How to learn more about smart electric meters
Most of you remember the controversy over Caller ID. It was an invasion of privacy; it would make battered women less likely to seek help, and do a host of other things. Now, we don’t think much about it, in part because a combination of the ability to turn it off, and “spoofed” numbers over the Internet, have made it practically worthless.
That’s the way it goes when anything new is introduced. Currently, the most controversial technology is the smart meter, a digital electric meter that keeps track of when electricity is used and broadcasts the data using a low power radio signal. People worry about possible health hazards and the possibility that the meters will allow the government to invade a family’s privacy for the purpose of law enforcement or to sell the data to companies.
A large number of Napervillians apparently want to know more about these possible problems. In fact, they can indeed know more, starting tonight, Dec. 14, at Washington Junior High School, 201 N. Washington St.
From 7 to 9 p.m. people can meet informally with experts at several stations and have their questions answered.
Most of the questions should be easy to answer, but a couple may well be impossible to answer. That is because a Harvard public health professor, with sterling credentials, insists that the meters should not be installed until it has definitely been proven that their minuscule radio emissions cause absolutely no harm.
Well, that’s not going to happen. Ever. You simply can’t do things like that. You’d think a Harvard guy would know that you can’t prove “evidence of absence.”
Despite the fact that we live in a sea of microwaves, that five billion of us use a much stronger radio emitter — the cell phone — without ill effects, and that hundreds of high level studies on the biological effects of microwaves have shown them to be safe below certain levels, it is still possible to claim that they might harm certain people under certain conditions. That is why they ended up on the IARC list of possible carcinogens — along with coffee, kimchi, seaweed, and grilled steaks.
So ask the experts about anything you’ve heard about that frightens you.
Ask them about “dirty electricity” and it’s health effects. It’s a made-up term meant to induce doubt, but ask them anyway. Ask them about anything you’re not sure about, even if you think it might be silly. And especially ask whether pulsed radio waves are indeed more dangerous than continuous ones. If opponents are using these terms, you deserve to understand the truth about them.
Ask them whether microwaves can indeed break van der Waals bonds or the water exclusion bonds that hold biological polymers together. Ask them whether the symptoms exhibited by “electrosensitive” people have ever been observed in a controlled clinical setting. If you’ve seen a chart, they must have been, right?
Ask them if a digital signal processing chip in the meter can identify what kind of motor is running inside the house. Not if it will, but if it even can. Ask them whether a smart grid enabled appliance can communicate with the meter if the homeowner doesn’t want it to. Ask them whether the city will be manually reading the new meters to check accuracy. And ask them whether the meters will be running security software, like Mocana NanoDefender.
These are just a few questions; I’m sure you have more. Tonight is the first of 14 such meetings, so everybody will have a chance to ask whatever they want. If you can’t get an answer, tell me and I’ll find someone to answer it for everybody. That is how rational people deal with new technology. That is how they deal with fear.