Quick Take: We now have dozens of scientific studies proving the safety of smart meters. They typically release less radio frequency energy than microwaves, WiFi
networks, baby monitors, garage door openers, roam phones and other consumer devices that have long been accepted. Despite the large pile of pre-existing evidence, the need was apparently felt for Yet Another Study to determine if Central Maine Power's smart meters are safe. The independent study of radio-frequency emissions found maximum exposure levels that averaged less than 5% of the FCC limit.
Lest we be trapped in a never-ending cycle of testing and retesting, our industry needs instead to adopt two principles. First, easy and (to the extent possible) inexpensive opt-out programs. Second, customer education that includes meter safety as one of the topics. We need to provide a safe haven for those with non-mainstream beliefs, but we can't let them delay and derail grid modernization for everyone else.
- Jesse Berst
Central Maine Power (CMP) officials and state regulators may be feeling a bit better after a recently released smart meter safety study found that radio frequency emissions from their meters were well below Federal Communications Communication standards. But meter opponents who have claimed the devices are hazardous to their health have, predictably, rejected the findings.
The study report, prepared by True North Associates and C2 Systems with oversight from the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, said investigation found the highest averaged exposure level to be 4.6% of the FCC safety limit for radio frequency emissions, according to an article in the Press Herald newspaper.
CMP officials said the results reaffirmed their earlier conclusions that smart meters are safe.
But a vocal opponent of smart meters rejected those results. Ed Friedman of Bowdoinham took the lead in a lawsuit last year and was not impressed with the new study results. "The question is, are there biological effects at levels lower than the FCC guidelines? Our evidence submitted proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt," he was quoted as saying in the Herald story.
When PUC commissioners approved CMP's smart meter program for its 615,000 customers in 2010, they thought they had covered the bases for health and safety issues. But in July the Maine Supreme Judicial Court took the side of the opponents and said the commission hadn't done an adequate job of weighing those health and safety issues. Shortly afterward, commissioners voted to investigate the smart meters.
While CMP argued for a narrow review, the smart meter opponents won out and will get a "fully litigated case," as the story put it. The hearings are scheduled for May.
About 8,3000 CMP customers have chosen to opt out of the smart meter program.
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