California Follows Smart Meter Best Practice: Proactively Address Public Concerns

This commentary was originally posted on the EDF California Dream 2.0 Blog.

Energy powers our economy. But our outdated energy system is wasteful, expensive and a major source of pollution, leading to the deaths of approximately 60,000 Americans per year. Utilities in California and across the country are now investing billions of dollars to modernize that infrastructure, making use of the information technologies that have revolutionized so many other realms of our lives. The smart grid they're building will improve air quality and the health of millions of Americans affected by air so dirty it is often dangerous to breathe.

Smart meters are a key component of the smart grid. They unlock air quality, climate pollution and public health benefits by enabling two-way, real-time communication that gives households, small businesses, manufacturers and farmers (and the utilities that serve them) the data they need to cut energy use and electricity costs. These devices help ensure that every day energy users reap the many benefits of the smart grid.

Yesterday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a proposal by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) that allows customers to keep their analog meters and opt out of using the new wireless smart meters. This decision is designed to address concerns of individuals who describe themselves as having electromagnetic hypersensitivity to radio frequencies (RF), and report getting headaches, fatigue, nausea and insomnia from exposure.

The radio frequencies used by smart meters are now pervasive in our lives, emitted by our cell phones, microwaves, baby monitors, and numerous other devices we use daily. To understand the potential health risks associated with use of these devices, EDF has completed a thorough review of the scientific literature on the potential effects of electromagnetic and radio frequencies (EMF/RF) on human health. We have reviewed reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the California Council of Science and Technology (CCST). We also consulted with outside experts, including Dr. Leeka Kheifets, a Professor in Residence at UCLA who sits on the Standing Committee on Epidemiology for the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

The WHO review states that “in the area of biological effects and medical applications of non-ionizing radiation, approximately 25,000 articles have been published over the past 30 years. Scientific knowledge in this area is now more extensive than for most chemicals.” These studies, it concludes, find that “current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.”

The WHO assessment spotlights the importance of conducting rigorous scientific research to evaluate environmental and health problems, a core principle of EDF. Our policies are based on the best available science and are altered as necessary when new evidence comes to light.

This research helped inform EDF’s position that the limited RF exposure levels associated with smart meters should not result in reduced support for the smart grid, especially in light of the significant health benefits it will deliver by enabling far less use of fossil fuels and far greater reliance on clean, renewable energy, including small, community-based generation like rooftop solar PV.

Today’s ruling strikes the proper balance: sustaining progress toward a smart grid with its multiple public health benefits while addressing individuals’ concerns. It gives consumers the same type of choice about what technologies to use in their everyday life.

We support the PUC's decision and continuing research on the possible health effects of radio frequencies.

For more information on this topic, please see EDF President Fred Krupp’s memo on “Health and the smart grid.”

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3 Comments

  1. Posted February 3, 2012 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    I get the feeling from this article and from the general silence of the Environmental Defence Fund that the EDF does not realise that electro magnetic radiation, and in particular wireless microwave radiation is the most significant health and environmental threat ever.

    Start doing more research now, before it is too late!

    A good place to start is the Bioinitiative Report which can be accessed at http://www.bioinitiative.org

  2. Posted February 3, 2012 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    Nice. Cherry pick the outdated fluff on the WHO website while ignoring the current information (IARC 2B classification 5/2011). There is evidence going back decades showing (non-thermal) ill-effects of non-ionizing radiation.

  3. RobertWilliams
    Posted February 3, 2012 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    LARGE ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS CAN BE AS EVIL AS LARGE CORPORATIONS, BUT FAR MORE HYPOCRITICAL.

    1. Customers who opt-out are still paying about $300 included in their bill for a smart meter. And if they don't want the smart meter they are already paying for, then PG$E gets them to pay an additional $75 + $10 per month.

    Why – (a) Peevey, the President of the PUC was previously President of SCE, Southern California’s Utility, (b) The attorney for the PUC was previously the attorney for PG$E.

    2. Radiation Laboratories in the U.S. and Europe consistently observe
    (1) Cell Damage
    (2) DNA Chain Breaks
    (3) Breaches in the Blood-Brain Barrier
    from the non-ionizing radiation emitted by smart meters.

    These damages cause many types of moderate and serious illnesses including cancers.

    3. There is no PROOF of anything on this Earth if proof requires 100% certainty, but there is OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE of damage from these meters. Overwhelming evidence is used in our court systems and for most scientific decisions. PG$E and the PUC (and now EDF) fool the public by saying "no proof" or “does not confirm.”

    4. Most of these illnesses from so-called smart meters take some years to occur and show symptoms. I don't feel anything from the meters at this moment but it is quite certain that I and you and our children will have moderate and serious health problems during our lives due to these absolutely inappropriate meters attached to our homes.

    5. Those with Electrical hypersensitivity (EHS) typically take extreme measures to avoid the radiation emitted by the meters up to 190,000 times per day, as finally admitted by PG$E. The rest of us, not with EHS will simply be sitting ducks as our exposures accumulate and many illnesses and brain damage cannot be repaired after it is recognized.

    6. The real environmentalists that used to sit in trees to protect the forests are now wanted criminals because they were truly good people and serving the Earth and that was not convenient for industry.

    …and locations where smart meters have been installed for some time now are confirming that smart meters are NOT close to being green, other than for the money that is being transferred from customers to Utility Companies.

    Executives at EDF are only there because they didn’t make it to Exxon or Monsanto

    I wonder if people will now do more than sheep to protect themselves and their children.

  • About the author

    Attorney & California Senior Manager, Clean Energy
    Lauren Navarro-Treichler is the Senior Manager, Clean Energy Initiative, and Attorney who leads EDF's state smart grid regulatory efforts across the country to green the 100-year old electricity grid. Her work entails guiding utilities and their regulatory agencies to design smart grid plans that maximize economic, public health, and environmental benefits.

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