Put these in your quiver! Counterarguments against smart grid haters

Tools

By: SGN Staff

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Quick Take: Back in August I warned you that an anti-smart grid documentary was launching in early September, with the implicit support of USA Today. Now I'm back to pass along some helpful sites and arguments you can use to counter the damage.

 

Let me be transparent about my own personal beliefs. First, I think these fringe groups have every right to speak their minds. Second, I think those who sincerely believe smart meters damage their health should be able to opt-out, or at least get the meter placed on a pole at a distance from their home. (As long as they pay the extra costs, so the rest of the customers don't have to subsidize their beliefs.)

 

Sadly, most of these groups resort to pseudo-science at best and nonsense conspiracy theories at worst. Unfortunately, many in the electric power industry are unprepared or afraid to tell our side of the story. If you are simply unprepared, the materials below should help. If you're just cowardly... well, I can't do anything about that. - By Jesse Berst

 

The materials below were assembled by an ad hoc group of industry experts, spearheaded by Erich Gunther of EnerNex and Massoud Amin of the University of Minnesota and the IEEE Power and Energy Society. Thanks to them and all the others who contributed.

 

At top you will find a list of useful Web sites. I have organized the list to include only sites that are a) useful for your own education about smart grid and smart meter benefits or b) suitable for customers to visit. At the bottom of the article are some talking points developed by the group.

 USEFUL BENEFITS TALKING POINTS

 

The Smart Grid will:

1.     Help prevent blackouts like the northeast in 2003 and mitigate catastrophes like Superstorm Sandy

2.     Allow power companies to avoid building or buying potentially environmentally harmful energy sources to handle usage peaks

3.     Make widespread deployment of electric cars possible even though the existing grid isn’t prepared for them

4.     Make it possible to manage variable renewable energy sources like solar and wind power by automatically adjusting in real time

5.     Make it possible for consumers to generate their own energy on a large scale, which won’t work on the existing grid

6.     Offer consumers more choices in energy providers and sources of energy

7.     Help consumers to monitor and reduce their energy usage

8.     Allow the real cost of less environmentally friendly energy to be reflected in power bills

 

USEFUL ANSWERS TO CONCERNS:

 

Cyber security

·         Power companies are already adopting industry-wide standards for cyber security

·         Cyber attacks are a risk with or without smart grid initiatives. Smart grid provides power companies with the tools to protect the grid.

·         Online banking is a cyber-security risk too, but should we stop online banking because of that?  No, instead we deploy appropriate protection.

 

Privacy

·         The ability of power companies to learn personal information from energy usage data has been exaggerated

·         Power companies will know less about you than your credit card, telephone, internet, or cable providers

·         Regulation has managed privacy in all those industries and will do so in the  power industry

 

Energy rates

·         The grid is aging and power companies will have to spend billions to upgrade the infrastructure soon, with or without smart grid

·         Smart grid initiatives allow power companies to be more efficient and offset some of the upcoming infrastructure replacement costs

·         Smart grid initiatives will allow consumers to pay lower rates if they are more efficient, like good-driver insurance benefits

 

Health effects

·         Smart meters send out much less wireless energy than cellphones, microwave ovens, or internet equipment

·         Wireless energy transmission by smart meters is between ten and one hundred times less than federal regulations require

·         There are no reputable scientific studies that support any health effects from electromagnetic waves at the levels sent by smart meters

·         Most utilities are offering opt-out options, although it is important to understand this will have a higher cost

 

Smart meter billing

·         Studies prove that smart meters are more accurate than their predecessors, not less accurate

·         Bills were higher in some isolated cases because power companies made mistakes – which they fixed

 

Government/utility conspiracy

·         Power companies are planning smart grid measures in reaction to new requirements from the  public like increased electricity use, renewable energy and electric cars, not on their own initiative

·         These conspiracy theories should be treated with the same skepticism as other such theories

·         The fact that smart grid opponents are resorting to spreading such theories should make people question their other arguments

 

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.