“Take Back Your Power” Film Leads to Backlash by Smart Grid Advocates

TBYP Graphic for Critic PostingTwo organizations which support smart meters and smart grid implementation published highly critical reviews of the new documentary film, “Take Back Your Power,” even before it premiered on September 5th.  The “TBYP” film itself is quite critical of the energy utility industry which has been replacing analog energy consumption meters with new so-called smart meters at an accelerating rate over the past few years.  The new documentary film investigates the heated controversy surrounding the smart meters and such topics as utility overcharges, invasive monitoring, and adverse health effects.

Environmental Defense Fund

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) wrote an article on September 4th, in part stating, “The film suggests that smart meters cause illnessAccording to an August 12 USA Today story, the film’s director was inspired by a friend who became seriously ill after a smart meter was installed at his homeNaturally, this type of personal experience might shape one’s view on smart meters, but correlation is not causation.”

So as you can see, the EDF article attempts to inject doubt into any conclusions reached by the TBYP film due to the “personal experience” that may have shaped the film director’s views.  A link will be provided at the end of this posting if you want to read the entire EDF article.  For the most part it represents pro-smart grid propaganda, …  although EDF does at least support the concept of consumers being able to opt-out of smart meters should they choose to do so.

Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative

Another blog posting was written on August 16, 2013, by the Executive Director of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC).  The article starts out by describing the TBYP film as a “forthcoming documentary spreading misinformation about smart grid and smart meters.”  Now how objective is that for someone to criticize a film on its content who no doubt had no opportunity to watch the new documentary in advance?

The SGCC Executive Director then ends the blog posting by stating:  “Too bad the Take Back Your Power crowd doesn’t realize their position actually gives away consumer empowerment to manage their electric bill and know details about their usage.”  Again, these comments represent clear propaganda where the mandated smart meters are advertised as all about “empowering” the consumers, whether they want it or not.

As if that were not enough, the SGCC Director adds a “comment” to her own blog posting by stating, “Please note there are over 200 million smart meters in operation globally, including 50 million in the U.S., without a single verified instance of negative health effects.  You would have to stand in front of a smart meter for 19 years to get the same radiation as you get from a 5 minute cell phone call.”

Now I don’t know exactly how many smart meters have been installed globally; I just know that there are too many.  We do know there have been health complaints in probably every community they have been installed, and many complaints have been documented to be quite credible.  This is where you get into tricky semantics.  The SGCC Director refers to not having a “single verified instance of negative effects.”  [The EDF article makes a similar claim.]  What does the SGCC Director consider to be the approved method to verify “negative health effects” for each instance where it is reported?  She evidently would not accept a medical doctor’s diagnosis.  On the other hand, it is true that when a person dies from lung cancer, there is no absolute way to “verify” that a specific death was due to smoking cigarettes, radon exposure, or from some other cause.  If one uses this type of logic, then there is likely no mechanism to “verify” reported adverse health effects to the satisfaction of the SGCC.  How convenient.

Then there is the ludicrous claim that “You would have to stand in front of a smart meter for 19 years to get the same radiation as you get from a 5 minute cell phone call.”  These types of claims are frequently made by smart grid advocates without any accompanying basis information so that there is normally no way to test the validity of the assumptions.  No doubt someone did calculate these values based upon some inappropriate assumptions in order to make the comparison sound as extreme as possible.  However, based upon the information provided below, it will become clear that the SGCC claim does not pass the smell test.

Discussion and Commentary

Both sides of the controversy can play games with these number comparisons between cell phones and smart meters.  Such claims set up straw man arguments that are not helpful to settling any debate.  The truth is that it is inappropriate to compare cell phone exposure values that are calculated for a device held in contact with the ear area to the more uniform whole body exposures received from smart meters.  It is attempting to compare apples with oranges.

However, there is a revealing report entitled, “An Evaluation of Radio Frequency Fields Produced by Smart Meters Deployed in Vermont,” by Richard Tell Associates, Inc., dated, January 14, 2013.  In that report, measurements were made of RF fields produced by a cellular phone “to provide perspective on potential exposure to cell phones and smart meters.”  According to Richard Tell Associates:   “Cell phones make use of transceivers that, in terms of power and frequencies used, are not very different from the transceivers in smart metersThus, one would not expect that there would be very much difference in exposure between the two devices except for the fact that cell phones are intended to be used against the body while smart meters are not.”

