Quick Take: In the early days of the smart grid, protests against smart meters were largely confined to the coasts in hotspots of anti-utility sentiment. There the typical complaint was that the radiation from smart meters would cause health problems.
More recently, however, the protests have spread to more conservative parts of the U.S. There the dominant complaint seems to be a conspiracy theory that the government is using smart meters to know what you are doing inside your home, as this story from a Tennessee newspaper attests. - By Jesse Berst
Smart meter debate pushes toward vote later this month
Depending on who's doing the talking, they are called "smart meters" or "dumb meters."
They are digital utility meters that have the capability to wirelessly transmit usage information to a network and allow for utility companies to remotely turn power on and off. They are a welcome sign of coming progress to some in Memphis, and an evil sign of coming "communism" to others.
They've sparked debates all over the country, the words of which have been repeated by both sides of the issue here since the Memphis City Council began discussing a proposal earlier this year that would add more than 60,000 of the automated electric meters to homes and businesses.
The new meters would cost $10.1 million. A resolution allowing the Memphis Light Gas and Water Division to spend that money will be discussed by the council's MLGW committee Tuesday. A final vote on that resolution is expected for the council meeting scheduled for Aug. 20.
Opponents of the meters have been vocal, especially in two public hearings on the matter. The first hearing at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library got so heated that council member Myron Lowery said someone against automated meters threatened to punch him. An MLGW staffer was threatened at that meeting, according to utility officials, and is why they said no one from the utility spoke at the second hearing at City Hall.
Opponents say the "dumb" meters are dangerous and point to media reports of fires allegedly associated with them across the country. They say the meters make utility bills higher and that the data they transmit isn't secure, allowing anyone, especially government officials, to use them for surveillance.
"They're going to know all your habits," said council member Joe Brown at the hearing at City Hall last month. "They'll know she's watching Oprah at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Everything they want to know, they can find out about you."
Read the full story.
Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.
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