For some, they’re the way of the future. For others, they’re a force that needs to be stopped.
As Flagler County residences join the rest of an estimated 65 million homes in the country to have energy expenditures measured by smart meters, some residents are joining nationwide outcry against the technology.
More than 35 protests were held Oct. 4 across the country in protest of the meters as part of the International Day of Action against Smart Meters, including one in Port Orange.
The new meters measure energy consumption by specific time intervals and communicate to power companies via wireless signal, allowing for remote meter readings as opposed to the traditional manual ones.
Supporters of the technology say it will make power companies more efficient at preventing and responding to outages and will help households take control of their energy consumption.
Opponents say that the radiation emitted from the technology is dangerous, that the meters cause bills to skyrocket and that the technology constitutes invasion of privacy.
Statewide, Florida Power and Light is installing 4.5 million smart meters as its upgrade to the smart grid, which includes the new meters and around 9,000 monitoring devices within the grid that are meant to identify potential power problems. The company has already installed 3.9 million meters and hopes to complete its upgrade in 2013.
“We’re just joining the rest of the country and the rest of the world in our upgrade,” said Elaine Hinsdale, a spokesperson for the power company. “This technology is going to put the power back in the hands of the people by letting them measure their energy use.”
By the end of the year, FPL plans to have upgraded almost every residence in Flagler County, Hinsdale said.
“The electric system we know today dates back to Thomas Edison,” Hinsdale said. “Poles and wires — for 100 years, that’s been the basic way to get power from one place to another. Smart meters are the way of the future.”
The upgrade brings a new, online dashboard to FPL customers that allows them to see up to the hour what their energy expenditure is. Hinsdale said this will, hopefully, help customers make smarter choices about conserving energy, making the system greener and saving households money.
Protestors argue that radiation from these meters is harmful to the health of those living in a home with a smart meter, especially in places, such as apartment complexes, where there are banks of the meters.
However, a Vermont Department of Health study in February found that the meters were well under Federal Communications Commission guidelines for emissions, even in multiple numbers.
A typical smart meter runs at a power level of 0.25 W or less, the study said, noting that a few of them reach levels of 1.0 W. In contrast, a cell phone’s power level is generally around 3.0 W.
Hinsdale said that most of the time, smart meters aren’t emitting anything: They send a pulse emission about six times each day when the meter sends information back to power companies.
As for cries of invasion of privacy, Hinsdale said that since the information is encrypted, it’s safe.
“FPL won’t know how many TVs you have in your house or what you're doing with your power; just how much electricity you’re using,” she said.
The new system isn’t much different from the old, she said, except that it makes things easier and more efficient for FPL.
And when there are power outages, monitoring devices on the new grid enable power companies to identify where the problem originated, Hinsdale said. Prior to upgrading, FPL had to send trucks to the general vicinity of the problem to find the source of an outage.
Some people have complained that after their upgrade, their electric bills have been higher than usual. Hinsdale said this might be because outdated meters were not accurately measuring energy intake.
Another concern with smart meters is that power companies might adopt time-of-use pricing models for electric rates, under which higher rates are charged for electricity used during peak hours.
Currently, FPL doesn’t operate on this model, and switching isn’t in their immediate plans, Hinsdale said.
The Flagler County Board of County Commissioners has taken the position that homeowners should have a choice to opt out of these meters.
Currently, the power company is allowing customers to opt out of the upgrade until at least the middle of next year. Residents can do this by calling FPL directly. Call 1-800-871-5711.
Currently 2 Responses
- I am very concerned about the smart meters! I have been researching now for several days because we live on the end unit of a condo in Palm coast. Last week they installed 11 of them on the wall of my 11 month old babies room! We have now moved his crib across the house to our bedroom and come Monday we are going door to door to convince our neighbors to call and have them removed.. They should not be allowed to put banks of these meters on condo's and apartments until they have further sudied how these meters affect us and especially our childern!
- Your article states" Currently, the power company is allowing customers to opt out of the upgrade until at least the middle of next year. Residents can do this by calling FPL directly. Call 1-800-871-5711." This is actually bunk. I called to ask to opt out. The representative told me that she would forward my request to the advocacy department. It would take up to 3 days. I finally received a call from Abi at that department and he told me that I could not actually opt out, but postpone it. He stated that if my existing meter were to become defective, they would replace it with the new smart meter. My meter was replaced only about a year or so ago with an electronic version meter. It will be interesting to see if my meter "breaks." I'm not too concerned about the radiation level as one does not stand by the meter all day anyway. Your artical explains that, The upgrade brings a new, online dashboard to FPL customers that allows them to see up to the hour," yet also says it "They send a pulse emission about six times each day when the meter sends information back to power companies." How can that be hourly? My concern is the privacy issue. Broadcasting our information over the airwaves where hackers can get a hold of it. Further concern is that FPL could easily determine that they could cut off our power whenever they want to lower engery usage in the area and cause damage to our equipment or reduce our AC to a point that could cause discomfort to our dogs. Oh well, big business will win again!
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