In fact, in measurements conducted by Richard Tell Associates as a part of the above study, an RF detection device was placed at a height of five feet, such that it was located one (1) foot away from both a smart meter and a cell phoneThe resulting spatially averaged RF field measurements were nearly identical for both devices.

Hands Free GraphicThis is the sort of common sense starting point for making rational and real comparisons between smart meter RF exposures to cell phone exposures.  Based upon the above information and other information that I have reviewed, if you talk on a cell phone in the hands-free mode, which is becoming very popular, your exposure is probably about the same as standing one to two feet away from a wireless smart meter.  Beyond that, you can claim that being at a greater distance from a smart meter can be considered a differential factor under typical exposure scenarios as compared with a cell phone.  Conversely, however, another differential factor is the chronic nature of smart meter exposure as opposed to most people using their cell phones for no more 20 minutes* per day for voice communications.  There is also evidence that different signal characteristics of RF emissions from different devices may produce different biological effects.  Once you add in the aspect of cell phone use being voluntary where smart meter installations are being mandated for everyone including children and vulnerable populations, you have a clear and compelling argument for questioning the wisdom of massive wireless smart meter roll-outs across many countries.

[* According to a CNN article published in 2012:  “The average [cell phone] subscriber used 639 voice minutes per month in 2011, down from 720 minutes in 2010.”  This would translate as a reduction from about 24 minutes to 21 minutes of voice time per day, but one must keep in mind that many subscribers have family share plans, so it is unlikely that all 20 minutes or so per day usage should be attributed to single individuals.]

The SGCC will no doubt never admit to adverse health hazards, privacy concerns, etc., regarding the massive roll-out of smart grid technology.  The SGCC clearly represents the industry interests and is hopelessly biased.  The Environmental Defense Fund, however, claims to have a mission “to preserve the natural systems on which all life depends.”  With mounting evidence that RF emissions harm the environment**, maybe there is hope that someday the EDF will change its current position of supporting smart grid systems that implement wireless technology.

Let’s also hope that the TBYP documentary film can help increase consumer awareness of the true costs and risks associated with smart grid systems.  Certainly the film can be considered one-sided in its viewpoint, but it is “high time” that some large-scale “balance” is provided to at least offset some of the exaggerated benefits and propaganda disseminated by the utilities and the smart grid industry.

[** See, for example, link at https://smartgridawareness.org/2013/07/27/impacts-of-rf-on-ecosystem/.]

Links for Articles Mentioned in this Posting



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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9 Responses to “Take Back Your Power” Film Leads to Backlash by Smart Grid Advocates

  1. Stop Smart Meters Wisconsin says:

    Doubting Thomas, if you watched Take Back Your Power you will know that besides the wireless radiation (involuntary) that these meters need to convert AC/DC so they include a device that creates what is known as dirty electricity, even more frequencies that add to health risks besides wireless pollution. A person who knows they have a problem with dirty power/RF may shut off a breaker in their home to take a break or turn off a computer or another appliance, which also uses these converters. BUT YOU CAN NEVER TURN OFF A transmitting utility meter or its power converter, which sends emissions onto home wiring 24/7.

    An important point in this debate is that I don’t care if you have equipment you decide is safe on your house. But you should not be able to force others to use equipment they find seriously risky, in order to get utility service. It is that simple. Free market choices are not possible with utility monopolies. Going off grid is too expensive and complicated for most people. Non-transmitting, mechanical analog meters should be allowed by all utility monopolies. We had these for decades with no problems and they work. FREE MARKET choice in a FREE COUNTRY is what we are talking about.

    WordPress.com / Gravatar.com credentials can be used.


    I checked out the Richard Tell/Vermont report referenced above, and do not reach the same conclusion as you. Of course I may have missed something but I think you should review it. According to my understanding, the report states that it found an average MPE of 0.070% for a single cellphone. For multiple smart meters, the average MPE ranged from 0.0014% to 0.00058% – 50 to 120 times lower than the cellphone!

