by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions
Last summer it was reported from various sources that Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) was patrolling Chicago area neighborhoods handing out free ice cream and other treats in order to “start a two-way conversation with customers about smart meters and the benefits they offer.”
More recently it has become apparent that ComEd has begun targeting young children in the marketing of its smart meter products. What is even more surprising is that school officials are evidently allowing ComEd representatives to enter school grounds to play games with the children to help them learn about smart meters and how they purportedly can be used to help save energy and money.
Such efforts by ComEd can clearly be characterized as part of a propaganda campaign as company representatives openly associate smart meters with free ice cream, fun and games without discussing any of the serious risks involved with this technology. The company even refers to the traditional analog meter as a “dumb meter” when communicating with children, a reference which reflects extreme bias as it attempts to replace the traditional meter with the more controversial “smart meter.”
In fact, regarding the reference to a “dumb meter,” which would normally instill negative connotations into the minds of impressionable children, this is in contrast to the description contained within a 2010 document from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) which states the following:
“By anyone’s assessment, traditional electromechanical meters are an amazing piece of engineering work. Refined over a hundred years, the design of a standard residential electricity meter became an impressive combination of economy, accuracy, durability, and simplicity.”
The reference to “free ice cream” is noteworthy as it was used by a consumer watchdog group in 2010 in characterizing the efforts of Google to offer free services in return for a loss of privacy on the part of consumers. This analogy holds here since one of the many risks involved with smart meters is a loss of behavioral privacy by utility customers. In return for this loss of privacy, utility customers will supposedly gain additional information on their energy usage habits, but unfortunately so will the utility and others.
So what we have done here at this website is prepare a 2-minute video clip to highlight some of the activities going on at our schools and to dramatize how this “free ice cream,” fun and games propaganda strategy by ComEd is somewhat unseemly given the substantial risks involved with smart meter technology.
It is hoped that parents and school officials might review this article and associated video and have second thoughts on allowing such propaganda efforts continuing in the future by ComEd and other smart grid industry-related organizations.
The above video clip contains material used pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine under 17 U.S.C. 107 and is presented in the public’s interest for non-commercial purposes. The video is intended to be utilized as part of this associated blog article by SkyVision Solutions and should be considered as a critical review of one aspect of the ComEd smart meter program.
Primary Source Material for this Article and Associated Video Clip
Various short video excerpts and screen captures from the Commonwealth Edison YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/CommonwealthEdison/videos
“Take a Selfie with the ComEd Ice Cream Truck,” at https://www.comed.com/customer-service/social-media/promotions/Pages/smart-meets-sweets.aspx
ComEd Tweet regarding learning about smart meters and enjoying free ice cream at https://twitter.com/ComEd/status/618865492653154304
“Our new ‘Don’t Be Evil?’ video,” by Consumer Watchdog, September 2010, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ouof1OzhL8k
“What’s slowing the savings on ‘Smart Meters?’,” at http://wgntv.com/2015/05/11/whats-slowing-the-savings-on-smart-meters/
“Accuracy of Digital Electricity Meters,” Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) White Paper, May 2010, available through the following link: http://wp.me/a3nav9-33O.