habits.  Smart meters offer significantly more detailed information about an individual’s energy usage than analog or first generation AMR meters.  In addition, there are no controls in place to guarantee what a utility does with such personal information regarding sale to third parties seeking, for instance, to sell you new appliances; police seeking information; or the government tracking of individuals.  The legal ramifications are legion.”


Cyber Attack“The smart grid/metering creates security vulnerabilities that never existed with the old hardened utility grid in large part due to new IT connectivity.   The problems are inherent to its very wireless design in a way that better encryption alone cannot fix.  The smart grid as currently designed cannot be made safe from cyberattack, according to many experts, and it is more vulnerable to solar storms than the older utility grid.  We are, in fact, making the national utility grid less stable in going ‘smart’ due to multiple factors.”

“Ross Anderson and Shailendra Fuloria at Cambridge University’s Computer Laboratory note that hostile government agencies or terrorist organizations could bring whole countries to their knees by interrupting electrical generation.  More so than traditional grids, they stress that smart grids create a new strategic vulnerability as the cyber equivalent of a nuclear attack.”

“Smart Grids are also easy to sabotage with simple jamming devices, mounted on cars, traveling through neighborhoods.” Safety: Fires, Appliances Acting Erratically, No UL Listing

Smart Meter Fire“Smart meters have started thousands of fires due, in part, to poor training of temporary installers, but also to defective meter manufacture. … There are also problems in the inherent engineering/safety issues when the differing voltages between the extremely low frequency 60 Hz powerline system marries to the ultra high frequency RF used in smart metering.”

“There are reports of appliances acting erratically after smart meters are installed.  Ceiling fans with remote controls have started spontaneously at all hours of day and night with fan paddles running backwards, changing speeds.  Circuit boards in computers and appliances have burned out.  Garage doors with remote control devices have spontaneously opened, among many other things.”

“In addition, smart meters are not UL listed for safety.”

[Editor Update:  In early 2014, some utilities/manufacturers have begun to seek UL certification for smart meters although there is still no requirement for such approvals.]

The Smart Grid Does Not Save Energy: ‘Vampire’ Loss, Data Storage, and Tiered Pricing

“Despite the promise of the smart grid saving energy via consumer choice and the ability to ration individual energy use to less costly times of day, there is no evidence that this promise has delivered anything substantial toward saving energy.”

TOU Pricing

“No one has shown significant energy savings with either near-real-time energy use knowledge on the part of consumers or tiered pricing.  Many people and businesses simply cannot change when or how they use energy.  Tiered pricing automatically penalizes the elderly, the self-employed, the infirm, the unemployed, stay-at- home parents with young children and anyone else who functions on a normal daylight schedule.  People can choose to do their laundry later at night but meals and bathing carry fewer options.”

Energy Vampire“Nowhere in the makeover of the world’s utility grids have key increases in energy consumption that are inherent to smart technology been discussed.  Environmentalists in particular have embraced smart technology without enough scrutiny.  The actuarials do not factor in vampire energy use, for instance, when all of our appliances and meters are equipped with embedded transmitters using higher frequencies that require more energy.  Plus such appliances are always in ‘on’ mode even when not in use, or they wouldn’t be able to receive a remote signal to turn fully on or off.  For years, environmentalists have advised anyone with an appliance that has a remote control capability such as a TV, to unplug the device completely because they are never completely off.  It’s called ‘vampire’ energy and the smart grid proposes to increase that invisible energy consumption by orders of magnitude with trillions of new appliances and meters.”

“Nor has anyone factored in the extra energy required in the constant stepping up and down of voltage between the higher frequency RF components and the lower frequency utility lines – a process that uses far more energy than just leaving the old systems alone.”

Data Storage“Also not factored into the larger picture is the energy required to store such vast amounts of data.  New data storage facilities are among the biggest energy users today.  The smart grid will greatly increase that need.”

“The smart grid is neither a short nor a long-term energy-saver when all aspects are considered, and it is far from an energy-saving panacea despite people’s best intentions and environmental aspirations.  The smart grid originated in the largest corporations in the world – IBM, GE, Siemens, and others.  It is fundamentally a Wall Street model meant to shore up investor profits, especially as we transition to renewable sources when energy generation and consumption are expected to decrease for various reasons.”

“There is another dark horse regarding smart metering.  The main purpose of a system that allows a utility to remotely turn electricity on and off is to shift customers not only to tiered pricing but also to prepaid plans.  Anderson and Fuloria have written that the main purpose of smart metering is to ensure that customers who default on their payments can be switched remotely to a prepay tariff system where they purchase a card for so many hours of electricity in advance.  Such a system has been in operation in South Africa for several years.  Such a system increases shareholders’ bottom line because there are virtually no unpaid bills or wait times before turning people’s power off.  But there are also no safeguards in place to protect people from mistaken shutoffs or recourse during winter months.”

Conclusion on Smart Grid/Metering

“No sane person could argue that our aging utility infrastructure does not need upgrading, or that government has no role to play, but smart grid/metering as currently designed isn’t the way.  On close examination, the smart grid is not smart, not safe, and not green.”

The problems with smart grid/metering are so legion and potentially catastrophic that it boggles the mind …”


Note:  The Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council is a 501(3)(c) non-profit organization that focuses on environmental issues affecting the Northwest Corner of Connecticut and the Berkshires region of Massachusetts.

To review the entire comment document referenced in this website posting, refer to the following link:

BLEC Comments on CT Energy Strategy

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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1 Response to The “Smart” Grid Is Not Smart, Safe, or Green

  1. Pingback: 2014 Year in Review: ‘Smart’ meters have failed and were a dumb investment

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