    • I welcome a peer review check on my postings. My initial review of your comment is that the numbers you are referencing for smart meters are for “interior RF field measurements inside residences” as mentioned on page 4 of report. This would not be an apples and apples comparison since the house wall is offering shielding. For outdoor measurements 1 foot in front of meter see top of page 3 where GMP meter value is 0.068% of limit and at middle of page 90 it states: “Thus, one would not expect that there would be very much difference in exposure between the two devices except for the fact that cell phones are intended to be used against the body while smart meters are not. In a measurement of the spatially averaged RF field over a six-foot vertical dimension, with the phone positioned at five feet above the floor, the field was found to be equivalent to 0.070% of the MPE. Interestingly, this is in quite close agreement with the value obtained for the maximum field smart meter in terms of time-averaged field, including spatial averaging of 0.068% of the MPE.” Also refer to middle of page 87 where it states: “… the overall estimated RF exposure to the RF LAN smart meter emissions at one foot would be 0.068% of the MPE for the GMP meters…”

      • DOUBTING THOMAS says:

        Fast reply there Joe! My smart meter figure was from the top of page 89, and I did not notice that it refered to indoor readings. So, you were quite correct with your numbers. But, per the commentary near the bottom of page 90, the [local] SAR for the cellphone would typically be much higher than for a smart meter due to the closer proximity of the device to the head. More research would be needed to establish just how much higher it would be.

      • OK, well now you are getting away from the point of my article, “that it is inappropriate to compare cell phone exposure values that are calculated for a device held in contact with the ear area to the more uniform whole body exposures received from smart meters.” That leads into the rest of my article where it talks about increasingly popular hands-free use of a cell phone, chronic exposure to smart meter, involuntary exposure to smart meter, and the fact that people only use cell phones on average about 20 minutes daily.

      • DOUBTING THOMAS says:

        What was being compared in the Vermont report was power flux density at a distance of one foot from the source for both devices. The question of relative RF exposure is independent of the purpose of the device under test. Even if one is a personal use exposure and the other is an environmental exposure, as in the cellphone/smart meter comparison. It’s not only appropriate, it’s the only practical way to do it. I’m all for using hands-free kits.

      • Within the context of your latest reply likely reveals a fundamental difference in our perspectives. When a wireless smart meter is installed on one’s own property or home, one does not consider those emissions as environmental in nature. For many older homes, the smart meters are mounted indoors; certainly the term “environmental” does not enter those homeowner’s minds. In other cases, smart meters are mounted in a location where it is surrounded by a deck or patio. Perhaps people want to sit on their patio and read a book for a couple of hours without being irradiated by a smart meter. In addition, many smart meters emit a secondary signal for communication WITHIN the home as part of a Home Area Network. Collectively, smart meters may indeed be harmful to the “environment” as part of a total smart grid network, but on one’s own property, such emissions represent a domestic source of RF radiation … the same as other devices “potentially” used inside or outside the home such as Wi-Fi and cordless phones. [In my case, I own a cell phone which is turned on for emergencies only, such as a flat tire. My home is hard-wired for Internet and I would never consider use of Wi-Fi. I previously used a cordless phone but disposed of it once I discovered how much radiation the base station continuously emitted.]

        With the above information as background, it is appropriate to make apples and apples comparisons between domestic sources of radiation emissions possibly present in and around the home. The Tell study provided a convenient and credible mechanism to compare cell phone and smart meter power density levels in a way that was based upon the same spatial configuration. In addition, it helps dispel misleading statements made by many smart grid proponents such as “RF signals used by smart meters are much weaker than the RF signals from cell phones.” … and of course the ludicrous and absurd statement made by the SGCC that: “You would have to stand in front of a smart meter for 19 years to get the same radiation as you get from a 5 minute cell phone call,” which prompted much of the main content for this website posting.

        To summarize, based upon testing performed by one of the smart grid industry’s most respected testing companies, one can say that testing showed that: “You can stand in front of a smart meter and get the same amount of radiation as you get from a cell phone call, minute for minute, during the call.” Why would the SGCC not make this claim based upon actual testing, at least as one example?

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